Which is better House of the Dragon or Rings of Power

House of the Dragon vs. Rings of Power: Which Fantasy Show Is Better?

Which fantasy series is better, House of the Dragon or Rings of Power?

Rings of Power and House of the Dragon are undoubtedly top of the list regarding must-watch content for the fall of 2022. Fans eagerly awaited each episode from these fantasy titans to drop on their respective streaming platforms; for many, they did not disappoint.

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Rings of Power is Amazon’s highly expensive prequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, set in the Second Age of Middle Earth, featuring the main character of the elf, Galadriel. Based on George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood and also a prequel, House of the Dragon is set some 170 years before the popular Game of Thrones series on HBO and chronicles the epic Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons.

House of the Dragon Vs Rings of Power
Image Source: Rings of Power ~ Amazon & House of the Dragon ~ HBO

These series are massive productions with large budgets and are poised to be flagship IPs for their respective streaming services. And while both can be good or bad, only one can be better. Now that both shows have completed their first seasons, let’s break down the categories, strengths, and weaknesses and determine which series prevails and ultimately endures as the champion of fantasy.

Round 1: Production Value

House of the Dragon Vs Rings of Power
Image Source: Rings of Power ~ Amazon. Photograph: AP

Let’s begin with the overall production value of these shows. Both shows have large budgets, but Amazon broke the bank with Rings of Power. Rings of Power has a total budget of a whopping $715 million, making it the most expensive show ever produced. Per Variety, $465 million was allotted for the first season alone, which averages out to an astounding $60 million price tag per episode.

House of the Dragon, while still hefty, has a more modest budget of $20 million per episode for a total $200 million budget for Season 1. The budget is almost double what HBO spent on Game of Thrones, which roughly came in at $100 million per season.

Both shows have excellent cinematography, beautiful scenery and imagery, and fantastic wardrobe and makeup. However, Rings of Power continues in the tradition of Lord of the Rings films by performing far above average in all departments. If Rings of Power captured one thing correctly from its predecessor, this is it.

House of the Dragon, by comparison, did have some glaring issues, most notably the extreme darkness of some of their scenes, making it almost impossible to see the characters in some instances. It was such a problem that many fans took to Twitter to complain.

HBO initially defended the lighting choice as an “intentional creative decision,” but by season’s end, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Ryan Condal admitted, “The visual continuity of the show is certainly something that we will look at. That stuff is always so tricky because we’re doing [post-production] on millions of dollars worth of high-end equipment, almost as if we’re making a movie.”

While House of the Dragon has an above-board overall production value, Rings of Power didn’t make as many creative and visual mistakes.

Winner: The Rings of Power

Round 2: Plot and Character Development

House of the Dragon Vs Rings of Power
Image Source: House of the Dragon Promo ~ HBO

When it comes to plot and character development, one will hope the competition between the shows is closer, but unfortunately, it isn’t.

The plot of Rings of Power moved at an excruciatingly slow pace. While it is well-known and accepted that Tolkien’s works are a slow burn, this show was a barely noticeable smolder. There was no substantial forward progression of the plot until the last episode; by then, it didn’t even matter. Elrond spent all season trying to get the mithril and didn’t. Galadriel was looking for Sauron and attempting to recruit people to aid in the quest, and he was right next to her the entire time, only to watch this supposed unflappable warrior faint to a Sauron mind meld in the finale.

Galadriel was astoundingly one note, and her arc throughout the entire season was a straight line. Where she began and where she ended were pretty much in the same place with minimal deviation or growth. Elrond’s was not much better, doing nothing more than traveling back and forth between Lindon and Khazad-dûm while doing little to advance the plot. The only good thing about Elrond is there was more opportunity to see Durin and his wife, Disa, two of the few interesting characters in the series.

Seeing a young(er) Galadriel and Elrond was an exciting prospect, but Tolkien characters tend to be lovable, so there was some hope for the new ones in the show. However, it failed to deliver there as well. The Harfoots were literally pointless; episode 1 to the finale was watching them move a slow caravan to nowhere while Nori attempted to be the bestest Frodo clone she could be, yet it added nothing to the plot except to be a foil to the “Stranger,” who is either (wrongly) Gandalf or a Gandolf clone.

The elf Arondir and the human Bronwyn were just as uninteresting as the Harfoots, and similarly to the Harfoots, their part of the plot played little into the overall story except provide a place and setting when Galadriel and the Numenorians arrive. None of these characters captured hearts and minds like all the characters in the Lord of the Rings films.

Ironically, Rings of Power condensed their timeline to not change characters and actors, while House of the Dragon made those changes intentionally and effectively. Still, House of the Dragon’s plot moved at a perfect pace, even with dramatic time skips and actor changes. Each episode left the viewer wanting to see more and provided it tenfold come the next episode.

Each character in House of the Dragon has a distinct and compelling arc, even side and supporting characters. The character of Mysaria, who started as Daemon’s prostitute consort, becomes a brothel proprietor and, under the alias of the White Worm, leads an entire network of spies, and she is not even one of the main cast of characters. Her arc has more growth and intrigue than Galadriel, the main character in Rings of Power.

It’s not even close.

Winner: House of the Dragon

Round 3: Acting and Performances

House of the Dragon Vs Rings of Power
Image Source: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

All credit needs to be given to any actor who puts their heart and soul into a role and typically gives their all. However, not all actors and performances are equal.

The cast of Rings of Power pales compared to their counterparts in the Lord of the Rings films. The power of just about every actor and performance in those films is rarely seen, but one would expect more than a few in an almost billion-dollar prequel series.

Morfydd Clark’s portrayal of Galadriel, while admirable, is not inspiring. There is minimal variance in her emotions or tone. While Galadriel’s obsession is noted throughout the series, rarely, if at all, do we get even a hint of any emotion outside of anger and obsession. Galadriel is a complicated character, and in the Peter Jackson films, we see the character’s range as portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Clark failed to give anything more than a one-dimensional version of this fantastic character.

Charlie Vickers’ role as Halbrand/Sauron wasn’t much more exciting, save for his final turn into the titular villain at the end of the finale. As Halbrand, it felt like a college Chad trying to play Hamlet, except at least the Chad we know isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. Perhaps as Sauron, this might change.

Robert Aramayo’s Elrond, wow, where do we even begin? There is zero similarity between his Elrond and that of Hugo Weaving’s or the one represented in the novels. His performance felt more like a Hobbit/Elf hybrid than the eventual ruler of Rivendell and the warrior that fought alongside Isildur. Where Clark tried too hard to play a tough and wise elf, Aramayo tried too little.

The only bright spots are the fantastic performances by Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete as Prince Durin IV and Princess Nisa, respectively. The pair of actors gave spectacular performances and made it feel like Middle-earth. If there was more of this in the series, it might have landed better.

House of the Dragon, on the other hand, is a masterclass in acting and superb performances, both from the main cast and the supporting cast. It isn’t easy to even parse through which actors and performances should be noted in this contest, as they were all above average to superb.

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen is one of the most inspired performances of a complicated and notably morally defunct character. Smith shows us, in full fury, just how devious, perverted, and brutal Daemon can be. But in-between those moments, he shows us the heart of this character and that he genuinely not only cares but loves his brother King Viserys and his family. Smith gives the audience a fully three-dimensional character that fans both love and hate.

Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra and Olivia Cooke as Alicent deliver some of the most impactful performances as the adult versions of these characters. Internal conflict is difficult for actors to deliver on-screen; these actors do so tremendously well with vocal inflections and micro facial expressions. Some of their expressions relay the entire emotion and turmoil of the scene without a word being spoken, and when they do speak, one cannot help but listen with bated breath.

We cannot talk about the performances in House of the Dragon without invoking the name of Paddy Considine. George R. R. Martin was impressed enough to say Considine’s performance is “so much more powerful and tragic and fully-fleshed than my own version in Fire & Blood that I am half tempted to go back and rip up those chapters and rewrite the whole history of his reign,” and “Paddy deserves an Emmy for this episode (Lord of the Tides) alone. If he doesn’t get one, hey, there’s no justice.” It isn’t easy to imagine anyone who has seen that episode who would disagree.

Winner: House of the Dragon

There are so many more examples in each category that can be given to support these arguments, but it can plainly be seen on these alone that there is a clear winner in this Battle of the Fantasy Shows.

Overall Winner: House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon Vs Rings of Power
Image Source: House of the Dragon ~ HBO

These series have flaws; nothing is ever perfect, but House of the Dragon is just about as close as it can get and its flaws in production are much more easily resolved. Conversely, Rings of Power leans on its brilliant cinematography, imagery, and nostalgia and ignores the glaring and fundamental problems in the plot and pacing; problems that one cannot simply fix.

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GA Lungaro
A fan of all things movies and television. Loves debating Star Wars, Marvel, or DC content, while also digging deep into the lore to cultivate theories or point out lesser-known details fans might have missed.