Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon

‘House of the Dragon’ Is One of the Most Expensive Shows on TV, So Why Is It Too Dark to Watch?

You can afford CGI dragons but no lighting kits?

***SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses plot points from episode 7 of House of the Dragon.***

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Episode 7 of House of the Dragon, “Driftmark”, was jam=packed with major plot developments. Daemon and Rhaenyra finally consummated their will-they-won’t-they relationship and married, Laenor faked his death to live his best gay life in Essos, Aemond stole Laena’s dragon and lost an eye, and Alicent slashed Rhaenyra with a dagger. It was a tense and thrilling hour of television, or so I’m told. I spent the entire runtime squinting at my screen and turning off every light in my house to try and catch a glimpse of what the hell was happening onscreen.

And I wasn’t alone. Blame director Miguel Sapochnick, who helmed the similarly shadowy episode of Game of Thrones, “The Long Night“. Another wildly eventful episode. “The Long Night” saw the forces of Westeros gather to face off against the White Walkers and the Night King. But fans complained that the episode was too dimly lit, making it difficult to watch. Of course, dark lighting is popular tool used to cover up any CGI wrinkles or technical issues. But both Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon are two of the most expensive series in television history, with HOTD costing an estimated $20 million an episode. And it’s not like we haven’t seen dragons in daylight in the series before. So what gives?

According to HBO Max’s Twitter account, the darkness of the episode was “an intentional creative decision.” It’s a refrain they repeated several times as complaints about the episode poured in.

It’s all the more annoying when you realize that most of these scenes were filmed in broad daylight, as you can see from production stills. So it’s not like viewable footage doesn’t exist. Moody, evocative lighting is one thing, but unwatchable darkness is quite another.

Look, most of us are paying $14.99 a month for an HBO Max subscription. And I’m happy to do it! Where else am I going to watch Rick and Morty and Hacks and play Sesame Street on an endless loop for my toddler? But I feel like being able to SEE the service I’m paying for it an absolute bare minimum. And writing off bad lighting and post-production mistakes as a creative decision smacks of sloppiness and self-indulgence. We get it, your fancy dragon show is DARK. We could tell from the non-stop murder and incest. Now give our tired eyeballs a break and turn on a damn light already.

(featured image: HBO)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.