The Reel Review
George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy world is back on HBO Max, in this prequel series to the wildly popular juggernaut, Game of Thrones. Set nearly 200 years prior, the story focuses on the dragon-filled Targaryen dynasty and the scheming for who will succeed the dying King Jaehaerys Targaryen, and then, HIS successor. This is Succession, but with dragons and lots of platinum wigs.
The fantasy series features colorful costumes, a dazzling score and epic scenery, along with loads of intrigue, spectacular dragon CGI and some shockingly gruesome violence. It’s classic Game of Thrones fan service capturing the best of that series – but even on its own merit, it still is compelling. Acting standouts include Milly Alcock (Upright, Reckoning) as the young Rhaenyra, Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown, Morbius) as her incestuous uncle Daemon, Olivia Cooke (Sound of Metal, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) as the adult Alicent and Eve Best (The King’s Speech, Nurse Jackie) as King Jaehaerys’ oft-passed-over sister, Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.
The biggest criticism with House of the Dragon is its casting switch up of several main characters after Episode Five. While done to account for the passage of ten years, it is jarring. Despite that, House of the Dragon is a spectacular series with one heck of a rollercoaster finalé, setting up what promises to be a thrilling Season Two.
• With almost 10 million viewers, House of the Dragon‘s first episode was the most watched series premiere in HBO’s history. Season Two was greenlit five days after the premiere of Season One, which has averaged 29 million viewers per episode.
• Olivia Cooke says she auditioned for Rhaenyra twice before being cast as Alicent.
• Eve Best has an extensive stage resume, winning London Critics Circle Theatre Awards in 2003 and 2005 and nominated for two Best Actress Tony awards – in 2007 for A Moon for the Misbegotten and in 2008 for The Homecoming.