- Jeff Beck
House of the Dragon: The Complete First Season: A Worthy Successor to a Landmark Show (4K/Blu-ray)
After the immense success of "Game of Thrones," which included a whopping 59 Emmy wins (including four for Outstanding Drama Series), it was only a matter of time before HBO brought viewers back to the land of Westeros. With several possibilities going into development, the first to emerge was "House of the Dragon," a show that takes place 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen and focuses on that family's history. The original show certainly left some enormous shoes to fill, and any follow-up had no guarantee of success. but viewers quickly found that this new spin-off had quite a lot to offer those who were looking to continue their journey through George R.R. Martin's wondrous realm.
The show begins as King Jaehaerys Targaryen calls a Great Council to decide who will succeed him on the throne, with the lords of Westeros picking his oldest grandson, Prince Viserys, over his oldest grandchild, Princess Rhaenys. Jumping nine years into the reign of King Viserys (Paddy Considine), a tournament has been planned to celebrate the Queen's pregnancy. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing as Westerosi shipping lanes are being threatened by a group known as the Triarchy, with the King's Small Council dismissing said threats.
Also causing some trouble is the King's brother, Daemon (Matt Smith), whose brutality as the Commander of the City Watch has been noted by Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King. Tragedy befalls the royal family when the Queen dies in childbirth, with the child dying shorty after. Finding out that Daemon mocked the child as the "Heir for a Day," Viserys has him banished from King's Landing, and appoints his only daughter, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), as heir to the throne. And all of this is merely the first episode of this epic tale.
The first thing that really needs to be said about "House of the Dragon" is that it's not on the same level as "Game of Thrones," but it's also a rather unfair comparison to make. The original show was on a level all its own, brilliantly balancing multiple storylines to create one of the greatest shows of all time and forever leaving its mark on television history. When it comes to "House of the Dragon," we have a completely different structure in that it pretty much focuses on a single storyline that encompasses the multitude of characters, and on top of that, we have a show that is much slower in its pace (at least in comparison to its predecessor).
Both of these factors could have easily weakened the show, but as it turns out, they actually work quite well to its advantage. The single storyline gives the show a good deal of focus, while the slower pace gives it time to unwind its twisty plot of intrigue, romance, family squabbles, betrayal, and more. It may take a little more time to get around to them, but it certainly hits its share of high points throughout the season that surprise the audience and keep them engaged as it weaves its aforementioned tale.
Another thing that has to be mentioned are the show's notorious time jumps. Now obviously the show has a lot of history to cover, and this history spans quite a few years, but you would think that there would've been a better way to consolidate events so that they didn't need to have quite so many jarring leaps forward in time. Each leap requires a period of adjustment as we settle back into whatever events are taking place, and while it's not too big of an issue, it certainly feels like the show would've flowed much smoother had they found a better chronological way to include all of the events they wanted to present.
As for the show's more positive components, aside from its compelling storyline, we have the same gorgeous design elements that we became quite used to on the original show, that is, the marvelous costumes, sets, cinematography, visual effects, etc. Then, of course, there's the remarkable cast, with particularly great work from Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Milly Alcock, Emma d'Arcy (as older Rhaenyra), and Emily Carey & Olivia Cooke (as younger & older Alicent Hightower, Ser Otto's daughter). They came into this with a heavy weight on their shoulders, and they all proved that they were more than up to the task.
Again, if you come to "House of the Dragon" expecting something on the level of "Game of Thrones," you'll probably be a little disappointed, but taken on its own merits, it has quite a lot to offer and is a rather intriguing addition to the same universe. It may be a little slower and a bit disorienting as it jumps ahead in time on several occasions, but with its mostly-gripping tale and strong, talented cast, fans of the original show will more than likely find this to be a worthy successor.
Season one of "House of the Dragon" arrives on 4K/Blu-ray in 2160p UHD/1080p HD, 2.00:1 transfers of outstanding quality. The image is beautifully sharp and clear throughout the entire season, highlighting the show's gorgeous designs and technical elements. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio track is flawless, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and Ramin Djawadi's score in excellent quality. Overall, fans will be very pleased with the treatment the show has received for its home release.
Welcome to Westeros (6 Minutes)
A New Reign (3 Minutes)
Returning to Westeros (5 Minutes)
Before the Dance: An Illustrated History with George R.R. Martin (5 Minutes)
Height of an Empire (4 Minutes)
Noble Houses (4 Minutes)
Familiar Places (4 Minutes)
Returning to the Seven Kingdoms (25 Minutes)
Introducing the Characters (15 Minutes)
For the most part, these featurettes are very brief glimpses behind the scenes of the show, with a fair amount of history and character descriptions thrown in. "Returning to the Seven Kingdoms" in particular is worth watching as the most in-depth extra of the lot.
"House of the Dragon" may not hit the high benchmark set by its extraordinary predecessor, but with its own compelling storyline, a fantastic cast, and outstanding design elements, it easily stands quite well on its own merits and makes for a worthy follow-up to the original show.
Available on 4K/Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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