Review: “House of the Dragon” tells a mature story independent from “Game of Thrones”

After nine weeks of constant drama and cliffhangers, “House of the Dragon” reached its season finale this Sunday with a nearly perfect track record. With every episode being better than the last, the show highlights the strengths of its predecessor, “Game of Thrones,” while standing on its own as a fascinating political drama.

As explained in the pilot episode, “House of the Dragon” takes place around 200 years before the events in “Game of Thrones.” House Targaryan, under the leadership of Viserys Targaryan, rules the seven kingdoms and, for years, is able to keep the peace and stability in the realm.

The conflict begins when Viserys, a father to his only daughter Rhaenyra, must choose an heir to inherit the Iron Throne. His only options are his brother Daemon Targaryan, whom Viserys does not trust, and Rhaenyra Targaryan, princess of Dragonstone and Viserys’s firstborn child.

The king chooses Rhaenyra, breaking the rule of only nominating male heirs, dividing the seven kingdoms into those loyal to the realm and those who believe that a woman is not fit to be queen.

Unlike many prequels, we are used to seeing in movies and TV shows, “House of the Dragon” makes the smart decision to distance itself from “Game of Thrones.” Although it takes place in the same world, “House of the Dragon” is set so far in the past that it allows the series to stand on its own. When compared to Game of Thrones, it tells a smaller story that focuses on the strengths of what made the original show so popular.

The narrative is heavy on politics, and the conflict between the houses is what keeps this series exciting and suspenseful. It reminds audiences that the reason why “Game of Thrones” was a global phenomenon wasn’t because of the big action set pieces or high-budget visual effects but because every character had their own motivations. At the end of the day, they are all playing the game of thrones.

The world in which “House of the Dragon” takes place is cruel and unforgiving. It is a big chess game where every piece is trying to survive, and it will punish you if you are not looking over yourself. Every character in the show seems to know this, and they are constantly making moves for their own survival with the end goal of sitting on the iron throne.

When it comes to the production aspect, this show is everything audiences have come to expect from a high-budget HBO Max series. Shows like this confront the idea that only theatrical films are capable of high production value, and what the showrunners were able to accomplish with the set designs and visual effects elevate the scope of the story.

All the cities are very well crafted, and the visual effects used on the dragons are indistinguishable from any recent blockbuster movie. On top of that, Ramin Djawadi, the original composer of “Game of Thrones,” comes back and delivers a score that fits within the world of Westeros while still being unique and different. Every house has a different theme, and as a storytelling device, it works really well as it becomes easier to connect scenes and tell a more cohesive story.

“House of the Dragon” also stands on its own by telling a story that spans decades. The show is very fast-paced, and between almost every episode, there are time jumps that really keep the story going. This comes at a cost, however.

Many of the main characters who are first introduced as children, such as Rhaenyra, must have different actresses to portray the young and older versions. There will be episodes where characters will change actors, and, as an audience, it can sometimes be a lot to keep up.

In the end, “House of the Dragon” is a show worthy of its predecessor. It tells a mature story that focuses a lot more on the political drama between the houses of Westeros while still having the high production value expected from an HBO Max original series. Although “Game of Thrones” did not stick the landing with its last season, “House of the Dragon” is here to correct those mistakes and remind audiences why this world is so special.

Rating: 9 out of 10