Do the Time Jumps in ‘House of the Dragon’ Work?
In each episode of HBO’s House of the Dragon, we have seen a time jump. Most recently, we went from the announcement that Alicent Hightower would be Queen Consort of Westeros to her being pregnant with her second child. While the actors are giving their all in these performances, the time jumps mean that we don’t get to sit with these characters, making the decision to rush so quickly through this first section irritating.
Netflix’s The Witcher presented its first season’s storylines in a non-linear format. Due to the semi-immortality of two of the leads, it was, at times, hard to keep track of which timeline we were seeing. Yet, I found that seeing agelessness in that way was interesting. Plus, at its core, the narrative was telling a straightforward story. The flashbacks, with knowing the stark reality of what was to come from the pilot, didn’t take anything away from the impact. People found it confusing, and the format was dropped in the second season, which then led people to complain it was “duller.”
One of the things House of the Dragon’s predecessor, Game of Thrones, was known for, as a series (along with the books it’s based on), was being able to sit in the moments of court and find the tension in mundane situations—knowing to examine lenses that don’t often get the focus in fantasy series. When House of the Dragon rushes through sections of time, the audience loses the impact of seeing how, for instance, Alicent and Rhaenyra were immediately impacted by Alicent marrying Rhaenyra’s father, jumping straight to the dissolution of their friendship. If we are going to invent and craft their friendship, then the destruction of that friendship is owed more than just a jump cut.
“This is how you tell this story correctly,” Ryan Condal, co-showrunner, told The Hollywood Reporter in a July 19 article. “We’re telling a story of a generational war. We set everything up so by the time that first sword stroke falls, you understand all the players.”
Taking this approach also impacts how age is perceived. Daemon Targaryen a character who we meet at 23, who will go on to live for a few more decades. Yet, it appears that Matt Smith will play that character throughout that time, since we’ve seen images of older Rhaenyra (played by Emma D’Arcy) with Smith, while other characters will have multiple actors. Rhaenyra is 16 years younger than Daemon in the books. That works for Milly Alcock (young Rhaenyra), who is 16–17 years younger than Smith. D’Arcy is only 9 years younger. I understand not wanting to make Alcock play a character who will be in their 30s eventually, but why not cast an actor in the middle?
Episode two got a lot of attention for having twelve-year-old Laena Velaryon played by a small child, yet in a subsequent episode, the character is already played by a “teen,” and then there will be an “adult” actor for a character with a small focus in the series.
Unlike Game of Thrones, there is an endgame for the events of House of the Dragon. If we are not going to slow down, then I am wondering how much war and political drama is going to be the focus of the next season. The Dance of the Dragon only lasts two years, but is it likely that HBO will just want to end the series after two or three seasons? There are more Game of Thrones spinoffs in the works that will need that $20 million per-episode.
What do y’all think? Do the time jumps and cast changes interest you, annoy you, or are you just going with the flow?
(featured image: HBO Max)
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