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Relax. Here there be no spoilers: Unless you were previously unaware that George RR Martin loves incest more than he hates deadlines. When deciding whether to watch Amazon Prime’s “Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” (ROP) or HBO’s “House of the Dragon” (HotD), simply ask whether or not you get Ancestry.com and Tinder confused.

ROP is a graceful, majestic symphony of grand fantasy themes that finally pushes towards at least minimal basic diversity and inclusivity in its cast. HotD is about banging folks who have most of your DNA.

ROP prompts conversations about the intended and unintended evils of colonialism. Someone in HotD masturbates out of a window.

ROP has present day implications about how ignoring smoldering, fascist evil allows it to ignite at any moment. HotD filmed an uncle sleeping with his teenaged niece set to flourishing romantic music.

ROP has a “mystery box” component about the secret identity of one of its characters. HotD had to put out a press release saying, “We made the episode so dark that it was no longer visible on purpose.”

They’re basically the same show!

If you ask someone why they like HotD, why they may prefer it to ROP, you’re almost certainly going to get some version of how they love the tension and the politics. After all, what is watching copious, explicit incest, if not the price we pay for entertainment about fake kingdoms at fake war? Others may say that the acting in HotD is incredible, which is sometimes true. Paddy Considine does a fabo job as King Viserys Targaryen, who rules over an empire at unrest while his daughter, Rhaenyra (played first by Milly Alcock and then by Emma D’Arcy), copulates with his brother, Daemon (Matt Smith). As a “Doctor Who” fan, I’ve seen Smith work harder and do more acting opposite a severed robot head.

Alternately, the knock against ROP is that it is too similar to Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings,” which is a hilarious complaint. Yes, the new live-action series that adapts the works of JRR Tolkien is very similar to the definitive live-action adaptation of JRR Tolkien. The other criticisms seem to arise from drooling reprobates who pause Joe Rogen just long enough to bang out a screed on why Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) shouldn’t be doing cool fight moves because she’s a lady elf or that no fairy tale creatures should be anything other than white skinned. If you’d like an Aryan character color palate, HotD stands at the ready.

Let’s do this right and proper and quickly review both, starting with the age-old adage “worst first.” HotD is set almost 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” a show that ended so poorly, that it is now rated TV-PTSD. Ostensibly a look at battles over the Iron Throne during the rule of the Targaryens, dragons are so rarely featured. They are the coolest, and they get “Dame Judy Dench in ‘Shakespeare in Love’”-level screentime. The show is mostly people talking about babies, pouting, and whispering. Everyone is always very serious all the time, especially when they want to hump children and extended family.

Although historical evidence of incest in royal families most certainly exists, many things that really happened are not pleasant to watch and hold no significant value. Were HotD the show that others claim it to be, with Machiavellian scheming, enthralling betrayals, and ominous prophecies, it may actually rival ROP. All of that comprises a minimal amount of running time, with the vast majority devoted to nonsense that vacillates between boring and grotesque. Smith has had a few redeeming moments, the dragons get a pass, one battle was fairly cool, and everything else is evidence why prequels are doody.

ROP is set like 5,000 years before Bilbo got his “Hobbit” on and explores the resurfacing of Sauron after his initial defeat. Galadriel is the only elf who seems sus about what the pointy-headed evil doer is doing. Meanwhile, dwarves have found a new metal substance, humans are being attacked by Orcs, harfoots (hobbit ancestors) have discovered a mysterious stranger during their migration, and the birth of Mordor is shown. Without that, Sean Bean wouldn’t talk about walking into Mordor, and we’d have so many fewer memes.

The show juggles a huge cast but features episodes that feel like mini movies. They are bright and visually stunning, with the kind of flawless CGI you can only get with Bezos money. The characters pop, actually growing and changing over the course of season, with some evolving out of being calloused, narcissistic jerks and others inching closer to their full Goddess form (Cate Blanchett). Intraspecies and interspecies politics are in play, wartime demands are discussed, and yet nobody diddles a cousin.

ROP is comfort food. HotD is whiskey and milk. ROP is inspirational. HotD is exhausting. ROP is among the best shows of the year. HotD exists to fill a void everyone should leave empty. Also, I’ll learn to roll every “R” in a Tolkien name before I ever bother to distinguish between 12 different humans named something Egon.

Grades

ROP = A

HotD = A chilly D-


Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

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