House of the Dragon’ season premiere recap: Fire and blood are back

Highly anticipated HBO’s  “ Game of Thrones” prequel “ House of the Dragon” finally arrived Sunday, and it certainly has quite a few dragons, plus violence and palace intrigue. It’s a slice of the “Thrones” world, mostly within the walls of the Red Keep in King’s Landing (that’s the palace in the fictional nation’s capital, if you’ve forgotten since “……. Throne” ended in 2019). 

The first episode of the series, one of many potential spinoffs HBO developed to keep the “…… Thrones” mania going after the finale, has a lot of work to do, setting the table of players in Westeros – mostly the ruling Targaryen clan and their courtiers – 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke in the original series) was even born.  Like the first episode of “…..Thrones” all the way back in 2011, there is a lot of exposition, a lot of very similar-sounding names (Rhaenyra and Rhaenys, for starters) and hints of more drama and dragons to come. It is not, perhaps, as bombastic as many fans would hope and, worse, does little to establish the characters as sympathetic or even intriguing.

Here is Targaryens

Much of the first episode is spent laying out the players in the Targaryen court: the schemers, dreamers and wig-wearers (if you haven’t noticed yet, there are just so many platinum blonde wigs). 

So to set the scene for “Dragon” we start with a prologue: The good Targaryen King Jaehaerys ruled over Westeros during a half century of peace, but he has no sons to succeed him on the Iron Throne. So he calls a great council to choose his heir, picking between his oldest descendent, Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) and his oldest male descendent, Prince Viserys (Paddy Considine).

Except that, 10 years into Viserys’ reign, his only surviving child is his teenage daughter, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), so he’s stuck with his wayward, cruel brother Daemon (Matt Smith) as his heir. But don’t worry, Viserys’ wife Aemma (Sian Brooke) is pregnant, and Viserys is oh-so-sure that it will be a boy. He has no time to discuss affairs of state with his Hand of the King, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) or potential war in the borderlands known as the Stepstones with Master of Ships Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint).  So everything is fine in King’s Landing! Rhaenyra can fly on her dragon with her best friend Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey); Daemon can turn the City Watch into a murder brigade and creepily give his niece gifts; and Viserys can throw a jousting tournament in honor of his unborn sure-to-be son.

There’s something rotten in Westeros

When Aemma so ponderously tells young Rhaenyra that “the childbed is our battlefield,” we should have all been worried about her upcoming birth. After we meet the cast of mostly very blonde characters, the episode really begins. Amid the tournament Viserys called in the name of Aemma’s child, she goes into labor, but things are not going well. Viserys is presented with two options: Lose them both, or save the baby.

Inheritance about Iron Throne now

Although the baby is a boy, he only lives for a few hours, and at the little prince and his mother’s funeral, Rhaenyra is livid with her father, who is broken by his grief. Otto chooses a meeting of the King’s small council afterward to bring up the topic of succession, voicing his concerns about Daemon’s temperament (and general hatred for the king’s little brother).

READ: How to watch House of the Dragon

With 10-episodes in the new season, die-hard GoT are going to be keen to avoid any House of the Dragon spoilers. But with holiday season firmly upon us, there’s an easy way to watch House of the Dragon episodes in the UK, in the US and while you’re abroad, with a VPN.

Here’s how to watch the Game of Thrones prequel anywhere in the world.

How to watch House of the Dragon in the UK

In the UK, House of the Dragon will air on Sky Atlantic and Now TV. While you can watch them anywhere in the UK, if you’re heading abroad, it’s trickier as the content is geo-restricted. The easiest way to stream your favourite shows while abroad? With a handy VPN, like Express VPN.

Completely legal, a VPN changes the location of your IP address to get around the geo-targeting issue – so you can keep on top of your TV programmes post-pool day and not miss a beat of the action.

How to watch House of the Dragon in the US

If you’re based in the US, House of the Dragon will be released onto cable channel HBO, and on its streaming service, HBO Max.

If you’re in the US and heading to another country, sign into ExpressVPN, select a US server, search for HBO Max and sign into your account to watch House of the Dragon.

Viewers in Latin America, Scandinavia, Asia and parts of Europe should also be able to watch House of the Dragon on their regional version of HBO. If you’re in the UK, take advantage of this offer with ExpressVPN – simply select a US server on ExpressVPN and search for HBO Max

House of the Dragon cast and characters

The cast of House of the Dragon is one incredible who’s who of actors: Dr Who star Matt Smith stars as Daemon Targaryen, Notting Hill’s Rhys Ifans and Emma D’Arcy take the lead with Eve Best, Milly Alcock (as a young Rhaenyra Targaryen) and Olivia Cooke joining the line-up. Graham McTavish, Paddy Considine and Steve Toussaint also star.

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