So I finally got around to watching the first season of House of the Dragon, HBO’s prequel to the blockbuster series Game of Thrones.
In a word?
Sorry to all the fans of the George R.R. Martin books, but House of the Dragon was so dull that I found myself dozing like a freshman in an overheated lecture hall while an octogenarian professor drones on about the Monroe Doctrine.
In the interests of full disclosure, I never read the books. But I loved Game of Thrones.
And while the first season of Game of Thrones had action, adventure, palace intrigue, and humor, the first season of House of the Dragon is 95% palace intrigue with only a few action scenes tossed in to remind you what you’re missing.
If the Targaryen Dynasty was that boring, no wonder it ended and all the dragons died out.
How the hell do you make a series about a civil war between the dragon-riding descendants of Aegon the Conqueror less exciting than a college lecture on the history of soil?
I even suffered through the first season twice just to make sure it wasn’t me.
It wasn’t me.
House of the Dragon is just dullsville.
Let me describe the typical plot of a random episode:
It opens with a group of people in a room talking. Then it cuts to another room where some other people are talking. Then we might return to the first room of talking people only to cut away again to a third group of people talking. A dragon flies by. Then someone either gets killed or goes into labor or both. Then one of the people from the first group meets up with one of the people from the second group and they start talking, sometimes speaking in High Valyrian, so you’re stuck struggling to read the tiniest subtitles in the history of television.
To make matters worse, unless the scene is shot outside during the day, all this talk, talk, talk, talk, talk is so dimly lit you can’t see a damn thing. Of course, when they speak High Valyrian in the daytime scenes, the wee little subtitles are completely unreadable.
I kept waiting for the action of the story to kick in. But it never really does.
From what I can glean, the first ten hourlong episodes of House of the Dragon set up the story of the civil war between King Viserys’s two children Aegon and Rhaenyra who both claim to be the heir to the Iron Throne. But since their civil war doesn’t start until the very last minute Episode 10, we’re stuck with 10 episodes of backstory.
Backstory is exposition. And exposition is, in a word, boring.
The other thing that annoyed me was the recasting that happened midway through the first season when the action jumped ahead ten years.
Now, if a character is five and the next episode is ten years later, I can understand recasting the part with a 15-year-old actor.
But for heaven’s sake, Rhaenyra Targaryen is a central character. She is one of the two children of King Viserys who is vying for the Iron Throne. Why in Lucifer’s reach did they recast that part?!
Sure, Milly Alcock, the actress playing Rhaenyra in the first five episodes, is only 22 years old. But having watched her in the first five episodes, I’m fairly certain Alcock, was more than up to the job of playing the 30ish-year-old Rhaenyra. If the 22-year-old Alcock could play the 14-year-old Rhaenyra, she could play her at 30. Come on, guys.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Last Kingdom, but Eliza Butterworth, the actress who played King Alfred the Great’s wife, Lady Aelswith, was the same age as Milly Alcock when she first started in the role. Butterworth continued to play Aelswith for all five seasons, and by season five, Aelswith was a grandmother. What’s more, Butterworth did an excellent job of it. And I think Milly Alcock would have been just as good as the older Rhaenyra.
It certainly didn’t help that Emma D’Arcy, the actress who replaced Alcock, is just awful. Much of the boring in the second half of the season springs from D’Arcy’s dull, plodding performance.
There was absolutely no reason to replace Milly Alcock with a slightly older actress midway through the first season. It was a stupid thing to do.
The other thing House of the Dragon lacked was humor and whimsy, something Game of Thrones had in abundance.
The writers for Game of Thrones deftly blended humor into a story filled with terror, suspense, action, adventure, and palace intrigue. Whereas the writers of House of the Dragon clearly took themselves and the story far too seriously to even entertain the idea of occasionally lightening the mood.
I get the impression that the writers for House of the Dragon were so concerned about staying true to the book on which the series is based that they didn’t take into account that film is an entirely different medium than books.
But who knows?
Now that they got the dull backstory out of the way, maybe in Season Two House of the Dragon will awake from its turgid, somnambulant stupor and rise like a dragon into a riveting, multi-layered, rollicking adventure.
At least I hope so.
Hit the Tip Jar!
Every dollar makes a difference! Hit the DONATE button in the sidebar. Or, set up a recurring monthly contribution by choosing SUBSCRIBE.