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‘House of the Dragon’ Outperforms ‘The Rings of Power’ in China

Fantasy fans who binged both programs concurrently have higher praise for ‘House of the Dragon.’ Here’s what they’re saying on Chinese social media

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11:26 AM HKT, Wed October 26, 2022 2 mins read

On October 23, the first season of House of the Dragon came to a close. The HBO spinoff of the popular medieval fantasy TV series Game of Thrones has been warmly received by Chinese fans, as evidenced by its 8.8/10 rating on Chinese review aggregator Douban.


In contrast, the first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which was released around the same time, has received conflicting reviews from Chinese fantasy fans, who — like the rest of the world — binged both programs concurrently. The J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired TV series has an overall score of 6.8/10 on Douban.


promotional poster for house of the dragon featuring emma d'arcy as rhaenyra and olivia cooke as alicent

A promotional poster for House of the Dragon


House of the Dragon takes place about 200 years before Game of Thrones and depicts the events of the ‘Dance of the Dragons,’ a destructive civil war fought between rival factions of Westeros’ ruling Targaryen clan.


Many viewers loved the show’s first season for its political intrigue and interpersonal drama, elements also characteristic of Game of Thrones.


One Douban reviewer commented, “Political struggles, intrigues, family disputes, the show has everything we want to see.”


Other netizens consider the show well-made but slightly rushed. The first season spans nearly 20 years, with a major 10-year time jump in the middle that required the re-casting of the two female protagonists, Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower.


The chronological jumps led one Douban reviewer to say that the season “unfolded too quickly, but in general, it did a magnificent job.”


Game of Thrones sequel House of the Dragon

Young Rhaenyra, played by Milly Alcock, with her uncle, Daemon Targaryen, portrayed by Matt Smith


In contrast, some believe House of the Dragon moved too slowly. One Weibo user poetically complained that the show “simmered for the whole season, [before] the moment finally came for the fire to be lit.”


The same opinion was echoed by others, who saw the first 10 episodes as a run-up to something bigger (which is true, given there are potentially up to three more seasons in the works).


conflict between older alicent and older rhaenyra in house of the dragon

A scene of conflict between the older versions of Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy)


Overall, viewers loved the show despite their complaints about the pacing of the first season. One fan called House of the Dragon “one of the most magical Western films or television shows in recent years,” adding that they especially loved the couples in the series.


Game of Thrones, which ran from 2011 to 2019, was also a massive hit in China. In early 2019, ahead of the show’s eighth and final season, Daxue Consulting reported that it had already been watched 960 million times on the Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video.


emilia clarke daenarys targaryen game of thrones

Emilia Clarke portrays the ‘Dragon Queen’ Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones


So far, the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones performed better in China than House of the Dragon; all have 9.2/10 or higher on Douban. The final season, on the other hand, has universally been deemed a flop. On Douban, it only scored 6.1/10.


Both shows are based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Martin has published five out of his planned seven volumes. The author recently announced that the sixth installment, The Winds of Winter — which has been in the works since 2010 — is almost complete, provoking excitement from fans.


steve toussaint as corlys velaryon in house of the dragon

Steve Toussaint as the powerful Corlys Velaryon in House of the Dragon


But both fans of the books and the TV series will have to wait for more on-screen dragon action from HBO. The second season of House of the Dragon does not yet have a release date and will not begin filming until early 2023.


Thus, it will be at least a year of anticipation until fans can decide if the vast world-building of season one was worth it.


All images via IMDb

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