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House Of The Dragon Is Trying To Avoid One Of Game Of Thrones' Biggest Flaws

There are plenty of valid criticisms you can make about the original "Game of Thrones," and now, its spin-off is trying to avoid the mistakes of its predecessor.

"Game of Thrones" premiered in 2011 and, upon its release, became both a cultural phenomenon and a total lightning rod for controversy. From frequent "sexposition" — a term that was quite literally coined just to describe the way the show frequently showed oversexualized scenes for no real reason — to the way it sometimes portrayed female characters, "Thrones" did have some undeniable problems when it came to its portrayal of women. The women of "Thrones" endured frequent, if not constant, sexual and physical violence... and in some cases, the women who suffered these indignities claimed they were made stronger by being abused, like Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) says in the show's final season.

Three years after "Game of Thrones" drew to a close in 2019 with a (to put it mildly) unsuccessfully received final season, "House of the Dragon," the first big spin-off, is HBO's attempt to revive this much-maligned franchise. So will it make the same mistakes as "Game of Thrones," or will it manage to surpass the show that came before it?

House of the Dragon is trying to put its female characters front and center

As Inverse has already pointed out, a huge focus of "House of the Dragon" so far are the female members of the monarchy, who are vying just as hard as their male counterparts — if not even harder — for a shot at the infamous Iron Throne.

Right off the bat, audiences are told that Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) was considered as the successor to her father, Jaehaerys I, but was passed over for being too much of a woman in favor of her male cousin, Viserys I (Paddy Considine). Nine years later, Viserys, who has been unable to produce a male heir, ends up declaring his daughter Rhaenyra (played in her earlier years by Milly Alcock) as his successor — but that's only after his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) makes it clear that he's utterly unfit for the throne.

Certainly, this is a wildly different focus from the original show; though Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the eventual descendant of Viserys and his line, seeks the Throne for herself, the war over the seat of power is known as that of the Five Kings and is centered around powerful men from powerful families. However, simply shining a spotlight on female characters does not make for an automatic feminist triumph.

Will House of the Dragon elevate its female characters, or let them down?

In the first episode of "House of the Dragon," fans get a pretty good sense of both Rhaenys and Rhaenyra's power and influence, particularly as the latter is poised to become the first ever Queen of Westeros and the former is known to all as "The Queen Who Never Was." However, in the tradition of "Game of Thrones," several female characters have already been subjected to violence, have been underwritten, and have been placed in unsettling sexual situations.

Take Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke), who dies after a truly gruesome childbirth when her husband, Viserys, chooses their unborn son over his wife. (The baby, as insult to injury, dies hours later, making Aemma's death utterly pointless). There's also the young, beautiful Alicent Hightower (played in her younger years by Emma Carey), who is, seemingly, used as a sexual pawn by her father Otto (Rhys Ifans) to seduce the grieving king. Daemon, who has a reputation as a scoundrel and womanizer, has a right-hand woman named Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), but all she's done so far is appear nude (in a sex scene with Smith) and join him on the back of a dragon for a speedy escape.

Though they haven't been seen on screen yet, it's common knowledge that, after a time jump, Milcock and Carey will give their characters over to Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke, who will play older versions of Rhaenyra and Alicent. Perhaps, as the season continues, these two — and the remaining women around them — will gain a little more agency and power, but that remains to be seen.

"House of the Dragon" airs on Sunday nights at 9PM EST on HBO and HBO Max.