A new weekend, and a new review for House of the Dragon. The show is a huge success for HBO, with more than 10 million people watching each episode every week. That is a lot of people. Season 2 has already been given the green light, so we can expect a lot more dragons, fire, and blood in the coming years. The source material reaches far enough to sustain these stories for at least as long as the original Game of Thrones ran. If they do it well, of course.
In this third episode of the season, we are introduced to more characters, the tension for who will take the Iron Throne keeps rising, and a fantastic battle sequence opens and ends the episode in an epic fashion. Yes, the episode focuses mostly on conversations, and there is little action to be had. However, it is really baffling to me and talks about the lack of patience and attention by audiences who only want to see people bang their heads without knowing why.
This week also saw the release of Amazon’s The Rings of Power, so the comparisons between both medieval fantasy shows will be plenty in the coming months. In my case, I have to say that while Rings of Power’s budget really allows for the creation of an entire fantasy world. One that feels real and spectacular, but the characters, the dialogue, and the story were not as strong as they were in House of the Dragon’s first two episodes.
What is the difference? In both shows, we are basically introduced to new sets of characters in already established and beloved franchises. Both of them are prequels, and both of them deal with magic and more fantastic stuff. However, the big difference comes in the writing. In both shows, the focus of these first episodes is to set up storylines, characters, and their relationships. Rings of Power does this on the surface, but House of the Dragon goes deeper.
There are many complaints out there that House of the Dragon is just a series of scenes with people talking around a table. Yes, it is that, on the surface, but if you manage to pay attention, each of those conversations is so much more than what is being said. Each conversation is more than exposition for the audience, each conversation is a pivotal moment where one or more characters are faced with decisions. Hard decisions always make for good drama. Rings of Power doesn’t have that, not yet.
So, House of the Dragon can be happy this week because they are still the best big-budget show on the air. Will Rings of Power capture that sense of drama in the future? We can only wait and see, but for this week, House of the Dragon has it all. The episode is directed by Greg Yaitanes, who directed the previous episode, and in this one, the director has all the space to come up with not only an amazing conversation but also a violent spectacle.
The battles that open and close the episode are just stunning. The situation at the Stepstones has been basically in the background since the last episode, but it really comes into focus on this one, and it is given the execution it deserves. You can feel that this is a pivotal moment when it comes to the state of the realm. The alliances and betrayals to come will have this moment in great consideration.
As for the rest of the episode, the conversations are just as important and difficult as ever. Princess Rhaenyra finds herself in a difficult position. Her claim to the throne is diminishing with each passing day, and she feels trapped in the way that only second-born children would feel. They are not as significant as the firstborn, but they are also not given the same attention as the little ones. What comes of this distance is quite a sad realization that maybe you are not wanted.
Paddy Considine keeps being the highlight of the season so far. The character of Viserys I is a complex one. You feel on his face that he is only looking to be a better king, but the situations pile on him one after the other. Crows and leeches are ready to jump on his carcass at the first opportunity, and no matter what he does, the odds are against him. His cut fingers are a wound that reflects the weight and the damage that the crown has done to him throughout the years.
In the end, the episode sets up an incoming conflict that will be so big that it might tear the realm apart. Otto says this to his daughter, Alicent, and he doesn’t know how right he is. The show keeps jumping massive amounts of time between episodes, so we might not have to wait a lot to see all this tragedy come to fruition. If the show keeps being as good as these first three episodes, the A Song of Ice and Fire franchise might actually find the redemption it needs after the mistake that was Game of Thrones Season 8.