House of the Dragon: Can it reign with Game of Thrones?

A comparison of the two shows to establish whether the uproar for the new release is worthy.


The official image for the HBO series.

Lauren King, Editor-in-Chief

After three years of anticipation, fans of the award-winning Game of Thrones adventure once more into the fantastical world of Westeros. Taking our own world by storm, the premiere of House of the Dragon on Aug. 21, 2022 hit an overwhelming 10 million views. Thrilled fans hung on the edge of their seats, TV remote in hand and a crazed smile upon their faces. After a powerful narration of the Targaryen’s history is given by a mature Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alock and Emma D’Arcy), the original Game of Thrones theme song starts. Most felt relieved to hear the nostalgic anthem once more, yet on the flipside of the coin, others were disappointed whilst thinking to themselves “again?”

Instead of creating a pedestal to be proudly displayed upon, it has already set itself a direction to be the little sibling of Game of Thrones. The title song is interlinked with the characters and events of the eight season long show. This fatal flaw dug a grave for the long-awaited prequel. 

The first season will host 10 episodes with an episode airing every Sunday at 9 p.m. It is set 173 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, the “Mother of Dragons”. As the author of A Song of Fire & Ice and Fire & Blood, George R. R. Martin, put it, “we have a 28-year run just in the first season here. And you see the various characters introduced and the conflict begin to grow, the seeds of what will eventually be a war”. This war is known as the Dance of Dragons, a civil war that was brewing into a lethal concoction for the Targaryen house – one that will end in doom.

Looking into episode one, “The Heirs of Dragons,” themes of jealousy, rivalry, power conquest, lust, and egos already begin presenting themselves. The famous line, “the only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself”, is proven evident as the characters quarrel and political movements are made. Game of Thrones focuses on revenge as a response to anger, whereas in this show, the characters bite their lip and put up with what comes at them. The conflict of Princess Rhaenyra is intriguing to watch unfold, as the distinction of her wanting freedom yet wanting recognition of her power combats against one another.

The characters live in a setting of toxicity, royal pettiness, and destruction. But because of the multiple timeskips to follow the timeline, some characters did not get the development they deserved. Despite being the main character, Rhaenyra is one of these examples. They could have truly made her character come alive and prominent, such as furthering her reactions to the harsh world she lives in. Instead, it feels as if she’s submissive to what revolves around her. Rather than this being a creative direction of her trying to find her own footing, it just came across as a poor portrayal. If the intention was a coming-of-age story for her, it fell flat. Game of Thrones peaked with the in-depth exploration of characters’ moral ambiguities, political beliefs, and their deepest desires. This show is coming across as a more bleak, shallow take on these topics.     

Whilst judging critically, I understand this show has just taken its first steps. Game of Thrones was a reigning show for eight years, giving it an adamant amount of time to properly develop characters, events, and the story. But if this show wants to use the same title song, they have to expect to be compared equally to the original series.

A confirmation for a second season has been made. Seeing as how the first season took 10 months to shoot, it is purportedly releasing in 2024. Miguel Sapochnik, a co-creator of the prequel alongside George R. R. Martin and Ryan Condal, left the team due to fatigue and stress. The talent directed multiple episodes for Game of Thrones, even winning an Emmy award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, in particular for “Battle of the Bastards” in season six. Half of the reason Game of Thrones performed so well is because of this show-runner, so seeing him leave the franchise would be worrisome. Except the empty role will be filled in by Alan Taylor, a well-known Thrones partner. He, too, directed a plethora of astonishing episodes for the original such as “Beyond the Wall” and “The North Remembers”. Taylor is a well-qualified replacement. 

It has potential to be exceptional, as the story writing is up to standard and the production quality is brilliant. But the execution has to be extraordinary so it can make a name for itself. Although having directors from the previous project means for a precise story, it is showing signs of lacking originality. Thus far, House of the Dragon is not able to compete with its predecessor. Will it ever sit on the Iron Throne? Only time will tell.