House of the Dragon: season 1, episode 4 – King of the Narrow Sea

“You are wearing a crown. Do you also call yourself King?”

(SPOILER WARNING – ALSO POSSIBLY NSFW!)

Right, well it looks as though I was wrong in my earlier assumption that House of the Dragon would be playing down the massive amounts of sex so beloved of parent show Game of Thrones. Very, very wrong. Because this episode lets it all hang out, with copious amounts of sex and discussion of sex – along with (natch) how it affects that all-important Royal Duty.

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House of the Dragon: season 1, episode 3 – Second of His Name

“You’re not only Rhaenyra’s father, you’re the King. She’ll do as you command.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

After the relatively talky first two episodes, this time House of the Dragon delivers on the action, with several storming battle scenes as the war with the piratical, mysterious Crabfeeder continues. Dragonfire rains down on his beleaguered forces, driving them to scurry, Bin Laden-like, into the cover of some handy caves. Director Greg Yaitanes continues a tradition established in Game of Thrones by directors like Neil Marshall, directing the action with a sure hand that provides compelling vistas, while also plunging the viewer nearly first hand into the action.

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House of the Dragon: season 1, episode 2 – The Rogue Prince

“We are the realm’s second sons, Daemon. Our worth is not given. It must be made.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

After the season opener’s rather lengthy scene-setting and exposition, the showrunners of House of the Dragon hit the ground running in the second ep with the beginning of an actual plot. So keen are they to get the plot up and running that we get plunged into it without any explanation, as the opening scene pans across a beach full of carnage, with voracious crabs feasting on the bodies of the dead (and the not-so-dead).

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House of the Dragon: season 1, episode 1 – The Heirs of the Dragon

“The only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Roll up, roll up, for the Big Autumn Battle of the Fantasy Epics! In the blue corner, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, reportedly the most expensive TV show ever made! And in the red corner, it’s HBO’s younger upstart, House of the Dragon, a prequel to their ratings juggernaut Game of Thrones!

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The Sandman: A Dream of a Thousand Cats / Calliope

“If enough of us dream it, it will happen. Dreams shape the world.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Well, that was a surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever known a TV series to spring a previously unmentioned episode on its viewers after the apparent conclusion of its run. Well done to Netflix and all concerned for keeping it a closely guarded secret until this new bonus episode suddenly appeared!

The new ep is also unusual (insofar as you can call a format unusual after a mere ten episodes) in that it’s a portmanteau, telling two standalone Sandman stories from the original comic. Such standalone stories were scattered throughout the comic’s run, and were often some of the most memorable – issue 13, Men of Good Fortune, already adapted and interweaved with The Sound of Her Wings, is a perfect example. In between the Doll’s House storyline and the comics next major arc, Season of Mists, were four standalone issues, two of which, issues 17 and 18, are adapted here. As two separate stories, with two separate production teams, perhaps they’re best considered separately…

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The Sandman: Chapter 10 – Lost Hearts

“When you go to sleep tonight, you have to find him and end this. It’s up to you now, Rose. You’re the Vortex.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

In (what we thought was) the season finale of The Sandman, all the ongoing plots of The Doll’s House finally come together to an emotional climax. This ep freely adapts a mixture of the story’s last three comic issues largely unchanged, but as with previous eps there are some small and subtle differences that add depth to the story. It’s a heady and emotional mix involving a new set of characters that we’ve nonetheless come to care about deeply over the last four eps of the season.

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The Sandman: Chapter 9 – Collectors

“You said that a Vortex can create universes, or destroy them. So I suggest you leave my universe the fuck alone. This dream is over.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

The penultimate (or so we thought) episode of The Sandman’s first season is also the penultimate episode of the original Doll’s House  storyline, as the various plot threads finally converge. Rose, the missing dreams, Lyta’s dream-based pregnancy, and the serial killer convention all come together and come to a head here, awaiting the next ep’s resolution., just as in the comics.

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The Sandman: Chapter 8 – Playing House

“This looks like a job for… the Sandman!”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

With the last ep having established the premise and cast of The Sandman’s new story, this one sees it really get going. We get a fuller look at young Jed Walker with his abusive life in foster ‘care’ – and his rich fantasy life that may not be all it seems.

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The Sandman: Chapter  7 – The Doll’s House

“Things have changed, my love, my twin. There is a dream vortex, the first for a long time. And it is a woman.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

After last ep’s beautifully contemplative interlude, with ep7 of The Sandman it’s clear we’re onto a new story. That story is the second one in the original comics run, The Doll’s House; I’ll not set out here what it’s about, and besides it’s clear that a number of changes will have to be made to the story for it to work in the framework of this TV show, so my impression of it from the comics might be plain wrong anyway.

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The Sandman: Chapter 6 – The Sound of Her Wings

“At the end, each of us stands alone. The Sunless Lands are far away, and the journey is hard. Most of us will be glad for the company of a friend.”

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Wow. That was one of the most beautiful hours of TV I’ve ever seen. I may have had… something in my eye at various points. Yes, we (like Morpheus) needed a bit of time to relax and take stock after the sturm und drang of the show so far. But who knew it would be so emotional?

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