House of the Dragon: A Fresh Journey Back To Westeros
I still remember the night of May 19, 2019. Sitting in my living room, as I awaited the grand finale of what had been the greatest show I had ever seen, Game of Thrones. A show with so much complexity, grandeur, and heart that had amassed millions of fans in its 8 season run. I still remember the feeling I had once the credits began to roll. I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy. I wasn't alone in my disappointment as millions of other GOT fans took to the internet to vent. The series finale left such a sour taste in many fans' mouths that just 2 years after that, it held such a little grip on pop culture discourse. A show that brought in 18.4 million live viewers for its finale had seemingly disappeared from people's minds.
It was for this reason that fans were apprehensive when the prequel series, House of the Dragon, was announced by HBO Max. However, HBO Max was aware of how displeased fans had been and knew they needed to solidify the new series in a way that re-excited fans. The biggest change from the original show was the creative team in charge. GOT showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss held no part in House of the Dragon. Instead, placing the role in the hands of Ryan Condal. The series also diverged from the original in the way it was written. George R. R. Martin gave an overarching guide of how he wanted GOT told but did not have control over how the last season happened. He and HBO Max openly discussed their desire for the show to run for 10-13 seasons instead of the compressed 7th and 8th seasons.
This new series has a strong starting out that the previous one did not, an ending. While Martin has yet to finish The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, his final books in the Song of Ice & Fire series, he did finish the story of the Targaryen dynasty. While written as a Maesters rendition of history, Fire & Blood details their bloodline, from Aegon's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms to the fall of the Mad King. This gives HBO the advantage of having a clear ending to reach. The first season utilized the source material while also crafting a unique story, keeping fans who've read it and those who haven't equally engaged. By molding truly unique, gripping characters and tweaking elements of the history text, it has become arguably the best series of 2022.
Viewers may also notice a sharp visual difference in the series. With a hefty budget of around 100 million, HBO Max has utilized bold new technology. Similar to The Mandalorian, HOTD uses The Volume, a set-surrounding box that brings sets to life. This allows it to breathe magic into each location. Plus, even with an extensive budget, it is difficult to get a dragon in this economy. With a strong first season and an estimated 3 more on the way, it seems that HOTD may have learned from the mistakes of GOT.
Writer: Sudarshan Sindhuvalli
Artist: Hannah Liu