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Saturday, May 27, 2023

‘House of the Dragon’ Check In: The Pros and Cons of Major Moments

“Home of the Dragon” is a success, however what’s working and what’s not stays hotly contested amongst followers and critics alike. How is the present dealing with misogyny, violence, and wigs? Are the week-to-week plot twists as gripping as “Thrones’” earlier than it? The present is pulling in an enormous viewers, however are we simply going by way of the motions and watching the massive buzzy present, or can we truly find it irresistible?

As Season 1 enters its second half, let’s take a look at the professionals and cons of Episodes 1-6 to raised assess how HBO’s newest juggernaut can get even higher (and greater?) from right here. Episode 6 “The Princess and the Queen” jumps forward greater than every other to date, catching up with Alicent and Rhaenyra round 10 years after Episode 5, with the characters now performed by Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy. Quite a bit has occurred since Rhaenyra’s wedding ceremony, but one way or the other not a lot in any respect. All the things till this level has been preamble, and the true function of “Home of the Dragon” now appears to lie forward. 

Under, IndieWire’s Ben Travers and Proma Khosla duel — um, debate — the key moments from Season 1 to date. Working? The lead characters. Questionable? Dragon illustration. Too gross to be goal? Crabfeeder, by an extended shot.

The Opening Credit 

Professional: It’s what you need to hear.

BT: As disappointing because the present’s lack of braveness on this regard feels, it’s additionally completely in keeping with the remainder of “Home of the Dragon.” As I outlined in my preliminary evaluation, HBO constructed this to be the following “Sport of Thrones,” which means it’s actually constructed to imitate the unique sequence. Ensuring followers really feel the identical approach they do concerning the first franchise extension is crucial to extending the franchise even additional, and one of many surefire methods to do exactly that’s by way of music. Followers need to really feel how they felt after they heard Djawadi’s banger, week after week, for eight years — so why not merely give it to them? Is it boring, crass, and annoying? Completely. Is it nonetheless a fantastic tune? Additionally, sure. 

Con: It’s lazy as heck.

PK: I couldn’t consider my ears after I began this present and heard the ol’ “dum dum, DUMDUMDUM dum” strings introducing it. I had a really blended emotional response attributable to a decade of conditioning, however the predominant thought was: WTF. Don’t inform me my boy Ramin Djawadi couldn’t drop the tune of the season with new title music for this present. Don’t inform me he couldn’t revise or retool the unique and give you a fire-and-blood themed BANGER that reminds viewers of “Thrones” however has its personal flare. Utilizing this music is an insult to Djawadi, to not point out to 29 million viewers and counting! 

Daemon Targaryen 

A man in a red tunic and gray vest with slicked back blonde hair, in a medieval setting; still from "House of the Dragon"

Matt Smith in “Home of the Dragon”

HBO

Professional: He’s deeply compelling.

BT: It’s humorous: In quite a lot of methods, Daemon Targaryen represents every thing that made the unique “Sport of Thrones” so tough for me to abdomen. He’s such a ginormous piece of shit, you already know he’s taking the Metropolis Watch to Truffoni’s each New Yr’s Eve and slopping these steaks. However not solely is Daemon sadistic and misogynistic, he’s written to be seductively so — including a cool issue to each objectively repulsive choice he makes. That type of factor can get previous, and the numerous merciless twists peppered all through the unique sequence wore me down.  

However I have to say: “Home of the Dragon” wants him. There may actually be much less incest — a phrase I by no means thought I’d even have to put in writing down — however too lots of the present characters maneuver for energy like chess items: stiffly, predictably, and with out a lot thought. Daemon flips the board over after which, properly, does one thing unspeaking on prime of it. His specific model of chaos has been largely missing in different elements of the prequel sequence, so I’ve to return down in favor of Daemon. I hope he meets his maker finally, however till then, not less than he’s protecting the viewers on their toes. 

Con: He sucks.

PK: I’m deeply involved for the Daemon Targaryen hive, particularly the “Daenyra” subhive (a phrase I discovered this week and want to chuck into the ocean for the crabs to feed on). Are we actually nonetheless falling for this rogue-man-who-plays-by-his-own-rules bullshit? Did y’all clock how rapidly he went from “chaotic king” to literal spouse killer? And no offense to Matt Smith, however he doesn’t do it for me and by no means has. Sure he’s objectively tall and chiseled and good-looking and charismatic and acted the shit out of that one scene with out saying a phrase — wait, what aspect am I on once more? 

Alicent and Rhaenyra 

Professional: Feminine besties.

PK: Think about my absolute sudden delight as a girl who watched all of “Sport of Thrones” to look at this pilot and have it’s undeniably about YOUNG WOMEN. Yeah Daemon is there or no matter, however it’s not his present. There’s a motive it focuses a lot on Alicent and Rhaenyra (who aren’t even mates within the guide!): It makes issues private. Emily Carey herself informed IndieWire how essential it’s to construct that relationship up earlier than breaking it down, and you actually really feel that with these performances. Feminine friendships are deep and complicated and that’s one thing “Thrones” not often, if ever, explored. 

Con: …however they flip in opposition to one another.

BT: In a present with three male creators, primarily based on a type of creators’ books, the male gaze goes to make its approach into the story. For probably the most half, I like Alicent and Rhaenyra’s shared arc, particularly because it builds anticipation / terror over the prospect of Rhaenyra murdering her finest pal’s son with a view to protect her proper to the throne. I’m fairly positive we haven’t seen a friendship examined like that on TV, and even when it by no means involves go, the underlying suspicion is sufficient to ship distinctive ripples by way of each characters. That being stated, Alicent and Rhaenyra are the 2 lead girls in “Home of the Dragon,” and, in fact, they find yourself preventing one another. As a plot requisite, it’s simpler to forgive falling again on a vexing cliche, however it’s nonetheless a vexing cliche. 

Dragons 

Close up of a red dragon; still from "House of the Dragon"

What’s happening in that fairly little head?

HBO

Professional: They give the impression of being *sick*.

PK: Forward of watching the episodes, somebody I do know (one among our colleagues? Ben Travers himself?) joked that the entire present was about constructing a home after which a dragon coming and shifting in. I’ve not stopped desirous about how a lot I need that present. All these dragons have completely different appears to be like and expertise and names and personalities, and so they get the quick finish of the stick in a present infamous for giant ensembles the place viewers can barely maintain observe of the incestuous lead characters. 

Con: They haven’t any identities.

BT: Gosh, I want I’d made that joke, as a result of now I need that present, too! Frankly, it simply sounds… good, and I do know that’s not what “Home of the Dragon” is about, however perhaps the following spinoff could be?  

So far as the present we’ve received, I agree that it’s irritating to see all of the dragons mainly handled as the identical common creature, moderately than people with their very own personalities. That’s an issue, and I hope it’s addressed within the second half of the season. What I do like concerning the dragons, although, is how they’ve been offered. Rhaenyra’s dragon, Syrax, rising by way of the fog in Episode 2 appears to be like nice. Identical for the inevitable but superior reveal in Episode 3, when Seasmoke flies into body and turns the Crabfeeder’s military to toast. Even in Episode 6, simply seeing the dragon drag its tail alongside the ocean because it flies low overhead, that’s a fantastic shot! All these photographs give the flying cats (sure, they’re undoubtedly impressed by cats) a mode that ought to be mirrored by substance. Hopefully the latter’s nonetheless coming. 

The Crabfeeder 

Professional: As shut as this present will come to comedy. 

BT: The identify “Crabfeeder” — particularly as the massive unhealthy of the early episodes — is inherently humorous, and I appreciated “Home of the Dragon” leaning into a fully absurd thought as arduous as they did, only for the laughs. After all, that presumes you’ll be able to separate from the onscreen barbarity sufficient to giggle, which… is probably not attainable for everybody. That’s all. That’s my solely protection. I’m completed now. 

Con: Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew.

PK: WHERE TO BEGIN. The graphic burning and oozing and feasting upon human flesh by crustacea? The trypophobia impressed by shut ups of Mr. Feeder’s face? I generally surprise if it could all have been extra palatable in the event that they merely washed the Crab Feeder’s hair, however alas, we’ll by no means know. All the things to do with the Crab Feeder was suitably gross for somebody named after this distinctive proclivity, proper up till his first moments as a corpse that Daemon sliced in two and saved as a trophy. The intestines — when will I neglect the intestines? I haven’t had pasta in weeks (however I’ve eaten crab). 

Motion (Or Lack Thereof) 

A man in medieval armor and helmet swings an axe-like weapon on the battlefield; still from "House of the Dragon"

Steve Toussaint in “Home of the Dragon”

HBO

Professional: The one battle was fairly good! 

BT: Credit score the place it’s due, The Battle of the Stepstones is well-executed. Daemon, feigning defeat, baits the Crabfeeder’s military out of hiding and proceeds to blitz by way of his opponents with a savvy tenacity. (As arrows cascade down upon him, Daemon kills his enemies whereas utilizing their our bodies as human shields — sensible transfer!) In the meantime, the Crabfeeder isn’t written like an fool. As Daemon fees, he’s watching the sky, ready for a dragon to swoop in and lightweight up his troopers. However Daemon simply retains coming, taking arrows alongside the best way, till sufficient of the opposing military is uncovered and he’s shut sufficient to achieve the Crabfeeder earlier than he can escape. That’s when the dragon arrives, and that’s when the battle is received. It’s a dangerous plan that truly feels dangerous, instilling a reluctant admiration for Daemon’s skills on the battlefield that helps elevate his harmful standing again in well mannered society. “Sport of Thrones” has offered higher, greater battles, however the first for “Home of the Dragon” nonetheless delivers. 

Con: There are only a few precise battles… to date. 

PK: To not be That Man, however I’ve learn “Fireplace & Blood” and there are such a lot of superb battles forward. The present is shifting slower than the guide, however Season 1 feels prefer it’s treading water, inventing and stretching out issues which can be barely talked about or don’t even exist within the textual content — which is typically positive, however generally pointless! The Crabfeeder storyline is there to construct up Daemon, to indicate dragons in battle, and to gross us out with crabs. It’s positive, however as soon as we get to the God’s Eye you’ll be laughing that this even occurred. 

So A lot Childbirth, So A lot Loss of life 

Con: JFC.

PK: I proceed to be so curious concerning the writers’ ongoing fascination with childbirth. They will’t have identified this was going to be a crucial sociopolitical subject on the time of the present’s airing, however now it’s and it’s robust to divorce all these scenes from cultural context. As somebody with a uterus, I may truly do with out weekly reminders of what can occur to my physique if I lose management over it! Every time a personality observes that the birthing room is its personal battlefield or that beginning givers have it so arduous or there’s a deliberate juxtaposition between the violence of battle and the excruciating ache of creating life — I don’t want it! I’m conscious! One of the best factor these storylines can do is make different folks conscious and empathetic, so I hope that not less than occurs. 

Professional: It’s “correct.” 

BT: Truthfully, I don’t suppose there’s a “professional” past your final word, and I really hope that by making the perils of childbirth an ongoing matter of dialog, “Home of the Dragon” can broadly exemplify why girls’s bodily autonomy is an absolute crucial. From what I’ve been informed, the scenes are… correct, to a level, so even within the context of a fantasy present paying homage to the Center Ages, maybe some viewers will get up, learn a friggin’ guide, and acknowledge well being care as a human proper. 

The Brutal Loss of life of That Different Joffrey

Two men in medieval formalwear stand close, eyes locked, in a crowded banquet hall for a wedding feast; still from "House of the Dragon"

Theo Nate and Solly McLeod in “Home of the Dragon”

HBO

Con: Too Many Tropes — and never good ones.

BT: I believe it’s the mixture of two overused and ugly tropes that grates on me greater than both one taken on their very own. Joffrey — Joffrey Lonmouth, not Joffrey Joffrey — is launched solely so he can die, which then creates further tales for Criston and Laenor. Technically, this falls beneath the unpopular theme of “fridging,” the place a liked one is damage or killed with a view to transfer one other character’s plot ahead. It’s moderately lazy writing, for one — since all we actually find out about Joffrey is that he preferred to stir shit up, apparently — however as a result of the one different factor we find out about Joffrey is that he prefers the corporate of males, his dying turns into doubly clichéd by way of the “bury your gays” trope — when LGBTQIA+ characters are routinely killed off as an alternative of their straight friends. At its worst, such seemingly focused deaths suggest queer characters are dispensable, and even much less human than their surviving heterosexual characters. Now, I don’t suppose Joffrey’s demise exemplifies the nastiest iteration of both of those developments — some supporting characters are expendable, and a few should be written to, properly, assist different characters — however it’s nonetheless price noting that “Home of the Dragon” ended up right here. 

Professional: Loss of life is inevitable on this present.

PK: Joffrey dying is canon, even when it’s not as dramatic or brutal; within the guide Criston strikes him throughout a tourney and he passes away after a number of days. Killing him on the wedding ceremony is much more narratively potent, inextricably linking Joffrey’s dying to Laenor and Rhaenyra’s marriage, the disintegration of her relationship with Criston, and Alicent’s shift in loyalty. Laenor has ample trigger to be resentful of everybody current, which is one thing the writers may use in future episodes or seasons. And in relation to the “bury your gays” trope — Laenor himself is alive, arguably thriving! He’s married to the individual subsequent in line for the throne, he has three wholesome kids by Episode 6, and his wig even received higher. I want him nothing however peace and happiness, two issues everybody will get in “Sport of Thrones.”  

The Royal Wedding ceremony 

Professional: We love a superb wedding ceremony.

PK: Not less than, I personally love a superb wedding ceremony. The “She-Hulk” wedding ceremony bottle episode is my favourite to date, for no motive aside from its chosen setting. I’m going to quite a lot of Indian weddings, so I used to be delighted to see Homes Velaryon and Targaryen honor my folks’s custom of nonstop meals and dance, that too earlier than any vows are even uttered (not sufficient “Kala Chashma,” however you’ll be able to’t have all of it). The marriage drama additionally served — admittedly going too far at that one level — with Daemon sharing loaded appears to be like with each Rhaenyra and Laena, some traditional shit stirring by Larys Sturdy, and Queen Alicent getting into in a show-stopping robe that may have folks speaking for years.

Con: We love a good wedding ceremony. 

BT: All the things you stated concerning the wedding ceremony is true and good, however as soon as all of the dancing had concluded and all of the faces have been turned to squished cobbler, my lingering feeling was: …that’s it? This was a marriage — a “Sport of Thrones” wedding ceremony. Certain, the robe is an enormous deal, however it does much less for the drama on this episode than it does to vow drama to return. And Criston’s battle is disgusting, however regardless of how gross that closing shot, the two-man brawl is comparatively minor compared to expectations. The marriage continued a development I anticipate to finish quickly, however has dragged on too lengthy: “Home of the Dragon” simply hasn’t delivered something beautiful but — and it wants to repair that, quick. 

“Home of the Dragon” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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‘Home of the Dragon’ Verify In: The Execs and Cons of Main Moments

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