All you Game of Thrones fans out there who love to hate on season eight, listen up.
I hear you.
For all its weaknesses, #GOT season eight was outstanding on dragons.
And you know what else is shaping up to be even better on dragons? The long-awaited #GOT prequel series that premiered Sunday night, House of the Dragon.
As a modern dragon, I feel called to comment.
Hi! Have we met? You can read about me, a modern dragon.
Other observers have ably reviewed traditional elements like storytelling, plot and production values. That’s fine.
But let’s not forget something important. House of the Dragon‘s premier episode, The Heirs of the Dragon, features absolutely stunning footage of the obvious stars of the show: the dragons themselves.
From this modern dragon‘s perspective, it’s an immensely satisfying adaptation of the dragon-forward source material by George R.R. Martin, Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before a Game of Thrones (The Targaryen Dynasty: The House of the Dragon).
Where House of the Dragon S1E1 really soars
The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion. They’re a power men should never have trifled with.Viserys Targaryen
Beyond that truth, which really needed to be spoken, here are some fantastic dragon treasures from the dragon’s horde of a #HOTD premier episode.
- Wyvern pride. All the dragons we meet in this episode are actually wyverns: western dragon adjacents with two hind legs and two forewings.
- Hind Wings!!! We catch a few glimpses of the gorgeous red dragon, Caraxes. I am embarrassed that I didn’t notice this on my first watch, but I was delighted when my in-lair dracologist pointed out something amazing: this fellow has hind wings! I myself have never experienced having hind wings. I hope we will learn more about hind wings in future episodes of this outstanding documentary TV show. (Want to read more of a modern dragon’s reviews of dragon documentaries? Go for it!). Update: My in-lair dracologist notes that she’s not yet sure if they qualify as wings or perhaps simply limb webbing to assist with flight. It’s an important discussion to have, and if you’d like to weigh in, you can always comment below or contact me directly.
- Swooping dragon, engage! It might be possible to envision a better early framing scene than a flight sequence featuring a majestic golden dragon. With excellent neck scaling. Soaring through fluffy clouds. With a princess (or a frog, or a frog princess) riding dragonback. Yes, it might be possible to envision a better framing scene, but I really can’t think of one.
- Snapshot: A time when dragons soaring over the city was commonplace. This first episode also establishes that at the time it chronicles, denizens of King’s Landing went about their business, apparently unfazed by a dragon swooping overhead. This harkens back to an era of increased acceptance and understanding of dragonkind. We must bring back that sort of peace. (That, incidentally, is one of the reasons why I write about dragons.)
- “And all the dragons roared as one.” Great, great reference to this phenomenon. Think the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, except it’s a bonfire of dragons roaring with earth-trembling, air-scorching power.
- Who is controlling whom? Viserys tells it like it is and so I will repeat for emphasis: “The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion. They’re a power men should never have trifled with.” #HOTD S1E1.
- Outstanding snout booping. Even if one of the boop participants is an apparent human antagonist, this episode of #HOTD includes excellent snout-booping that Caraxes allowed his human, Prince Daemon, to initiate.
Where the #HOTD struggles to maintain altitude
Not everything can be perfect all the time. Here are some aspects that looked fantastic but I thought needed more background to really take flight.
- Lumbering down the hill, walking on feet and wing tips. Wyverns aren’t really at their best when walking, but when requested by Princess Rhaenyra, Syrax obediently plods down a hill to perform a significant ritual dracarys. This was impressive, and commendable. But, to me, it also suggested a degree of obedience that, at least from what we saw so far, struck me as a little bit unearned. Not saying the relationship isn’t there. Just that we haven’t seen it yet.
- Syrax’s relationship with the relevant human. So that brings me to my next point. All I wanted was a little bit more exposition on Syrax’s relationship with Rhaenyra. Why does he trust her so much? When did they first meet and bond? Maybe that will come next week.
Where The Heirs of the Dragon falls flat
Sometimes you can really tell that the documentarians were human.
- “Ten adult dragons under its yoke.” The narrator describes House Targaryen at its zenith, with “ten adult dragons under its yoke.” Um, rude? The dragons stay with the humans out of choice. Have you ever tried to get a dragon to do something it didn’t want to do?
- Watching the dragon handlers with pointy things lead the dragon away. This sort of antiquated imagery always bothers me. Do not like pointy things! Do not like.
- Thirty minutes in, only one significant dragon swoop sequence. Why all the talking? Why not more dragon flight or dragon-human interactions?
- “Now take a bath. You stink of dragon.” Someone says this to a human. This is not exactly the nicest thing to say. It demeans the dragons. We don’t very well say things to one another like: “Go swoop through a waterfall. You stink like a human.” Still, and yet. Redemption from harmful stereotypes about some dragons is ongoing. But redemption is not yet complete. The responsibility to heal the world falls upon us all.
Conclusion: House of the Dragon soars
I’ll leave for others the task of commenting on the weighty, intense, and gripping episode’s depiction of the human storylines. I know those topics are especially important for human viewers.
When it comes to dragons, however, I will offer my comment and endorsement.
I’m so glad House of the Dragon swooped onto the scene. While some of its human-centric statements are off color and its dragon plot arcs will need more explanation, the documentary’s impressive dragon depictions more than make up for those weak spots. (And what dragon doesn’t have weak spots.)
When it come to how dragonful it is, I give #HOTD S1E1 two wings up.
Prepare for tail thwacks: When does the next House of the Dragon episode come out?
The next House of the Dragon episode drops this coming Sunday. Gah! Why is that so close and yet so far away!?
Comment below or write directly to tell me what you liked the most about the House of the Dragon premier. I’m eager to know what other people (both humans and non) think!
Meanwhile, if you see wisps of smoke escaping my nostrils, it’s only because I’m terribly, impatiently, waiting.
Brooding. Lurking and laying in wait for next week’s episode with bated, fiery breath.
Very truly yours,