HBO spin-off show builds up fantasy world


Mae Skaja

“House of Dragon” is the first entry in the extended universe of “Game of Thrones”.

This story was previously published in the Heights Herald fall print edition.

How much lore can one viewer handle?

“House of the Dragon” is the new HBO fantasy series about the mighty Targaryens who are at the height of their power in a land called Westeros, but, as anyone who watched its long-running predecessor “Game of Thrones” knows, will eventually be taken down by a monarch known best by fans as “the mad king.” Whether that journey with a known ending is worth watching proves to be a difficult question to answer after the new show’s alternatingly fascinating and frustrating first season.

In the beginning of the first episode, a title card details that the events of “House of the Dragon” take place 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the “Mother of Dragons” from “Game of Thrones”, goes on her own maddening journey to ascend to the throne, competing with several others in the seven kingdoms. Multiple generations before Daenerys Targaryen, you see, there was King Viserys I (Paddy Considine of “Peaky Blinders”) and his younger brother Prince Daemon (Matt Smith of “Doctor Who”), Viserys’s daughter and heir apparent Rhaenyra (newcomer Milly Alcock)), and of course several other cousins, wives, lords, and more that are all trying to make their own impressions on Viserys in an attempt to vie for power.

And yes, just like in “Game of Thrones”, there are many complex and controversial family dynamics. In fact, Rhaenyra is in love with her father, King Viserys, while Prince Daemon loves her arguably even more. Another weird relationship is between King Viserys and his nine-year-old cousin, whom he almost marries when his wife passes but opts for his daughter’s best friend instead. And somehow a lot of this incestuous and pedophilic behavior is explained away because of Viserys’s intense desire for a male heir despite continually having daughters.

“The father is not a good dad,” fellow viewer Ifrah Muhumed (8) said. “Who marries their daughter’s best friend after she had just lost her mother?”

It seems like these characters are presented more as villains rather than heroes, which makes the show a frustrating watch. 

For instance, Rhaenyra never feels good enough for her monarch father because he always wanted a son to take his place. After numerous miscarriages, King Viserys chooses a new heir and it was between his daughter Rhaenyra and his brother Daemon, and he chose his daughter. Now Rhaenyra is next in line for the throne, but Viserys had so many children to choose from that it became almost funny that he would call Rhaenyra his only child.

“I won’t watch episode five,” Muhumed (8) said. “There was going to be a time jump and I didn’t want to see someone else play Rhaenyra.”  She was really upset about it because she didn’t think older Rhaenyras is as pretty as younger Rhaenyra.

A lot of fans felt this to the point the other actress who will play older Rhaenyra, Emma D’Arcy of “Truth Seekers”, got a lot of hate, including death threats.

Furthermore, Prince Daemon always does whatever he wants. A lot of people who watched the show have said he doesn’t really love Rhaenyra and that he just wants to make his brother go mad from his advances toward her. Another theory from “House of the Dragon” fans is that he is after Rhaenyra simply because he wants the throne.  Daemon is interesting to watch, though, despite being so evil, because Smith’s portrayal is compelling, making the viewer want to know how he’ll try to get power next.

Then, there are the dragons. While treated more as side characters than part of the character drama, the visual effects are impressive. The oldest dragon is the Balerion Black Dread, which was born in old Valyria. It was one of the three dragons that helped the Targaryens take over the seven kingdoms in “Game of Thrones” and was named after one of the old gods of Valyria.

To sum it up, “House of the Dragon” may not be as expansive as “Game of Thrones,” but there is definitely enough to look forward to in season two , including a full-on war between Rhaenyra and Aegon for the throne, which will hopefully be exciting to watch.