6 Differences Between House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones

With the second season of House of the Dragon soon starting on HBO, I just wanted to draw some comparisons between the first season, and the already classic Game of Thrones. Of course, the two are based off works from the same author, and share quite a large set of similarities, but they also are markedly different in some ways. And with the second season of its ‘competing’ show, The Rings of Power, only starting off at the end of August, they can finally run without people plotting one against the other. Hence, here is a comparison that should make more sense.

The Dragon Factor

“Game of Thrones” showcased dragons as awe-inspiring creatures under Daenerys Targaryen’s control. However, the way they were introduced – initally as more of a legend, and subsequently as a sort of surprise and shock element – was quite different. In contrast, “House of the Dragon” started off with dragons as a normal, everyday occurence. Delving deeper into dragon lore and the bonds they formed with their masters, the first season of House of the Dragon took a different path when it comes to the towering creatures, and they are poised to play a defining part in the second season as well.

Narrative Approach

While “Game of Thrones” adapted Martin’s unfinished series of novels, leading to deviations from the source material, “House of the Dragon” is based on Martin’s book “Fire & Blood,” offering a more structured narrative from the historical perspective of House Targaryen. Central has been a more cohesive storyline, driven by the rich tapestry of Targaryen history, rather than diverging plotlines due to incomplete source material. This has had a double-edged effect: on the one hand, it has focussed the narrative and allowed for a deeper exploration of one family, while on the other hand it removed some of the benefits that come along with different story arcs that come together at one point or another.

Time Period Setting

“Game of Thrones” depicted a Westeros facing the impending White Walker threat. On the other hand, “House of the Dragon” takes viewers back to a time of relative stability, focusing on internal power struggles within the realm, rather than external threats. Set amidst the Targaryen civil war, the series provides a fresh perspective on the political dynamics of Westeros during a tumultuous period in its history. Again, because of the increased focus of the plot, it is richer in detail, and at least in my eyes, refreshingly strays away from the doomsday scenario that Game of Thrones ultimately worked its way towards. I like smaller scales and lower stakes in storytelling, and this worked nicely in the first season.

Cast of Characters

“Game of Thrones” featured iconic characters like Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon, Tyrion and Cersei Lannister, and many others. Conversely, “House of Dragon” introduced a new cast of Targaryens, each with their own ambitions and flaws, providing fresh perspectives on dragon riders and political players. From Aegon the Conqueror to Viserys I Targaryen, we encountered a new generation of characters navigating the treacherous waters of Westerosi politics. Considering the Targaryen heavy perspective, we didn’t often see the events from the eyes of other houses, but occasionally got a nod of famous house name to indicate where they were, politically, at that point in time.

Visual Spectacle

Utilising groundbreaking CGI for dragon scenes and epic battles, “Game of Thrones” set a high bar for visual spectacle. However, “House of the Dragon” brought some even more stunning visuals with advancements in CGI technology, showcasing breathtaking dragon flights and battles set in iconic Westerosi locations. From the smoky ruins of Harrenhal to the towering spires of Dragonstone, Westeros has never looked so breathtaking – or dangerous. On the flip side of the coin, the use of CGI increased, and many were not entirely happy about that. But quality wise, it was great.

Thematic Focus

“Game of Thrones” explored themes of power, betrayal, and the blurred lines between heroism and villainy. In contrast, “House of the Dragon” focuses on the destructive nature of familial conflict within House Targaryen during the Dance of the Dragons, highlighting the brutal struggle for power and the consequences of internal strife. Many thematic tropes that defined Game of Thrones are still to be found in House of the Dragon, but others are turned around completely – think, for instance, a certain characters’ chances of survival in the first season, versus how similar characters usually fared in Game of Thrones. It’s a good deviation from the norm the original series established – let’s see whether it continues in the second season.



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