If you are a fan of fantasy like I am, then this late summer and early autumn will have a lot in store for you. Especially when you are subscribed to one of the following: HBO, Sky Atlantic or Amazon Prime.
This fateful autumn, a question of legacy will be answered. Since the most successful series of all time Game of Thrones, ended in 2019, the vacuum, the empty space it has left behind, needs to be filled.
Netflix has tried. Its attempt to take its place with the show The Witcher starring Henry Cavill, was very successful for a time. But especially after the mediocre second season, it was clear that it would not take the place of Game of Thrones.
Streaming services have been cautious in general because of the aggressive outcry of Game of Thrones fans after the final season disappointed the majority of fans. For a very long time, the big networks have not dared announce anything to be as grand, as complex, and as good as Game of Thrones was. One prequel show of Game of Thrones produced by HBO, called Bloodmoon, which would have been set 10 000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, was even cancelled when production was almost finished because the producers ultimately believed it would be a disappointment and could not live up to the legacy of Game of Thrones. An estimated 100 million dollars was thrown out the window. This is how cautious and frightened the producers have become since disappointed fans lashed out at them in 2019.
Now, three years later, it appears that the legacy of Game of Thrones might have two heirs, or let’s better say, two stories, two shows produced by two giant streaming services. Following a hiatus in writing, casting, and producing, the streaming behemoths appear to be ready to serve disappointed fans and difficult consumers with new projects that have the potential to reach the lofty heights attained by Game of Thrones.
The first one is the most expensive show that has ever been produced. Season one alone has cost Amazon Prime over 400 million dollars, before it’s finished, an estimated one billion dollars spent, the streaming giant will take us back to Middle Earth with The Rings of Power. The show is set thousands of years before the events in The Lord of the Rings and tells the story of all the different races; elves, dwarves, humans, with a special focus on the legendary Numenoreans, a Middle Earth equivalent to our Atlantis myth, and a young Sauron rising to power.
While the trailer of The Rings of Power really shows that a lot of money was spent on production design, fantasy fans, and especially Lord of the Rings fans, are very careful in predicting this to be a successful show. The trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is universally considered to be the greatest fantasy films, ever produced. The Hobbit films which followed ten years later, were much less of a success. Considering that hardly anyone from the original films is working on this show, it is unlikely that this new series will connect in any way to the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
However, Jeff Bezos is adamant about making this show a success. He wants to join the pantheon of fantasy greatness as only a few have managed so far. His strategy is to spend as much money as possible to create a great show. Unfortunately, he might overestimate the power of money when it comes to telling a great story. Most successes, the original Lord of the Rings trilogy included, started out with a small budget and were produced in such an amazing way because of the love for the narrative and the characters of its fantastical world.
The same can be argued about other fantasy and science fiction shows of the last decade. Game of Thrones was one of them, starting out very small, growing into a huge success. Stranger Things was another low-budget production that turned into an overnight sensation because of its authenticity. Jeff Bezos is putting a lot of money into one show. But don’t worry, he can afford it and afford to lose.
The other show, which is coming later this month, looks a little different. With production costs being just slightly lower, about 250 million dollars, House of the Dragon is a prequel to Game of Thrones and tells the story of the Targaryen civil war, Daenerys’s ancestors, who fight with fire and blood.
It is more likely that this show will take over the reign of Game of Thrones not because it is set in the same universe but because the producers understand what kind of story an audience wants to watch after Game of Thrones. House of the Dragon will most likely be much more brutal and primal than Game of Thrones. Considering what will happen in House of the Dragon, telling the story of The Dance of the Dragons, which was mentioned multiple times in Game of Thrones, the original show might appear like a kindergarten in comparison to what will go down in House of the Dragon.
It will be a story leading from prosperity into collapse with hope diminishing, whereas Game of Thrones was somewhat the opposite, from chaos into some form of regaining order in a torn-apart kingdom. It also won’t be families fighting each other, but one large family fighting and eventually murdering one another. Brothers will turn against sisters, cousins and uncles will kill each other. In this regard, it will be more primal, more fundamental to the myths of our world, which have accompanied and inspired western society for millennia. The plots of Oedipus Rex and other Greek and Roman tragedies will be very similar to the plot of House of the Dragon.
Besides, the Westeros we will encounter this time will turn from wealth into a burning slaughterhouse much faster than in Game of Thrones. A certain feeling of absolute doom and collapse is imminent, which only appeared in later seasons of Game of Thrones and might resonate much more in a time of climate change, post-pandemic feelings than in the enchanted kingdoms of Middle Earth.
House of the Dragon will also feature seventeen dragons battling each other, which is something fantasy fans always love seeing. The dragons in Game of Thrones, next to the Starks and their direwolves, became fan favourites in the course of the show Besides, dragons always spark imagination and wonder in any audience.
These dragons will be ridden by authentic and very troubled characters, similar to those from Game of Thrones. None of them will be truly evil, but simply following and trying to fulfil their personal desires and interests. At the forefront of this cast stand two princesses, or let’s better say, a princess who wants to be Queen and a Queen who wants said princess not to become Queen.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Queen Alicent of Hightower will turn from friends to foes, trying to pursue their own interests no matter the cost. With two women leading the cast of a huge fantasy production and a world that is not shy of brutality and war, this show could be much more contemporary than Game of Thrones was and might resonate with the audience on a deeper level in 2022 than a fantasy show could have done years earlier.
From rings of power and bloodthirsty princesses to another princess that will most likely take our breath away later this year. While this show won’t necessarily compete with The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, as it is a different genre, it does have princesses, dragons, murder, the collapse of a kingdom, and features fearsome and haunting characters. This show is called The Crown, and in its fifth instalment it will invite us into the sorry lives of the members of House Windsor. This time it’s set in the 90’s. This means that the death, or murder, depending on what you want to believe, of Lady Diana will be seen in this season.
She, like Princess Rhaenyra, will fight dragons, metaphorical ones but no less frightening, and will inspire dreams and awake nightmares in millions of people watching. In the past, The Crown has shaken up an English audience, and viewers around the world. It has repeatedly caused them to question the monarchy and depicted Britain’s decline from a world power to a sinking ship.
In this regard, the Crown’s fifth seasonwill most likely come out as the best show of the second half of 2022, because it confronts the audience with something House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power will ultimately fail to do. While the dialogues in The Crown are fiction, the events taking place, the death of Lady Diana, the response of the royal family and the reaction of the public will be close to the truth.
It is going to resurrect buried nightmares and remind the world of an event that has not only affected the United Kingdom but resonated throughout the world. The ghost of Lady Diana is most likely going to haunt the royal family again, as it did two years ago when season four aired on Netflix. Sympathy for the royals, especially Prince Charles’s popularity, dropped by over ten percent. This time though, since it will be all about the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales and Lady Diana’s legendary death, it might even wake a dragon.
After watching House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power, seeing all the carnage, fighting, plot twists, and murder, every viewer can lean back and relax, reminding themselves that this is all fantasy. Once The Crown will air on Netflix, which is also a show about queens and princesses, The Rings of Power and especially the royal fight on House of the Dragon, is going to remind every viewer that the world we live in is not so far removed from the bloody plots of Westeros. It will represent our world, one where there are no such things as fairy tales and no one is safe, especially if you are a princess.
However, presuming you are not a princess, it is safe to say that you will not share the fate of Princess Rhaenyra or Princess Diana. Take comfort in the fact that you are just one of many viewers who will watch as the giant streaming services fight like dragons over the dominion that Game of Thrones has left behind.
House of the Dragon will premiere on HBO/ HBOMax and Sky Atlantic on the 22nd of August
The Rings of Power will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime on the 2nd of September
The Crown Season 5 will drop on Netflix in November