‘House Of The Dragon’ Is HBO’s Very Expensive Soap

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Dragon House is serious. This is an HBO drama, which holds the coveted Sunday night slot at 9 p.m. EST. The cast includes some of Britain’s finest comedians who haven’t appeared on game of thrones. The show also includes battles and dragons, dragons that are more intricate and meticulously detailed than the three dragons we’ve seen on game of thrones. Because of dragons and many other things, Dragon House costs a large sum of money.

So far, the show’s first season has oscillated between serious fantasy family drama and absolute mayhem. In the fifth episode, “We Light the Way,” which adds to the Westeros Weddings Gone Wrong canon, it embraces melodrama and mayhem and completely morphs into a very expensive soap opera.

Dragon House happily accepts its melodramatic core at a feast to launch Princess Rhaenyra’s wedding to Laenor Velaryon. The scene begins normally – normal for a wedding feast in Westeros, at least. The royal family, minus the missing queen, sit at a table while the lords of Westeros who wish to be the ones to marry Rhaenyra suck and congratulate her.

In the midst of this, Daemon Targaryen, who isn’t exactly on good terms with anyone in the room following his naughty night on the town with his niece in episode four, arrives at the party late and without being invited. King Viserys’ speech is interrupted by the late arrival of his wife, Queen Alicent Hightower. Daemon is accused of murdering his wife. Rhaenyra and Daemon have a tense conversation on the dance floor but can also kiss. Rhaenyra’s lover, Criston Cole, fights with her future husband’s lover, killing him. And all along, King Viserys secretly suffers from his ongoing health issues and simply tries to eat in peace.

Rather than a shocking wedding event like the massacre of the Starks at the Red Wedding or the poisoning of King Joffrey at the Purple Wedding, this wedding is drama after drama with no letup for the characters or the audience. The episode combines awkward family drama and love triangles reminiscent of a teen soap opera like Gossip Girl (the original) with the uncomfortable and incessant anxious energy of Uncut gems. Or, really, any Safdie Brothers movie.

Comparing Dragon House to a campy soap may seem like an insult, but it’s the best possible outcome for the game of thrones spin off. Rather than complicating matters, the series becomes engrossed in melodramatic chaos and, as a result, makes Westeros fun. Basically, Dragon House is a game of thrones for people who want to understand what they’re looking at, but don’t have the energy to inadvertently read the A song of ice and fire Wikipedia until 2 am trying to figure out who everyone is, where everyone is and who is related to who.

The series could have gone down the road of self-seriousness – it has done it before and it probably will again – but having the audacity so early in the series to have fun and be a little silly makes it already more subversive than its subversion-obsessed predecessor.

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