Whether you watched it or not, it’s hard to deny that HBO’s "Game of Thrones" was one of the defining television shows of the 2010s. Therein lies the struggle for "House of the Dragon."
Based on the acclaimed fantasy novel series, "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin, "Game of Thrones" premiered on HBO in April 2011. Set in the fantasy world of Westeros, the series acted as a blend of dark fantasy and political drama, focusing on a large ensemble cast of characters and multiple storylines.
With 59 Emmys awarded over its eight-year run, "Game of Thrones" was a massive hit for HBO, receiving acclaim from critics and audiences alike for its performances, world-building and production design. The show had an average gross audience of 18.6 million viewers by its fourth season on HBO, surpassing other popular shows such as "The Sopranos."
Despite such acclaim, the eighth and final season of "Game of Thrones" proved to be extremely divisive amongst fans. Premiering in 2019, the final season's writing received criticism for its rushed pacing, disregard for character development and unsatisfying payoff from the previous seasons. The final season of the show has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 55%, significantly lower than the overall series average of 89%.
This puts heavy expectations on the 2022 series, "House of the Dragon," a prequel series taking place two hundred years prior to "Game of Thrones." Following the intense backlash to the series ending, many fans are hesitant to rush back into the world of Westeros. Combine this with how prequels are infamous for low quality – most notably in the case of "Star Wars" – it's understandable that fans feel questionable about "House of the Dragon."
One such fan includes Milla Nguyen, a senior majoring in film and media production. Nguyen explained how a bad ending can go a long way to ruin a great story – including “Game of Thrones.”
“An unsatisfying ending can leave a bitter taste in a viewer’s mouth,” Nguyen said. “With that in mind, why would anybody want to dive back into this universe?”
Other fans seem to be more optimistic. Keenan Carter, a senior majoring in film and media production, discussed how the spinoff series can still regain fans regardless of how controversial the original series’ ending was.
"I view it as a second chance to get things right," Carter said. "I think we should allow the show to stand on its own rather than just tie it into the original series."
With this in mind, fans on both sides of the spectrum have discussed what "House of the Dragon" needs to do to succeed in quality and win back lost fans.
"What's important is to keep the appeal of the original series," Carter said. "But at the same time, it needs to feel fresh and new. That balance is fundamental."
Nguyen said that the key ingredient is strong characters – something which "Game of Thrones" was commonly criticized for forgetting in its final season.
"The original series was one defined by its stellar cast of characters," Nguyen said. "Where the ending faltered was how it failed to wrap up their arcs in a meaningful way. The new show needs to have just as amazing characters without the wonky closure."
Also worth noting is that "House of the Dragon" is just the first of many spin-offs set in the universe of "Game of Thrones." Another prequel series, "The Sea Snake," is currently in development. A sequel to the original series – following the character of Jon Snow – was also announced in June 2022. Two more series and an animated show have also been announced to be in early development.
This was a point of interest for Joseph Malinski, a senior majoring in business language and culture.
"The problem with many movie franchises is they are quantity over quality," Malinksi said. "There are a lot of projects, but how many of them are actually worth seeing?"
With this in mind, it is crucial for HBO to learn from the successes and failures of "Game of Thrones." Not only for the success of "House of the Dragon," but for the larger cinematic universe they are seeking to build.
"House of the Dragon" has aired five episodes so far. Each episode has not only averaged 29 million views but has also been opened to positive reviews, averaging a Rotten Tomatoes score of 85%.
Will the series continue to sustain such quality? Fans will have to wait and see. While some remain optimistic, others continue to hold their breath for what will come next.
Edited by Claire van Doren, Wyatt Myskow and Luke Chatham
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Amir Imam is a reporter for the Echo, providing a unique lens for The State Press and ASU to view pop culture and media through. His articles have covered major projects being done by professors, news in pop culture, and events relevant to students.