House of the Dragon: Season 1 (5/5)
Dragons in stone house shouldn't breathe fire, amirite? No? Anyone?
Alright you peasants, I'll get down to it. Strictly speaking, this is more like a 4.5/5, and arguably it should be a 4. Main issue with this series is that the first half is very slow, while the second half is much more interesting. Another issue is that despite the presence of 10 episodes, each of which are around an hour long, there's a number of plot points that are never fully resolved. For instance, one episode ends with a knight (Criston Cole) killing a man in front of everyone, is about to commit suicide, but doesn't due to Queen Alicent's intervention. Cut to the next episode, ten years later, and he's her protector. How and why he escaped a murder charge is never explained, nor even referenced. There's a number of little niggles like this where things happen between episodes and are never fully explained. Still, these are generally the exceptions.
Anyway, I'm not going to do a point-by-point summary of the season, but I'm going to give general thoughts as a whole. So on that note:
-Compared to GoT, this is much smaller scale, both in terms of location (there's a reason why there's no map sequence), and in stakes. It's also entirely on the political side of things, so while there's obvious forshadowing to the events of GoT, don't expect any supernatural elements.
-By extension, you can watch this without watching GoT and understand it. Honestly, I'd actually recommend watching HotD before GoT at this point in time. It's a prequel in the sense of chronology, but it's very much its own work.
-There's a sense of this being, to borrow a phrase, "the world before." Same locations, different essence. The Seven Kingdoms are at peace, the Crown is functioning, etc. That of course changes by the end of the series, but consider GoT, where at season 1, we're not that far removed from the events of a civil war, and where the winner of that civil war isn't the best king in the world.
-All the cast do a solid job. I'll give standouts to Viserys (a sympathetic if ineffectual king), Daemon (not that in-depth, but gets points for badassery), and Alicent Hightower, who I'd actually call the best character in the series, at least with the second season.
-Something the show really handles well is the moral ambiguity of everything. From an outsider's perspectie, we can of course scoff at issues of line of succession, but within the context itself, it's handled excellently. In case you're wondering, I'm #TeamGreen (for a variety of reasons), but to be clear, this is a series without any real heroes or villains, where characters are complex, where the stakes are real, etc. I've never hated the later seasons of GoT like so many others have, but it's still very much a return to form in a sense. If anything, it arguably does this even better than GoT, in that in the War of the Five Kings, you have someone like Robb Stark (moral paragon) versus someone like Joffrey Lannister (absolute shit). Here, the lines between the Blacks and Greens are far more grey on the morality scale.
I could say more, but overall, if you can get past the slow start, the season's extremely solid. If you like GoT, you should like this. If you haven't seen GoT, you can dive into this without issue. Since people made it a competition, I'll say that Rings of Power is better, mainly because it doesn't have the same pacing issues, but it's a moot point. I can enjoy both. I guess what sucks is that because of the books I know how things end, but for now, solid stuff.