In the relatively short time since Game of Thrones came to its much-maligned conclusion in 2019, the clamour for Thrones-adjacent content reached a fever pitch. Whether to right perceived wrongs or to revisit the deeply detailed world of its creator George R. R. Martin, fans of the books and show alike have yearned for a way back to the world of Westeros. Now, with its spin-off series House of the Dragon about to hit our screens, the fans have gotten what they want, but should they be wary, or optimistic?
Thankfully, for those who admired the all-conquering and era-defining Game of Thrones for all it got right (and on occasion wrong), House of the Dragon is sure to scratch that itch.
Set 172 years before the rise of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon centres on the Targaryen dynasty at the peak of its power and in all its silver-haired, dragon-riding pomp. The show picks up in the ninth year of king Viserys' (Paddy Considine) reign, just as his lineage is called into question. Tasked with picking an heir to the throne, the king must choose between his brother Damon (Matt Smith) and his firstborn child and daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock/Emma D'Arcy). Like Thrones before it, House of the Dragon concerns itself with matters of succession and like its forebear, political intrigue, betrayal and moral greyness are front and centre.
What's apparent from the off in House of the Dragon, apart from the clear tonal similarities to its predecessor, is the breakneck pace the show moves at. Wasting no time to get to grips with the political machinations and pulpy violence fans were so used to in Thrones, House of the Dragon's multi-decade-spanning narrative unfolds at a rapid speed, and still manages to flesh out its rogues' gallery of sordid and complicated characters. It's these characters that drive the show forward during its slower, stodgier moments. Thankfully these are few and far between, and the performances of House of the Dragon's main cast are nothing short of spectacular. Specifically those of Emma D'Arcy and Rhys Ifans (Otto Hightower) who've taken to the cadence of Thrones' pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue with ease. It's a credit to showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik that House of the Dragon feels grand in every sense of the term, even the more intimate scenes feel bold in their execution.
One of the main reasons that George R. R. Martin's world stands apart from its contemporaries, lies in the razor-sharp attention to detail in each and every facet of its lore. For those familiar with the world of Westeros, fan-favourite locations such as Dragonstone and The Red Keep feature in a new way and look entirely different to how we've seen them before in Game of Thrones. Add to that never-before-seen locations, factions and houses, House of the Dragon emulates the peaks of Thrones' expansive ambition, and with a budget akin to that on show in later seasons, it certainly looks the part too.
For a show so entrenched in discussions of succession and rightful heirs, House of the Dragon will surely be judged by how it measures up to its predecessor. Fortunately for fans old and new, from the episodes made available, it seems that not only will House of the Dragon measure up to its ancestor, but it may also even snatch the crown for itself.