Basically Succession in chain mail and armor, however substituting depraved wit with fiery shows of pressure, HBO’s House of the Dragon — the much-anticipated follow-up to Game of Thrones — is lavish and engrossing, although not often stunning.

The sequence delivers a lot of what made Thrones widespread: an epic scale that redefined fantasy storytelling on TV, with grueling and gory battle scenes, debauched orgies, torture, limitless quantities of intricate palace intrigue. And dragons. Oh, these dragons. You can usually hear them coming earlier than we see them emerge from the clouds, including to our anticipation. And they reside as much as their billing, belching fireplace and cowing mortals with their fearsome wings and forked tail.

(Credit: HBO)

If solely the people made such an impression. Though the performing stays exemplary, a trademark of the unique sequence, this grim, glum prequel set almost 200 years earlier than Thrones sorely lacks a Tyrion, an impish jester to puncture the portentousness. (I begrudge Peter Dinklage not one of the 4 Emmys he gained.) The closest we get is Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown) as Targaryen black sheep Prince Daemon, bad-boy youthful brother to wimpy King Viserys (a poignant Paddy Considine), whose troubled reign occupies the primary season. (HBO made six of the ten episodes out there for evaluate.)

Snarky and swaggering, clearly unfit to put on the crown he covets, Daemon lights up the Red Keep, in any other case an awfully gloomy tomb atop Kings Landing. This is the place the Targaryens, the silver-haired dragon-riding dynasty, have dominated for greater than a century because the sequence begins. Unlike Thrones, which scattered its motion all throughout the seven kingdoms of Westeros, Dragon largely stays put in and across the palace, the place gossip about succession is everybody’s favourite pastime.

House of the Dragon Eve Best

(Credit: HBO)

You might have a circulate chart (and spelling glossary) to decipher simply who’s who within the sprawling forged. Princesses have names like Rhaenyra and Rhaenys. Two princes are named Aegon and Aemond. It may assist should you’ve learn the supply materials, George R.R. Martin’s turgid tome Fire & Blood, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (He wrote this as a substitute of finishing his A Song of Ice and Fire sequence, however that’s one other story.) Happily, the sequence is far livelier and extra centered than the e book. But it additionally suffers from a scarcity of distinct persona.

The main battle within the new sequence includes gender, provided that Westeros is a chauvinistic nightmare land the place females are used as political pawns and thought to be little greater than brood mares to pump out heirs. (Childbirth is commonly deadly and all the time agonizing.) Let the king’s cousin, Rhaenys (Eve Best), often known as “The Queen Who Never Was,” clarify additional: “Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.”

The king’s firstborn, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy as youthful and older variations, each wonderful), begs to vary. She’s decided to interrupt custom and sometime take over from her weak-willed father, the realm be damned. Which it in all probability will probably be. As we be taught from the introduction: “The only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself.”

Stick with this by means of the fifth episode (Sept. 18), and also you’ll be handled to a royal wedding ceremony — by no means a peaceable event in Westeros — the place the tensions throughout a feast and dance run so thick you could possibly minimize it with any variety of the blades upon that notorious Iron Throne. It could not equal Thrones’ Red Wedding for shock worth, however there’s little question the sport is on.

House of the Dragon, Series Premiere, Sunday, August 21, 9/8c, HBO

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