Watching “House of the Dragon” is much easier than “Game of Thrones”

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Dragon House.

The new spin-off of “Game of Thrones” from HBO, “House of the Dragon”, repeated the success of its predecessor and became a hit with both critics and viewers. The prequel series received mostly positive reviews, and so many people watched the pilot project when it went online that HBO Max crashed for many users. One possible reason for the spin-off’s success— aside from its association with one of the most popular shows in television history— is that it is more accessible than the flagship series.

Jumping all over Westeros with an extensive cast has made “Game of Thrones” difficult for casual viewers to perceive. There were a bunch of houses, each with their own plans and internal problems, and all were fighting for control of the Seven Kingdoms. Anyone who wasn’t familiar with George R. R. Martin’s intense novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, found it difficult to appreciate every character on the board and all the intricate interconnected storylines they were involved in. Focusing on the Targaryen story means that its storylines are much easier to follow.

Although the action of “House of the Dragon” takes place two centuries before the events of “Game of Thrones”, stylistically it continues where “Game of Thrones” stopped. The spin-off cleverly recreates what made “Game of Thrones” so enjoyable to watch. Like its predecessor, “House of the Dragon” has its own pie, and it eats it too, with a good balance of intense medieval drama and noisy NSFW play. There’s a lot of subtle dialogue, subtle play and suggestive themes, but also a lot of sex and bloodshed. And from the very beginning there are full-fledged dragons, so viewers do not have to wait until the eggs hatch and the children grow up to see the dragon action.

Although the style of “House of the Dragon” is almost indistinguishable from “Game of Thrones”, its plot has a much narrower focus. It’s not about everyone in the world getting into a blood feud at the same time; it’s about one blood feud that affects one family in a certain corner of this world. The series, which takes place in the midst of the reign of House Targaryen, 172 years before Daenerys was born, will tell about the beginning of a civil war among the Targaryens, which eventually brought the family to its knees.

With all its different settings and clusters of characters, watching “Game of Thrones” felt like watching several different shows at the same time, like the split-screen TV that Marty McFly watches in the future in “Back to the Future, Part II.” Viewers had to keep abreast of the events of the Targaryens, Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Tyrells — the list goes on. The entire series was tied together by various political forces claiming the Iron Throne. But there were so many people who felt entitled to sit on this throne for so many different historical reasons that it was easy to get lost in the complex web of plot arches. In the House of the Dragon, everyone who wants to sit on the Iron Throne comes from only one family.

“House of the Dragon” has been compared to another HBO series, “Legacy,” in which the Targaryen family takes the place of the Roy family in a story about fierce tensions and struggles within a powerful clan. King Viserys finds himself under pressure to find a new queen to give birth to an heir after the tragic loss of his wife and child. Prince Damon is the dark horse of a family trying to consolidate power that royal advisers don’t trust him with. Princess Rhaenyra will become the first female heir of House Targaryen.

Keeping track of these characters and their interpersonal conflicts is much easier than mapping a sprawling ensemble of dozens of Game of Thrones characters. The House of the Dragon is by no means a simplified story. There are political rivals and influences coming from both the left and the right. Rhaenys is bitter after being passed over because of her gender, Ser Otto will do everything in his power to keep Damon from power, and the Velaryons are desperate to get in the door. But its complexity is much easier to handle than “Game of Thrones”. Viewers of “Game of Thrones” have always been on the verge of losing the plot; “House of the Dragon” is a much more comfortable viewing.

Anyone intending to binge-watch Game of Thrones (unless the toxic reaction to the last season has forced them to abandon the show completely) should have a pencil and paper ready to learn everyone’s names and how they are all connected and why they believe the Iron Throne belongs to them. As the Dragon House begins its more concentrated narrative, they can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.

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