House of the Dragon has the chance to fix a major problem with Game of Thrones. The series, a prequel to HBO’s show, is based on Fire & Blood, George R.R. Martin’s history of the Targaryens, and set hundreds of years before the events of the original show. With the show being a prequel, House of the Dragon has the opportunity to course-correct where the other show went wrong.
The final season of Game of Thrones was a global event. The hype had been building for the show since season 1 and regularly went into overdrive over shocking moments such as season 3’s Red Wedding. By the time season 8 rolled around, it was at critical mass, with Game of Thrones marketing incorporated everywhere. Dragons showed up in Super Bowl ads, and the American Red Cross was asking everyone to “bleed for the throne.” People were naming their babies Daenerys or Khaleesi, proving nothing could seemingly slow down the buzz surrounding HBO’s show ahead of season 8.
Of course, the final season of Game of Thrones was met with massive fan backlash, including a viral petition calling for the show to be redone. From a Starbucks coffee cup in the background to episodes that were too dark to see, it seemed almost nothing was going right for the show. But technical aspects aside, the true problem was with the story. Coffee cups could’ve probably been forgiven had the show not had so many illogical character choices. With House of the Dragon, HBO has a chance to rectify the situation, staying true to the characters and perhaps even retconning some Game of Thrones moments to work better.
A common criticism of the final season of Game of Thrones is that fans don’t have a problem with what happened; they have a problem with how it happened. One of the most hated moments of the series, Daenerys burning King’s Landing, could’ve possibly worked had it been set up properly. But in the span of a couple of episodes, Daenerys goes from the Mother of Dragons fighting for the people to the Mad Queen, burning innocents for no reason. The explanation given by the showrunners made even less sense. On HBO’s Inside the Episode (via YouTube), showrunner D.B. Weiss said Dany snapped because she had seen the Red Keep, the Targaryen home that was taken away from her. Given that fans can’t hear what’s going on in Dany’s head, she just seemed to go from 0 to 100 out of the blue.
Part of the reason things went wrong for Game of Thrones was the abbreviated final season. Instead of the usual ten episodes, the final season had six supersized ones. Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth finally getting together in season 8 made sense, as they had been pining over each other for years. However, Jaime then immediately leaving to go back to Cersei in the same episode just didn’t seem logical after he seemed to triumphantly leave his sister for good in season 7. Had there been more time in between, perhaps that moment could’ve worked as well.
The good news for House of the Dragon is that those behind the show have heard the criticism. By honoring the characters and letting things play out naturally, the prequel show has a chance to capitalize on the goodwill Game of Thrones had built over its first seven seasons. It may also have the opportunity to earn some of that goodwill back for Game of Thrones. For instance, perhaps showing the importance of the Red Keep to the Targaryens would make fans a little less mad about Dany’s sudden turn into the Mad Queen. At the very least, people might not regret what they named their babies.