House of the Dragon: “The Heirs of the Dragon” Episode Review

It felt so good to be back in Westeros on a Sunday night. I still haven’t forgiven Game of Thrones for its terrible ending, but I also refuse to let one bad season forever ruin the incredible world that George R.R. Martin has created. So if you’re looking for someone who’s going to rehash all of the horrible Thrones moments and hate-watch this new series, look elsewhere. However, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of Westeros mixed with some slightly-above-average jokes, then welcome aboard.

One of the things I loved about the episode was the nods to what came before: weirwood trees, the small council room, the Iron Throne (with some spikey upgrades!). And don’t forget about all of that gratuitous sex and violence. Like your favorite pair of jeans—or your dead mom’s sexiest dress—we were reminded just how good it feels to be here. Somewhere between the sprawling shots of King’s Landing and the Game of Thrones music that played as the episode faded to black, I was hooked. I’ve missed this world, these families. And while there’s no guarantee that House of the Dragon will maintain the excellence it’s shown it can pull off in this first episode, I’m in and I’m ready to be hurt again. After all, to borrow a line from Nicole Kidman, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.

Milly Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. Photo by Ollie Upton © HBO.

Riser of the Week: Rhaenyra Targaryen

I was a little concerned going into House of the Dragon because for me, so much of the show’s success was going to depend on this character. After one hour, thanks to Milly Alcock’s superb acting, my concerns are fading. Alcock shined in every scene, and I will be bummed to see her go when the time-jump happens in the coming weeks. Rhaenyra looked every bit the ruler in the Throne Room when the heads of the various houses were swearing fealty to her. Throw in the fact that she’s a badass dragon rider and I have a feeling she’ll be an easy character to root for, which is in stark contrast to our previous silver-haired Mad Queen.

Honorable Mention: Ser Criston Cole, who seems poised to spark up a romantic interest with the incumbent queen.

 

Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen. Photo by Ollie Upton © HBO.

Faller of the Week: Viserys Targaryen

Viserys was my favorite character of the episode. Played to perfection by Paddy Considine, Viserys is wonderfully complex. His reign has been a peaceful one, and as the history books of Westeros have shown us, that is no small feat. And even though he won’t get a pass for the way he handled the birth of Baelor and death of Aemma, I understand why he made his decision in that manner. Viserys knows that without a male heir, the transition of power will be a complicated, bloody one. And as we’re told early on, the only thing that can ruin the Targaryen dynasty is the Targaryen family. This is not an indictment of Princess Rhaenyra. Viserys knows she’d be a worthy ruler. Rather, it’s about the optics of a woman on the throne and the lack of support she’s likely to receive when she takes power. And considering how much time we spent focused on the succession of power, it seems all but guaranteed that Viserys’s time on the throne is limited. Don’t forget about that nasty and infected cut on his back. One way or another, the Iron Throne will get you.

Honorable Mention: Daemon Targaryen, for fumbling the ball at the goal line. The crown was yours if you could have kept your mouth shut.

Item of Power: Everyone’s Favorite Valyrian Steel Dagger

When Viserys was telling Rhaenyra about Aegon the Conqueror’s dream, aka the Song of Ice and Fire, the camera focused on the dagger he was carrying, and it looks like it’s the very same weapon that was first used to try and kill Bran in Season One of Thrones, and then later used by Arya to kill the Night King. It’s a fun piece of history that ties the shows together, and it’s fun to think about how in just 170 years, this dagger goes from a Targaryen King to Littlefinger.

Milly Alcock and Paddy Considine in “The Heirs of the Dragon.” © HBO

Backstory of the Week: The Targaryen History

I figured it’d be helpful to give a quick overview of the Targaryens and how long they’ve been in power up to this point, which is about 104 years since Aegon’s conquest. Aegon ruled for nearly forty years before he died, and then the crown went to his son, Aenys. But Aenys would die after only five years in power, and then his half-brother, Maegor took power. Known as Maegor the Cruel, his brutal rule would last only six years, but its effects would be long-lasting. From there, succession went to Jaehaerys, the youngest son of the late King Aenys. Jaehaerys would rule for an impressive 55 years, and he’s often referred to as “The Old King.” His reign is remembered as the most prosperous period on the Targaryen dynasty. When Jaehaerys died, the crown went to his grandson and our current king, Viserys.

So there you have it. A little more than 100 years of Targaryen power. Five kings. And a whole lot of incest. Safe to say things are about to get interesting.

Maester’s Musings

  • The childbirth scene has got to be one of the hardest-to-watch moments in television. I could barely look at the screen as Aemma cried out and writhed in pain. And then the reveal of the infant on the funeral pyre. Oof, that hit hard.
  • Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, is an early favorite for the least likable character. He tries to come off high and mighty, but he’s just as power-hungry as the rest of them. Sending his daughter to tend to the king was so sleazy. But in the world of Westeros politics, you have to respect the move.
  • I loved seeing the dragon wranglers. You know they’re just regular old people with absolutely crazy jobs, and little moments like that really help the show breathe. More of that, please.
  • The entire tourney was beautiful. The set pieces, the sound, the stunts. All of it. You can tell just how grandiose life currently is for the people of Westeros. It puts Robert Baratheon’s tourney from Season One of Thrones to shame.
  • Just fifteen minutes into the series, not only did we watch a guy get his penis hacked off, but we also zoomed in on it. Thrones is back, baby!
  • I’m really excited to see how Daemon Targaryen’s storyline unfolds. Matt Smith is a phenomenal actor and if this show stays good, I can see him cleaning up at the award shows next year.
  • I was surprised to learn that the Targaryen kings have known about the White Walkers since Aegon’s conquest. I’m still mulling it over, but it does raise some questions. Like why didn’t the Targaryen kings fortify the Night’s Watch?
  • More than anything, I am just excited to be looking forward to Sunday nights again. I adore this world, and I’m ready to get hurt again. The things we do for love…

More: Our reviews on Game of Thrones

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