Gusts of dragon fire. Unseemly violence at a lavish wedding. A touch of incest. Is “Game of Thrones” back?
The signs are there, but the spirit is weak. “House of the Dragon,” HBO’s heavily hyped spinoff series, is saddled with respectability. It wants to be taken seriously, or at least not to give undue offense. Through six of the 10 episodes in its first season, which premieres on Sunday, it is “Game of Thrones” as Masterpiece Theater.
Beneath the huge ratings, the Emmy awards and the pop-cultural domination, “Game of Thrones” (2011-19, R.I.P.) was a soap opera — fitted out with expensive sword-and-sorcery upholstery and accessorized with boundary-pushing violence and nudity, but basically a soap opera. The people who made it never forgot the formula. Even as they lost the plot over the final few seasons, they supplied a luxury package of melodrama and spectacle that many found addictive.