First House of the Dragon reviews are here, for episodes 1 to 6 of season one!

Rhaenyra Daemon Dragonstone

Hey there, friend! It’s me again. Remember me? We used to hang out weekly after Game of Thrones episodes premiered? I was the guy that told you what everyone thought about the latest Game of Thrones episode. And then you told me why they were wrong, and sometimes even why I was wrong? Yes, those times! Hey, don’t blame me, I’m not the reviewer here (except when I am). Anyway, wanna see what the critics had to say about the first 6 episodes of House of the Dragon? Me too! Let me just real quick remind everyone how this works…

Every week, I’ll be deconstructing the multitude of reviews out there, boiling them down to one short summary sentence that will perfectly encapsulate what the original author was saying, no questions asked…and by that I mean that I will deconstruct whole essays down to one sentence apiece, often quoting them verbatim. What I will do is attempt to summarize the original review as best I can, and if my tease whets your appetite for their style of review, you are encouraged to head over to their site and let them know…after of course letting us know your thoughts in the comments below. One more note: This week is the only time the review roundup will be for multiple episodes at once, given it’s the first time in a loooong time critics have been provided the episodes in advance. Moving forward, this list will pertain to weekly reviews of individual episodes.

All squared? Jolly good, let’s dive in.

What did the Internet think of HBO’s House of the Dragon?

Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone – In which the spinoff proves a poor test for the less-is-more theory of George R. R. Martin collected works, and HOTD is filled with uniformly dull characters who exist merely as a calculated piece of brand extension for the newly-merged Warner Bros. Discovery.

Belen Edwards, Mashable – In which HOTD is excellent through and through, juggling memorable characters, high fantasy, and intense emotions with practiced ease.

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Ben Dowell, The Times UK – In which HOTD promises to be the new GOT, but only slightly different, and I can’t read the rest of the review because I don’t have a subscription.

Brian Tallerico, The Playlist – In which the narrative is more tightly focused at the start, but the mid-season recasting of major characters in an attempt to age them holds a different, more somber energy, if episode 6 is anything to imply of the final 4 episodes.

Daniel D’Addario, Variety – In which the four actors playing Rhaenyra and Alicent are excellent, shading and evolving their relationships when the script doesn’t deliver their requisite nuance.

Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter – In which there are a couple of midsize battle scenes, but they’re less effective than the suspense built in smaller and more intimate conflicts or any time anybody is about to have sex.

Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly – In which Daemon Targaryen is the walking personification of a TV-MA rating, but the show features a lack of breakout supporting characters without a Sam or Hound in sight.

Helen O’Hara, IGN – In which King Viserys is the most interesting character, if the least showy, finding the patriarchal limits of Westeros society, and a king with blind spots and complexity.

John Anderson, Wall Street Journal – In which the unnervingly violent, unwaveringly self-important HOTD is a success dramatically, as captivating as any season of GOT, and that’s all I can see without a subscription.

Kelly Lawler, USA Today – In which HOTD’s story of family angst amid the dragon-taming Targaryen clan is just not nearly as interesting as the heyday of Lannisters, Starks, and Littlefinger.

Kim Renfro, Insider – In which the new series excels when it slows down, allowing the viewer to be drawn in by two people talking or scheming behind closed doors, allowing HOTD to nail the underlying draw of Westeros as a backdrop for oppressive political systems, murder plots, and familial power struggles.

Lauren Sarner, New York Post – In which HOTD’s sex scenes are more tastefully filmed, depicting nudity of both women and men, but it remains to be seen whether wider audiences will get over their ire of GOT’s ending.

Lucy Mangan, The Guardian – In which for those concerned, it contains: bloody beatings, bloody deaths, terrible wigs, extensive exchanges in High Valyrian, boobs and bums in brothels, incesty vibes, a king’s council filled with self-interested twunts and one good man, countless brewing political, domestic, and actual storms, alliances, counter-alliances, treacheries, and broken loyalties, all the money up, up on the screen, and dragons.

Meghan O’ Keefe, Decider – In which HOTD is a meaty political drama set in a lush fantasy world ruled over by dragons, where battle scenes can be described as metal AF and set pieces that use the characters’ emotions as well as magical beasts to thrill and delight.

Mike Hale, New York Times – In which the characters are flat, and the filmmaking feels rote as well, but without GOT’s zippy special effects, with exception given to a knockout jousting tournament.

Nick Hilton, Independent – In which HOTD is bigger, bolder, and bloodier than GOT, and that’s all I can read because I don’t have a subscription.

Stephen Kelly, BBC – In which it’s a rich, textured work, sharply written and handsomely directed, with a budget that far outstrips season of GOT.

Thanks for joining. This might not be the final list I start using on a weekly basis, given too many of these require subscriptions, but we’ll have to see. Some of these reviews are overly negative, and others are overly positive. Me? I’m gonna take it as it comes. While I’ve never been a book stan, I certainly know the original series and books very well. I’ve only read Fire & Blood once, and while I very much enjoyed it, I’m not as immersed in the lore as others, so I’m excited about what’s to come, without fear of wondering what they got “wrong.” If it’s good TV, I frankly don’t care. So, bring it on!

Given this is the final week any of us will have an excuse for saying “I haven’t seen any of House of the Dragon yet,” what do you make of these reviews? Sound off in the comments below.

27 Comments

  1. ”Given this is the final week any of us will have an excuse for saying “I haven’t seen any of House of the Dragon yet,” what do you make of these reviews?

    • I am sticking with my excuse: I am going to try to avoid watching HotD unless and until it’s clear that S1 is going to be awesome from start to finish. Besides, I wasn’t enamored with the Targs and their awful stringy wigs before, and I reached my DSP (Dragon Saturation Point) midway through S7 of GoT.

    • What do I make of the critics’ reviews? It seems the reception was… mixed, at best.

    However, I think I’ll wait until the Watchers on the Wall Dream Team (Sue et al.) and my fellow commenters weigh in.

  2. • What do I make of the critics’ reviews? It seems the reception was… mixed, at best.

    Mixed at best? If you just look at RottenTomatoes, the show is at 85% Fresh. That’s the vast majority being positive.

  3. GeekFurious,

    Hey, don’t look at me. I was just going by the review synopses collected above. They did seem… mixed.
    I did not consult the Tomatometer or whatever it’s called. I’m

  4. Ten Bears,

    It was 76% yesterday so there have been some positive reviews since then. If you read the reviews, they are are indeed mixed/positive (which count as positive on RT) with a few negatives thrown in. I have no issue with some of it, a few things are less than ideal. I have read nothing alarming though.

    One thing, I never really understood the need to recast those two roles. The young Rhaenyra actress is 22, the older is 30. What was the point? They look nothing alike. Reviewers seem to share my opinion as well. If they cast a 14 year old, fair enough, but the age gap isn’t big enough imo

  5. I think the logic is pretty clear. I can’t see Milly as and embittered middle aged woman any more than I can seem Emma D’Arcy as a spunky flirtatious teeneager. Their real life ages may be very similar, but the ages they can convincingly play are very very different.

    As for looking alike, I disagree there too. Yes there are significant differences, but they both have that asymmetrical smirky mouth that is so distinctive, which is not all that common a feature.

    Jenny:
    Ten Bears,

    One thing, I never really understood the need to recast those two roles. The young Rhaenyra actress is 22, the older is 30. What was the point? They look nothing alike. Reviewers seem to share my opinion as well. If they cast a 14 year old, fair enough, but the age gap isn’t big enough imo

  6. GeekFurious,

    He has a lot of great insights of other shows and I won’t completely write off what he says but yeah, he’s opinion is not the one I’m truly looking for when watching this kind of shows.

  7. awol,

    If Emma D’Arcy is supposed to play Rheanyra into middle age they have cast way too young. They should have gone for someone like Lena Headey, she was 37 when GOT started. I think that might be the issue I have with it. But it’s not a show breaking thing, it just seems a bit weird when every other character is played by the same people

  8. GeekFurious,

    It’s his personal opinion. Let’s not get our butts puckered too tightly over a critic’s opinion. We’ll all find out for ourselves tomorrow evening.

  9. Jenny:
    awol,

    If Emma D’Arcy is supposed to play Rheanyra into middle age they have cast way too young. They should have gone for someone like Lena Headey, she was 37 when GOT started. I think that might be the issue I have with it. But it’s not a show breaking thing, it just seems a bit weird when every other character is played by the same people

    (Potential spoilers)

    In the novels, Rhaenyra is 33 at the end of Dance of Dragons. I still have no idea whether Rhaenyra was aged up or Alicent was aged down and I have no idea how much of a time skip there is in HotD but I feel it’s the younger Rhaenyra where the actress is older than the character is supposed to be (the character probably being a teen played by actress in her early 20s), not the adult Rhaenyra where Emma D’Arcy is 30 and can very likely play the character in her 30s.

  10. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas,

    Ah right, I think I understand. I’m going into this blind, I’ve never read Fire and Blood. I’ll have to wait for the time jump to make a judgement on it. I’ve heard that all 4 actresses do a good job, but some people question the necessity. We shall see

  11. Some are looking to dislike this for a whole variety of different agendas. This is my takeaway on not only these but some other reviews I have read.

    The idea that “it’s not Game of Thrones” is such a lazy review. No it’s not Game of Thrones and why would you expect it to be? Seriously. I don’t understand this type of thinking. It’s a new story, new characters and has nothing to do with the Game of Thrones story.

  12. I hope the final scene of every House of the Dragon episode is as EPIC , strong and climatic as the final scenes in almost every Game of Thrones episode

  13. this is pretty off-topic, sorry…

    could it be this time there is no way to watch the series without subscription to a streaming service? i could watch the last season of GoT on google play. i’m not a tv-guy. actually, i think tv is 94% stupid. but once in a while there’s something that interests me, and i’d like to see it.

    after GoT S8, HotD would have been the second(!) time in my 54 years on this planet i would have loved to watch something the same time anyone else does. but it seems the billions of streaming services want their brazillions of mediocre and their few dozen of good productions to be subscription-baits only.

    well, i won’t subscribe to any of these channels, as there’s just one bit of content there i’m interested in. why should i pay them for the other 99% of rubbish? also, i couldn’t pay them even if i wanted: i don’t have a fucking credit card. no one supported by social welfare has.

    it will be like it was through GoT 5 to 7: i’ll pick the little clips on youtube, try to put them into logical order and wait for the dvd-release… and have in mind that the production of some 4000 series a month by hbo, disney, amazon, kelloggs and john deere is surely no contribution to climate disaster. not at all.

    after having paid 50 bucks to google for some dragons and not even getting chickins, i think this rant is allowed.

  14. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas,

    Right, I think of her as older because of the teenaged kids, but ancient barbaric practices shift the time scale of childbirth etc. somewhat…

    Still, I think with some make-up tricks Emma D’Arcy could convincingly play someone well into her forties or even early fifties because of the depth of human experience in her eyes and a certain authority in her presence.

  15. death by chickenfire,

    after GoT S8, HotD would have been the second(!) time in my 54 years on this planet i would have loved to watch something the same time anyone else does. but it seems the billions of streaming services want their brazillions of mediocre and their few dozen of good productions to be subscription-baits only….”.

    Mind if I join in your rant?
    I’ve got a subscription to HBO as part of my cable TV, internet and telephone service with AT&T, but it’s ridiculously expensive, especially to watch only one show.

    I’ve got a long “To Watch” list of other shows I’ve heard great things about and I’ve been dying to see, But like you, there is no way I’m going to pay for multiple subscriptions to different streaming services – Hulu, CBS All Access, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Peacock, Disney+, etc. etc.

    Even “free trials” are a scam, because once they’ve got your credit card or bank account info, they bill you automatically after the trial period expires and keep automatically renewing your “paid” subscription unless you remember to “opt out” before the free trial ends – and they make you jump through hoops when you try to cancel.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think streaming by subscription is sustainable, at least not for the major players. They’ve committed way too much to sign up big name directors and producers, they’re paying top dollar for A-List actors, they’re spending big bucks to make feature length movies, and there is way too much competition. (I predict Netflix is gonna fold first.)

    Some smaller platforms that are on the lookout for talented but relatively unknown writers with fresh ideas, and cast accomplished actors outside the multimillion dollar “star” system, will probably survive while the dinosaurs go extinct.

    Maybe before long, these subscription only platforms with their paywalled shows and movies will have to go back to being channels on basic cable – like the old days.

    – End Co-Rant –

  16. From what I’ve seen reviews have been largely positive but I do feel those who have read the books will enjoy it more than the unsullied, at least episode one. I say that simply because it’s an introduction to the characters for which the story will resolve. Yes there are some shocking scenes and a bit of nudity but it’s nothing compared to what is to come – which will pull in a large audience just as the Red Wedding and Ned’s execution did for early GOT fandom.

  17. awol:
    Remember early reviews for season 1 GOT?

    ^^^ This. People expecting Game of Thones in the first episode need to realise season one is likely just setting up the characters on the chess board. Most of the bigger shocking moments will come in the second (or third!) seasons. Think early episodes in Kings Landing it’s much more like that.

  18. Jon Snowed: ^^^ This. People expecting Game of Thones in the first episode need to realise season one is likely just setting up the characters on the chess board. Most of the bigger shocking moments will come in the second (or third!) seasons.Think early episodes in Kings Landing it’s much more like that.

    Personally, I didn’t care about any lack of “shocking moments”. I just thought the show lacked a lot of the charisma and charm that the Game of Thrones pilot had.

    I thought both pilots were kind of the opposite in that regard. The GoT pilot looked very cheap, but was very charming. The HotD pilot looked very expensive, but lacked charm for me. It was decent, but I haven’t really gravitated towards any characters yet. Only one episode in. It was good enough for me to keep watching.

  19. I agree with you on the budget front, that was very contrasting.

    My comment was more a response to those saying it’s boring and not a lot happened.

    On the characters, I oddly warmed to Daemon and Alicient (certainly feel like rooting for her), Rhaenyra seems to be positioned as the ‘new Dany’ but for me I couldn’t warm to the character.

  20. Ten Bears, and Death by Chicken

    I’m not really understanding. HBO max subscription is $9.99 a month. That makes it like $2.00 an episode (not including tax!). I mean, if you don’t think the show is worth $2….I don’t know what to tell ya.

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