“House of the Dragon: Season 1” review: The “Game of Thrones” successor presents itself with surpassing potential


Courtesy of IMDb

Mia Oliva, Reviews Editor

Editor’s note: This review contains potential spoilers for HBO’s “House of the Dragon”.

 Ever since the initial announcement of production briefly after its predecessor’s series finale, “House of the Dragon” has drawn an influx of anticipation to the “Game of Thrones” universe from newcomers and die-hard fans alike. While “Game of Thrones” left an imprint on a decade’s worth of pop culture, the series fell short in its final season, as a result of what most fans would consider as “lazy writing” or an eagerness to “get it over with” on behalf of the show writers.  

 Though this be the case, the fanaticism for novelist George R.R. Martin’s mind and work of fantasy transcends that of a failed series finale, as “Game of Thrones” itself is just one of eight stories set in the fictional continent of Westeros. 

“House of the Dragon” derives its source material from Martin’s fifth novel in his grandiose anthology, which centers on the Targaryen dynasty at its height, up until a civil war breaks out amongst the house and Targaryens suffer a great decrease in their ultimate power: dragons. This is ultimately coined as “The Dance of Dragons” in Westerosi history. 

If one thing is certain, the prequel promises redemption for the GoT universe with its initial season. From acting performances to technical aspects alike, “House of the Dragon” managed to lure OG fans back into the world of Westeros and has even prompted newcomers to binge “Game of Thrones” after watching the prequel beforehand. 

What the GoT universe manages to do best is introduce audiences to talent they seldom know of, or perhaps have never come across at all. For example, actors Emma D’Arcy and Paddy Considine cleaned the plate with their performances as Rhaenyra Targaryen and Viserys Targaryen, the current Targaryen king and his heir. Though I had never come across any of their other works or performances, these two solidified the show’s success and utmost potential. Another newcomer that left a fierce impression on me was Ewan Mitchell, who plays Aemond Targaryen (in later episodes) and is the second son of Viserys’ second marriage as well as Rhaenyra’s half-brother. The immersion and dedication these three bring to the table—with such little public recognition, at that—unquestionably call for a promising show.

Two other exemplary performances in the series come from Matt Smith, who plays Viserys’ younger and troublesome brother, Daemon, and Olivia Cooke, who portrays Alicent Hightower, second wife to Viserys and daughter of the King’s Hand. While these two actors have more notoriety, their performances were astounding and top tier. In regards to Olivia Cooke, especially, I would have to say that she outdid herself along with all her other performances. Her skill is brilliant and I am eager to see more of her in upcoming seasons.   

While there is little critique to make of the series, especially when it comes to casting and performance, I would argue that the events leading up to the “Dance of the Dragons” were a tad bit rushed. Whether their intention was to condense the contents of the source material or advance to the start of the Targaryen civil war, I would have liked to see more intricacy and detail. For instance, seeing more of Rhaenyra’s relationship and dynamic with Ser Harwin Strong would’ve been nice, rather than throwing in a time jump and boom…suddenly Rhaenyra is birthing her third bastard son. I also would’ve liked to see more of Harwin’s actor, Ryan Corr, as he brought a brief but promising presence to the series.

Another technical aspect I admired and noticed a great improvement on (from “Game of Thrones”) was the dedication and craft exerted onto the dragons and their detail, along with bringing those scenes of dragon riding and dueling to life. The immersion was so profound, it literally had me wishing dragons were real.

All in all, I indubitably enjoyed the prequel and am looking forward to the following seasons (especially after Emma D’Arcy’s execution of the infamous Targaryen female rage stare in the final scene of the season).

“House of the Dragon: Season 1” is now available on HBO Max.

Illustration by Ariel Landry
Illustration by Ariel Landry