DUBAI: It’s here: The sequel/prequel to pop-culture tsunami “Game of Thrones” — the most-torrented show of its time and the series that network after network has since tried (and failed) to emulate.
Now, three-and-a-bit years on from the hugely unpopular “GoT” finale, here we are, back in George R.R. Martin’s intricately detailed world with a story focused on the ruling Targaryen family, but set a couple of centuries before the events of “GoT.”
The most pressing question, of course, is: Is “House of the Dragon” any good? The answer, happily, is a resounding yes. It’s very good — an epic, gripping fantasy that contains many of the elements that made “GoT” so huge: Lots of fighting, lots of flesh, lots of labyrinthine political plotting, lots of gore. And dragons.
The two shows share many of the same themes too: Honor, betrayal, sexism, pride, love versus duty, what’s ‘right’ versus what’s necessary, family versus friends, and more.
So, if you were a fan of peak “Game of Thrones,” then “House of the Dragon” — based on the six episodes made available for review, at least — will meet your approval.
While the first episode moves at a glacial pace — making the necessary character introductions and laying out backstory — thereafter the showrunners are content to leap forward several years at a time to the story’s crucial events, so we’re not subjected to long ‘road trips.’ This is a welcome departure from “GoT.” The story, though complex, whizzes along. And while the majority of the show is dialogue-heavy, there are a couple of terrific set pieces, including a bloody beach battle, to keep pulses racing.
The cast — led by Paddy Considine as the good-hearted-but-fallible King Viserys; Matt Smith as his wayward, impetuous brother Daemon; and Milly Alcock (in the first five episodes) as the teenage Princess Rhaenyra, Viserys’ headstrong firstborn child — are in fine form, committing to their deliberately stilted speeches with gusto.
The thorny knot at the center of the political infighting is Viserys’ heir. He names Rhaenyra (ignoring Daemon’s claim) — going against centuries of tradition by naming a woman as heir — and when he does finally have a son by his new, much-younger wife, Lady Alicent Hightower — once Rhaenyra’s best friend — he refuses to change his mind, despite heavy pressure (some reasonable, some not). Cue courtly wrangling a-plenty.
Viewers will need to focus — often, it’s not what’s being said that’s important, but what’s being omitted or danced around in euphemisms that are as damaging as a sneaky dagger to the ribs. But that focus is richly rewarded by a show that more than stands up to the huge weight of expectation.