On the 22nd of this month, starting at three in the morning, a fair slice of Italian TV series fans will resume an old habit.
The up early to watch on Sky (or streaming on NOW) simultaneously with the United States, the first episode by House of the Dragon .
The Game of Thrones / Game of Thrones prequel , centered around the beginning of the end of the Targaryen house – roughly two hundred years before Daenerys’ breakout of that story of the bells – is based on Fire & Blood ( Fire & Blood), the spin-off book of the saga, released in 2018. We previewed the first six episodes and, in many ways, despite so many years having passed since we started wandering around the Red Fortress and its surroundings, it was a bit like coming home.
MARTIN ALL ALONG
Yes, Fire and Blood is the book that George RR Martin put together with the pieces cut from his A Song of Ice and Fire , and also the umpteenth work to which he dedicated himself in order not to complete the sixth book of the saga, The Winds of Winter , whose release date is now expected “by the end of this century, perhaps”. And while we wait for our distant descendants to one day read how the Game of Thrones ends according to its author, House of the Dragon tells us what happened two hundred years ago. And he tells us about it with the raised thumb of his author.
George RR Martin himself, who developed House of the Dragon together with Ryan J. Condal , hastened to distance himself in recent weeks from the last few years of Game of Thrones , explaining that “in seasons 5 and 6, and especially in 7 and in 8 ”it was cut out of production. In disagreement with Benioff and Weiss’ decision to “cut it short” with the series, he would have found himself watching as a “somewhat sad” spectator at the show’s finale. With House of the Dragon the opposite happened, Martin always says, and his collaboration with showrunner Condal was very close.
“ONE OF YOU”
A reassurance that obviously has a double value: it serves on the one hand to reassure fans about adherence to the original text, on the other to take their side in the substantial damnatio memoriae that particularly affected the last season of Game of Thrones . Here, it basically promises, the music has been and will be different. That then how it went is all the fault of Benioss and Weiss, go find out. The fact is that not even Martin can find a convincing ending, it seems, and that for many – I raise my hand, can I? – the saga lost its bite much earlier, since the most successful element in the novels, the war between Stark and Lannister, disappeared.
It should also be remembered that while Martin was very present in the first few seasons, rereading the scripts, giving his opinion on casting choices and wandering around the sets, he later gave up to “devote himself to writing The Winds of Winter”. Easy jokes follow. But once we reiterate that Martin in House of the Dragon was in the game, what does this series look like? What did we think, just over halfway through this ten-episode first season? For the moment, it’s a pleasant journey through time.
TONIGHT AT ALICENT’S HOUSE
A journey through time not only literally, as we go back two centuries – starting from the ninth year of the first Viserys’s reign, 172 years before the death of the Mad King and the birth of Daenerys – but also and above all because in House of the Dragon exudes the atmosphere of the first seasons of Game of Thrones. You want because we see those places again and hear the names of those houses rattle off, or because while the “dance of dragons” is staged, the internal struggles of the Targaryen house to decide who is entitled to this blessed (but rather cursed) title of heir to the throne, you can breathe deeply that air full of conspiracies, betrayals, puppets and puppeteers, violent killings and even more violent betrayals. A masquerade party where, especially if you haven’t read Fire and Blood , you don’t know who the next Littlefinger will be. Also because no one here talks with the whistles of a 56K modem like him, to give you a shred of a clue.
In all this, a battered king, who is not even able to sit on that pimped and very aggressive version of the Iron Throne without shredding himself, drags himself forward and looks above all around, the mythological “HBO little man” (who knows, knows) sets up orgies with a remarkable amount of full frontal nudes and laocoon couplings, dragons burn dudes, and a bleached-haired princess seeks her place in the world. And is there sexual attraction between relatives here too? Oh, it’s the Targaryens. What we tell him to do.
DAEMON, OF THE DRAGONS IMAGES
The staging holds up, the dragons always make a straight figure – at least in the first episodes. In the last few we have seen the effects and color correction were still incomplete, as reported in some scenes with lots of writing on the screen – and Matt Smith is very believable in the role of a magnetic villain practically without eyebrows and who, in order to leave nothing to case, named does Daemon. How meek and docile will a fierce warrior, prince of dragons, with the face of a madman and the mind of a diabolical calculator ever be?
The most unsettling thing is in all likelihood the change of two faces in the middle of the season. Unlike what happened with entire seasons of Game of Throne s, in House of the Dragon the years go by. Often years have passed between one episode and the next: people get older, children grow up, and a couple of characters change their facial features slightly. Rhaenyra Targaryen as Milly Alcock in the first five episodes and later Emma D’Arcy ; Alicent Hightower switches from Emily Carey to Olivia Cooke. It makes sense above all for Rhaenyra, whose first interpreter is obviously too young to embody the princess even after thirty, but it still takes a moment for the brain to register that new face of her. Then, again: oh, some have gotten used to a new Ridge Forrester after 35 years, you want it to be five episodes.
I SIGNED THIS TOO (WITH THE DRAGON)
One thing to note is the usual total inability of all the nobles of Westeros to set up a minimum of effective war strategy. The Stepstones pirate business is obviously handled for a long time by someone who has never played even half a game of Age of Empires or Warcraft . And no, the fact that no one there has a PC is not a valid justification. After all, they are those things that in Game of Thrones we have seen a thousand times: the clumsy use of an important resource, so to speak, to be able to set up immediately after a certain scene that shows the driven rambism of a certain character.
It is OK.
However, it must be said that the scenes in which swords are swung and fire is spread on living flesh are well choreographed, and that – thank goodness, or if you prefer the seven gods – House of the Dragon focuses on the six best chapters of Fire and blood , which in the other pages is not exactly the height of panache (which is why it was not received exactly on a carpet of rose petals by the critics).
DORNE, DU, DU, DU
The struggle for the succession of the “Dance of the Dragons” is interesting because it is all a great metaphor of the chauvinism of today’s society, obviously brought to the maximum power in an ancient fantasy kingdom in which being born a woman, in a noble family, means depending on the cases be a burden or a bargaining chip to forge alliances. Rhaenyra’s evolution, her choices (especially the version of that night that she chose to show) and her relationship with her father and uncle Daemon, are particularly significant. But the same goes for the only apparently inexperienced Alicent, and for Rhaenys Targaryen, the “queen who never was” and her role in the story.
Game of Throne s was anything but a series devoid of strong female characters, so much so that it all ended in a clash between two proud queens with a wig on their head. But here the context is different, and the decisions of a king who starts simply from the fact that Rhaenyra is his eldest daughter, are discussed, manipulated, criticized by a world for which if you are not born male you have to stay aside. Medieval fantasy stuff, some would hastily say, before taking a look at how things are in our world. And not only because in many monarchies still standing there is agnation and only the line of male descent is counted (in Japan, for example).
Having said that, it remains to be seen how this will be carried out in the remaining episodes, of course. So what else do you have to do on Monday morning at dawn if you don’t work in the Frittella oven?
House of the Dragon will be available from 22 August exclusively on Sky and streaming only on NOW at the same time as the United States.