So many people wanted to see HBO’s debut of House of the Dragon that they crashed the streaming service!
Set in Westeros nearly 200 years before Game of Thrones, this pulpy, 10-episode prequel is based on George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood – both of which it offers in abundance.
The plot revolves around an earlier civil war for the Iron Throne, waged largely among various factions of the silver-haired, incestuous Targaryan dynasty, ancestors of Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryan, played by Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones. It’s all about family rivalry.
In the sprawling Red Keep – a.k.a the court in King’s Landing, capital of Westros – there’s aging King Viserys I (Paddy Constantine); his ruthlessly scheming, younger brother Daemon (Matt Smith); and plucky Princess Rhaenya Targaryen (Milly Alcock/Emma D’Arcy).
Daughter of Viserys’ wife Aemma, who dies in a brutal, bloody childbirth scene, Rhaenya enjoys the company of her friend Alicent (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke), whose father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), is the King’s trusted Hand. They’re best friends – until they aren’t – since submissive Alicent marries Viserys and gives birth to Rhaenya’s half-brother Aragon II, who turns out like a creepier Prince Joffrey.
Famed for their dragon-taming ability, Rhaenya rides the yellow dragon Syrax and pink-scaled Meleys – a.k.a. Red Queen. Daemon’s giant red dragon is Caraxes – a.k.a. Blood Wyrm. Altogether, there are at least 17 dragons, each with a unique name and CGI look.
Adding to the complexity, midway through the series, the story jumps 10 years, as the two teenage female leads are replaced by adults. Plus, there are additional multi-year jumps as the plot progresses.
Costing nearly $200 million, this sordid fantasy spinoff series brims with palace intrigue and is purposely peppered with nudity and excessive violence – under the direction of co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik and co-creator Ryan Condai.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, so-far House of the Dragon is an addictively watchable 8, streaming Sunday nights on HBO & HBO Max – and it’s already been renewed for a second season.