I recently purchased a brand-new pitchfork. Nothing crazy, nice and shiny, perfect for rioting. In addition, I looked up how to make my own tar from home. If there is to be tar and feathering, I will not be using store-bought; even if past series showrunners don’t respect me, I will show some towards the show.

Then 9 o’clock rolled around; I booted up HBO Max and sat down with my wife to hate-watch the new Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon. I thought this would be more of season 8, loose ends, scenes too dark to watch, all with zero emotional ties for me to care about. With all the emotions from the last season of Game of Thrones, I don’t expect much, if anything, to come from a show based around one novel of short stories.

Cast of HBO's House of the Dragon.
Photograph by Ollie Upton

There’s plenty to love

But then the opening shot of Harrenhal comes on my screen. It’s so beautiful. I instantly set down my pitchfork. You have my attention House of the Dragon. Harrenhall looks impressive; what a cool scene. They introduced a handful of characters all at once, but it didn’t feel overwhelming; it was done well enough to not feel like information overload. And then the music came on; the tune was familiar but different. Game of Thrones is back baby!

I found a lot to enjoy with the first episode, The Heirs of the Dragon. The look of the new, or rather older, Iron Throne is much closer to George R. R. Martin’s intended concept. It looks scary and sharp; I loved seeing King Viserys Targaryen cut himself on it.

The look and feel of the tournament welcoming the king’s son, who hadn’t quite been born yet, felt epic. The difference between this tournament and the one held during the first season of Game of Thrones was almost staggering. It’s crazy what you can do with a bigger budget.

King Viserys Targaryen talks with brother Prince Daemon Targaryen in front of the Iron Throne.
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

It’s not peak Game of Thrones, yet

A few scenes were a bit breathtaking as well. The dueling scene plays in tandem with the birthing scene. Like Rhaenyra is told by her mother, our battlefield is in birthing. Watching the two play out simultaneously was easily the highlight of the episode. While not every call back worked for me, one in particular did. The dagger that Viserys is carrying in the final scene. If you know, you know.

But the pilot, The Heirs of the Dragon, isn’t without faults. The biggest was how predictable it felt at times. Seeing a complication or two coming from childbirth was a no-brainer. I haven’t read Fire & Blood, the collection of stories that House of the Dragon is based on, but I could see trouble coming a mile away with the childbirth. I honestly thought she would give him a daughter and not a son, so I was still surprised at times.

The City Watch night scene needs some lighting. I felt like having a flashback to The Long Night, but it was a shorter scene and wasn’t entirely in the dark. I also found some of the wigs looked like, well, wigs.

Perhaps not the strongest first episode in tv history, but a solid foundation has been laid. One strong enough to get me to tune it on Sunday nights instead of just watching when I have free time. Pitchfork goes back into the garage, and the tar and feather can be stored for a later date. House of the Dragon is appointment television.