House of the Dragon is blazing along over on HBO, and while it seems the series has done enough for many to wash the bad taste of Game of Thrones’ final season out of their mouths, it does have some key differences from the more palatable seasons of the franchise. One of those differences is really noticeable as of late, as it seems like just about every major character has significant skeletons in their closet.
Whether you’re a ride or die for Rhaenyra, all-in on Alicent, or dying to give Daemon another chance, it’s really hard to pick someone in House Of The Dragon who is worth rooting for from a moral perspective. Game of Thrones fans might notice that wasn’t the case in the original series, but is that a good thing or a bad thing?
House Of The Dragon Doesn’t Have Any Clear Heroes To Root For
In Game of Thrones, there were few houses as noble or as upstanding as the Starks. Sure, they may have had some rough edges here or there, but if you revisit the series with an HBO Max subscription, you’d see they’re leaps and bounds above some of the very clear villains introduced early in the story. They’re pretty transparently the good guys, and while that didn’t necessarily play to their favor throughout the series, fans could feel safe cheering them on and hoping they somehow got ahead of the evils of the Seven Kingdoms.
Now we have House Of The Dragon, where just about every main character is unlikable in some major way. Viserys let his wife die so that he could sire a son that also died, Alicent and Rhaenyra have been pretty awful to each other through increasing levels of mistrust and deception (Rhaenyra is also really leaning into incest as of late), and don’t even get me started on the litany of unlikeable things about Daemon. Wasn’t this all so much easier when the villains were just the incestuous brother and sister who shoved a kid out a window?
Where is the morally upright character free from scrutiny? House of the Dragon doesn’t have a Jon Snow just yet, though from the looks of what we’ve seen so far, it doesn’t look like someone like that will arrive. We are very much in the ugliness that ensued when there’s about to be a new king in the Seven Kingdoms, but the current king isn’t even dead yet! What’s going to happen when Viserys is finally gone?
But, What About Rhaenyra (Or Other Characters I Like)?
I know Rhaenyra has a good deal of support from fans, but even as the lead she’s shown she isn’t the most palatable of protagonists. Her various deceptions and obvious transgressions against her station are at the heart of this drama, and while that’s not necessarily her fault, she hasn’t exactly made it easy for anyone to defend her. She has a real glaring sense of entitlement to the throne, but at the same time, wants none of the downsides in life that other rulers compromise to get it. Again, I get it, but also, figure out what you want Rhaenyra and maybe don’t flaunt your disregard for rules so often!
The issues with other characters like Alicent and Daemon are more glaring. Alicent, like me I guess, is very irked that Rhaenyra blatantly disregards the rules of her royal status and what’s acceptable, and has used that as well as her growing paranoia of her former friend to justify some pretty horrendous stuff. Daemon, similarly, always seems to be angling towards some hidden motive, all of which he's accomplished by wooing and manipulating women. I find it’s hard hard to really feel any kindness towards him, though, I can’t say I feel much differently about many of the other characters.
Game Of Thrones Even Managed To Make Some Of Its Villains Likable
It’s worth noting that Game of Thrones not only kicked off the series by giving us likable characters, but it also managed to change our perception of its villains along the way. Characters like Jaime Lannister, who originally seemed to be irredeemably evil, even managed to have some fans for a time.
Even the evil characters, like Cersei Lannister, managed to gain some likablity as Game of Thrones got to the end. Hell, there were even people advocating for her to win the war for the Iron Throne. Of course, it took much longer for audiences to warm up to Cersei than maybe someone like Arya Stark, and even then, not everyone was sold on the idea of Cersei maintaining her position at the end of the series.
With all of that said, I acknowledge the fact that Game of Thrones ultimately changed fans’ perspectives means that House of the Dragon might do the same. Daemon Targaryen might be the biggest asshole in Westeros at the moment, but maybe we’ll ultimately grow to see him as one of the nobler heroes in the grand scheme of things. That sounds really impossible as I write it right now, but I would’ve said the same about Jaime Lannister in Season 1 of GoT, so we’ll see!
Does The Audience Need To Be Told Who To Root For?
House of the Dragon hasn’t given us a clear and traditional hero to root for yet, which might be problematic for some. That’s especially true with the receipts piling up for every character’s misdeeds, and by the season’s end, we may learn just about everyone is the absolute worst. So, is now the time to ask one of those folks who read the book who we should be rooting for?
I guess it depends on the viewer, and if they absolutely need a morally upstanding hero to stay invested in the series. It should also be noted that Season 1 is covering a large stretch of time, and we’re only getting the highlights of relevant things that occurred in that time. That is to say, there’s some distortion of how characters are being perceived. We’re seeing some of their biggest defining moments in rapid succession, with little context or chances for redemption in between.
In Game of Thrones fans theorized the events of the show took about five to seven years to unfold. In House of the Dragon, it’s fair to speculate a good deal of time passed considering Aegon Targaryen went from a baby to a young teen in the course of just a few episodes. Time is moving quickly in Season 1, which means the character development and escalation of events is naturally going to feel quite rapid.
As such, perhaps the question we should be asking is if we need someone to root for right now? House of the Dragon is laying out the groundwork for the rest of its story in Season 1, and all signs point to the time jumps not being a consistent trend in future seasons. So, perhaps the show will ultimately give us more likable characters to get behind in future seasons, but maybe with a little more baggage than the fact they’re an easy target for small penis jokes.
My hope is that when the time jumps cease, the problem of House of the Dragon not having any immediately likable characters won’t matter. In the meantime, anyone else suffering from the same issue of struggling to find someone they like may be better served just sitting back and watching the action unfold, and keeping the understanding that it’s more or less setting the stage for the bigger story still to come. Plus, it’s not like we want this show to get in the habit of emulating Game of Thrones, especially if there’s even a chance of a rushed final season!
House of the Dragon airs on HBO on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. ET, or can be streamed with an HBO Max subscription. Season 1 is absolutely flying by, but thankfully, there’s also a lot happening that will justify some fans rewatching to make sure they caught everything that went down while waiting for Season 2.
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Mick Joest is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend with his hand in an eclectic mix of television goodness. Star Trek is his main jam, but he also regularly reports on happenings in the world of Star Trek, WWE, Doctor Who, 90 Day Fiancé, Quantum Leap, and Big Brother. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Radio and Television. He's great at hosting panels and appearing on podcasts if given the chance as well.