House of the Dragon, The Rings of Power, and The Sandman: The rise of big budget fantasy television
Epic fantasy television shows are dropping faster than Frodo Baggins at the slightest hint of danger.
In short succession, viewers are being treated to Neil Gaiman comic adaptation The Sandman (Netflix),Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon (NOWTV), and Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime).
You might have to sell your sister to a Dothraki warlord to cover the cost of all the streaming subscriptions, but this seems to be a Golden Age for fantasy television.
The Rings of Power, which premieres on Friday, is the most expensive television series ever made, racking up a reported $1 billion [£850 million] for its coming five seasons. Every episode will have the ambition of a movie, as we return to a Middle-earth thousands of years before the Tolkien trilogy.
Meanwhile, The Sandman explores a darker world inhabited by Morpheus, the King of Dreams, from the imagination of the creator of American Gods. Netflix is said to have splurged around $15m [£12.8m] on each of its 11 episodes, which takes viewers to the realm of dreams and even hell.
And, from the ashes of Game of Thrones season eight, bursts forth House of the Dragon. The prequel series, which aired its second episode on Monday, focuses on the bloody civil war of Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors. But, while Game of Thrones had just three dragons, House of the Dragon is said to be featuring 17 fire-breathing beasts.
HBO reportedly spent a stonking $20m [£17m] per episode, and has just renewed the show for season two following a record-breaking premiere.
It does seem a little like all our buses coming at once for fantasy nerds. Why now?
As divisive as its final season was, a lot of credit must go to Game of Thrones. The writing (particularly in earlier seasons), characters and plot were given time, which could never have been possible in a film. Its unique mix of court intrigue, sex and dragons made fantasy cool again.
I just hope showrunners understand that, while big budgets and CGI help build worlds, it is engaging characters which make fantasy universes feel real and immersive.
And, in a time of strikes and soaring energy bills, we need to escape now more than ever.
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