TV: House of the Dragon S1E1 | “The Heirs of the Dragon” Recap

Violent, progressive and complicated. Just a few of the many emotions and feelings that I came away with after a strong start to HBO’s blockbuster prequel. Welcome, to the House of the Dragon; Heirs of the Dragon.

The spinoff series hit the ground running hard after a strong start to the season. There have been so many speculations on when the events take place. The opening credits did a great job of clearing up any possible confusion in showing that the Targaryen dynasty we’re about to explore took place 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen. –

The CGI looks great which was a cause of concern for some after HBO announced that the show would feature 10 adult dragons this season. Just something about dragons will forever get people hyped. The scene opens up in Harrenhal and we’re introduced to the Great Council in 101 AC, as we await to see who the successor of the Iron Throne will be.

Heirs of the Dragon explores the two choices to inherit the Iron Throne is between Viserys and Rhaenys Targaryen, but let’s be honest, it’s fair to say that possibly, not one viewer was shocked when they found out that Viserys would be the inheritor. Not because everyone has seen the trailers or read the books, but because this is still a world ruled by men who mainly view women as child bearers. It’s still a great scene as we see Viserys unable to hide the uncertainty on his face. We also meet queen Aemma, the wife of Viserys, pregnant with Rhaenyra.

Now to the skies, we get a magnificent view from Syrax while gliding over King’s Landing. The location is much more intact, unlike the last-time Game of Thrones fans last saw it. A shot of the Dragonpit is displayed. Now on the ground, an older Rhaenyra has a brief chat with Alicent Hightower, the daughter of Otto Hightower, who happens to be the Hand of the King. We see the queen again, and she’s pregnant again. Viserys is determined to bring in a son at all costs, adding more pressure and tension to the king.

When it comes to fantasy adaptation, whether it be a TV show, film, or animation, it can be cringe, but that’s not the case here. Not that it ever was with the main GOT series either, but when Daemon Targaryen enters the scene, you have no idea what you’re going to get with this blonde-haired, chiselled-cheeked, wild card, at least early on. One minute he’s leading the City Guard (Gold Cloaks) to violently attack a small area in King’s Landing which quickly makes the viewers uncomfortable. Daemon wastes no time taking fans back to the violent days of GOT by chopping off the hands, male genitals, and heads before his men load up the bloody body parts into a horse carriage. This is me nitpicking, but the bloody body parts on the horse carriage looked too much like Halloween decorations from Spirit.

The decision to host a tournament to be heir-of-the king was a great choice for viewers who were uncertain but still wanted to give the prequel a chance. The violence was not sugar-coated, as men were being pierced with swords and having their faces bashed in over the high stakes of the competition. It brought back memories of the one gruesome time that The Mountain beheaded a horse in the early days of the main series. Daemon is on vengeance as presumably the favorite in the tournament, but Ser Criston Cole does a great job in his short time on the screen showing why he’ll be an important character later on, as he gets Daemon to yield, ending the tournament.

For the viewers who adored the queen, I have terrible news. Aemma is lying on a bed preparing to give birth, but she wasn’t consulted or talked to Viserys about what is about to unfold. Instead, we see the king have brief discussions with The Grand Maester in an unforgettable exchange, “During a difficult birth, it sometimes becomes necessary for the father to make an impossible choice: to sacrifice one or to lose them both.” said the Maester. The forced childbirth scene is not for the weak.

I know I talked about HOTD picking up on the violence that GOT presented, but I imagine it was difficult for the viewers to not look away, get enraged or gag as the queen no longer had a choice when it came to her birthing rights. It was not the type of violence that involved two men fighting over the right to be The Hand or heir of the king, instead, this showed the reality of how little say women had. Not just in mythical and fictional times but there is some reality to this gut-churning scene in a post-Roe era.

With the queen bleeding to death, Viserys takes two blows in one day as Baelon dies shortly after. “Heir for a day,” Daemon said when speaking at a pleasure house. Now more distanced than ever from his brother, the king was laughed at by the majority of the council when the thought of Rhaenyra (a girl) inheriting the Iron Throne came up.

Looking ahead and final thoughts

Tensions are already on the rise after word got back to the king that Daemon was laughing at the death of Baelon. This set the king off, and after a heated exchange between the two brothers, the kind orders Daemon to leave King’s Landing and to return to his wife in the Vale, forcefully telling Daemon that he’s no longer heir to the Iron Throne.

Closing out the show, the king finally dares to pull Rhaenyra aside to the cellars of the Red Keep, giving her more knowledge of their family tree. The room has so much going on that it can be an entire scene on its own. We see the overhanging skull of Balerion, the dragon that belonged to Aegon the Conqueror. To Rhaenyra’s surprise, the king abruptly makes Rhaenyra the new heir to the Iron Throne. The decision seemed unforeseen early on but happened organically.

The show is filled with brilliant performances from Paddy Considine, Milly Alcock, and Matt Smith. The one-hour episode did more than enough to introduce characters without telling viewers how they should feel towards anybody and is already setting the bar high for a series full of tensions.

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