Dracarys!

Why is House of the Dragon so dark? The real reason has nothing to do with your screen

The Thrones prequel goes to the Dark Side.

House of the Dragon Episode 7’s premiere proved to be a rough night for HBO Max’s customer support team. When the episode, called “Driftmark,” dropped on the streaming service, fans flocked to it, but not everyone had the same experience. Tweets started pouring in claiming the episode’s many night scenes were too dark to see.

The response from the @HBOMaxHelp Twitter account was the same every time: “The dimmed lighting of this scene was an intentional creative decision.” But what was the logic behind it? Here’s the story.

In Episode 7, the funeral of Laena Velaryon took place just before dusk, and then we saw events unfold over the next few hours as night took hold in Driftmark. But the scenes didn’t look quite right. Although the characters were muddied in gray darkness, they still had shadows. How was this possible?

In watching the behind-the-scenes featurette for the episode, it’s revealed that much of the Driftmark scenes were shot day-for-night. This means that while the scenes were captured in broad daylight, they were later adjusted and color-corrected to look like they were shot at night.

Hypothetically, these scenes could have been set during the daytime they were shot in without changing the story. Aside from adding a sense of drama and illicitness, the fact that it’s nighttime in the story doesn’t affect Rhaenyra and Daemon’s rendezvous or Aemond’s dragon heist. So why were they made so dark that it got Twitter users accusing people of not watching the show with the “correct” TV settings?

It might have been HBO’s attempt to disguise uncontrollable circumstances. In the behind-the-scenes content following the episode, the crew talks about how Laena’s funeral was one of the first scenes they filmed in Cornwall, where the weather refused to cooperate.

Inclement weather made the funeral scene hard to film, forcing scenes to be set at night.HBO

“It was shot over five days, and we had everything the weather could throw at us,” Camera Operator Joe Russell said. Russell added that Fabien Wagner, Director of Photography for the episode, was “pulling his hair out” trying to make the different scenes look consistent and continuous. Nikeah Forde, a Visual Effects Producer, confirmed that many shots had to be retroactively set at night.

But shooting day-for-night isn’t an uncommon technique, and it usually passes viewers by unnoticed. Even if viewers spot the trick, they can still tell what’s going on in the scenes. Moving the drama to nighttime may have been necessary to create the episode, but it doesn’t explain why so many viewers wondered if there was something wrong with their televisions, or even the streaming file provided by HBO. “International creative decision” doesn’t mean much if you can’t see what on Earth is happening. Hopefully this was just a one-time problem, and we won’t be having this conversation again a week (or a year) from now.

House of the Dragon Episode 7 is now streaming on HBO Max.