Usually, I’m not one to tolerate any House of the Dragon slander, but the effect of the show’s time-jump pacing raises some valid concerns. I admit, there’s definitely been a rushed feeling to the events of the prequel thus far. In one way, the rapidity of the show’s plot structure keeps viewers locked in, holding onto each frame and every line. On the other hand, it can also leave viewers wanting more at the end of each episode.
For me, watching the prequel so far has involved constantly looking ahead while also trying to savor each and every moment. Like most, I also grew quite attached to Milly Alcock and Emily Carey’s portrayal of the two female leads. Therefore, having to say goodbye to them halfway through this first season and recalibrate as a viewer for the massive time jump got me thinking about the potential downsides of this disjointed storytelling style. Without further ado, let’s discuss the pros and cons of HoTD’s story pacing.
Note: Spoilers Ahead!
The prequel’s source text, Fire & Blood, contains a LOT of information. It’s essentially a fantasy history textbook. Therefore, the showrunners have to be quite nitpicky about what details to include and what can be skipped over in bringing this elaborate story to the screen. One such event that was eventually cut for time constraints was Alicent’s wedding to Viserys. Though the hair, makeup, and costume design are beautiful (as always), I admit, I was not particularly gutted about this scene being removed from the final product. Mostly because anything that involved young Alicent and Viserys’ relationship was just supremely uncomfortable. The less of that, the better, in my humble opinion.
That said, there are other more recent incidences of scenes being cut that do bug me. For instance, Daemon consoling his daughters after Laena’s death? Now, why was that kept from the final cut? Even if it were just a couple of brief frames, that would have been meaningful to leave in! The fact that they cut that small interaction shows that they’re perhaps trying to frame Daemon’s character a certain way – one that keeps the emphasis on his morally grey nature.
My two cents in all this is that cutting small scenes becomes worrisome when they would’ve diversified the character, adding a new layer of complexity to their personality. On that note, I sincerely hope that they don’t remove all the wholesome Daemon dad moments in upcoming episodes!
The time-jump structure of this season cannot be executed without proper recasts. In that department, I think they’ve done brilliantly. The age progressions for various characters were not hastily strung together but show sincere attention to as realistic recasts as possible.
Leanor’s casting (as featured above) is notable, as well as Alicent and Rhaenyra – who both have an uncanny resemblance to their adult character counterparts. Though we’ve yet to see the final set of recasts for Alicent and Rhaenyra’s children (occurring in episode eight), the success of the casting department so far gives me high hopes! Finally, it’s also intriguing to think about the future world of recasts, given House of the Dragon’s potential as an anthology series has been denoted by the showrunners.
Characters Reduced To Cameos
Similar to the scenario of cut scenes, the time constraints in telling this sprawling story of the Targaryen dynasty make it so that many secondary characters get very little time on the screen. However, even in this fast-tracked plot, some characters have stolen viewers’ hearts through their precious cameos in the episodes. The most notable example of this is Ser Harwin Strong.
The showrunners left us with literal crumbs of screen time for Harwin Strong’s character. Nonetheless, he became an overnight sensation on social media. As Rhaenyra’s lover and father of her three children (Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey), Ser Harwin is a vital part of her life, even though we only see them together on screen together a mere handful of times.
Sadly for us Harwin Strong fans, basically the entire development of their relationship was omitted from the show. Will I forever be slightly upset about this? Yes, yes, I will. However, having read Fire & Blood, I understand that we are still in the prelude to the Dance of the Dragons. Getting to that climactic historical marker is what this show of royal succession is really about. It’s the pinnacle of the plot. In that light, I do think that the show has succeeded in giving us vital glimpses to build character attachments while still moving full steam ahead toward the central conflict.
Is There A Middle Ground?
As Cersei Lannister famously said in GoT, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Taking inspiration from Cersei’s drama, I would say that when it comes to House of the Dragon, there really is no middle ground to satisfy all viewers. Some fans are going to find the constant time jumps to be disorienting or, at times, unnecessary. Others will find the densely packed action in this first season as edge-of-your-seat excellence. I personally lean towards the latter, as I think the prequel is a truly impactful return to Westeros crafted with incredible detail.
In all, as we move into the second half of season one over the next few weeks, there will inevitably be splits among viewers about the plot’s pacing and/or direction. This was the case back when Game of Thrones was still airing – as many complained about seasons dragging due to certain side plots or being too dialogue-heavy. Though fandom divisions are inevitable in this first spin-off endeavor, it certainly, like its predecessor, has the whole world talking. And for good reason, in my book! RIP Harwin Strong, though; it’s going to take another week or two for me to properly mourn his short-lived appearance.
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