Does House of the Dragon live up to Game of Thrones?

House of the Dragon, the long-awaited prequel to Game of Thrones, has finally arrived, with critics roundly agreeing that it serves as a worthy successor to the original TV phenomenon.

Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s 2018 book Fire & Blood and set more than 150 years before the main show, HBO’s new ten-episode series follows the dragon-riding kings of Westeros, House Targaryen and another brutal battle to sit on the Iron Throne.

The final season of Game of Thrones was widely panned by critics and fans so the question on everyone’s lips was could its prequel improve on where the original series ended? “The short answer is: yes, it can. And yes, it has,” said Kaiya Shunyata for Roger Ebert.

Visually sumptuous

“It’s clear by the end of the first episode, that House of the Dragon is the product of people who have deeply analysed the source material of the work they’re adapting,” said Shunyata and that “this new look into the world that George R.R. Martin created is an example of what an adaptation should be”.

“It’s visually sumptuous, well-acted (for the most part), crisply written and cleverly pitched,” agreed Ben Dowell in The Times. It is also “accessible to anyone who hasn’t seen a second of Game of Thrones but reassuringly familiar to those who’ve watched the whole thing.”

“Fun, propulsive, looking great and sounding passable,” said Lucy Mangan at The Guardian, “in short, all is as it was in GoT’s heyday.” But unlike its “far-flung predecessor”, the show “centrally focuses on one location (the Red Keep) and one plotline (the King’s heir), which makes it stagier”, said Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich.

Darker and more solemn

“From the outset, this is a darker, more solemn, more sophisticated piece,” said Stephen Kelly for the BBC, yet “one that lacks the broad, accessible strokes of early Game of Thrones, or its vibrant, colourful characters”.

Someone who does stand out is Prince Daemon Targaryen, played by former Doctor Who, Matt Smith. “Narcissistic and gleefully violent, he feels like a classic Game of Thrones villain,” said Michael Deacon at The Telegraph.

“The highest compliment I can pay House of the Dragon is to observe how much it feels like Game of Thrones,” said Nick Hilton in The Independent. While it remains to be seen whether it “can utilise those same, almost serpentine, twists and turns, and become a show that’s discussed in fevered terms at whatever the Work From Home equivalent of a water cooler is”, the first episode is a taste of things to come.

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