Westeros, 111. There are 170 years left before the birth of Daenerys and the collapse of the Targaryens, and so far their dynasty is at the height of its power. A family that owns a dozen dragons is not in danger of being challenged.
The country is ruled by Viserys I (Paddy Considine), a gentle person, who prefers caring for his loved ones to public affairs. First of all - about the child, which his wife should soon give birth to; the king is convinced that it will be a boy, his first son and heir.
However, the birth is unsuccessful, and the elderly Viserys again faces the question of who will replace him on the Iron Throne. There are several candidates for the throne at once:
- Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), Viserys' younger brother: a skilled but wayward warrior;
- Rhaenys (Eve Best), the ruler's cousin, who once already claimed the title of the ruler of Westeros;
- Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy and Millie Alcock), Viserys' only daughter, is a lively and intelligent girl.
The throne was traditionally inherited through the male line, but Viserys decided to change the order and announced that Rhaenyra would rule after him. Which, of course, not everyone liked - and laid the foundation for the internecine war, which will be called the Dance of the Dragons.
You don't usually expect much from the first episodes of a major series, as they usually only serve to set the right exposure for the plot. The situation in the world, the characters, and light outlines of future conflicts - this is what the viewer expects, and in the best cases receives, from the start of the story. For example, the same pilot episode of Game of Thrones contained almost nothing of value in itself, but only set the necessary development vector for the season. The first truly significant event happened in it only at the very end, when Jaime pushed Bran off the tower.
All the more surprising is how meaningful the beginning of the first season of the House of the Dragon turned out to be. Of course, there is no doubt that the main portion of clashes, intrigues, and unexpected turns is still ahead of us. But already "The Heirs of the Dragon" alone contains everything for which we fell in love with the original series, and in a very concentrated form.
The series devotes only about 20 minutes of its hour of running time to pure exposure. During this time, we are very superficially presented with the Targaryen era, its political structure, heroes, and, of course, dragons. This part of the episode pleases primarily with its visuals: locations, royal fire-breathing pets, and all other special effects are worked out much better and in more detail than in Game of Thrones. And all these 20 minutes give a sense of the scale of what is happening. Despite the relative isolation of the introduction, somehow the creators managed to get from the material a sense of the real significance of these events for the entire history of the continent.
But the first part of the episode ends, and with it, the time of passive exposure ends. Suddenly, the episode begins to throw viewers one unexpected turn after another, to shine with action scenes, or to demonstrate the famous brutality of the Martin universe in all its glory. In just one episode, we got Damon's massacre of criminals in the slums, the tragic birth of Queen Aemma, one of the most emotionally difficult moments in the entire franchise, and a solemn duel in King's Landing, where a commoner overcomes an arrogant prince in a fair fight. At such moments, the House of the Dragon really begins to resemble its predecessor in its best years.
Moreover, the spectacularity of these scenes is achieved not only thanks to the talented story of Martin and his co-writers but also due to the prettier direction. The creators decided to diversify their arsenal of film techniques in comparison with Game of Thrones, which only at the very end could boast of impressive cinematography. Here, every key moment of the story, and every important editing transition is provided with some sophisticated directorial "zest" that adds artistic overtones to it. Remember the sacral parallel comparison of cutting the queen's stomach during childbirth with the clanging of knights' swords at the tournament.
It is impossible not to rejoice once again in Paddy Considine, who does not particularly look like the king, but this is the image of his character; besides, Considine knows how to be tough when necessary, which he shows here. Rhaenyra, whom the series is currently actively promoting as the main character: at the beginning of her journey, she is young and inexperienced. Throughout the first part of the episode, she serves as a kind of guide character for us, showing the viewer the features of this world and other characters.
Separately, it is worth mentioning Matt Smith, as Daemon Targaryen, the first in line heir to the throne. He is short-tempered, active, and obviously very intelligent. With his charisma, he literally steals every scene he appears in. Thanks to Smith's bright personality and excellent performance, he is simply a pleasure to watch. However, he, of course, is far from being the goody.
Also suddenly an interesting character was Otto Hightower. He is cunning and smart, but at the same time not devoid of personal drama and cares about the future of the kingdom. Apparently, he will play in history the same role as Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones.
House of the Dragon demonstrates how HBO continues to scale and carefully work on its fantasy world. One of the main characters of Westeros for the decade that we spent in it was Westeros itself, and almost everything here - King's Landing, the Red Castle, "gold cloaks", armor and dresses, coats of arms, banners - contrary to fears, again made on a high level, without any discounts to the small screen.
Of course, this is no longer the refreshing effect that it was in 2011. Even if House of the Dragon looks almost the same as Game of Thrones, we, the audience, are not the same now: over the past decade, we have read Martin's books and watched many new series, the dramaturgy, and staging of which became more complex, more diverse. It is difficult, almost impossible, to surprise us now. But House of The Dragon looks spectacular anyway and reminds us of a time when we could wonder.
And already in the first episode, this series shows the rest of the contenders for the throne of Game of Thrones - The Witcher, The Wheel of Time, the upcoming Rings of Power - who is her only heir here.