After an explosive premiere laden with blood, fire and political intrigue, House of the Dragon (HotD) drew in 10.2 million viewers, shattering HBO’s viewership records. The televised adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood has now been approved for a second season, and it seems the Game of Thrones (GoT) prequel is poised to stake its claim as the ruler of a new television dynasty. 

This success may show a willingness of GoT fans to dip their toes back into George Martin’s sex and gore-soaked universe, but such steps may be very tentative. While GoT’s disastrous eighth season finished back in 2019, the show’s loyalists still bear the scars of its failure: the North remembers, after all.

There’s so many reasons for GoT’s lacklustre conclusion, and much of it comes from baffling writing decisions: the anti-climatic defeat of the Night King, the abandonment of Jaime Lannister’s redemption arc, Daenerys’ sudden genocidal shift, and the sidelining of Tyrion Lannister. That’s only a taste of the show’s shortcomings: all of which created a perfect storm of fan disappointment.

Much of the blame for the final season can be cast on the thrones of the show’s lead writers: David Benioff and D.B Weiss, known in the fandom as D and D. From season 5 onwards, the writers ran out of material from the books, and had to rely on plot points from George Martin, while filling in the gaps on their own.

George RR Martin

In the later seasons, George Martin was excluded from the show’s creative decisions, and he even pleaded for the show to go on for another 10 to 13 seasons to provide a proper ending. He was ignored.

Fans will be pleased to learn that for HotD, Martin has greater creative influence, and a close relationship with the showrunners, Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik. On the History of Westeros podcast, Martin said, “I’m very happy with House of the Dragon. It’s a very faithful adaptation. Yeah, there’s some changes, but I have a great relationship with Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik.”

Martin’s endorsement may be enough to convince fans on the bench to give the new series a chance: though the final decisions are in the hands of the showrunners, Martin holds enough sway to preserve his vision. This should give fans some confidence that HotD can avoid the pitfalls that crippled GoT.

For those who decide to watch, it’s easy to see that HotD is born of the same DNA that made the early seasons of GoT so successful: the characters have depth, the visuals are excellent, and viewers can already see the seeds of war being sown. Now it just has to maintain that momentum.

With the second episode released this week, only time will tell if HotD will soar on the wings of dragons, or plummet into the frozen wastes of failure. 

For more House of the Dragon content, Matt Smith says playing Daemon is “challenging and fun.”

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