You may have heard that there is a new Game Of Thrones show currently airing on HBO. This one is called House Of The Dragon and takes place a century and a half before the events of the original show. A lot of people seem to be watching and enjoying it. Not me!
I watched the first four episodes of the series this week, and I can say that it does a good job of recreating much of the experience of watching Game Of Thrones. There’s plenty of violence, and sex, and classically trained British stage actors shouting at each other while wearing elaborate medieval costumes. But there’s a big problem here: no ice zombies!
It’s hard to remember now, but before Game Of Thrones became the engine for years worth of internet-spanning discourse, it was just a TV show that had a truly great opening scene. Do you remember that scene? It dropped us right into the bitter cold, showing a small crew from the Night’s Watch venturing beyond The Wall to track some wildlings, all before anyone sitting on their couch knew what any of those words meant. They encounter a real freaky massacre scene, in which dismembered bodies are arranged in a symbol on the snow. Then the bodies disappear! Then there’s a reanimated corpse of a little dead girl with blue eyes! Then there’s a big ice zombie with a cool sword! And he’s beheading a guy!
From the beginning, I was hooked. I really wanted to find out what the heck was going on with all that scary stuff in the snow, and in hindsight it is clear to me that I stuck with the show through eight often arduous seasons primarily because of the mystery that was set up in the very first scene. Don’t ask me how that investment paid off. Don’t!
Anyway, here is how House Of The Dragon opens: Some lady does a voiceover about an old busted king trying to sort out his line of succession. Boring! And things don’t really get any less boring after that. Episodes are dominated by palace intrigue and politicking and arguments about who should and shouldn’t get married, but so far there’s no mystery, no magic, no wonder, not even a sense of dread. The closest thing we get to any of that is when the king tells his daughter about a spooky prophecy—cold winds and a long night and a prince who was promised and all of that—that’s been passed down through the line of succession. Only it’s not spooky to us, because we already saw that prophecy play out in the original show.
A show like this needs some weird shit going on, otherwise it’s just Succession with violence in place of jokes. The third episode brought some hope, as it focused on a storyline in which one of the main characters goes to war with a fucked-up looking guy who feeds his enemies to crabs and calls himself the Crabfeeder. Now here’s a full-fledged freak, I thought to myself as I looked at the Crabfeeder’s scary mask and diseased skin. I want to know more about this guy’s deal. I bet he’s got some weird shit going on.
You know what happens to that guy? He gets chopped in half, off-screen, without ever uttering a line of dialogue or anyone really explaining what his deal was. The next episode is primarily about the guy who chopped him in half trying to hump his niece.
Maybe there are some ice zombies in Episode 5. I haven’t watched that one yet.