House of the Dragon spoiler-free review: Episode 1 marks a red-hot return to Westeros

With a sensational cast, heart-pounding soundtrack and stunning visual effects, House of the Dragon captures the magic and madness of Game of Thrones in a tantalising first episode.

By Alex Fletcher Updated: 22 August 2022 - 10.02am
Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen
Stream House of the Dragon weekly from 22 August on Sky Atlantic with NOW

Any fears that a Game of Thrones prequel might be a bit softer, gentler and less extraordinary than its predecessor are quickly dispelled within the first 30 minutes of House of the Dragon’s opening episode Heirs of the Dragon.

Stream House of the Dragon weekly from 22 August on Sky Atlantic with NOW 

Blood, sex, incest, backstabbing, dragons, mutilation, nudity – it’s got the whole caboodle.

Three years after the divisive final season of Game of Thrones, we’re back in Westeros, but with a bunch of new characters vying for control of the Iron Throne.

Paddy Considine – in a sensational bit of casting – is the man in power, King Viserys Targaryen. He has ruled for nine years, his family have dragons aplenty and absolutely nothing can ruin the peace and prosperity of the kingdoms.

Well, almost nothing.

Paddy Considine as King Viserys

There is his brooding and vicious brother Prince Daemon, a bundle of angst, bitterness and seething resentment played with relish by Matt Smith.

Oh, there’s also Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), who should have been queen, but who was passed over - if you hadn't noticed in Game of Thrones, Westeros isn’t the most forward thinking of places when it comes to women’s rights.

Rhaenys’ husband, The Sea Snake Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint), carries a weight of resentment on his his wife's behalf and is also being ignored about a new threat facing the kingdom at sea, which definitely won’t come back to bite anyone…

Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) might be driven by more than loyalty and good intentions in his decision-making and has a curious way of comforting those who grieve.

Meet the House of the Dragon cast

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower

Most pressing of all for King Viserys, he doesn’t have a male heir. That means young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) is next in line to the Iron Throne – and as we mentioned earlier, a female ruler isn’t going to go down too well with the grey old men making deals and at the tables of power.

House of the Dragon is essentially Succession with a dollop of medieval violence and dragons. What more could you want?

The cast are sensational. Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack gets your heart-pounding. The flying dragons and violent jousts look stunning. And most importantly, after only an hour, you’ll already care about the factions, simmering tensions and the constant jostling for power at the heart of this series.

Capturing all the best magic and madness that turned Game of Thrones into a TV phenomenon, House of the Dragon looks every bit the equal of its parent show. verdict

5 stars out 5

Rotten Tomatoes review rating

Critics score: 85%

Audience score: 89%

How to watch House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon key art

Stream House of the Dragon weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Monday 22 August.

Season one has 10 episodes.

House of the Dragon cast

  • King Viserys Targaryen - Played by Paddy Considine
  • Prince Daemon Targaryen – Played by Matt Smith
  • Alicent Hightower – Played by Olivia Cooke
  • Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen – Played by Emma D’Arcy
  • Lord Corlys Velaryon, The Sea Snake – Played by Steve Toussaint
  • Princess Rhaenys Velaryon – Played by Eve Best
  • Ser Criston Cole – Played by Fabien Frankel
  • Mysaria – Played by Sonoya Mizuno
  • Otto Hightower – Played by Rhys Ifans
  • Young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen – Played by Milly Alcock
  • Young Alicent Hightower – Played by Emily Carey

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