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18 Things House Of The Dragon Did Better Than Game Of Thrones

CBR 11/30/2022 Tom Steel
© Provided by CBR

Fans of Game of Thrones were awaiting the prequel series House of the Dragon ever since its announcement. The show's first season was a triumph. Audiences and critics alike showered it with praise. Some even considered it better than Game of Thrones.

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As they're set in the same universe, House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones share many similarities, but also several differences in their execution. Game of Thrones built up quite the reputation for most of its existence, but many fans have already decided House of the Dragon may be better. Even for those who prefer Game of Thrones, there were things House of the Dragon excelled at.

Updated 29th of November by Isaac Williams: House of the Dragon's first season has come and gone. Against the odds, it became a beloved staple of television for ten weeks. In many ways, House of the Dragon overcomes the high bar set by Game of Thrones. This list has been updated with even more ways it's a better show.

Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon.

House Of The Dragon Subtly Added Crucial And Symbolic Details

Throughout its first season, House of the Dragon slipped in incredibly symbolic moments without drawing too much attention to them. The first example is the necklace Daemon gave to his niece, Rhaenyra. She wore it everywhere until Daemon stole the dragon egg intended for her deceased brother.

Another subtle detail was Viserys' degrading condition. It started with simple wounds in earlier episodes. These then spread. Viserys lost fingers, and then more. The series didn't point these out or explain each one. It's another example of House of the Dragon trusting its audience in a way Game of Thrones never quite did.

Everybody Had Exceptional Character Development

Game of Thrones had some thrilling character arcs across its runtime. However, its vast cast and scope meant that some characters developed less, or more slowly than others. House of the Dragons, in just a season's worth of episodes, had its characters transform in the most organic ways.

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Alicent Hightower went from Rhaenyra's dutiful friend to a scheming arch-enemy. Rhaenyra became a capable queen-in-waiting, rather than a rebellious princess. King Viserys went from a man burying his head in the sand to one who would stop at nothing to mend his family. Every character in House of the Dragon had the sort of development reserved for characters like Daenerys in Game of Thrones.

The Dragons Meant Business

Dragons were very different beasts in House of the Dragon than they were in Game of Thrones. In House of the Dragon, the Targaryen dragons were well-known creatures. They weren't common, but they weren't mythological beasts back from the dead like Daenerys' three. Having more dragons in the show, and having them be less remarkable, forced the show to give each one its own design and character.

House of the Dragon presented dragons with cool designs that dwarfed those from Game of Thrones. Caraxes' creepy long neck and devilish visage were an incredible spectacle and an exciting sign of things to come. Other dragons shown, like Syrax, Seasmoke, and Vhagar, were equally distinctive and impressive.

House Of The Dragon Stuck With The Core Source Material

With House of the Dragon being an in-depth dive into lore made before Game of Thrones, the show didn't deviate from the source material as much as Game of Thrones did. This was a blessing for the show, as Game of Thrones was at its best when taking from George R. R. Martin's original stories.

As with any adaptation of a book, there will still be creative liberties taken and certain elements omitted. House of the Dragon added in many events and presented some very differently. However, it stuck far more true to the source material and was all the better for it.

Audiences Got To See The Origins Of Conflicts

Game of Thrones had a slow-paced beginning that built up to the War of the Five Kings. However, even with a season of build-up, it started in media res. The story began nineteen years into a political situation. The audience had to learn of events like the Sack of King's Landing and the Greyjoy Rebellion from characters talking about them.

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Not so in House of the Dragon. The show's first season alone covered two decades. Its liberal use of time skips let it show flashpoints that build up to the Dance of the Dragons. Viewers got to see battle lines being drawn, sides forming, and Westeros sliding inevitably to war. It was a perfect case of showing, not telling, and it made for an excellent season of television.

Characters' Relationships Were Also Shown From The Start

Game of Thrones had an intensely personal element, as well as the political. In the very first episode, the audience had to learn how many characters knew each other. They were thrust late into Ned and Robert's close friendship, Catelyn's disregard for Jon Snow, Jaime and Cersei's incestuous relationship, and many more.

House of the Dragon built its relationships far more organically. Viewers learned upfront about Daemon's rocky relationships with the rest of the court, Viserys and Rhaenyra's awkward familial bond, and Alicent and Rhaenyra's friendship. Almost everything else was built throughout the show's first season. Audiences didn't learn about these points years into their development. Instead, they got to watch them unfold.

The Early Action Scenes Were Much Better

Game of Thrones became known for some of the best action in all of television. However, it first showed signs of this in season 2's "Blackwater." Its first season was fairly bereft of action. Most of its fights were short skirmishes. It refrained from showing two large-scale battles to save on budget.

House of the Dragon had no such problems. Its first season showed every manner of action. One-on-one duels were well-shot and gripping. A pair of dragons fought in the skies with beautiful CGI. It even had a major land battle in its third episode. House of the Dragon's first season had action on par with the very best in Game of Thrones.

It Committed To Its Political Intrigue And Suspense

Game of Thrones had plenty of political maneuvering and betrayal, but eventually left most of it behind for brutal battles and pure shock value. House of the Dragon's first season covered events that lead up to The Dance of the Dragons. While it was a civil war, it has deep-lying political roots that start it off.

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As House of the Dragon built up to the inevitable war and implosion of House Targaryen, the political intrigue added more tension with every new episode. House of the Dragon's first season didn't shy away from violence, but it also treated its factions and politics as equally important.

It Benefitted From A Clean Slate

Many consider Game of Thrones one of the greatest shows in recent memory. This doesn't stop its final season from being one of the most contentious in television history. By the end, Game of Thrones' direction outraged fans, and for many, it tarnished the show's overall feeling.

House of the Dragon offered a clean slate. While it is in the same world, it took place further back in time. New actors and characters were brought to the forefront. This change of casting provided a much-needed reset for the Game of Thrones universe while offering fans more content.

House Of The Dragon Revealed How Visually Stunning It Could Be

House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones were both visually stunning, but the former learned from the latter. Not only was the dragons' CGI much cleaner, but the landscapes and locations had extra vibrancy. Likewise, the various outfits and designs brought out fresh flavors. They added color and depth to every scene.

Game of Thrones had similar aesthetics, but there was a bleakness to most locations. It was set in a dark and harsh world, many years after House of the Dragon's splendor. In just its first season, House of the Dragon showed audiences some spectacular sights, with a promise of more to come.

There Were More Sympathetic Characters Early On

Game of Thrones had many beloved characters. However, its early seasons risked being too dark for audiences, without many people to root for. Most characters were heavily flawed or morally ambiguous. Even the heroic Starks could feel too stern, solemn, or even incompetent for much sympathy.

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House of the Dragon had many sympathetic characters much earlier on. The Blacks were full of captivating, charismatic figures like Rhaenyra Targaryen, Daemon Targaryen, and Corlys Velaryon. Even the Greens had their more sympathetic members. Similarly, Alicent Hightower and Aemond Targaryen were much more relatable antagonists than Jaime and Cersei Lannister.

Its Changes To The Source Material Were Far Better Than Game Of Thrones'

Game of Thrones was widely agreed to be at its best when it followed the source material. The first four seasons took a faithful approach to A Song of Ice and Fire in most regards, and were beloved for them. Throughout the show, its changes were contentious, and many felt they made the story worse.

House of the Dragon was quite the opposite. The show added a great amount to the story's early years. Events like the hunt for the white stag were wholly original to the show, but well-liked. Most notably, George R. R. Martin praised Paddy Considine's melancholy, worrisome King Viserys, compared to the character's jolly and nonchalant depiction in the book.

The Prequel Benefitted From Homages Made To The Original

The original show in any franchise may have the benefit of generating its reaction from fans and viewers, but prequels and sequels can do this while capitalizing on nostalgia through references. Set almost 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon delved into the history of the various houses, locations, and conflicts.

Thanks to Game of Thrones coming first, these deep dives carried much more meaning than they would on their own. Viewers enjoyed the chance to see the past of houses, like the Lannisters and Targaryens. On the other hand, families like Velaryon and Hightower proved intriguing because they were new to audiences.

George R. R. Martin's Meticulously Detailed Lore Made For An Exciting Premise

An original show can do a wondrous job of creating a world for fans to enjoy. When an author puts as much time and effort into the lore as George R. R. Martin has, however, an adaptation is bound to be exceptional. With House of the Dragon set almost 200 years before the first Game of Thrones episode, it explored the lore that was only sparingly mentioned throughout Game of Thrones.

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For those who didn't read Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon presented many mysteries. For those who did read George R. R. Martin's novel, they remained excited to see how the new series incorporated everything. Fire & Blood had plenty of untapped ground. House of the Dragon's first season showed its potential to fans while leaving plenty for later seasons.

It Didn't Shy Away From Fantasy Elements

Game of Thrones was undeniably a fantasy series. However, it tried to downplay many of the stranger and fantastical parts of A Song of Ice and Fire. It downplayed the importance of prophecy in the narrative, while also removing many characters' warging. In particular, it removed the undead Lady Stoneheart from the series.

House of the Dragon didn't shy away from its fantasy elements. Fire & Blood has less magic in it than A Song of Ice and Fire. Nonetheless, House of the Dragon discussed the Doom of Valyria and the Targaryen bond with their dragons in openly mystical terms. It delved much more into prophecy than its source material. It actually went for more fantasy than its source material, unlike Game of Thrones.

It Cleaned Up Inaccuracies From Game Of Thrones

Many remember Game of Thrones' earlier seasons as days of exceptional writing and storytelling. Nonetheless, George R. R. Martin way unhappy with one scene from the first season. Robert Baratheon going hunting with just Renly, Barristan Selmy, and Lancel Lannister wasn't accurate to how such a venture was supposed to take place.

House of the Dragon had its own hunting sequence in the third episode. It was much more like how Martin wanted it. A royal hunting party in this universe would be a pure extravagance, with a pavilion set up and horns blowing. House of the Dragon captured this royal tradition perfectly, setting a new standard for accuracy.

It Treated Its Female Characters Much Better

Game of Thrones' treatment of women was one consistent point of contention. It had fleshed-out, three-dimensional women like Brienne of Tarth, Sansa Stark, and Catelyn Stark, but didn't go far enough for many. It was happy to present the sexist world of Westeros without exploring that angle of it. Constant threats of harassment and assault towards female characters bothered many, as did lots of unnecessary nudity.

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House of the Dragon took a very different approach. Westeros' extreme sexism was a main focus of the series. It ties into Rhaenyra's struggles as heir and was explored in Alicent and Rhaenys' storylines. The show was much more conservative with nudity and gave its women agency in both everyday actions and sex scenes. As a result, House of the Dragon faced far fewer accusations of sexism than Game of Thrones.

Centering On One Main Family And Concept Kept It More Focused

While Game of Thrones initially introduced its characters at Winterfell and in Essos, everybody quickly got split up. Every episode had multiple paths to cover. Considering characters had various ambitions or end goals, it became difficult to keep an overall focus on the show's direction.

House of the Dragon had everybody at King's Landing — with occasional moves to Driftmark or Dragonstone. The succession of King Viserys Targaryen was the primary focus and inevitable cause of the impending conflicts. In contrast, houses and families in Game of Thrones wanted the Iron Throne, but most of them didn't get anywhere near it.

NEXT: 10 Biggest Similarities Between House Of The Dragon And Game Of Thrones Season 1

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