Roush Review: Same Throne, More Dragons in a Gloomy ‘House’ | Entertainment

Generally Inheritance in chain mail and armor, but replacing evil wit with fiery displays of power, HBO The house of the dragon — the long-awaited sequel to Game of Thrones — is lush and engaging, if rarely surprising.

The series provides much of the done Thrones popular: an epic scale that redefined fantasy storytelling on television, with grueling and bloody battle scenes, depraved orgies, torture, endless amounts of tangled palace intrigue. And dragons. Oh, those dragons. You can often hear them coming before we see them emerge from the clouds, heightening our anticipation. And they live up to their billing, belching fire and scaring mortals with their fearsome wings and forked tail.

(Credit: HBO)

If only people made that impression. While the acting remains exemplary, a hallmark of the original series, this dark, brooding prequel takes place almost 200 years ago Thrones sorely missing Tyrion, a diabolical buffoon to shatter majesty. (I don’t feel sorry for Peter Dinklage for any of the four Emmys he won.) The closest we come is Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown) as Targaryen’s black sheep Prince Damon, the bad-boy younger brother of weakling King Viserys (a poignant Paddy Considine) whose troubled reign occupies the first season. (HBO has made six of the 10 episodes available for viewing.)

Bright and dashing, clearly unfit to wear the crown he craves, Damon illuminates the Red Keep, an otherwise eerily gloomy tomb atop Kings Landing. This is where the Targaryens, the silver-haired dynasty of dragon-riders, have ruled for over a century when the series begins. Unlike Throneswhich spread its activities across the seven kingdoms of Westeros, Dragon it largely remains in and around the palace, where succession gossip is everyone’s favorite pastime.

House of the Dragon Eva Best

(Credit: HBO)

You might need a flowchart (and a spelling dictionary) to decipher exactly who’s who in the sprawling cast. The princesses have names like Rhaenyra and Rhaenys. Two princes are called Aegon and Emond. It might help if you’ve read the source material, George RR Martin’s bloated tome Fire and blood, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (He wrote this instead of finishing his A Song of Fire and Ice series, but that’s another story.) Fortunately, the series is much livelier and more focused than the book. But it also suffers from a lack of distinct personality.

The main conflict in the new series involves gender, given that Westeros is a chauvinistic nightmare land where women are used as political pawns and seen as little more than breeding mares to pump out heirs. (Childbirth is often fatal and always agonizing.) Let the king’s cousin, Rhaenys (Yves Best), aka “The Queen Who Never Was,” explain further: “Men would rather set the realm on fire than they see a woman rise the Iron Throne.

The king’s firstborn, Rhaenyra (Millie Alcock and Emma D’Arcy as the younger and older versions, both excellent), differs. She is determined to break with tradition and one day take over from her weak-willed father, kingdom be damned. Which it probably will be. As we learn from the introduction, “The only thing that could destroy the House of the Dragon was itself.”

Stick with it through episode five (September 18) and you’ll be treated to a royal wedding – never a peaceful occasion in Westeros – where the tension of feasting and dancing is so intense you can cut it with any number of blades on that notorious Iron throne. It may not be equal thrones Red Wedding for shock value, but there’s no doubt the game is on.

The house of the dragonSeries premiere Sunday, August 21, 9/8c, HBO

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