A lot was on the line for House of the Dragon. Not only was the production rather expensive – although nowhere near as costly as that of The Rings of Power – but also, the brand remained stigmatized. Game of Thrones, once hailed as the biggest TV show in the world, went out with less than a whimper, so a prequel from the same production company, naturally, drew in an army of skeptics.
Worse still, House of the Dragon had to compete with Prime Video’s $1 billion – as they continually publicized – production called The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The former of that title remains incredibly well-liked among mainstream audiences, with the trilogy from Peter Jackson winning Oscars and holding up to this day. So, The Rings of Power had an absurd amount of momentum and goodwill before its arrival.
In somewhat of an underdog tale turn of events, House of the Dragon has set off, beating its giant scaly wings to earn critical and audience acclaim. Once again, a Game of Thrones story is the talk at the water cooler, between friends and family, and in online forums. The Rings of Power, on the other hand, has been panned, with just about every aspect of a TV show that can be reviewed being slated, while those same elements are praised for the HBO series.
Story writing, script, acting, special effects, cinematography, lighting, being an adaptation, the works: House of the Dragon has nailed every facet and is rightfully being praised and watched en masse. Yet, it could still get bigger. This is the first season, after all, with some fans still scorning the last couple of seasons of Game of Thrones, thus refusing to watch as it releases, perhaps giving The Rings of Power a chance instead.
HBO and George R. R. Martin have done it again, but it certainly hasn’t been a small feat. By simple comparison to The Rings of Power, the quality is night and day, but there’s a lot more to this story.
Legacy of Game of Thrones
At the conclusion of Season 5 of Game of Thrones, or even the starting-to-teeter Season 6, few would have foreseen Game of Thrones fans not craving a spin-off series. TV watchers had been hit by the empty mystery box of J.J. Abrams’ Lost, and Heroes fell off a cliff amidst the writers’ strike, but Game of Thrones was going to be different. It’s the reason why Jeff Bezos went for the Middle-earth rights, as Amazon needed an equivalent to GoT.
Regardless, once the source material started to dry up and the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, were being swayed by deals elsewhere, the show started to suffer. Entering what they thought would be victory formation, two shortened seasons resulted in ridicule and backlash from fans who had followed the ever-twisting stories for nearly a decade.
People did enjoy continuing to talk about the show, though, and the series – perhaps not every season – remained highly watched in the US in the years following the infamous final season. At least the majority of the show is still incredibly well made and very rewatchable, with the characters and stories still being commonly referenced in pop culture.
Even the finale couldn’t take Game of Thrones out of the public consciousness. It simply became too big and had too much fanfare to fade completely. Beyond the TV show and the books themselves, Game of Thrones rose to prominence in online casino gaming. While Spin Casino offers for Canadian players include up to $1,000 as a welcome bonus, savvy players will scroll down to see what slots are available. Right there, among the site’s very best, is the Game of Thrones slot. Even further away, Game of Thrones tours are still going very strong.
House of the Dragon faced quite a predicament indeed. Fans clearly held a lot of dislike for the way that Game of Thrones ended, and that sentiment has seemingly stuck years later. The ending is now discussed more as a joke than the tour de force that it should have been. Yet, at the same time, it’s a beloved IP that broke beyond the realms of novelizations and TV adaptations, so the bar was still very high indeed.
HBO revels in Westeros
The odds were stacked against House of the Dragon, somewhat, but it got off to a flying start. Launching like Caraxes from Dragonstone, it made HBO records and continues to keep viewers coming back for more. In the US, on all platforms, House of the Dragon is reportedly averaging 29 million viewers per episode. While Game of Thrones ended up averaging 32.7 million on the same metric, Season 1 only had an average of 9.3 million viewers. Season 8 of Game of Thrones averaged 46 million viewers in the US.
The numbers are staggering, especially as there will be people who were hesitant to return to Westeros, even if it is centuries before King’s Landing gets leveled. Better still for House of the Dragon, though, is that it’s seeing a consistent rise in viewership with each episode. Up to Episode 6, it was reported by Variety that viewer increases between three and five percent from Episode 4 to 5 and 5 to 6 have been recorded across all HBO platforms in the US.
Fans are clearly getting swept up in the time-jumping tales of the Targaryens, and critics are jumping on board as well. At the time of writing, the Metascore on Metacritic for the first season of House of the Dragon stood at a bizarre 69 out of 100. Clicking on the “See all Seasons and Episodes” button, however, reveals critical Metascores of 8.5, 8.7, 8.2, 8.9, 8.4, 6.8, 9.2, and a staggering 9.9 for the first to the seventh episodes.
How House of the Dragon continues to captivate
The quality of House of the Dragon allows for an explanation of how it’s so captivating without giving away any spoilers. Right off the bat, the writing is exquisite. Each episode runs one or several themes through each character of focus, it very effectively relies on show-not-tell, and just about every look, discussion, or action has a purpose in the moment or later on. You want to spot everything to have a better idea of what might come.
Perhaps what will capture new viewers more immediately, however, is the acting. There is a time jump, with a couple of actors tagging out for older actors to play the part, but the switch is nearly seamless, even though the characters develop along the way. Headlining the performances is Paddy Considine as King Viserys, who NME says received a text from Martin saying: “Your Viserys is better than my Viserys.”
Milly Alcock, Rhys Ifans, Emily Carey, Emma D’Arcy, and Steve Toussaint have also been top-draw, but everyone’s on the edge of their seat when Matt Smith, as Prince Daemon, is on screen. The “Rogue Prince” has earned his moniker, always acting as you would expect, but equally, as unexpectedly as you’d hope. It adds tension and more than enough contextual comedy to instantly turn a scene as he sees fit.
Season 2 of House of the Dragon has been green-lit by HBO, clearly happy with the figures and feedback received so far. It’s proven that there is still some affection for Game of Thrones, but above all else, viewers are happy to return and immerse themselves in fantasy realms if the show’s well-written.