House of the Dragon’s New Opening Credits are a Huge Improvement

The Game of Thrones prequel makes an unexpected but welcome change in its second season...

As with Game of Thrones before it, House of the Dragon is built on shocks. Big moments, sudden deaths, unexpected turns, the show loves to surprise its audience. Between seasons 1 and 2 I decided to read the book on which the series is based, George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood, so I could be one of those insufferable smug viewers who take pride in already knowing what’s going to happen. I was shockproof, or at least I thought I was. I was caught off guard by the first frame of the second season’s premiere. The surprise came from an unlikely source: the opening credits. Gone is the dark Targaryen bloodline, replaced by an ever growing historical tapestry.

I never liked the credits sequence of the first season. It was a good idea poorly executed. The legendary Game of Thrones credits were both artful and helpful. Beautifully designed but also a geography lesson, showcasing the locations of Westeros and Essos, becoming a vital part of the show for new fans of this world. House of the Dragon tried the same thing in its debut season. Geography isn’t the issue now, it’s history. The viewer should know these lands, and the season only takes place in three core locations anyway, but what is necessary to understand is the complex, incestuous Targaryen bloodline.

The original credits showed this bloodline, charting the Targaryen line from their ancient seat in Valyria through to the present story, very literally. A river of blood cascading down the walls of Valyria, with satisfying cogs and sound effects as it spills and splits, with symbols raising up to represent each new Targaryen. It’s not very subtle but it gets the job done. Except it doesn’t. The sequence was too dark and muddy, with the camera too concerned with making it exciting, whizzing up and down and around and never settling long enough for us to get a good look. Any information was unreadable, the symbols used only making sense to avid book-readers anyway. The credits sequence failed at its job, being confusing rather than enlightening.

The first season of House of the Dragon almost feels like ‘the homework season’. It’s a prelude to the civil war and now moving into the second season the story can begin in earnest. The homework nature of the credits can therefore change, too. The history lesson is over. The viewer should be aware of the bloodline, know all the Targaryens. Although, the show is still missing a couple of key family members, Daeron and Maelor, and we don’t know if they’ve been cut entirely or will debut later on. We know how everyone is related, even if some of the age differences between actors is preposterous. Therefore, that original credits sequence ceases to have a purpose. It won’t change very much over the course of the war, so I like that the producers decided to change it entirely.

The opening title sequence is now a new, visually brighter retelling of Targaryen history in the form of a tapestry, evocative of history and destiny. “Hand turns loom; spools of green, spools of black; dragons of flesh weaving dragons of thread”. As well as the obvious real world reason for the change (the failure of the original sequence) I think its supported by events in-universe, too. The original credits had the blood navigate Old Valyria, a location Viserys was obsessed with, building an ever-growing model of it across the first season. Now that Viserys is dead, his model is cast aside and the credits based on it with it. Along with cunnilingus, I bet Alicent bloody well loves a good tapestry. It fits her, and her son Aegon’s, new regime.

The new credits sequence finds a much better balance between art and storytelling than the old, much like the actual Bayeux Tapestry on which it is based. I’m not sure if it’s totally successful, however. It’s still not entirely clear in all of its visuals. The way the threads move reminds me of Cordyceps in The Last of Us credits. I found myself approaching the television and squinting to try and make out what everything was. Although, I do have to watch House of the Dragon through NowTV, the worst streaming service that has all the shows that demand the best viewing. Despite the draconian practice of having to pay an additional subscription to watch in HD, as if that isn’t totally insane in 2024, it’s still a fairly poor image. I guess I’ll have to wait for the 4K Blu-Ray to judge.

The tapestry has great potential going forward, with it undoubtedly growing as the show continues. Not only could new events be added but it would be interesting for the tapestry to be subjective, now currently presenting the green faction’s side of history. If Rhaenyra takes the throne, it would be cool to see the tapestry change, in both colour and content, as she demands it restitched to present her in a more favourable light. I also like that the tapestry shows all of Targaryen history, with this story just being a part of a greater whole. It’s almost like the tapestry is an adaptation of Fire & Blood more than the show. After reading the book I could pick out Maegor the Cruel dying on the throne and other details that had me Leonardo DiCaprio-pointing at the screen. It’s also the closest we’ve gotten to seeing the Doom of Valyria, which is one of the most intriguing pieces of ASOIAF history. I do love some weird blood magic and big volcanoes going boom; hopefully we’ll get a book or show someday.

The more I watch the new opening title sequence the more I like it. It’s a massive improvement, and I’m eager to see it evolve. It’s not the same level of update as HBO gave The Leftovers, but that was a change in tone as well as visuals. Despite being much more comprehensible than season 1, the tapestry visuals still aren’t totally clear. It works perfectly when a YouTuber takes you through it frame-by-frame but less so in quick motion, the camera at an awkward angle, gliding from one image to the next. What I really dislike however is the boring title treatment at the end. We pan up from the great artistry of the tapestry to ‘House of the Dragon’ floating in the air in front of the Iron Throne. I wish it remained on the tapestry, the title appearing in blood on the otherwise empty tapestry, the next events about to be filled in by the coming episode.

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