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House of The Dragon; Season 1 Episode 1 – By MA Iliyasu

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House of The Dragon; Season 1 Episode 1- By MA Iliyasu

Few hours before the pilot episode of the long-awaited prequel started airing, George R.R Martin answered at fans session in Santa Fe, Mexico, that House of The Dragon is a different story from The Game of Thrones, and one doesn’t need to watch the latter to understand the former. Which I concur!

However, watching the first episode of the prolific television series independent of The Game of Thrones proves harder than I thought. For as soon as my watch begins, every single character cast, word uttered and scene shown was either modifying my knowledge of everything in The Game of Thrones, revising it or giving it a new dimension.

The first scene was a journey to the later days of the old King Johaerys whom an undisclosed tragedy took both his sons for which he called the lords of the realm to come to Harrenhal and determine his successor. If anything can be learnt from that gesture is that the introduction to the House of the Dragon is here to debunk the fallacies associated to House Targaryen in the narratives of the victors after the Robert’s Rebellion 172 years in the future. History after all, does indeed belong to the victor, and even though the attempt by the old king Johaerys was to prevent a war, the narrative in the aftermath of the Robert’s Rebellion did not suggest the Targaryen rulers could be as transparent as to enable anybody to have a say on the royal phenomenon so serious as succession apart from themselves.

The same can be learnt in the conduct of the Small Council Chamber; how with regards to the concerns of Lord Corlys Valeryon King Viserys come across as receptive and jovial, with master of coin’s concerns on the crown’s finances the king was very capable of learning and unlearning, and with Lord Otto hightower’s concern on prince Daemon’s extrajudicial excesses with the City Watch the king shows his kingly opinions are more contestable than what the watcher would have thought.

But then the savagery of the Targaryens is still not to be taken lightly. Agreeing to a surgical procedure that Viserys knew for a fact will kill his wife Aema and refusing to inform her about it was so typical of the ancestor of the mad king. Likewise Prince Daemon’s moral enforcement with the city watch; serving as the judge, jury and executioner was an unprecedented madness. And that sums up the Targaryens; nice when the times are easy, ruthless when they’re uncertain and very vicious when the times are hard. Most of what comes off their mouths are nothing but the truth, though spoken in awful way; the testimony of Daemon on his wife is cruel; the tagging of his deceased nephew as heir for a day is, even by the standards of westeros, very Iron-islandish; while mocking Otto Hightower with his wife’s death, even though he was provoked, rounded up his magnificent oratory skills.

The Small Council chamber is a bit distinct; you’ve typical westerosi statesmen running the affairs of the state; even though in a more apparent manner than the subtleties and intense mindgames in the Game Of Thrones. Lord Hightower moves normally as the intentional hand of the king, more like Tywin Lannister in cunning, informed like Jon Arryn but less peculiar in veiling his likes and dislikes like Nedd Stark. With little to no observation a watcher grasps that the small council is divided across two extremes; the loyalists of the Hand being the most powerful arm of the government and the loyalists of Prince Daemon as the apparent heir.

The master of coin and the grand maester belong in the hand’s pocket. While Lord Strong and Lord Corlys belong on the Daemon’s side. Though Lord Corlys, being a royal in-law, afford for himself the right to independent opinion, which he use mostly in the favor of his wife’s cousin. And the underlying goals behind those divisions are what provoke Daemon’s conscience to be by his brother’s side, so that if the game was to be heated it should be under the control of a Targaryen like himself, but sadly one which do nothing but drift them apart, thanks to the strategic Hand of the king.

Lord Otto Hightower appears to be the master of the current game. He has the king’s favors and sympathies even though Daemon has the king’s love. But then the small council isn’t a place where love prevails; the king will within conscious possibility always try to decide with his head more than with his heart, even if to appear under control of his rationalism. And that’s where Lord Otto edges Prince Daemon.

Outside of the small council there’s what I see as interesting enigma, a young beautiful lady by name Alicent Hightower, the daughter of Lord Otto. Alicent is enigmatic in two ways namely; she’s very concious of her boundaries as both the daughter of the hand and the best friend of Princess Rhaenyra; she’s very interested in the politics of the succession and incredibly careful with her educated guesses. She regularly gists the princess about her opinion on what may become of her role to the king in the event a son was to be born. That, if anything, shows the symptoms of ambitious women who represents an agenda that’s bigger than herself; so much like one Cercie Lannister of prominent memory. What is Lord Otto’s endgame from the way he wishes Alicent to be in regular company of the king especially when he’s most emotional? We shall see!

Prince Daemon’s oratory skills and sarcasm is not unnoticeable. His blunt ambition for power that he never hides succeeds in burying everyone into believing he’s being sarcastic. After all who would want the Iron Throne and be confessing publicly? The comfort of being the heir apparent should be enough, but not in the view of Otto Hightower who see right through Daemon’s paradox. He knows Daemon knew being the heir apparent isn’t enough to make him Viserys’ successor, not when he see right through Otto Hightower’s subtle domination. And that’s why Lord Hightower see Daemon literally, as he should be seen. And most probably why they’re the fiercest rivals so far, and may probably remain so going further into the series.

After the king’s newborn died, the small council under the leadership of The hand, Master of coin and grand maester got the best of the king and got him into breaking the hundred-year old royal tradition by appointing a woman his heir. That should normally set Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon at each other’s throat. But surprisingly does nothing but improve their relationship. With the exception of the normal courtesy between a niece and her uncle, there’s an unusual adoration and caring between Daemon and Rhaenyra as can be learnt during the tourney that should make a watcher curious; which kind of rivals are these? May be they’re not rivals or probably they don’t plan on being rivals!

The tourney introduced to us an outstanding player by name Ser Cristol Cole, who was defined as common-born son of Lord Dandarion’s steward,who takes the credit of unhorsing everyone he faced, including the Barratheons and the Targaryens. He pulls material attention to himself and for that he should be keenly watched. His might in the tourney made me realize why Nedd Stark assigned Lord Beric Dandarion to arrest the mountain; evidently if Cristol is a son to the banner of the Dandarions, then you can imagine them to be a massive House.

Then you’ve the westerosi as a society. The architecture and clothing were mind-blowing. Art has flourished and the literature, though adrift of new content, us flying. The wealth is huge while poverty is suffocated. The air of Kingslandin exudes confidence and high spirits. It has been sixty years of peace and prosperity, marking as long since the last time men were sent to war. Two generation of adults have either forgotten what the battlefield looks like or they don’t even know it at all. Bellies are full. Lusts are satisfied. Blades are sharpened. The mind is tired of reading the exploits of the past. The soul is hungry for new adventure. The women are equipped with the language but are lacking the base for their gists, gossips and poetry. The men are having hard time identifying what they want; the high in valor show their frustrations in the overly violent tourney; and the low in morals resort to whoring, murdering, stealing and most activities of lesser morality. A mere looking will tell you that this is an affluent society!

So unlike the westerosi society in the game of thrones in which the architecture and clothing were dulled by uncertainty and fear. Art was declining, despite been rich with new content. There was abject poverty among the common borns. The air is Kingslandin exuded frustration and nervousness. It was barely fifteen years since the Robert’s Rebellion, most rebuilds were not even complete. There was hardly a grown adult that hasn’t been to war. The limbs were tired. Most bellies were hungry. Lusts were never satisfied. Blades were blunt. The soul was craving comfort. But the mind is rising again with the sharp content about the bravery of men. The women were always equipped with language and they were very loaded with content for their poetry. The brave men were hardly interested in combats. The tourneys were as vicious but not as unnecessarily violent. Those of lesser morals remained indifferent in habits but so much of their stupidity was hindered by the lack of monetary ability. That was a society in decline!

And if there were to be any borderline differences athat cause the aggregate underlying distinctions between The Game of Thrones and first episode of the House of The Dragon is whatever is capable of distinguishing a society at it’s socioeconomic and cultural peak and a society that was drifting down from it’s pinnacle. Thanks to the master genius by name George R.R Martin; who shows that conclusions, if they truly exist, are overated. For why should we bother that the Game of Thrones was concluded and can’t go forward when the story can go backward and be as good if not better?

The cinematography in the first episode of the House of the Dragon is excellent. It accentuates the total manifestations of the story and all the difference the author was trying to show. So much is also ensured by the massive increase in the budget of the show’s production; which according to the production designer is twenty million dollars per episode. Which is significantly greater than the cost of producing any episode of the Game of Thrones.

For what that’s worth, as a watcher, I can only spare enough popcorn for the weekends when the second episode is released. For the first episode am trying my patience to wait. Such an excellent pilot episode. I reward it with an 8.5/10 rating.

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