House of the Dragon offers a glimmer of hope in the wake of “Game of Thrones,” infamous series finale

I would be lying if I said I didn’t hold my breath when tuning into the pilot episode of “House of Dragons,” HBO’s largest premier to date

In the three years since “Game of Thrones’” lackluster conclusion, anticipation for the Targaryen-centric spinoff has only increased. While many viewers may be able to separate the prequel series from its forerunner, the task remains daunting, especially with the common consensus that “Game of Thrones’ ” eighth season diminished the show’s legacy.

Yet, I’m not here to reiterate what should have been, but rather to inform you that the “House of the Dragon’s” premier was not half bad. 

Commencing 170 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, “House of the Dragon” offers a glimpse into the not-so-perfect reign of America’s third favorite family in all of Westeros. Despite the initial barrage of names that all sound painstakingly familiar, “House of the Dragon” does a decent job at laying the groundwork of political strain for the drama’s main plot points. 

Hoisting viewers back into the tantalizing lust and power that radiates from the iron throne, “House of the Dragon” illustrates the complex yet predictable tendencies of the Targaryen’s when faced with a winning king and no male heir. 

One notion that separated the pilot from the shadow of its past was the shift from which “House of the Dragon” depicted violence against women.

It’s no secret that “Game of Thrones” refused to shy away from themes of sexual violence against its female leads. At times it felt as if the show relied on shock value from these scenes to keep itself relevant.

While there may have been no on or off-screen assaults, “House of the Dragon” offered something just as horrific in the form of a violent birthing scene. 

Matt Smith in House of the Dragon (2022). (IMDB)

Halfway through the episode, when Queen Gemma, played by Sian Brooke, enters labor, the event is celebrated through a jousting tournament. Yet not ten minutes later, the unfortunate news is broken to the ruler of the realm, Viserys Targaryen, played by Paddy Considine, who must choose between saving his possible male heir through a deadly c-section or his wife.

You can guess which he chooses. 

In this bizarre replacement of female suffering, I’m left wondering why. Sure, I know giving birth, especially in Medieval-ish times, is no walk-in-the-park park. However, my issue arises at the sheer brutality with which viewers witness Aemma greet her demise.

Fortunately, not all female characters are cast aside in such a distasteful manner. Newcomer Princess, and soon-to-be queen Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by Milly Alcock, offers a breath of fresh air as she navigates her budding regality and relationships within King’s Landing. 

Alicent Hightower, portrayed by Emily Carey, illustrates the control hoisted over young women by their fathers and later husbands as she is forced to bear her sexuality in the name of familial relations, setting the stage for the eventual Civil War between the Targaryens.

Lastly, I can’t forget to mention Rhaenys Targaryen, depicted by Eve Best, who exemplified the inevitable carnage that haunts the notion that a woman could even dream of sitting upon the iron throne.

While battle, bloodshed, and fire may be inseparable from the universe of “House of the Dragon” and “Game of Thrones,” it appears that incest is too. 

Although the Targaryens acted as the spark that seemed to normalize incest in this fantasy realm, it was easy to ignore the perverted act within “Game of Thrones,” with the scene constantly faltering away from Cersei and Jamie’s unconventional sibling love.

Yet, it is hard to ignore when seemingly every conversation between the Targaryens holds an uncomfortable, unspoken understanding. This rampant inbreeding begs the question of how far one is willing to go to keep it within the family and what the consequences will be.

Despite “House of the Dragon’s” premier setting the stage for a grueling conquest whose outcome we already know, it invites viewers a second chance to return to the politics, ethics, and morality that prove to make one heck of a narrative. 

“House of the Dragon” can be streamed through HBO and airs every Sunday at 8 P.M Eastern time.