Fantasy fans have a lot of TV to look forward to as we enter the final stretch of 2022. HBO is launching its Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon (which you can stream on HBO Max), and soon after that, Amazon is taking us back to Middle Earth with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Prime Video. So, it’s House of the Dragon vs The Rings of Power. Which are you most excited for?
Nothing is stopping you from watching and enjoying both, of course. Have your cake and eat it too! But a little healthy competition can be fun too.
Both series step way back in time, exploring parts of their respective mythologies before the events we’re all more familiar with. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire served as the basis the massively successful HBO series Game of Thrones that ended in 2019, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been adapted into award-winning and record-breaking movies. That means a lot of existing fans are sure to have strong opinions about these new shows.
House of the Dragon premieres on HBO on August 21, while The Rings of Power Hits Prime Video on September 2. You can sign up to watch both below.
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A golden age of TV fantasy?
First off, let’s acknowledge that this is a truly wild time to be a fan of TV fantasy. When Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in 2011, it felt like a total game changer. Fantasy shows had existed before that, of course. Xena was a 90s mainstay. And there was Merlin in 2008. Starz even launched its own prestige fantasy drama ahead of Game of Thrones the same year with Camelot. There are plenty of other examples. But Thrones was event viewing. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series had proven the potential of big-budget fantasy on the big screen, and Game of Thrones made a similar case for the genre on TV.
The fantasy renaissance started slowly. There was The Magicians in 2015, which owed more to Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Game of Thrones. Then there was The Shannara Chronicles in 2016. Things picked up near the end of the decade with A Discovery of Witches in 2018. 2019 saw the premieres of His Dark Materials on HBO, Carnival Row on Prime Video, and The Witcher on Netflix.
Netflix kept its eye on the prize the following year with Cursed and Letter for the King, and again in 2021 with Shadow and Bone. Prime Video launched its hugely successful adaptation of The Wheel of Time that same year, and now, following Netflix’s The Sandman this year, HBO is launching its Game of Thrones prequel right before Prime Video premieres its Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power.
So both shows are entering a crowded field. They’re risking fantasy fatigue, but they also come with strong legacies.
Strong legacies or excess baggage?
The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones are probably two of the first titles to come to most people’s minds when you mention fantasy. Along with titles like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, they’re genre-defining behemoths.
The Lord of the Rings was a global phenomenon. The third film in the trilogy won Best Picture at the Oscars, and it is tied with Titanic and Ben-Hur for taking home the most Oscars overall in the Awards’ history, with 11 wins.
These two shows have a lot to live up to.
Game of Thrones was similarly impactful. HBO reported that with an average viewership of 18.6 million in 2014, the series surpassed the premium cable network’s own The Sopranos, a cornerstone of the prestige TV era. By its final season, that number would go up to 32.8 million.
There’s also reason to fear, though.
A mixed bag of continuity
Both franchises’ legacies are somewhat mixed, which might impact some viewers’ expectations.
The final season of Game of Thrones garnered mixed reviews and some pretty intense fan backlash. The season holds a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of any season. Fans started petitions to reshoot the final season with “competent writers,” citing a rushed pace and unsatisfactory conclusions to various character arcs.
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Similarly, The Lord of the Rings lost at least a bit of pop cultural cache when The Hobbit prequel trilogy failed to achieve the kind of success that its predecessors had enjoyed.
Have recent flops dampened viewer excitement?
So, while both Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings have impressive legacies and existing fandoms, viewers are coming in with some potentially lowered expectations — or they’re potentially opting out altogether.
House of the Dragon vs The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
So, what do you think? Are you excited about either or both of these new fantasy streaming shows? We’re dying to know what the hunger for these new titles is.
Which 2022 fantasy series are you looking forward to most?