“House Of The Dragon” 1st Look Features No Dragons, Oddly

You know what they say about Game Of Thrones spin-offs, don’t you? Every time a new one gets announced, the gods toss a coin in the air, and the world holds its breath to see how it will land. Some have filmed entire pilot episodes before being abruptly canceled, some haven’t made it nearly that far, but so far prequel series House Of The Dragon is the only one that we can be (relatively) certain will actually hit HBO sometime next year.

House Of The Dragon
Rhaenyra Targaryen before the Iron Throne | cnet.com

As for whether it will be any good, the other big question that must necessarily be asked of any Game Of Thrones property following the long-running original series’ disastrous final season, that’s much more unclear. The first photos from House Of The Dragon weren’t particularly revealing, but failed to inspire much confidence in the series’ costume, hair, and makeup departments. Today, HBO unveiled a brief teaser trailer that still features its fair share of awkward wigs and lackluster outfits, but at least promises more of the political intrigue and intricate royal court drama that made Game Of Thrones such a phenomenon in the first place…before the writers ran out of George R.R. Martin books to adapt, and abandoned realism for bland high fantasy.

Fortunately for everyone involved, the source material for House Of The Dragon is a finished work, one that doesn’t require the writers to clumsily invent their own ending for the series from scratch. Based on Martin’s book Fire & Blood, House Of The Dragon tells the story of the war that tore the Targaryen family apart from the inside roughly two-hundred years before the events of Game Of Thrones. But while a lot changes in that time, even more stays the same: because just like Game Of Thrones, House Of The Dragon features deeply flawed and morally-conflicted characters fighting for power – only this time, basically everybody has a dragon.

Now, I’ve never read Fire & Blood, but I am a history buff, so it didn’t take me long before I started really vibing with the source material as I researched the history of the Targaryen family, the lead-up to the Dance of the Dragons, and the central power-struggle between Rhaenyra Targaryen, Daemon Targaryen, Alicent Hightower, and Aegon Targaryen II. It’s all really good stuff, and House Of The Dragon is going to have multiple seasons to give this story and these characters the justice they deserve. Based on this trailer, season one is very much going to be a “prelude to war”, fleshing out all of the characters and their relationships before pitting them against each other.

The teaser trailer provides very quick glimpses of important characters and events, accompanied by some (in my opinion, rather poorly-edited) narration from Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen, the younger brother of Westeros’ current Targaryen king, Viserys I. With Viserys nearing the end of his life, the question of who will succeed him weighs heavily on the minds of everyone at court, particularly Viserys’ adult daughter Princess Rhaenyra, and Rhaenyra’s stepmother Queen Alicent Hightower. Two political factions emerge, one recognizing the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne and the other seeing Alicent’s young son with Viserys, Aegon II, as the better (i.e. male) option.

House Of The Dragon
House Targaryen | geektyrant.com

My hope is that these characters will all have clear and well-defined motivations for wanting the Iron Throne, but I do worry that House Of The Dragon will try too hard to justify Daenerys Targaryen’s “mad queen” turn in the final season of Game Of Thrones by retroactively doubling down on the idea that latent sociopathy runs in the Targaryen bloodline and can pop up whenever the writers need to cut a character’s arc abruptly short – a lazy excuse for a horribly-executed plot twist that I’d rather see retconned entirely than expanded upon; especially since House Of The Dragon is focused on another ambitious woman soon to be vilified for her actions.

House Of The Dragon is very clearly trying to establish visual and thematic parallels between the stories of Daenerys and Rhaenyra – the latter’s slow yet confident march toward the Iron Throne echoes Daenerys’ climb to that accursed chair in dream sequences and at the very end of her life in Game Of Thrones, and even their appearances are strikingly similar. I can only hope for Rhaenyra’s sake that her writers don’t fail her the same way that Benioff and Weiss failed Daenerys and her legions of fans, and in so doing tainted the Iron Throne to the point where even seeing it onscreen again brings back feelings of disappointment and regret.

House Of The Dragon will at least feature a relatively more diverse main cast than Game Of Thrones, which relegated most of its characters of color to the outskirts of the story. Most of the characters from House Valeryon, including Corlys Valeryon and his children Laenor and Laena, will be portrayed by Black actors, and the fascinating Mysaria, Rhaenyra and Daemon’s Mistress of Whisperers, will be played by Japanese actress Sonoya Mizuno. All of these characters have integral roles in the Targaryen civil war, and I can’t wait to see more of them.

And, of course, there will be plenty of dragons for everyone wondering…although they’re absent from this teaser trailer, which I think is a mistake. I understand that House Of The Dragon is still in post-production, so HBO probably doesn’t have any good dragon footage ready to go just yet, but in that case they should have just waited until they did. The show has dragons in the title, Matt Smith’s narration and HBO’s new tagline for the show both use the quote “Dreams didn’t make us kings…dragons did”, and the trailer itself has no dragons. It’s very disappointing in that regard, particularly seeing as dragons are a really big part of the Dance of the Dragons storyline…as you’d expect from, you know, the name.

House Of The Dragon
Rhaenyra Targaryen | hindustantimes.com

But now we wait…for a specific release date to be announced, for HBO to show us some dragons already, for the coin to finally land and decide whether House Of The Dragon can reclaim the throne that Game Of Thrones itself willfully abdicated in its final season, or whether it will all come tumbling down, like the easily-avoidable pile of bricks that ultimately killed Cersei and Jaime Lannister because dying ignominiously in the penultimate episode was better than surviving into that dumpster-fire of a series finale.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

Jodie Whittaker Will Exit “Doctor Who” In 2022, But She’ll Always Be My Doctor

I wish that my first post about Doctor Who here on my blog didn’t have to be sad news. The show has been around since the 1960’s, decades before I was born, but I only just got into it recently – this very year, in fact. Why? Well, partly because I had HBO Max, so the opportunity finally presented itself. But also, more importantly, because Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor was already inspiring to me before I ever watched a minute of Doctor Who. There’s a reason I jumped straight into her seasons without watching any of the others first (sorry to everyone from Hartnell to Capaldi, by the way).

Doctor Who
Doctor Who | bbc.co.uk

So today’s news was a bit of a gut-punch, even though it was inevitable at some point. Jodie Whittaker will leave Doctor Who in the fall of 2022, following her third season as the Doctor (which airs later this year), and three specials which will air throughout 2022, the last of which will be feature-length and in which we’ll witness the Regeneration of the Doctor into their fourteenth iteration. Whittaker will be accompanied in her departure by showrunner Chris Chibnall, who has overseen and written large parts of her three seasons, and presumably by her last remaining original Companion, Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill.

All of this is customary for Doctor Who. The character’s physical form is by nature impermanent, only a vessel for a timeless message of kindness, empowerment, and empathy which outlasts any single actor. I mean, that’s the whole point, right? But as someone who only got into this fandom recently and had never been attached to any of the previous Doctors, this is my first experience with Regeneration and…it hurts. I don’t even know yet if I’ll be interested in the show post-Whittaker, or if the joy and comfort I found in Doctor Who was solely rooted in how much I loved her Doctor, specifically.

Because if I’m being honest, Chris Chibnall’s writing wasn’t great most of the time. Most of Whittaker’s best episodes weren’t even written by him. So it’s a testament to her strength, talent, and keen understanding of the role that she transcended his failures as a showrunner and still managed to take what she was given and turn it into something special, infusing Doctor Who with a fresh breeze of heartfelt humor and whimsical wonderment. Unfortunately, it’s also a testament to the additional challenges she faced during her tenure as the Doctor because she happened to be the first woman in the role.

Doctor Who
Yaz, Graham, The Doctor, and Ryan | variety.com

Before her first season even aired, bigots were directing misogynistic vitriol towards her character. From her first episode onwards, she was battling lackluster writing and an overcrowded TARDIS that seemed strangely hellbent on surrounding her with male supporting characters who seemed to get more screentime and development than she ever did. After her male Companions left the show, it seemed like there might be an opportunity to explore the dynamic between the Doctor and Yazmin Khan in an all-female TARDIS – but going into her final season, two new male characters have been added to her crew. Simultaneously, her final season has been cut from the usual ten episodes down to just six, further reducing the amount of time Whittaker will have to define her version of the character before she leaves the role.

The BBC is making a big deal out of how Whittaker’s final appearance as the Doctor will coincide with their centenary anniversary in 2022, but even that doesn’t sit right with me. Doctor Who’s own sixtieth anniversary is just a year later in 2023 – they couldn’t have waited one more year? It seems like a small thing, but it would have been a great way for the BBC to support Whittaker’s casting. Instead, her successor will get the huge marketing campaign and media coverage that Doctor Who‘s sixtieth anniversary will entail. I’m not mad at whoever will take her place, because this is a coveted role and it was always going to pass on eventually, but I am mad at the BBC for undermining Whittaker’s legitimacy as the Doctor in this way.

At the same time, though, I’m happy for Whittaker. I hope that, like most of her male predecessors in the role (at least during the modern era of Doctor Who), she gets plenty of work coming off of the show. Tennant’s got Good Omens, Smith’s about to star in House Of The Dragon, Capaldi’s about to have a prominent role in The Suicide Squad – what will Whittaker’s next move be? Whether it’s a big franchise or something smaller, I’m excited to support her no matter what.

And I hope that whoever takes over as the Doctor builds on her performance just as Whittaker built on those who came before her. Countless Regenerations from now, Whittaker will still be an important part of the Doctor’s story, and that’s something the show should acknowledge – even if it’s just through little references and callbacks to her incredible performance. But regardless of whatever happens next with the show, Whittaker is my Doctor, and she always will be.

Doctor Who
The Thirteenth Doctor | irishnews.com

So what kind of emotions are you feeling, fam? Who do you hope will become the Fourteenth Doctor? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Morbius” Trailer Review!

Is the Sony Spider-Verse adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Well, there’s no clear answer to that question right now, and there’s unlikely to be one for some time yet, but for the moment I think we all have to admit that somehow Sony has managed to get some pretty good stuff out of their tumultuous deal with Disney/Marvel, and part of that includes the rights to use certain MCU characters that one wouldn’t normally expect to see in a rival studio’s film franchise. Not only are they supposedly working out a way to have Marvel’s Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, cameo in the upcoming sequel to Venom, but they’ve just sprung a big surprise on all of us and revealed that Morbius, their newest “in-association-with-Marvel” feature film, will mark the return of an MCU villain we last saw safely tucked away in prison.

As for the movie itself….well, it stars Jared Leto as the obscure Spider-Man villain with the powers of a bat: hunting for a remedy to his terminal illness, Dr. Michael Morbius stumbles upon a risky maneuver to save his life that involves…standing in a wind tunnel and letting bats drink your blood? Or something like that? Honestly, the specifics are a bit hazy, but predictably everything goes wrong and Morbius finds himself transformed into an insatiable vampire with the powers of echolocation (admittedly, very cool), night vision, and a bat-like appetite. Oh, and super strength, because that’s definitely something that bats have, right? And the whole trailer is set to Beethoven’s Für Elise because….reasons?

At one point in the trailer, it’s revealed that Morbius takes place sometime after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, as we see the vampire walk past wall murals that show the hero’s likeness painted over with the word MURDERER, referencing Spidey’s mistaken-identity crisis that has him on the run from the media, the government, and a newer, nastier bunch of villains than ever before. But it’s one of his older villains who shows up in this trailer’s stinger, setting up a potential MCU/Spider-Verse crossover that actually looks kind of interesting: Michael Keaton’s Vulture, introduced in Spider-Man: Homecoming, is seen wearing his prison uniform while greeting Morbius with a cheerful “what’s up, Doc?” (which would make more sense if this film had any association with Warner Brothers, which it doesn’t). Not only does this mean that Vulture has probably escaped from jail, but it also suggests that both he and Morbius could be future antagonists for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Then again, it’s hard to imagine the chipper, optimistic MCU Peter Parker battling this grim, ferocious beast of a man – but it’s also hard to imagine him battling Tom Hardy’s Venom, and that could become a reality very soon, so we’ll just have to wait and see whether Sony and Marvel can work something out, or whether this will turn into one of those weird setups for something that will never happen.

I’m sure we’d all love it if Jared Leto could carry this film on his own, but the film honestly looks just average, and only its connections to the broader Marvel universe are keeping it in the conversation for the moment. If Morbius turns out to be a sleeper hit with an avid fanbase, then obviously it’d be cool if the franchise could continue – a win for Morbius would also be a win for Sony’s Spider-Verse in general, which will soon debut feature films for other beloved Marvel characters like….like…like Madame Web, the inert and elderly oracle strapped into a life-support system who sends her pawns out into the world to accomplish her shady deeds! I’m looking forward to that, are you?

What do you think of the Morbius trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 5/10