Cast: Milly Alcock, Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Eve Best, Rhys Ifans, Fabien Frankel & ensemble.
Creator: Ryan Condal, Miguel Sapochnik & George R.R. Martin.
Director: Miguel Sapochnik.
Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar (for India).
Language: English (with subtitles).
Runtime: 5 Episodes Yet, Around 60 Minutes Each.
House Of The Dragon Mid-Season Review: What’s It About:
Set 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, The Dragon Mother, House Of The Dragon is about the age of Westeros when it was ruled by the Targaryens. The show scales the rise of Queen Rhaenyra after King Viserys. The first 5 Episodes are about the time Viserys named his daughter as the heir and the waves that it created leading to Rhaenyra’s wedding.
House Of The Dragon Mid-Season Review: What Works:
House Of The Dragon creatively led by Ryan Condal, Miguel Sapochnik & George R.R. Martin, began as an ode to its predecessor, a sort of a love letter to the Game Of Thrones. But dare you to just limit it to that, because since the episode two, it found the soul of it’s own. King Viserys in a scene calls his House chaotic, messy, and wild. Exactly the three things that the first five episodes define.
The exploration of Westeros has always been wild and unpredictable, but add to it the rawness and you will have House Of The Dragon. This is almost 2 centuries before the events of the hit HBO show, so the untamed nature of it has to be 200 times wilder. And the makers do not disappoint. There is love, deceit, bonds, some broken tragically, but at the centre of it is that throne that now sits at the top of an alley made of pointy swords. Miguel in his perspective of the iconic throne, adds metaphor that the main series failed to do.
The throne is a symbol of the wars won by the crown and the warriors it killed. These are swords that are mend to sit on and they will have their consequences. Everytime King Viserys sits on the throne it draws blood from him. Some wounds it gave him are decaying him slowly and so is the power that eats him some at a time. Around this is all the politics and bonds that are put to test.
There is a sharp look at the positioning of women in this world. They are machines to give kings their heir, no matter the goodness in them, they will tear their bellies if it is for a boy. They are mere pawns traded to bring glory to houses and nothing else. Amid this a king chooses a woman as his heir and that creates a storm. The reaction is what the creators focus more than the outcome. Because we know she will sit on the throne, it is the journey you must see.
The biggest credit where it’s due, the bonds in House Of The Dragon get so much time to breathe that you feel them. The intimacy is so well-edged and performed that it’s real and raw. These are knights and princesses and ministers, undressing for them before getting intimate is a herculean task and there is a scene that shows that. Such a minute detail but so much good effect on the entire experience.
Do I really need to say out loud that the visuals are just amazing? Especially the wedding in Episode 5, yes we have a ‘wedding’ and that does live up to the Game Of Thrones standards. It happens in the hall where one’s love is killed and another’s is sacrificed, while the bride and groom take the vows standing right near the blood of the murdered love, goose flesh! The camera captures this moment so closely and it only moves you. So does it tries to do with the constant involvement of rats in the frame signifying the slow decay or rotting of the crown that now Rhaenyra has to stop?
Do not miss the background score by Ramin Djawadi in the wedding sequence. He kind of brings the flavour of the Fire & Blood with a touch of drums and an entirely new tune. He knows his game and is an ultimate master at it.
House Of The Dragon Mid-Season Review: Star Performance:
It is a massive ensemble and the fact that these actors were cast after considering a whole lot of them, tells about their merit. Matt Smith stands at the top of this list because the man knows how to be evil but also bring some depth to this world cruel to women so well. While there is a full-blown assassin in him, there is also some sense that wants Rhaenyra to be liberated. Smith plays the duality so well.
Talking of Rhaenyra, Milly Alcock as the princess lives at her own will regardless of the chatter around her. She is the clueless wild soul like the audience and it makes easier for us to connect to her because of that very approach of the makers to her role. The actor does complete justice and manages to bring the dilemmas alive well.
Emily Carey brings the emotional depth to this world as Alicent Hightower. There is so much in her silence than words and that is so good. So does Fabien Frankel who has to be a silent spectator and a participant in so many ways. He loves and has to let that love go. I would love to see how these characters develop in the future.
But the fact that we are watching some of these, and definitely Milly, Emily, and Fabien for the last time on the show is heartbreaking. It isn’t a secret that House Of The Dragon takes a leap in episode 6, so there will be elder actors playing them.
House Of The Dragon Mid-Season Review: What Doesn’t Work:
While the world building is good and immersive to be hooked, I miss the surrounding characters that should be equally strong and worth rooting for. Remember how Game Of Thrones had a Lord Baelish, Lord Varys, and even smaller ones including Hodor, Dolorus, Osha? They made the world so much more layered and woven that their stories too added a lot to the throne. House Of The Dragon as of now lacks such characters and actually deserve them.
One more thing that bothers me is the effect of the massive and many leaps the show is taking in the longer run. They are working now because the scenes are slow paced and immersive even when the leaps are often, but the effect on the future of the show is questionable.
House Of The Dragon Mid-Season Review: Last Words:
It is a prequel that deserves to be celebrated for its merit. And if it has managed to hook us till the mid-season, half battle is already won. Let’s see what the future holds. Till then, may light of the seven be with you!