HOUSE OF THE DRAGON returns: is it better than GAME OF THRONES already? Well...

June 19, 2024

HBO's blood-soaked and fiery epic "House of the Dragon", a spin-off prequel from "Game of Thrones" returned this past Sunday night premiering on the premium cable network as well as the Max streaming service.

It's been a long wait for fans of the series. The fantasy drama first debuted in 2022, telling the story of the period in Westerosi history dubbed "The Dance of Dragons", chronicling the civil war between the Targaryen Dynasty after a dramatic misunderstanding of succession in the wake of King Viserys Targaryen's (Paddy Considine) demise.

Season 2's premiere picked up where the Season 1 finale left off seeing kin against kin.

Those who read author George R.R. Martin's "Fire & Blood" historical novel about the Targaryens are, of course, in an uproar surrounding the episode's jaw-dropping ending, but that's to be expected.

The real takeaway from "House of the Dragon" is that it appears the show is finally delivering on all the promises it seemed to have made to fans of HBO's fantasy epic "Game of Thrones" promising the sex, intrigue, and violence they'd come to expect after a Season 1 which was more about the set-up than the payoff.

The most interesting part of the series is how, I would say, better acted the show is starting out.

Understandably in Season 1 of "Game of Thrones", the cast was all most comprised of relative newcomers saddled with playing these (mostly) mainstay parts.

You had Kit Harrington, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Jack Gleeson, Richard Madden, Emilia Clarke, and many others who took a while to grow into their roles, some not really getting there until well over the halfway mark.

Many attribute "Game of Thrones" to being the savior of "must-watch" television and often associate it with being this massive, big-budget, explosive blockbuster series, but we must remember that when "Game of Thrones" first debuted on HBO in the far off year of 2011, it was competing with the Starz drama "Camelot" and was a series based off of the kind of 1990s fantasy books that had more in common with sweaty neckbeards and guys who stunk up the local comic book shop than being the #1 trending hit on the planet referenced in pop culture as much as "Star Wars" or "Harry Potter".

Season 1 of "Game of Thrones" was obviously an incredibly low-budget fantasy adventure with sets that look like they were slapped together in an Irish field somewhere and battle sequences that were "edited around" rather than shown.

Thus, it seems, the expectations for performances didn't seem as lofty or well-coached.

Compare Season 1 of GoT to Season 1 of "House of the Dragon" where the child actors from the first part of Season 1 went immediately into being offered superhero roles and other starry positions.

Rewatching Season 1 of HotD it's easy to see that this is not the same landscape of television as GoT debuted in 2011.

But the young actors are not the only standouts here, especially since most of them have grown into mature young adults between the seasons.

No, much of the narrative weight of 'House' is shouldered by Emma D'Arcy, Rhys Ifans, Matt Smith, and Olivia Cooke, mostly none of which are household names but have had a career's worth of fantastic character acting under their belt with HotD allowing them to truly shine.

In "Game of Thrones", the only "seasoned" actors with any real pedigree (Stateside at least) that were alive long enough to matter were Charles Dance's Tywin Lannister, Lena Headey's Cersei, Aiden Gillen's Littlefinger, and Iain Glen's Jorah Mormont (with some exceptions here and there).

Casting experienced actors for the roles in House of the Dragon, as well as the excellent direction behind the newcomers, has earned HotD a more lofty standing, performance-wise, and when you partner that with the obvious increase in budget and production, it's almsot easy to declare that House of the Dragon is already off to a stronger start than Game of Thrones.

But, in GoT's defense, watching the show grow and mature (as well as seeing the budget quadruple in real time) was part of the charm .

Anyway, I think we are all excited to see how this story continues, especially now that the Dance of Dragons has well and truly begun.

For those itching for more, I'd highly recommend the Fire & Blood book by Martin which is available everywhere, including at the Blackwell Public Library.