We’re six episodes into HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, and I finally feel the stakes of the storyline. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been plenty of conflict, but now, finally, the series feels like a true GAME OF THRONES prequel. Life/birth and death are certainly the heavy themes of the episode.
After another time jump (a very useful device, if you ask me), we move a decade past episode five’s disastrous wedding. Lots has changed, and the episode effectively catches us up on what we’ve missed without spelling it out. There is a tonal shift that doesn’t feel forced.
Set and production design seem more apparent at the forefront as well. Toward the beginning of the episode, a very impressive, long, single shot shows off the scale of these sets, and somehow I finally felt like I was back in Westeros. The natural lighting by candles and fire pits is very effective as well.
The stakes I mentioned before harken back to what GAME OF THRONES did so effectively: pit people against one another. I appreciate the build-up to this moment in episodes one through five, biding time with good character development while utilizing their time jumps to get us to the story, but it feels like our main conflict finally begins here.
At the ten-year time jump, we have cast member replacements, and I must say the adult versions of Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Queen Alicent (Olivia Cook) couldn’t be more perfect. Aside from physically resembling their predecessors, their performances bear the weight of the events of the skipped years of the story. In true GOT fashion, the conflict is heavy and personal, and their icy interactions come off as believable and somehow tragic. It’s sad to remember that they once loved one another. Additionally, characters who had sat in the background of previous episodes step forward in surprising ways, moving the story forward in their villainy, and leaving me to wonder where the final four episodes will lead us.
I do enjoy this show, which is surprising as I’m among the camp of people who didn’t think we needed a prequel and wasn’t all that interested at first. I’m glad I was wrong.
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON is available to stream on HBO Max.