House Of The Dragon Uses The Classic Game Of Thrones Theme ... But Is That A Good Idea?

In the era of the "Skip Intro" button, "Game of Thrones" was a rare show where watching the title sequence was an event in and of itself. Flying over the map of Westeros and Essos to see what locations we would be visiting that particular episode was both a thrill and always served as a nice reminder of how this world was laid out. This title sequence didn't just exist as a bit of mood setting to superimpose the names of the creatives onto. It served a practical need. Oh, and it just so happened to have one of the greatest theme songs for a television program of all time, written by composer Ramin Djawadi.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise that the premiere episode of the prequel series "House of the Dragon" didn't feature one, opting just for a brief look at the House Targaryen sigil. Were they just not going to have a proper theme? Have no fear, because in the second episode of "House of the Dragon," we finally have a title sequence, one that bears quite a resemblance to that of "Game of Thrones." Instead of a map, we have a family tree of sorts for the Targaryens, laid out over a model of Old Valyria (presumably the one Paddy Considine's King Viserys has in his quarters) with rivers of blood flowing from one sigil to another.

Something I was rather taken aback by in that title sequence was its use of the original "Game of Thrones" theme music. I assumed Djawadi would deliver a new kick-ass theme, but that isn't the case. The exact same theme is back, unchanged. I am of several minds about this decision, ranging from thrilled to fairly cynical, and that make me wonder what the impetus behind the music choice could be.

Topping yourself is difficult

Had "House of the Dragon" decided to implement a brand new theme song, Ramin Djawadi would have been put in the unenviable task of creating a piece of music that would only exist to be compared with the "Game of Thrones" theme. That melody has been blasting into our ears since 2011. We know it like the back of our hands at this point. The sounds and notes within that music are as integral to the show's success as Peter Dinklage.

I don't doubt that showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik originally intended for Djawadi to write a new theme for "House of the Dragon." But ... the original theme just works. The use of that singular cello set against thundering drums gives the music a sense of heaviness and import, but as it is played in 3/4 time, the waltz-like rhythm gives it this swirling energy that turns the heaviness from morose to awesome, in the original sense of the word. Traversing the map is a journey, and the theme continues to build as each new location is introduced, reaching a fervent climax when the title "Game of Thrones" appears. When I fired up the new episode on HBO Max to see if there was indeed a title sequence, I was immediately amped to hear that song again. Few themes do a better job inspiring that level of anticipation of something extraordinary.

The premiere incorporated pieces into the score throughout the episode, so the music was not completely unfamiliar to the "House of the Dragon" soundscape. However, I figured that was acting more as bridge to ease us into this new world. But no. This is the sound of "House of the Dragon." As they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Altering the context

Where the trouble lies is that the main "Game of Thrones" theme was not the sound of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) or her family. It was the theme for the show as a whole. Other motifs from the show represented various houses, characters, and moments, each using that main theme as guide from which to pull distinct sounds. The Starks had their own sound compared to the Lannisters, but they were both undoubtedly indebted to that title theme.

By using the original "Game of Thrones" theme, the showrunners are severely changing what that music means. "House of the Dragon" is entirely laser-focused on the Targaryens, and they have decided to retroactively turn that music meant for everyone into music meant just for them. It now plays over images constructing the family tree of the house, mixing in with their own blood.

For as thrilling as it is to hear that music again week after week, it does feel a bit incongruous as to what "House of the Dragon" is. I understand and appreciate the desire for the music to be familiar, but I'm not so certain that this was the right choice. Perhaps using or adapting a track such as "Mhysa," which is inextricably linked to Daenerys Targaryen, would have been the more appropriate move. This would allow "House of the Dragon" the space to have its own unique sound while still linking the show to its predecessor. Of course, it doesn't match the immediate iconographic power of that main "Game of Thrones" theme, but it might help bring this show out from the shadow of that one.

Good ol' brand synergy

We know HBO and the higher-ups at Warner Bros. Discovery aren't content with one "Game of Thrones" spin-off existing. That show was a phenomenon on top of a phenomenon at a global scale, and they're looking to capitalize on it any way they can. "House of the Dragon" has already been renewed for a second season, and based on this show's success, I don't doubt that we shall see more getting green lit in the near future, such as that Jon Snow spin-off Kit Harrington is developing.

Because of this hopeful expansion of the universe extracted from the pages written by George R.R. Martin, I wonder if this usage of the "Game of Thrones" theme will be the baseline sound of all these shows. I hope this isn't the case. I want to believe that this was a well thought out creative decision by Ryan Condal, Miguel Sapochnik, and Ramin Djawadi, but in the landscape of corporation-funded art, you can never be too sure.

"House of the Dragon" is, if you pardon the pun, playing with fire. That theme song rules, but seeing a brand new animated opening titles sequence paired with it is slightly jarring. I'll need a few episodes before I'm used to experiencing it. We had 73 episodes of that theme associated with one show and only one episode of "House of the Dragon." It's unfair to deliver a final verdict on initial judgment. I have thoroughly enjoyed nearly element of the show thus far, and I don't want to get hung up on wondering if using this theme song is purely cynical or not. Whatever their reasoning was, I know I can't stop humming it today.