Hop on the Dragon Wagon


Nicole Braun, Opinion Editor

I was slow to hop on the “House of the Dragon” bandwagon — the dragon wagon, if you will. But now that I’m here, I can say that I will defend this messy show with the fire of a thousand dragons.

The night after the season finale of “HOTD” aired, my brother asked me how it compared to “Game of Thrones,” the sister series set generations after “HOTD.” I told him that you can’t compare the two, and he was frustrated with that answer. But you can’t. Despite being in the same universe, if set a few centuries prior to the events of the original series, the two series are completely different shows and it would be unfair to hold them to the same standards.

Does the emotional intensity of events in “HOTD” climb to the almost unbearable heights of the Red Wedding, for example? No! It doesn’t, nor should we expect it to. “HOTD” is relying on fans’ love for the original series to supplant our emotional investment in the lives of these new characters. “GOT” the television series had a handful of books to use as inspiration, an immense fan base and, still, it took multiple seasons for fans to have huge emotional payoffs like the Red Wedding. The fact that they can even make people care at all about this show is amazing considering the overwhelming disappointment fans felt after the “GOT” series finale in 2019 and the fact that “Fire & Blood,” the new series’ written source material, is considered George R. R. Martin’s “worst book.”

What is unique about “HOTD,” is that, unlike “GOT,” which had a revolving door of occasionally cunning but usually brooding men as its leads, the two main characters of “HOTD” are young women, Rhaenyra and Allicent. The heart of most of the season’s drama can be traced back to the women’s fraught friendship, and“HOTD” is focused on presenting the feminine perspective of this harsh and brutal world. Sure, “GOT” did that to an extent as well, but such a presentation would almost always be followed by a scene of brutal, gratuitous sexual violence. Though “GOT” presented some of the most formidable female characters ever to appear on screen, those horrific scenes always served to knock them down a peg, not by a fault of their own doing but merely because of the world the writers wrote for them. In “HOTD,” we know it’s a man’s world and we do not have to be reminded at every turn. And in this world, these two young women are making every big play.

The show is very melodramatic, often the biggest twists and turns are because of miscommunications and personal slights. And I love that; with “HOTD,” we get a sense of how precarious the characters’ world is, as well as our own. Of course we aren’t living in Westeros (thank the old gods and the new), but what has always been one of the most interesting things about the “GOT” franchise is that for all of our worlds’ differences, they are still markedly similar. Our smallest decisions can often have the most profound impact, just maybe not with the same stakes as those of Rhaenyra and Allicent.

To those who argue that the show is of a lesser quality, that the pacing is at once halting and too rapid, that this show is lacking the original’s humor, here is what I have to say: I don’t care. You’re missing the point. “HOTD” isn’t destined to remake (or break) the wheel — it is meant to continue and capitalize on the dedicated fandom that was present when the original show was at its best, and it is doing this through a feminine perspective.

And does “HOTD” succeed? Yes, absolutely. After the way my heart was broken after the series finale, I never thought I’d care about Westerosi politics ever again. But here I am, ready to pick up a sword forged from Valyrian steel and fight for my queen — Rhaenyra Targaryen.