The bloody worst.
In short, this is a good development for the Game Of Thrones’ prequel/spinoff as – if I’m being perfectly frank – it’s really been struggling to find any solid footing. There’s no singular villain – just an increasing numbers of ne’er-do-wells – and the episodes have been drawn together by the thinnest narrative threads (well, other than King Viserys’ horrifically declining health). Certainly, a program emerging from such a pedigree as Thrones should’ve hit the ground running – after some obligatory set-up – but I’ve found most of the action slim, its melodrama bloated (and occasionally unimportant), and its characters predictable. That's a bad trifecta, folks.
Now, “Driftmark” may or may not represent a new life for the show.
Frankly, it didn’t quite deliver anything fresh or new – this is still a medieval ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ at its core – but Ryan J. Condal and Kevin Lau’s script smartly brought the coffee to the point of percolating. Instead of staking out several lesser confrontations across its 60 minutes – apparently the preferred format as its been done in every episode up until this point – the screenwriters finally tried something new, drawing all the principle players together in a single setting, gave them one simple incident to reflect upon, and let them collectively seethe at one another.
Love the show, or hate the show ... but that was good drama delivered exceedingly well. It may not change hearts and minds, but it was still a high in an otherwise 'meh' prequel show so far as I'm concerned. I'm just being true to my words.
As I’ve often written, conflict is essential for any program, regardless of genre.
Dramas require it. Comedies roast it. Horrors demand it. And, yes, Science Fiction and Fantasy, too, benefit from one central intersection of their characters. Luke Skywalker bested Darth Vader, then Vader took control, only to have them come back at one another in a big showdown. The Cylons drew first blood, and the survivors of the Twelve Colonies ran away, but they still stopped and engaged the enemy when it was required. These conflicts help each and every story find its beating heart; while characters need to be designed in such a way as to interest those at home in the viewing audience, they don’t mean anything if they’re not colliding in some fruitful way with one another. Thankfully, “Driftmark” crystallized the issues … so now let’s hope they do take the show somewhere worth going.
Because there was no true plot progression, I kinda/sorta wonder if viewers might’ve been a bit put off by the episode.
This show has spent an inordinate amount of time both introducing, re-introducing, and refining its central cast. Supporting players show up for a scene or two and have been dispatched at an alarming pace, almost as if the writers’ room (or George RR Martin) have sought to capitalize on their ultimate disposability. While some may find that all well and good, I’ve always felt that a friendly face showing up for a single scene only to be vanquished was, arguably, a person of no real import … but Dragon seems to revel in such techniques. It’s a disservice to the audience, though, because we already know these folks are (damn near) all pure evil. I don’t think there’s a breath of fresh air in the group, and – sorry to say – I’m more than tired of that.
The stage is set. The sides are drawn in “Driftmark,” and you couldn’t ask for a clearer definition of just who stands with whom. We get it. These families hate one another. They loathe one another. Theirs are the worst reunions ever. Ok. Enough already. Let’s get down to brass tacks.
I will say that the other sequence that struck a positive chord was Prince Aemond Targaryen’s claiming of the ‘widowed’ dragon, Vhagar. Though I did find some of the special effects a bit underwhelming (as compared to what we were afforded in Thrones), the riding sequence was done well enough to convey some effective emotion of the young lord and his newfound pet. Again, this is the stuff of great collaboration between the cast and crew; and I’d be a fool to not acknowledge it. As far as the narrative goes … yeah, it may’ve cost the kid an eye, but life is an endless series of trade-offs, is it not? Even he said as much in the final estimation.
House Of The Dragon has been a rocky road.
If its creative powers that be are smart, they’ll capitalize on the goodwill this ‘throwing down of the gauntlet’ awards them and start doing something grand. One episode doesn’t make a great series, but I think we can finally dispense with the grandstanding and actually start telling a story now … am I right?