House of the Dragon, season 1: fire, scales and power

We expected a lot of things from this first season of House of the Dragonthe ante-episode to Game Of Thrones set nearly two centuries before the events depicted by George RR Martin in his incomplete literary series. And we have to admit that the new creation broadcast on HBO is very much up to it.

Many years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, therefore, it is the family of the latter that still reigns over Westeros. It has been so, in fact, since the resounding victory of Aegon the Conqueror, who used his terrifying dragon to unite the seven kingdoms under his rule. Finally, rather the six kingdoms…

The action begins with a mise en place taken directly from Fire and Blooda historical chronicle written by Martin, and which must summarize the historical events leading up to The Song of Ice and Firethe official name of what will one day hopefully be a series of seven novels.

During the last years of the reign of the previous king, he gathered a great council of nobles to decide on the identity of his successor: would it be Rhaenys, his first child, or Viserys, his second child, but his only son? Following a long debate, Viserys ascended the throne, his sister stepping back into the corridors of power. Married to the eldest of the Velaryon family, great and ancient allies of the Targaryens, she never stopped trying to manipulate events in her favor. “The queen that never was” is how some call her, even many years after her brother’s ascension to the throne.

This brother, by the way, inherits a relatively stable kingdom, but we already feel that under the surface, tensions are rising. The death in childbirth of his wife will precipitate things: Viserys then decides to name his only daughter as heiress, then to marry her best friend. From this union will be born several sons, which just throw oil on the fire: should we respect the oath of allegiance to the king, and by extension, that towards his daughter, or rather respect tradition and ensure that be the first male child to ascend the throne?

As you will have understood, this first season will serve to build these great tensions between the Targaryens and the Hightowers, named after the family of Alicent, the second wife of King Viserys, and former best friend of Rhaenyra, the daughter heiress.

Unprecedented thing in the universe of Game Of Thrones, the script will sometimes leap forward several years to advance the plot. We will thus be entitled to a change of actors and actresses according to the episodes. A bit as if The Crown condensed its seasons into ten episodes. And with a large dose of blood, of course.

Image from the series

An almost perfect course

Ultimately, is the experience satisfactory? It is easy to answer that the people at HBO hit the mark; we are certainly no longer at the time of the last seasons of the first series, where the script had been butchered by those responsible for the television adaptation.

This time, Martin seems to be watching everything closely, even if modifications have indeed been made, if only to transform a historical chronicle, without much dialogue, into a drinkable script for the small screen.

Note, moreover, the incredible acting of several actors. Paddy Considine, moreover, who carried, for eight episodes, the role of a king literally devoured from within by the weight of his functions, and who, more than anything, wanted to avoid discord between the different branches of his family.

We also salute Matt Smith, completely enjoyable in the role of the king’s brother, Daemon, a little psychopathic, sociopathic and incestuous on the edges, who seems to have a field day throughout the series.

And there’s also, of course, Emma d’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, who play the older versions of Rhaenyra and Alice, respectively, in all the vastness of roles requiring turns of anger, determination, fear, sadness, joy, hope…

What should be emphasized, however, is that unlike the original series, where you could still find a little good in the Stark family, for example, or in Daenerys Targaryen, all characters generally noble and generous, here, there are no “good guys”, but rather only two groups of people indulging in Machiavellian calculations.

But the hour is undoubtedly with the antiheroes. Anyway, this first season of House of the Dragon impresses from the visuals, storyline and gameplay side. And now that the dice are cast, the next season is sure to unleash the Dragon Dance in all its fury…

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