Review | ‘Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon’ soars alongside original series

‘House of the Dragon’ holds its own against the original ‘Game of Thrones’ series — but that’s not quite enough to quell its undoings; it doesn’t turn up the heat quite far enough in comparison to the first series’ best moments.


Photo taken by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY.

Parker Jones, Arts Editor

Sitting down to watch the finale of Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon, I had a moment of eerie deja vu as I unwillingly remembered how poorly the last Game of Thrones finale went. The last episode of House of the Dragon’s first season aired on the night of Oct. 23.

Though House of the Dragon made an exciting part of my week during its air, I wasn’t overly impressed with the show as a whole. It definitely holds its own against the latter seasons of the original Game of Thrones — then again, the bar is on the floor — but it doesn’t have anything on the original show’s best moments.

I was pleasantly surprised with the finale, “The Black Queen,” which turned out to be one of its most emotionally moving out of the entire debut season. It opens with the incredibly raw scene of main character Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen giving birth to a stillborn child, moments after being told of her father’s death and her imminent ascension to the throne.

Both actors who played Rhaenyra, Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy, did an amazing job throughout the season. However, D’Arcy’s heart-wrenching performance in the finale’s incipit scene alone was unmatched.

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It is hard to decide which episode was most entertaining, the finale or episode five, “We Light the Way,” in which there is another Game of Thrones-style wedding gone wrong. It set the pace for the rest of the series, with as much violence as necessary to keep your eyes on the screen backed up by wonderful reactionary performances.

Despite all the triumphs of these episodes, it was dragged down further and further by almost the entire first half of the season, which while important for scene setting and character introductions, felt like not much more than a dreadfully long exposition-filled prologue. The episodes “Second of his Name” and “King of the Narrow Sea” were some of the worst offenders.

At its worst, House of the Dragon was a drab, colorless drama that seemed like a family drama sitcom gone wrong. At its best, the show was an entertaining tussle for power between equally unlikeable houses, that also garnered a fun amount of TikToks and Twitter memes to chortle at.

My ultimate thoughts on House of the Dragon can be summarized by my thoughts on its introduction and theme song: It is heavily nostalgic, with many of the same delicious beats I found myself captured by in the original series. However, its metaphors and themes make far less sense than the first series, and somehow the fact that there are only two houses to focus on — or two colors, to make it even simpler — I am left far more confused by why certain characters do what they do, than I ever was with the first series.

Still, I will absolutely fly back to my screen to see more dragons, swordfights, and scintillating drama for the series’ scheduled second season.