House of the Dragon: Season 1

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon
Genre: Fantasy Drama
Network: HBO
Release Year: 2022
Watch: Max

I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t document my watching of House of the Dragon. After all, I slogged through all eight seasons of Game of Thrones in real time and literally reviewed none of them. It just felt like there was so much commentary out there that I didn’t need to add my voice to the chorus. After all, Hipster Mom has a phone and may have accidentally listened to one of the 27 podcasts (or 4,000 YouTubes) associated with the series. So, why bother if she’s the only one who occasionally checks out this site? I am not a professional, and there are so many who take this shit super-seriously. They’re just CGI dragons, people.

So, I watched this. And I, like many other people, wondered why the good people at HBO can’t seem to get this day-for-night thing right. I have an OLED 4K TV and am streaming from an Apple TV 4K. Is it a top-of-the-line setup? No. But it’s pretty nice. Certainly as good or better than most people in the US. Even most people who have an HBO subscription. I have all the stupid settings disabled to maximize my viewing experience. And watched this in a dark room in optimal conditions. So, why on Earth did I find myself squinting and struggling to make out what the hell was going on in several key scenes in the series? Dragons and people flying and walking through a dark haze so murky that it was almost impossible to make out without my brain just kind of filling in the blanks where bodies should be? What kind of gear do these people test this stuff on? It must be some futuristic NASA stuff if they’re able to see this clearly, because to us above average viewers, it was kind of a mess at times.

Also, can we talk about dragon CGI? Or more like can I talk about it? It’s not great. And, yes, I know that’s really the only option since dragons are mythical creatures. But I almost feel like they could have used like NeverEnding Story tech in certain scenes and employed practical effects to make the dragons more relatable. I felt a million times more connected to that fake-ass luck dragon, Falkor, than I did any of the computer-generated creatures in House of the Dragon. Shit, I saw the 2016 remake of Pete’s Dragon in the theater and that dragon looked better and was imbued with way more personality than anything here. The creators clearly avoided showing riders mounting and dismounting their dragons, as they must have had some technical difficulty making it look seamless, but, frankly, I found the CGI overall inconsistent and it did, at times, take me out of it. And, dude, this ain’t TV, it’s HBO. Spend the money.

This is the kind of top-notch critical writing you’ll get on this site: complaining about what shit looks like on my TV. Outside of this, there is some cool stuff in House of the Dragon. Though it’s clear that at times they just sat back and let Matt Smith cook. In his Daemon Targaryen character, they have that perfect mixture of brutal nihilism and dry sense of humor that makes us both fear what the hell he’s going to do and somehow also root for his success. All while he seemingly lusts after his own underage niece. The lovable scamp. Who is also a violent sociopath. It’s confusing, and that’s a good thing. He’s a scene stealer and the show knows it. So when they hit a lull, or need to fill space while we time jump or have to do some info dumps to catch the audience up with stuff, they bring him in to fire things up. It’s fun, but also a crutch that they’ll have to overcome in subsequent seasons.

Otherwise, you’ll see people both bitch about and praise the time jumps in the series. Moving from teen actors to adult actors between episodes. As if getting to know an actress is akin to getting to know a character. So I suppose is feels abrupt when Milly Alcock is suddenly Emma D’Arcy and Emily Carey is all of a sudden Olivia Cooke after spending five episodes with those younger actresses. And especially because Emma and Olivia are recognizable entities (at least to me). But, honestly, I wasn’t all boo-hoo about it the way some were. Yes, it’s sad to lose two terrific actors, but they gotta grow up at some point. We can’t have Smith getting too hot and bothered with a teenager (who is actually twenty two or three). Because incest should only happen between consenting adults! Other than those two choices, we just slap some really bad wigs on the rest of the cast to age them up and voila! Speaking of wigs… they’re terrible. Why, HBO, would you skimp on dragons and hair? Geez.

But, look, this show is entertaining. It’s gross, and there is one too many scenes of family getting it on with family, but that’s the world we live in. Or at least the world they live in. There is a decent mixture of people talking at tables and battles and/or just general carnage. That said, there are no incredible episodes like on Game of Thrones. No “Red Wedding.” No “Battle of the Bastards.” I think on the whole, it’s almost a more consistent show, though. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the high highs of its parent series. Or whatever we’d call it. Any series with Eve Best has a leg up, of course. Even when she can sometimes be the best thing in a meh show. And Paddy Considine is absolutely everywhere. But you’d never know it because the man is an absolute chameleon. He looks and acts differently in every role. And his King Viserys character is this funny anti-GoT king in that he can be indecisive and scared and just a little more human than we’d expect. He’s nuanced in a way that few other in the series are. We are going to pretend Sonoya Mizuno and her absolutely stupid accent and confounding performance didn’t actually happen. She tried her hardest to ruin a great series, Devs, and is luckily not given a large role here. But she really needs to either retire, or maybe just appear in silent films from here on out. There are scene stealers like Matt Smith, and scene ruiners like Mizuno. Luckily they were almost always in the same scenes on this show, so his awesomeness balanced out her terrible and made everything tolerable. I’ll stop now. If you dig this type of swords and castle intrigue story, you’ll like House of the Dragon. If you don’t, there’s a ton of good TV out there and you’re sure to find something better.