House of the Dragon is an original HBO series. In 2021, still in full emergency from Covid-19 and with all the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, filming begins. The role of this new series set in the world conceived by GRR Martin, is to make fans forget the eighth season of Game of Thrones.

The reasons for this failure are various, for example artistic choices of dubious depth and the lack of collaboration between Martin and the screenwriters. Above all, however, the lack of commitment of the two showrunners who were already projected towards new contracts and new experiences. The result? Fans hated the whole season. There have been excellent points from the community, such as the online petition to make it spin again. No one had obviously wondered how much it would cost to do such a thing!
If it is already difficult, and rare, that some film scenes can be turned over, how can one think that it is feasible to bring back actors, laborers, directors, and all those figures that make up the complicated mosaic of people who move behind the scenes for the realization of the series that the public loves, on a set that has already been dismantled? 

Returning to Westeros with this cumbersome legacy on his back was no easy feat.
House of the Dragon is set about two hundred years before the rebellion that brought Robert Baratheon to the throne, and tells of the civil war that weakened House Targaryen so much that the dragons that were the symbol of their power almost extinguished.

Yet the numbers speak for themselves. The show debuted on Sunday 21st August with ten million users connected to the various HBO platforms and since then the numbers have been steadily increasing. Even the time jump between episode 5 We light the way, which concludes a first story arc, and episode 6 The Princess and the Queen, which sees the recasting of many characters due to the aforementioned time jump of a decade, recorded a further increase of 3% reaching around twenty-nine million total views. 

With these numbers it is not surprising that within hours of its debut HBO has already confirmed a second season ready to go.  

House of the Dragon vs Rings of Power

The biggest difference between House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones? The introduction of an intimacy coordinator

Game of Thrones has left a bad name behind it and not just because it's one of the bloodiest shows in recent years. Numerous actors, in fact, have complained about how the production has too many times ignored their discomfort, in favor of nude and sex scenes. Many experienced those moments as real violence. 

For this reason, in House of the Dragon, the actors were followed by Miriam Lucia, one of privacy coordinators most requested and busy at the moment. His presence alone was enough to put them all at ease. Whether it was an explicit sex scene or one of those that fall into a gray and not well-defined area, such as the moment of childbirth. 

The actions between the protagonists of an intimate scene are more important than the scene itself. Smiles, moments of hesitation, moments of pleasure and flashes of uncertainty make these moments not only more delicate to the eye of the viewer, but also more real. The machine stops being intrusive and focuses more on faces than on naked bodies. This does not mean that viewers will not see the statuesque body of Matt Smith (or other protagonists), it just means that the effect obtained is more natural and less an end in itself.

Under the direction of Miriam Lucia, the machine lingers more on looks and faces than on the act itself, whatever it is. Even if the amount of blood and violence is the same as Game of Thrones, you feel that there is something different in the air ...

Whether it's the scene in the brothel between Daemon and Rhaenyra, or that of the fourth episode between Alicent and Viserys, no one has been left to fend for themselves.
The scenes were discussed and studied down to the smallest detail, the actors were interviewed and listened to. It was clear to the actresses from the start that they would not have the same experiences as their colleagues on the sets of the first series. And not only that, the actors also received the same support.

Miriam has been close to Emily, just XNUMX, who plays a young Alicent in intimacy with her much older husband. A scene that could have been dramatically traumatic, also because the queen consort is close to giving birth. But not only that, it could also be for the actor Paddy considine (Peaky Blinders, In America). He is in fact called to play a king who claims his bride, only he has a daughter of the same age as the young colleague.

In House of the Dragon the chemistry between the actors is undeniable. However, where this is overshadowed, either by the age difference between the actors or by other external factors, it lacks that sense of disrespect that permeated the Game of Thrones scenes.
The viewer perceives the lack of tension on the set. He therefore feels more at ease, even though he is aware that the form does not change the substance ... 

The plot, the cast and the decisions behind some of the goryest scenes

House of the Dragon is based on the book Fire & Blood, so it features new characters, but also names that fans already know. There are the Starks, the Lannisters and of course the Targaryens. Velaryons also appear, coming from ancient Valyria even before the Targaryens, if their family history is true ...

The series tells us about the civil war that nearly destroyed the Targaryens after the death of King Viserys I. In the book this conflict is told from the point of view of male descent. The series, however, aims not to be based only on the patriarchal view of events. He therefore also gives voice to those queens and princesses who too often suffer only the most negative aspects of wars. 

Consider he plays the role of King Viserys, a human ruler, and as such fallacious, full of light and shadow. He has affection for his family, but not enough to save the life of his wife, Queen consort Aemma who suffers a painful death. According to many viewers, death too graphic, in his desperate search for a male heir, so as to secure his lineage. He loves her daughter so much that he makes her heir to the throne. But not enough to protect her when she gets married a second time. With the birth of heirs of the right sex, they endanger her life and her rights. He is fond of his brother, but not enough not to recognize as Otto Hightower, Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Mr. Nobody, Dominion), Hand of the King and father of his new young bride, is manipulating him. So Daemon is removed from the palace, exiled and forced to marry against his will. He move that will lead to uxoricide. He doesn't love his second wife, he desires her, his ego is tickled by having a girl bride, but nothing more. Yet even at this juncture he is not strong enough with her, but above all with her father. In fact, he silences the whispers that would push him to name the son of Alicent Hightower, Aegon, heir.

There is another choice besides Castlerly Rock. One you might like better, closer to home. 

Who do you have in mind?

Prince Aegon

The baby just turned two, Otto.

This is the exchange between the king and the father-in-law. Between two grown men, both fathers. One just wants to hunt, the other wants the power, and his own blood in the new king's veins so badly, that he doesn't hesitate to try to manipulate Viserys. The offer is that of an infant as Rhaenyra's betrothed. Even in this circumstance Viserys does not show to have a backbone. Annoyed, he reminds Otto that he is there to hunt, not to talk about politics. However, he does not realize that the canvas has already been woven around him and many wefts move behind him.   

He would at least like to have the strength to be a dreamer, but the only dream he has is the engine that starts the civil war. He perhaps dies poisoned, or perhaps killed by the throne itself which cuts off all those who sit on it without being worthy of it. 

Second by birth in the Targaryen household is Daemon, played by Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Last night in Soho, The Crown). His presence steals the show from the very first time he appears on screen. Daemon is the typical second son. He is constantly reminded not to be the heir, not to be the best duelist at the tournament held for his nephew's birthday. Not to be well regarded at court, in short, not to be enough. Nicknamed The Rogue PrinceDue to his impatience with court rules and etiquette, Daemon is still a Dragonrider. But above all he is a legitimate pretender to the throne. In his way he protects his family and stops at nothing to get what he wants. Many are the desires and aspirations of him, the throne, the justice that Westeros lacks because of a too weak king. He yearns for a retired life where he can be free to be himself, without having to justify his every move. But he gets none of this. He will be forced to fight a war that will see him opposed to his brother's children, alongside his wife / niece. At least this is what happens in the book ...

The showrunners who gradually confronted Martin's works showed that the path taken by the writer is not always easy to transpose on the screen.
The controversy has already begun. As in the civil war between Green Targaryens and Black Targaryens, there are two factions, but more of that later.  

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The role of the heir to the throne Rhaenyra is entrusted to Milly Alcock, young Australian actress but already a veteran of TV series. A dragon's fire burns inside her, and not just because she's a Targaryen. Rhaenyra knows that her role as her heir is in constant discussion. Many of her oppose the princess by not taking her seriously. There are those who consider it too impertinent and those who see it as a pawn to be exploited. Unsurprisingly, Rhaenyra is more comfortable among dragons than humans. 

All the loneliness of those who find themselves in such an anomalous and difficult situation shines through. Rhaenyra carries the weight of the crown without yet wearing it. But above all she carries the weight of the guilt of being born a woman in a world where only men count. This aspect is rendered even more oppressive and disastrous when the only friend she has of her is taken from her. Alicent, played by Emily Carey (Anastasia, Wonder Woman, Tomb Raider) suddenly becomes her stepmother. Viserys' new wife gives birth to the much-coveted male heir. But he could endanger not only Rhaenyra's right to the crown, but her life as well.

A choice that moves away from the pages of the book. Alicent in the original story was older than Rhaenyra and was not related to the princess by a friendly relationship.

The principle of reason of state, a concept that has its roots in a vision of male and male power, is placed before everything, even friendship. Yet it is not Alicent and Rhaenyra who decide, it is the men, fathers, brothers, or spouses who manipulate their lives.

Rhaenyra knows that marriage for her will mean giving up her dynastic right to the man at her side, keeping it only on a purely nominal level. The husband will rule, this is clear from the beginning and the princess is the first to understand it. Alicent cannot, but perhaps she does not even want to, oppose the aims of her father. The king's advisor knows that a son could change the decision, and he wants that son to have his blood. It matters little that his daughter is the same age as the princess and that Viserys is more than an adult man. 

Women are replaceable, whether they are commoners or queens. Their subordination to men is clear from the very first episode. The practice of introducing at least one rape, more or less detailed, per season, typical of Game of Thrones, has been abjured. But House of the Dragon it is no less violent and bloody for this.   

In the first episode the queen is in labor, but things are not going well. There is still the possibility of saving her and yet the king, as much as he is in love with her, prefers to save her unborn child who could be male.

The bed where we give birth is our battlefield.

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Says the queen to a young Rhaenyra. The princess is the only one who cares about how everyone around her mother is there for the baby and not for her. On that battlefield, Aemma will lose her life shortly thereafter. She opened by a man's sword, just like warriors covered in armor. Only for the glory of a male she won't survive more than a day. 

The viewer sees the blood, hears the cries of torment and wonders if all this was really necessary. It is a visceral scene that awakens strong emotions. Ryan Condal who along with Miguel Sapochnik is the showrunner of the series explains the decision behind this scene.

Wanting to show how in a male and male society, like that of Westeros, men's decisions have terrible consequences for everyone. Starting with the women. What the scene presents is not so much the dangers of childbirth, which are there, they are many, they have always existed and too many times are ignored, but how much misinformation can, more than anything else, harm a woman. 

Viserys accepts that Aemma is opened by a sword without telling her anything. Her violence lies in the way the queen, in the pain of labor and terrified by the sight of her weapon, is immobilized by her hands that grab her and force her to undergo a procedure that will lead to her death. She doesn't count. Only the baby she is carrying is important. Death claims both mother and child, within hours. Leaving Viserys without a male heir and now without a wife. But above all with a daughter who will never really forgive him for what his decision has caused.   

House of the Dragon matt smith

Two separate story arcs

In a ten-episode series it's not hard to understand how the fifth episode can be understood as a watershed. The first part of the series follows a linear and chronological development. She focuses everyone's attention on Rhaenyra and her growth towards discovering herself and the meaning behind the role of heir.

The court becomes a testing ground for Rhaenyra, just as battles are for men. The princess must prove that she is worthy of the role she is going to fill. Around her, however, older men, and therefore more trained in manipulation, subterfuge and betrayal, decide the fate of the kingdom.     

The gap between the princess and the queen consort grows day by day. The only freedom for Rhaenyra is to fly on her dragon, Syrax. Not even being the youngest dragon rider convinces the nobles and her kingdom of her worth. 

The foundations are laid to explain, without boring the viewer, the mosaic of places and people who will be the protagonists of an unprecedented civil war. If the realm of the Targaryen has never been without violent action and rioting, the enemies have been, at least until now, external. For the first time there will be a split within the family itself. Two factions. Two heirs. A usurped throne. The birth of two villains, one easy to understand and one more inexplicable and complicated to understand. In fact, everyone who has seen the series knows who it is. But it is difficult to believe that the scorn of a refusal can be the basis of such a profound betrayal.  

The first arc ends with the marriage between Rhaenyra and Laenor Velaryon, John MacMillan (King Lear). A marriage of convenience for both, but also a way to heal the ancient rift between the two families of dragon riders. He prefers male attention. You have to safeguard her reputation. But above all to deal with conflicting feelings for two men who will be, for better or for worse, fundamental for the continuation of her story.   

For the moment there are only the whispers of what will happen, but the main protagonists are already all present. All that remains is to wait and see how the series progresses and ends pending the second season.