While House Of The Dragon Is On Fast Forward, It's Nice To See The Rings Of Power Slow Down Its Pace

Ever since "Game of Thrones" ended its run, there has been a race to find the next big fantasy hit on TV. To everyone's surprise, it wasn't "Shadow and Bone" or "The Witcher," or even "The Wheel of Time" that filled that hole. Instead, wouldn't you know it, a "Game of Thrones" prequel and a prequel to the movie that allowed that show to exist and thrive on TV ended up filling the gap.

We have now come full circle. Just as "Lord of the Rings" paved the way for "Game of Thrones" to become the biggest show on TV, the success of the HBO show allowed "Lord of the Rings" to become the most expensive show ever.

"Rings of Power" and "House of the Dragon" offer two sides of a fantasy coin, with their vast differences offering audiences two equally valid experiences. Where "House of the Dragon" is gritty, grim, and focused on a small group of people and their political maneuvers, "Rings of Power" feels epic in scope, spanning an entire continent and showing us several different kingdoms, locations, and peoples.

More than budget or even tone, however, what really sets these two shows apart is their pacing. Both shows tell stories that span centuries, but where "House of the Dragon" is constantly hitting fast forward, "Rings of Power" is biding its time.

Gotta get back in time

We're halfway through the first season of "House of the Dragon," and so far it seems like the best parts of "Game of Thrones" without any of the fat. There's the political intrigue and backstabbing, there's cool action and some awesome dragons, and there is lots of medieval misery and hardship. But because the show is covering an event that takes place over several years, while also giving us the necessary context to understand why the so-called "Dance of the Dragons" even happened, the show is trimming and cutting away a lot.

Where "Game of Thrones" quickly stopped showing us the passage of time as characters traveled across Westeros and simply teleported them, "House of the Dragon" is skipping pretty much anything that isn't strictly necessary to the overall plot. This is understandable given how much material there is to cover, but the result feels a bit like Netflix's "The Crown," a show that covers decades' worth of story by condensing and skipping around the fat, and just focusing on the big events.

Indeed, "House of the Dragon" feels like a bunch of important events presented one after another. This week included a hugely important wedding, in an episode that feels like it should have belonged at the end of season two, while each episode before it has felt like reading a Wikipedia entry for House Targaryen. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as you feel like every episode is big and important, but it does mean that we lose some emotional payoff to the big events. We saw the end of the war against the Crabfeeder — but no one really seems to care, and we jump ahead to the next thing without notice.

Let's take it easy

We don't even get to see how Leanor grieves for his lover, or what happened during the other seven days of celebration for Rhaenyra's wedding because "House of the Dragon" is already jumping a decade ahead and changing our main cast. In that regard, the show is feeling rushed, as it shows us big moments but doesn't let the audience digest them.

That is the opposite of what "Rings of Power" is doing so well. Despite spanning literal millennia, the "Lord of the Rings" prequel is deliberately taking a slower approach to telling its story, instead letting the audience enjoy the journey. From the very start of the first episode, the show plays with the audience's familiarity with names like Sauron, Elrond, and Galadriel to tease that big events are slowly building up. The show embraces the idea that you know what Mordor means, and simply uttering that name it signals that something big is going to happen. 

And yet, "Rings of Power" is in no hurry to get to those events or show those big battles. We know the show will eventually tackle the creation of the titular rings, but that seems like a long way ahead. We're now halfway through the season and it feels like the story is just getting started, and the thing is, it works. Given the insane budget poured into "Rings of Power," it is great to see that the story takes its sweet time and just lets Middle-earth feel lived-in, and it spends time showing us the vast vistas of the continent, the huge kingdoms of Middle-earth, or simply spend some time chilling with the Harfoots.

Enjoy the moment

This slow pace is part of the magic of "Rings of Power," the knowledge that we'll eventually get to the epic battles between good and evil, but we'll just enjoy the moment and not rush in. This is in part thanks to the show's five-season plan allowing the show to build up its endgame while also letting the smaller moments breathe.

Both "House of the Dragon" and "Rings of Power" have valid ways to approach their condensation of history and there are pros and cons to both. But if you're looking for a fantasy show that you can truly lose yourself in for an hour a week and just soak it all in, "Rings of Power" may charm you into staying with it just a tad longer.