House of the Dragon: I managed to watch the first episode of this highly anticipated prequel to Game of Thrones. I had made a point of not watching the trailers, and ignoring the reviews because I wanted to see this with fresh eyes, not tainted or with impressions. Let this prequel stand on its own, especially given that I had just recently finished reading Book 5 of Game of Thrones Dances with Dragons. This is set 172 years before the time of Danearys Targaryen and Jon Snow. The focus is the Targaryen family and the succession from one King to another, and then later. This is a time when the Targaryen’s have up to 11 dragons, and rule with an iron fist. The aging and ailing King doesn’t have a male heir, and there is a Council meeting to bring people together and select the successor. Rather than the eldest daughter, he chooses a brother Vicerys I, and the aim is to avoid internal family conflict for the throne. Vicerys I, nine years later, also wants to ensure his line and name by having a male heir. He has a daughter, Raneyra and a wife who is pregnant once again. The new King believes with all his being that this pregnancy is a male child. All of this speaks to English history with real rulers like Henry VIII and others. The quest for power and formalize succession are important. The new King also has a brother, Daemon played ruthlessly by Matt Smith, who you will remember from playing younger Prince Phillip in The Crown and a well-known Doctor Who. He is presently heir to the current throne with no male child occuring to date. The Queen has had very difficult pregnancies. Meanwhile, much like Elizabeth, the new King’s Raneyra is feeling a little bit left out and unloved. The King has appointed his brother Daemon to various posts and is having difficulty keeping control over the actions of him. For his part, Daemon feels that his brother is weak, and not ruling adequately the kingdom, allowing far too much lawlessness in times in which war hasn’t been an issue, but it seems that the people have become more aggressive towards each other. Daemon sees his role as fixing that. The brother’s butt heads and the King’s advisors wish to make sure that he is aware of what Daemon is doing. Things happen. Some of it is gruesome in a Game of Thrones way.
My first impression is how much there is borrowed from the real life tales of the British Monarchy. Good material to be sure. Plenty of intrigue, lots of drama, positioning for the crown. Game of Thrones had an energy. Much of it early on came from the various houses with families and people with their own motives and perspectives. It was less a good versus evil, although the impression left was that the audience should be cheering on Family Stark, the Wards of the North. Having just finished Becoming Elizabeth, this feels in some ways like that. There can be a little bit of Succession in here too, with the squabbling siblings. Much has been spent on the production design, the sets, costumes all of it. HBO is not being cheap with a flagship series. It shows. I did watch recently too a show about the making of Game of Thrones, and the ending season and the same care is going into it. Am I fully engaged yet? Not sure. Like many things it will take time to connect with the characters. It is obvious that Daemon is set up as an ambitious trouble-maker, taking sides against his own brother, who has many issues in which to deal. The issues grow. I also don’t have a feeling for Raneyra who’s dramatic entrance of riding a dragon was exciting. The dragons are always cool. There has to be a foundation laid, and this is a start. I of course will see more, and look forward to catching upon Episode 2 in short order. It is fair at this point, but not outstanding. I am going to remain hopeful for more. Stay tuned.