It has been 3 years since the Game of Thrones bitter remembered series finale. So while winter has arrived once more as House of the Dragon debuts around the corner at HBO, the hype has not been as strong as it might have had once when Game of Thrones was in its prime. Can the new series restore our fascination with the world of Westeros? Are there stories in the past worth a watch? Here are what the critics are saying about this Game of Thrones spin-off ahead of the premiere.
The verdict thus far seems to edge from middling but mostly positive reviews. The general praise has been targeted to the overall great performances of the cast, the seemingly interesting character they play, the high-quality special effects, the world-building, and deranged brutal bloodshed – as to be expected. While not exactly Game of Thrones at its prime, it is still the level of quality in orbit of Game of Thrones.
There lies the mixed reaction to the series – it is not different enough from its predecessor, for better or worst. While critics are hoping for a different ride, many fans who are hoping for the world of Westeros to stay just the way they left it will not be disappointed. Some reviews even point out how natural of a prequel House of the Dragon’s world feels. If anything, it doubles down from the things we want from Westeros, with more uncomfortable levels of incests, and more dragons of differing shapes and sizes. We are after all talking about the time when the Targaryens were at the height of their power.
It is important to note that not every episode has been viewed by critics, so reactions to the season when it is whole might change. There is still room for improvement and twists and turns outside what we had from the pages of the Game of Thrones handbook.
While the consensus seems to be that the prequel is essentially more of the same Game of Thrones, it boasts a healthy 85% score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a good result, considering how large a shadow Game of Thrones cast for any show to follow. It would be any time now that the show will soon be “Certified Fresh.”
Game of Thrones was a cultural phenomenon that changed the TV landscape. It would be too much to ask for lightning to end up in a bottle twice. Not every show has that expectation, why should House of the Dragon? As is, if the critics are to be believed, what we got right now is still a good ride and something we should be thankful for. Especially after the widely derided last season that equally cast a large shadow.
We don’t know if HBO is planning a second season, but that will come down to viewership numbers and not reviews. For now, it is good to be back to hearing a new song of ice and fire. Winter is here at last.
Check out a roundup of verdicts on House of the Dragon below.
What Critics are Saying About House of the Dragon
House Of The Dragon has a lot to prove, and it makes an admirable attempt in its first few episodes. But for better and for worse, it has not escaped the shadow of its predecessor — at least, not yet. [3/5]Empire Online
In choosing to fixate on those sorts of aspects of Westerosi life during this time period, House of the Dragon often feels like it lacks the wild curiosity necessary to make a prequel like this really sing. That could very well change should HBO Max keep House of the Dragon going and push the show to be more of a thoughtful interpolation of the future we know. But for the time being, House of the Dragon’s yet another hyper-violent tale of swords and sorcery that you’ve undoubtedly heard before.The Verge
This follow-up series is louder, more direct about what it wants to say and how it wants you to respond. It elicits that response, and it will keep you wondering what will happen next to a family about whom, it turns out, there was still more to say. But it’s a blunt object, not a honed sword.Variety
It’s a fascinating situation, full of understandable motives and moral quandaries, and a ticking time bomb in the form of King Viserys’s health. It’s pure Games of Thrones – just not in the way you remember. [4/5]BBC
In short, all is as it was in GoT’s heyday. Fun, propulsive, looking great and sounding passable. And that, after the bizarrely poor finale to what had been a roaring success of a show, is a relief. There are also signs that in the remaining eight episodes there will be much more of the magnificent Eve Best as Viserys’s cousin Rhaenys, known since her thwarted ascension to the Iron Throne as the Queen Who Never Was and I suspect to the writers as And One Who Might Be After All. Overall, a good time is coming. [4/5]The Guardian
It’s disconcerting to see House of the Dragon becoming less distinctive and more beholden to Game of Thrones as it goes along, when it ought to be the opposite. There’s a lot that’s impressive in the first six episodes, but it’s as safe as a show with incest, gore and horrifying depictions of childbirth could possibly be. It needs to find its own voice, though if that voice remains this Targaryen-y, winter may be coming for my once burning curiosity.The Hollywood Reporter
House Of The Dragon’s premiere marks a strong, well-cast start to the Game Of Thrones spin-off. This feels very close to its predecessor in tone and content, but immediately establishes a struggle for power around an amiable, weak-willed king, and vivid new characters to fight those battles. We also have dragons, inbreeding, and resentment. It’s good to be back in backstabbing Westeros. [8/10]IGN
Are you looking forward to House of the Dragon? How do you think it will recontextualize the story and characters of Game of Thrones? Did the final season affect your hype? Let us know on our Twitter!