Two shows, two epic fantasy universes, two rivals spending a lot of money on each of them. One episode seems to be more of a hit than the other so far. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was beaten by House of the Dragon.
While critics have scored both shows the same, fans have not, with House of the Dragon reportedly higher (as hard as it is to track these streamers), and fan submitted scores much, much higher as well.
Each show and their cast have had to deal with sexism and racism. Rhaenyra and Galadriel are the lead characters in both shows. Black actors have been cast in both shows to make them more diverse. The House of the Dragon has a black Velaryon noble house, Rings of Power has black elves, and queens. House of the Dragon has more fans than Rings of Powers. I think there is something to that, given that both shows received the same backlash. The reception gap can't be explained.
House of the Dragon is the better show at this point in time. Rings of Power gives us locations and characters all across the map and builds a long, low overall story. It has a villain, Sauron, but in the meantime has to deal with sifting through a lot of history, and it has had trouble crafting good characters so far.
House of the Dragon sets up its conflict very clearly and very quickly, a good old fashioned power struggle for the crown, the core part of the original Game of Throne series. It has established a number of great characters like Rhaenyra, who you are obviously rooting for, and Otto Hightower, who is as hateable as any of the other characters. It did a great job with Matt Smith's Daemon. The action is here and now, the characters are compelling from the start, and I don't think that's true for Rings of Power.
The Rings of Power is a good series. It is too early to say that, and I have enjoyed what I have seen. The budget has produced some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen on TV. It takes a lot more time to get started than House of the Dragon, and its characters are not as well written, whether you like them or not. House of the Dragon is a must-watch every single Sunday, while Rings of Power is just fine.
At least part of this is experience. The House of the Dragon is run by people who know what worked in the show. Rings of Power is run by first-time showrunners who are going to be faced with a steep learning curve, as fans dispute the changes the show has made to the world. House of the Dragon isn't getting the same resistance to any changes as George RR Martin's Fire and Blood, and of course it's because Martin is directly involved in making the book.
Rings of Power has time to grow, but I think House of the Dragon is the better option right now. Fans are correct about that.
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The Herokiller series and The Earthborn trilogy are available for purchase.