It's been a few years since audiences have been gripping the edges of their seats and waiting to see where Westeros takes them next.
After a long wait and much anticipation, the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon finally hit HBO over the weekend, and the reactions are rolling in. Here's your spoiler-free analysis of whether or not the prequel stacked up to the OG or fell out of the sky like a brick.
The Good Parts of House of the Dragon
We could go on for an hour about what went right with the first episode, but we'll keep it brief and spoiler free.
First off, the casting was brilliant. From King Viserys (a different Viserys than we're familiar with in GoT) to Princess Rhaenyra, Prince Daemon and more, every character fit their role to a T. There were some familiar faces for fans of Doctor Who and Outlander, and some new faces for those looking to see what Hollywood's new generation has to offer.
The screenwriters, led by author George RR Martin himself, brilliantly tied in this time period to the world we're familiar with, and left a few lovely easter eggs for loyal fans along the way. One character even boldly mentions, "A Song of Ice and Fire," which is the official name of the original GoT series, but we'll leave you to discover who, when and why.
There was a decent helping of nudity - which is good or bad depending on who you ask - and more of the dragons on average than we saw in the original series. Writing was thoughtful, the script flowed nicely, and there were no boring moments.
Fans of the books, extended universe prequels and those who closely follow the lore will recognize momentous events and characters, and it feels like an earlier telling of the Westeros tale - all excellent points by the screenwriters.
When checking off all the things you want a pilot episode to be, House of the Dragon episode 1 ticked them all.
The Bad Parts of House of the Dragon
It's a little harder to talk about the bad parts of House of the Dragon episode 1 without giving spoilers, but we'll do our best.
One glaring trouble lurks behind the face of Matt Smith. Smith's other breakout role came as the 11th Doctor Who, a kind, gentle, funny, playful character with the wisdom of ages and the kind of spirit that inspires.
Smith's character in HotD is decidedly different; capricious, greedy, whoremongering and violent. Smith does an extraordinary job of playing his character, but it's a jarring juxtaposition for those who haven't seen Smith in other roles. It's not necessarily a problem as the storytelling or casting goes, but it will take some getting used to for many watching.
Another bad thing: a few of the moments were predictable. We know Game of Thrones. We know how the world works. We know how the intrigue and deception, lies and maneuvering work. So there were a few moments that were intended to feel weighty - such as one between Lady Alicent and her father that you'll have to watch to see - but just felt like business as usual. Nothing was particularly surprising.
That means that to tell a story that's exciting and doesn't just repeat the GoT stories, they'll have to achieve new heights of shocking - or perhaps new depths of intricate storytelling. It could go either way, and that presents challengers for the scriptwriters, but opportunities for viewers.
And last but not least, in the grand tradition of Westeros, the first episode is bloody. Really, really bloody. One childbirth scene could be traumatizing for viewers so be ready to fast-forward if you find yourself sensitive to that kind of thing. But in general, the gore and blood kept with the theme we've come to expect from Martin and his world of horrors.
The Verdict: Did House of the Dragon Disappoint?
No, it did not disappoint at all.
Taking viewers back into Westeros before the time they're familiar with was going to be a challenge for writers no matter what they did. But the way they tied the current age into what came before - with Jaehaerys and the Great Council - helped it feel like part of the story we walked away from at the end in 2019.
Whether or not they can keep the stories original and avoid repeating the themes of the first series is a question as yet unanswered, but with new showrunners handpicked by the writer, a new world to explore that's less tied to the books, and an extraordinary budget - the sky is the limit for House of the Dragon.
Tune in to HBO or HBO Max at 9PM EST Sundays to catch the newest episode.