And now our wait has ended. Or at the very least a anticipate a few of us. Following the sequence finale of Sport of Thrones—one of many greatest reveals to ever exist, and definitely HBO’s greatest—I’m unsure how many individuals have been actually champing on the bit to be served one other serving to of Westerosi journey. Positive, there’s all the time been one thing coming subsequent, inevitable as winter. However is it eagerly anticipated? We’ll discover out as soon as Home of the Dragon premieres August 21 on HBO, the primary in a possible salvo of sequence spinning off from the high-fantasy sequence about kings, castles, dragons, and, very often, mud.

From what I’ve seen of Home of the Dragon, which is the primary 5 episodes, we are able to most likely count on a mixture of fan pleasure and agency no-thank-yous. The sequence takes place about 170 years previous to the arrival of Daenerys Targaryen, the vengeful hero of the unique Sport of Thrones sequence who spent years murderously trying to reclaim her household’s seat of energy. In Home of the Dragon, the Targaryens—ice blond dragon-riders who sometimes (or usually) dabble in incest—are nonetheless in energy. A peacekeeping however in any other case ineffectual scion sits atop the Iron Throne: Viserys (Paddy Considine), who gained succession after a heated contest a decade prior. He’s bought a jealous brother, Daemon (Matt Smith, the gloweriest vampire within the land), and a spouse who can’t produce a male inheritor. There may be his headstrong daughter, although: teenage Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), whom Viserys finally chooses as his successor, which might make her the primary feminine chief on this inflexible society’s historical past.

HBO already has a succession drama, one handily known as Succession, which makes this central facet of Home of the Dragon really feel like one thing of a retread. There are notes of Netflix’s The Crown in right here too: regardless of some facet characters who start popping round midseason, Home of the Dragon is fairly narrowly centered on this one household and their inner squabbles. Gone is the multi-story sprawl of Sport of Thrones, which carried us from the desert to a snowy forest to a midland marsh to gleaming cities, oftentimes in a single episode. HBO has honed its focus for this prequel, a call born of artistic restraint, funds, or each.

What outcomes is a present that’s entertaining in a well-recognized, nostalgic manner, but in addition one which strains too exhausting for a way of weight and grandeur. An prolonged fight scene—by which Smith struts and parries with brio—is supposed to conjure up recollections of previous wars, bastard battles and whatnot, however as a substitute performs an excessive amount of like an assertion of power for a sequence making an attempt to show itself. On Self-importance Truthful’s podcast Nonetheless Watching, I joked to my co-host that we’d hear the whoosh of wings after which spot one of many titular flying beasts within the quick opening moments of Home of the Dragon. Seems I used to be proper. The sequence, befitting of its title and its mandate to maintain HBO’s coffers crammed, reminds you straight away of the awesomeness of its model. Or, at the very least, an imagined awesomeness.

The dragons and the battles have been cool sufficient facets of Sport of Thrones. However a lot of the present’s advantage lay in smaller moments of extra thought-about artistry: scenes that existed solely to set a temper, or tease out a whispery sense of historical past, or to see its advantageous firm of actors share a second of reflection and connection. Such texture started to fall away because the Sport of Thrones writers ran out of supply materials and the present faltered to its disastrous finish. (The writer, George R.R. Martin, has but to finish his literary saga.) Home of the Dragon is predicated on a e book of its personal, one written by Martin whereas he procrastinated on ending the unique sequence. Which ought to imply, ideally, that Home of the Dragon is aware of precisely the place it’s going, and may perhaps take some luxurious time to construct a world of depth and character whereas it will get there. When the trail is completely laid out earlier than you, the journey may be savored that rather more.

But Home of the Dragon up to now strikes swiftly by its plotting. Selections are made and their penalties close to instantly realized, a scene or two later. Characters state intentions plainly; realizing appears meant to include hidden depths are all too apparent of their intent. That’s not the fault of the actors, who’re all admirably thorough of their medieval immersion. (Alcock, as Rhaenyra, is a standout. Too dangerous she’s going to quickly get replaced by an older actor. Eve Finest, as Viserys’s shifty cousin Rhaenys, can be a spotlight.) It’s simply exhausting to shake the air of cosplay that haunts this sequence. It desires to be in comparison with the unique present—that synergistic connection is invited at each flip—but it surely pales and shrinks within the shadow of its superior. 

Home of the Dragon isn’t some wholly unworthy factor, merely shadowboxing with the legacy that bore it. The sequence creates its personal boldness, to its credit score and detriment. Sexual mores are toyed with, quick and free, in a pair of plot traces—one unhappy and but curiously candy, the opposite startling in its sordid transgression. Within the latter case, it doesn’t assist that one of many actors concerned appears a lot youthful than they’re. The model’s well-known violence is pulpier on this revisit. Skulls are crushed; fingers are nailed to posts; there’s a castration, for good measure. Perverse as it could sound, there’s one thing cozy within the gory facet of Home of the Dragon’s provocation. It evokes the nice reminiscence of Sport of Thrones’s preliminary nervy shock, arriving with a meaty chop over a decade in the past.

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