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House of the Dragon S01E01 Fiery Start; Considine, Smith Shine: Review

HBO's House of the Dragon, the much-anticipated Game of Thrones prequel based on George R. R. Martin's "Fire and Blood," is off to a running start as it re-establishes the reign of the Targaryens. The premiere "The Heirs of the Dragon" provides a dramatic departure from when the high fantasy series initially established itself in 2011 by focusing the storytelling on multiple fronts with the Starks, King's Landing, and the exiled Targaryen siblings. HOTD instead starts solely at King's Landing with King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), who's expecting an heir from Queen Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke).

House of the Dragon Premiere Review: Considine and Smith Shine
Paddy Considine in House of the Dragon. Image courtesy of Ollie Upton / HBO

We get to know all of the major players, most prominently Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), the younger brother of Viserys; Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), Visery's firstborn child; Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King; Lady Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), Otto's daughter; Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), aka "The Sea Snake"; Ser Herrold Westerling (Graham McTavish), Lord Commander of the Kingsguard; and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) aka "The Queen Who Never Was," who gave up her claim to the iron throne in favor of her cousin, Viserys.

House of the Dragon Premiere Review: Considine and Smith Shine
Matt Smith in House of the Dragon. Image courtesy of Ollie Upton / HBO

Most of the premiere features Considine and Smith's characters. The earlier runs a bit of a gamut as far are a few major crisis laid upon him, one of them caused by the latter. The younger brother is certainly as ambitious and ruthless as he is resentful. One such display involves leading the Kingsguard brutally culling "criminals" on the streets of King's Landing, and it's about on brand as far as brutality and debauchery go for the series. To top that off, we get a jousting competition that's about as far from friendly as it can get with several competitors, including Daemon, taking it too far… to the raucous joy from the bloodthirsty crowd, of course.

House of the Dragon Premiere Review: Considine and Smith Shine
Milly Alcock and Sian Brooke in House of the Dragon. Image courtesy of Ollie Upton / HBO

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by Ryan Condal, "The Heirs of the Dragon" is a fine starting point for new viewers with the nod to the old because it doesn't require those coming in fresh to watch Game of Thrones to get drawn into the story and most scenes fulfill their purpose without getting carried away. I enjoyed the direction they're taking Smith's character early on. There are clear parallels between the shows with regards to Alcock's Rhaenyra compared to how GOT treated Emilia Clarke's Daenerys, given their restraint. The difference is that Rhaenyra isn't being forced to marry someone… always a key difference. House of the Dragon has a refreshing, clean slate feel to it and is worthy (so far) of being a part of the GRRM small screen universe. But now that we've gotten the premiere episode out of the way, let's see if it can maintain its momentum and distinguish itself as its story… and not just "Game of Thrones II." New episodes premiere Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.

House of the Dragon S01E01 "The Heirs of the Dragon"

House of the Dragon Premiere Review: Considine and Smith Shine
Review by Tom Chang

House of the Dragon premiere "The Heirs of the Dragon" starts strong, with Paddy Considine & Matt Smith thriving in the ensemble cast that impresses from the opening minutes. Miguel Sapochnik demonstrates a mastery of the Game of Thrones universe, respecting what came before it while establishing HOTD as its own series from the start, leaving viewers comforted in knowing that the franchise is in safe hands.

Miguel Sapochnik

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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