For all its faults — and there were many — perhaps the most annoying thing about the final seasons of Game of Thrones was the sudden ability for characters to seemingly teleport across Westeros. While early seasons sometimes devoted multiple episodes to the journey from one location to another, those distances collapsed into nothing by Seasons 7 and 8. Sure, Dany had her dragons, but that didn’t explain why everyone else was traveling many miles in the time it took to say “Valar morghulis.”
Angry fans called it “Fast Travel,” borrowing a term from video games. Now, HBO’s prequel series House of the Dragon seems to be introducing a different type of Fast Travel that could be just as frustrating if it doesn’t stop soon.
House of the Dragon’s biggest flaw
Game of Thrones may have used Fast Travel to move its characters across the map at lightning speed, but House of the Dragon seems to be doing the same thing with the passage of time. We’re currently three episodes into Season 1, and each episode begins with a significant time jump:
Episode 1 opened with one Targaryen king deliberating over who should be his heir and then jumped many years forward to show that chosen king face a similar dilemma.
Episode 2 skipped forward another six months (essentially to give King Viserys enough time to grieve his wife before choosing a new one).
And Episode 3 skips another two years to quickly establish the king’s new infant son (with another child on the way).
While each episode of House of the Dragon so far easily stands on its own as an excellent piece of television, it can be difficult to hold them all together when so much time passes between each entry. Worse, it’s hard to establish character growth when so much of it seemingly happens offscreen in between various time jumps.
The end result is that watching House of the Dragon feels like whiplash as we careen through Westerosi history with no end in sight. But of course, there is an end in sight. Or at least, there’s a clear exit in our near future.
House of the Dragon can avoid Game of Thrones’ mistake
The biggest difference between HotD and GoT is that everyone knows how House of the Dragon will end. So while the series seems to be racing along right now, we have to assume that eventually it will slow down and focus on the main story. (If that’s the case, everything we’ve seen so far is basically a prelude to the actual show.)
One obvious Fast Travel exit would be Episode 6, which we know will feature a massive 10-year time jump that swaps some of the cast (including the young actors playing Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Queen Alicent) for older counterparts. This feels like an obvious spot for House of the Dragon to slow things down and really focus on character development.
The alternative is that House of the Dragon doesn’t slow down at all. We could get to Episode 7 and see the series jump forward another few years. And then a few more in Episode 8. Hopefully, that’s not the case, but it’s hard to argue with a clear pattern like the one we’ve seen so far.
And while it’s comforting to know that House of the Dragon does in fact have a clear ending in mind, as Game of Thrones’ early seasons proved, the most important part of an adventure isn’t the destination, it’s the journey. Take that away, and what’s left?
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.