Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Lil Ginge
The world of Game of Thrones is back. And the spinoff series, House of the Dragon, is everything I want and everything I need right now in a Sunday night HBO television series.
The new show, a prequel to the original Game of Thrones, doesn’t begin with subtlety. It is as loud, shocking, gruesome, violent, horny, and riveting as everything you came to expect from the original HBO series.
Good. Bring it on.
House of the Dragon Episode 1 Is Not Subtle
Ours is not an age of subtlety. Spend five minutes on Twitter and you’ll soon learn that social media is the place where nuance goes to die.
At the same time, the real world really sucks right now. We have
- nuclear threats
- rising prices and stagnant wages
- meaningless jobs
- widespread authoritarianism
- an ever-increasing climate apocalypse
This is more than enough travesty for any civilization to handle.
I like meaningful art, and entertainment should reflect back to us all the fucked-upness of contemporary society whether it does so in the guise of comedy or drama.
But by taking it one remove from the real world, inserting some fantastical elements like dragons and magic and fake history and such, we can read the subtext without having to confront the full horror of the moment.
And be wildly entertained while we do so.
This is exactly what I wanted and needed from House of the Dragon. And the first episode of season one delivered to the maximum degree.
Before writing this review, I’d already watched the first episode twice. I never do that with a new episode of a series. Sure, I might go back and rewatch some episodes a few years from now. But rewatching a new episode the week it is released is highly irregular behavior for me.
Call me gripped, I suppose.
The Plot of House of the Dragon Episode I (No Spoilers)
House of the Dragon takes place 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, easily one of Game of Thrones’s best characters. And the prologue setup for the first episode highlights the history of the reign of King Jahaerys I (Michael Carter), one of Danerys’s ancestors.
This was a time of relative peace and prosperity in the seven kingdoms. But when Jahaerys must announce his successor to the Iron Throne, the throne passes to King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), a monarch who appears good-hearted but relatively weak compared with his predecessor.
On the other hand, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) is passed over for the throne. Mostly on account of the fact that she’s a woman. This is despite the fact that she is the oldest descendent and, had she been a male, almost certainly would have been chosen to reign on the iron throne.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen
The first episode’s main character is young Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), daughter of King Viserys. She is best friends with young Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), daughter of the King’s Hand, Otto Hightower. In future episodes, older counterparts of these characters will be played by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, respectively.
Rhaenyra is an immediately appealing lead character. And we sympathize with her desire to attain more than her current station in life. Due to the patriarchal structure of Westeros, though she has a claim to the Iron Throne, she is not thought of as a future monarch. In fact, no woman Targaryen has held the throne to date, and not many are eager to see a break with this anti-feminist tradition.
Though Rhaenyra’s father loves and respects her many fine qualities, he is conditioned to think in the traditional patriarchal way. He does not see Rhaenyra as a Queen and laments that he has not, to date, been able to bring forth a male heir with his wife, Aemma (Sian Brooke).
If the main goal of a premiere episode is to whet our appetite for what is to come, House of the Dragon Season I Episode I did a hell of a job. I’m already thinking about my appointment viewing tonight for episode two.
What Is To Come On House of the Dragon
The first episode of season one of House of the Dragon sets up what is to be the main conflict of the series: the oncoming civil war amongst the House of Targaryen for possession of the Iron Throne.
I have not read the novel Fire and Blood upon which the series is based. So I have no idea how this show is going to go down. Although it does a great job of setting up who I assume to be some of the major players and which side of the war they may be on down the road.
I don’t know if this show will be anywhere near as good as Game of Thrones. Nor do I care right now. All I want is an hour every Sunday to watch court intrigue, romance, jealousy, hatred, jousting, dragons, battle, blood, guts, brothels, and passion.
Based on episode one, I think I’m going to get it.
If you enjoyed this review of House of the Dragon Episode 1 Season 1, check out my article Amanda Seyfried Deserves All the Awards for Her Performance in The Dropout.