House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon s1

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Reviewer

Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

A long time ago, the House Targaryen conquered the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros with the help of their dragons. That was before the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, was killed by Jaime Lannister. It was before Daenerys Targaryen became the Mother of Dragons and Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea or Jon Snow learned he was not a Stark but a Targaryen.

Back in that day, no one dared to stand against such formidable flying and fiery foes. Thus, King Jaehaerys ruled Westeros through 60 years of peace and prosperity.

Unfortunately, the Old King (as he became known) had no living son to name as his heir. So, he called a council to select a successor to the Iron Throne.

A thousand lords came to the castle at Harrenhal. Fourteen of those laid claims, but only two were truly considered.

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (the Old King’s granddaughter) was his eldest descendant. However, Prince Viserys Targaryen (his grandson and the Prince of Dragonstone, the Targaryen’s ancestral home) was his eldest male relative.

Viserys was named Jaehaerys’ heir. When the Old King died, Viserys took his place on the Iron Throne without contest. Which, of course, had been the king’s intention all along—to avoid a war of succession.

Because the Old King knew: The only thing that could tear down the mighty House of the Dragon was itself.

Dance of the Dragons

Unfortunately, for all of Jaehaerys’ good intentions, they are all for naught.

Viserys is indeed crowned king. But he is unable to produce his own male heir. His wife, Aemma, gives birth to a daughter. They lose a babe in the cradle, have two stillborn children and two miscarriages over the course of the next couple decades.

However, Viserys is determined that the next pregnancy will bear a son. (He saw it in a dream that he believes is a vision of the future.) Unfortunately, it comes at great cost.

When Aemma goes into labor, the baby is in breech position and all attempts to rotate him fail. Viserys is told to make a decision: Save the child, causing a painful death for his wife, or let them both perish.

Aemma dies from the blood loss as her son is removed from her womb. And shortly after that, the boy passes as well, rendering Aemma’s suffering meaningless.

A grieving Viserys must make a difficult decision once again: to let his violent and impudent brother, Daemon, succeed him as king; to remarry and name any potential male children from that union as his heir; or to choose his eldest child—his daughter, Rhaenyra—as the first Queen of Westeros.

Each choice could result in civil war. And with dragons at the helm of each faction, someone is bound to get burned.

Game of Groans

House of the Dragon is a spin-off to HBO’s previous series, Game of Thrones (based on the books by George R. R. Martin). And it pretty much measures up to its predecessor. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Skulls get ripped apart in battle. Onlookers cheer at a tournament as knights kill each other for sport. The City Watch beheads and dismembers several criminals in a public spectacle. One man, accused of rape, has his testicles chopped off, and we see the offending appendages tossed onto a pile of other severed limbs. (And sensitive viewers should be warned of a childbearing scene where the mother is bloodily cut open in an attempt to save her child.)

Sexposition—a term that the show’s predecessor gave birth to itself—also makes a reappearance with graphic sex scenes preceding or even occurring during important dialogue. Extramarital affairs are common (and attempts to convince the offending spouses to stop are scoffed at). And incest, while not discussed at this early juncture, is well-known to fans of the series to be frequent in the Targaryen family line.

Other problems include foul language (up to and including the f- and c-words), dark magic and worship of multiple “gods.”

So if the idea of a Game of Thrones prequel had you groaning preemptively, you were right in doing so.

Episode Reviews

Aug. 21, 2022 – S1, Ep1: “The Heirs of the Dragon”

King Viserys must choose an heir to the Iron Throne to rule his brutally violent kingdom.

There is a blatant disregard for human life as onlookers cheer at a tournament as knights hack each other apart. (Blood and gore abound in these scenes, and one man even vomits after witnessing a man’s skull being ripped apart.) The City Watch tracks down and beats several known and suspected criminals. They chop off the offending body parts—a hand for a thief, testicles for a rapist and a head for a murderer—and toss them onto a cart to be discarded. We glimpse an abscessed wound on a man’s back. Several graphic threats are issued. We hear about the deaths of a king’s sons.

A woman mourns the loss of five children to stillbirth and miscarriage before going into labor with her seventh child. When the baby is in breech, her husband tells the doctor to save the child instead of his wife. This scene becomes quite graphic as the woman realizes what is happening and cries out in fear before screaming in pain as the doctor cuts her open and removes the infant. Blood pours over the sheets and the woman dies. Shortly after, we hear that her baby died too. And the king is angered when people start vying for the throne so soon after their deaths.

A man scoffs when advised to be more loyal to his wife. Later, we see him having sex with a prostitute (and we see everything but their genitals). Daemon buys out a “pleasure house” for his men on the City Guard, and an orgy takes place. We see a woman in a tub from the shoulders up. A man tells his daughter to offer herself to the king and to wear one of her mother’s dresses (and we later see that her mother’s dress is far more revealing).

People fly on dragons. Their caretakers fear them, since one wrong move could get them killed. A dragon sets a funeral pyre on fire. We hear mention of multiple “gods.” A man speaks of two dreams he believes are visions. There is an altar featuring the skull of an ancient dragon.

Princess Rhaenys is passed up as an heir because she is a woman. Later, Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne is also questioned because of her gender. And Aemma tells her daughter that bearing children is how they serve the realm.

We hear two uses of the f-word and one use of the c-word. “D—nable” and “b–ch” also make appearances, as do a crude reference to the male anatomy and the slur “whore.” People gamble, lie, cheat and manipulate. Daemon makes a racist comment about his own wife before offering her to a recently widowed man. People gossip. Characters drink alcohol. A woman in labor is given “milk of the poppy” for her pain.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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