James Delingpole James Delingpole

Shaping up nicely for some truly epic bloodletting: House of the Dragon reviewed

This prequel to Game of Thrones could do with some of the light relief, however

A muscular, villainously attractive contender for the Iron Throne: Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon [© 2022 Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

House of the Dragon got off to a pretty uninspirational start, I thought: no major characters brought to a shocking and premature end; no bone-chilling spookiness like that White Walker opening scene in the frozen woods; far too much dreary, half-inaudible talking round long tables in ill-lit halls. If this hadn’t been the long-awaited prequel to Game of Thrones, I doubt I would have bothered watching the second episode.

But I did and guess what? More dank, chiaroscuro interiors; more old men out of Shakespeare history plays mumbling into their beards; more complicated, almost-impossible-to-follow-unless-you’ve-read-the-books disquisition on inheritance, lineage and succession. The difference is, though, that by this point you’ve had two hours to allow the actors to bed into their roles and to get a handle on the characters they’re playing. Still not a great deal has happened, but now you’re excited rather than disappointed: it’s all shaping up nicely for some truly epic scheming, betrayal and bloodletting.

It’s all shaping up nicely for some truly epic scheming, betrayal and bloodletting

Easily the best character so far – at least, the one you’re most rooting for – is snubnosed Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by well-cast Australian actress Milly Alcock). She’s like a less self-righteous and worthy version of the Mother of Dragons – fearless, quick-witted and, of course, so handy with her pet dragon that I think it’s unlikely she’ll die any time soon because dragons pretty much make you invincible.

My only complaint about her so far is that she’s a bit of a cliché: the empowered, confident, feisty young woman who would obviously run the kingdom so much better than her weak but well-meaning dad King Viserys (Paddy Considine). Female leads like this have been the stock-in-trade of every fantasy, sci-fi and action drama since at least Alien (1979).

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