Just about the time that audiences were finally getting used to seeing the faces of Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryn and Queen Alicent Hightower respectively, HBO’s House Of The Dragon showrunners have decided to leap ever further ahead in time, a move they felt (creatively) necessitated recasting both roles with two more age-appropriate actresses.
What a tangled web they’ve woven!
In one way, it’s almost as if the creative movers and shakers behind-the-scenes of the Dragon drama are less interested in having their prequel series make any sense. Instead, they’ve flung audiences about hither and thither in their somewhat reckless quest to find a story to tell in Westeros; and it’s thus far been a journey without so much as a villain – which, honestly, every good program needs at some point – or any relatable character arcs. Yes, they’ve given us some interesting creations – some with more flexible morality than we’ve seen this side of a David Mamet production – but I can’t help but underscore that this is a show still seeking a central unifying story … and none seems to be appearing on the CGI-enhanced horizons.
In fact, “The Princess And The Queen” pretty much continued their delight in mashing together a series of loosely-related scenes into a single hour of TV broadcast, one that opened with a birth quite possibly as difficult to experience as has been this incarnation of the Game Of Thrones’ franchise. Before you know it, we learn that ten years and multiple births have passed; the heir to the throne is still her usual contemptible self; the queen has grown into a bit of a shrew; and somehow – defying all of the Biblical odds – King Viserys Targaryen is still alive! He’s missing an arm. Still got that nasty cough. He’s lost the respect of his brother, the love of his wife, the adulation of his daughter, and much of his hair. Think what you will about the stewards of Westeros, but it only took Ned Stark losing his head to know where he wasn’t wanted.
Along with the introduction of some new faces, the challenges of ruling from the Iron Throne continue to be much of what we’ve seen in the first five episodes: minor fiefdoms continue to plague the Seven Kingdoms with their lesser alliances, and somehow Viserys has managed to do absolutely nothing about them. If there’s been a king who’s appeared less qualified in any program, then I’ve yet to encounter him. It’s almost as if he’d rather do nothing, have sex with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, and cough a lot. That amounts to the sum total of his leadership philosophy as ascribed by George RR Martin.
Still, she cooked up quite well under dragon’s fire.
While I don’t want to get my hopes up with House Of The Dragon – a domicile one would think would have its affairs well in order by over midway through its inaugural season – there was the suggestion of yet one more clandestine and nefarious force at work within the Seven Kingdoms: one Larys Strong has positioned himself as a private confidant to Queen Hightower, one who is apparently willing to sacrifice his own family if it gets him a chance at bat. It’s all handled a bit clumsily – honestly, I wasn’t even sure what was happening when it went down, but it appears Larys strongly “believes” the series of unfortunate events he set in motion were Lady Alicent’s deepest desires … and I’m hoping we’ll get some resolution on that front in the next episode.
For clarity’s sake, I don’t wish to imply that I’m not enjoyed some elements of Dragon.
Like anything in the HBO pantheon of programming, it’s well-produced, well-acted, and – maybe even in some ways – well intentioned. My issues with it are the delivery: it’s seemingly going nowhere, almost like an ouroboros – that snake rather famously feasting on its own tail. These scripts are mired in attempts to reinforce over and over again the high treachery surrounding this family, even well after we’ve come to understand that’s all there is. While some characters have had a few nice moments and their underlying motivations are quite clear, it’s almost as if the screenwriters feel the need to emphasis them over and over again, killing the pace of even what good scenes there are. About the time the viewers suspect the journey is nothing more than circular, they throw in “an all-new enemy” to keep them distracted with the hope they’ll simply keep tuning in.
Eventually, that magic will wear out, folks.
As “The Princess And The Queen” shows us in its most touching moment, even dragons get old.