«At its apex Valyria was the greatest city in the known world, the center of civilization. Within its shining walls, twoscore rival houses vied for power and glory in court and council, rising and falling in an endless, subtle, oft savage struggle for dominance.»
— Fire and Blood, George R. R. Martin.
I belong to the large segment of fans who, after the disappointment of the GAME OF THRONES finale, swore never to watch (or pay for) anything else from the world of Westeros again and yet, as I’m sure happened to most, was on hand to see last night’s premiere of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON. Because blood is thick, as the saying goes. In this case, the Targaryen’s. Since I didn’t read FIRE AND BLOOD, the prequel set a couple of centuries before the events narrated in SONGS OF ICE AND FIRE (a book I heard about when I was still chewing my anger about the end of the series and refused to buy), I had no background other than the official trailer and the constant bombardment of images on the Internet. And I must say that the trailer promised a lot, to the point that, compared to the footage Amazon released of THE RINGS OF POWER, it projected much better for the HBO Max series.
But I did not see the fulfillment of this promise.
Not that the episode was bad by any means. As is often the case with stories that share a fictional world because they are sagas or connected to each other, seeing dragons flying again in the comfort of the television set sounded like a pleasant homecoming. Bilbo Baggins would have felt no more exhilarated than I did returning to his. But, when the first episode ended and the nostalgic melody that GOT used to close its episodes with played, my feeling was bittersweet. Something didn’t quite click for me.
The best, of course, was the atmosphere; impeccable, without a doubt, the costumes, scenery and photography, which more than paid for the excitement of the wait. Just to see the dragons again I felt it was worth the episode, although the first scene of Caraxes seemed too digitized and unnatural, compared to what they achieved when recreating Drogon, which was always spectacular. However, in my opinion the characters were wasted and not because of bad acting, since the cast was at the height of their predecessors, but because of the weakness of the element that, paradoxically, was the bastion of the first seasons of the original series: the plot. Weak and unattractive, predictable. The dialogues, without the spark they had in GOT. It’s just a first chapter, it’s true, and falling into the comparison game always generates frustration in those who practice it, but I felt weak the plot line. Everything revolves (too much) around Rhaenyra and Daemon, who clearly appear as the main characters, which makes the secondary characters totally irrelevant. After the first episode of GOT, «Winter Is Coming», one not only knew what the main conflicts were and who was who in that power game, but there were characters who immediately became unforgettable through their particular dialogues and ambitions. That confluence of multiple characters and stories made it difficult to guess not only who the protagonist was or where the plot would go, but it enriched the story and immediately immersed us in their world. HOUSE OF THE DRAGON also has them, and many with a potential for development that any screenwriter would want, but they didn’t get to properly deploy them. They get lost in the mass of characters. They might not appear in the next episode and, with the sole exception of Rhaenys Targaryen (whose story alone, told in the first five minutes, carries more weight than everything that followed), no one would miss them. Worse, there are unnecessary winks and references to the original series, as well as scenes of explicit violence and sex that make no sense and contribute nothing to the plot; in GOT there were, of course, but they served to delineate characters or explain the narrative lines. Here, they serve no purpose other than morbidity and attracting an audience. Even the duel in the chivalry tournament is won by whoever one assumes it will be, conveniently for the future of the plot and without really caring what happened to the other participants.
I give it three out of five stars not because the first episode is a promise fulfilled, but because of the new ones that keep being enunciated and that one hopes will be fulfilled in the following releases.
LEO OF MONTE CRISTO
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