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‘House of the Dragon’ Wants You to Trust ‘Game of Thrones’ Again

‘House of the Dragon’ Wants You to Trust ‘Game of Thrones’ Again

The jig was up the minute Queen (yes, Queen) Rhaenyra Targaryen cast her eyes away from the fire and seemingly set her sights on revenge: This new Game of Thrones show will give you what the last Game of Thrones show didn’t. It was as telegraphed as the fact that [spoiler] was going to die the second he got on that dragon. This show wants to restore the faith of every viewer who felt burned the last time by giving them what they want. Namely: a woman ready to ascend the Iron Throne who won’t lose herself in the process—and dragons, dragons, and more dragons.

Still, House of the Dragon has a long way to go to rebuild that trust.

First, if you haven’t seen Sunday’s finale episode and don’t want to know what happens, stop reading. Second, if you haven’t already kind of seen where this show wants to take you, you haven’t been paying attention. One of the benefits of Dragon, as opposed to Game of Thrones, remains that the show is based on a pretty set-in-stone bit of text—George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood. Unlike its predecessor, which ended its run in 2019 before Martin could finish writing the books on which it was based, HBO’s new fantasy thingamabob has guardrails. Yes, the show’s creator, Ryan J. Condal, could choose to remove them, but why? Surely he knows there is nothing down that path but pain.

Thus, House of the Dragon ended its first season with Rhaenyra hearing that her father, who had named her his heir, has died and her brother (literally from another mother), Aegon II, has taken the Iron Throne. Like Daenerys Targaryen, she is a white-haired woman (Targaryen genes are no joke) determined to claim her place. Unlike Daenerys—or, rather, unlike Daenerys toward the end of her quest for power—she has no “wish to rule over a kingdom of ash and bone.” She wants to unite the realm and all that. She, according to her former mother-in-law, Rhaenys—whose son, let’s not forget, she had killed so that she could marry her uncle, Daemon—is “the only one who has demonstrated restraint” as the rest of her council calls for war. Most of all, she is someone’s whose character arc has a blueprint.

Audiences, of course, are meant to see the parallels. Game of Thrones positions Daenerys, prior to her downfall, as the one to root for. Someone with a rightful claim to the Iron Throne who aims to free people and take her place as the one queen to rule them all. Problem was, her single-minded determination to wear the crown ended up overpowering all of her “I’m going to break the wheel” change-the-game talk, and she decided to torch King’s Landing rather than bring about some great Targaryen reign. For those who had been rooting for her, it was a big, largely unintelligible bummer.

House of the Dragon feels poised to remedy that. Whereas both shows seem intent on torturing their woman characters (Dragon just seems to have swapped assaults for very brutal birthing scenes), the new Thrones show is at least trying to show Rhaenrya’s evolution from a level-headed potential unifier of the realm to someone ready to choose violence to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Dany’s grip on her purpose started to fall apart when she fell for Jon Snow, who she later found out was also her nephew and had a claim to the Iron Throne as well. Granted, that would mess anyone up, but after everything Daenerys had endured, her response felt out of character. Watching House of the Dragon, one only hopes Rhaenyra doesn’t do anything similarly out of sorts.

Hope, as Corly Velaryon says, is the fool’s ally—but perhaps she won’t. At the conclusion of Sunday’s finale, she learns her son Lucerys has died on dragonback. In that moment her eyes look toward the camera, and it’s clear any thoughts of peace are gone. But unlike Dany’s scorched-earth capture of King’s Landing, Rhaenyra’s plan for revenge is at the heart of Fire & Blood, something on the page, not the final salvo of a show fumbling to its conclusion. Her destiny is already written; what will matter is if House of the Dragon follows it.

Netflix’s New Deal: Streaming Is Just TV Now

Netflix’s New Deal: Streaming Is Just TV Now

The Golden Age of streaming is over. To be clear, this isn’t a commentary on the quality of the shows and films on streaming service. Rather, it’s a collective sigh let out in response to the news today that Netflix is launching its long-rumored ad-supported service on November 1, a hasty move that will beat the launch of Disney+’s own ad-supported service by roughly a month. To summarize, reader, streaming looks more like terrestrial TV than ever.

Over the past few years, as media companies have merged and consolidated their “brands” and services, it soon became evident that consumers were facing a world where the Big Three of TV—NBC, CBS, ABC—would just be replaced by a new Big Three. Maybe it was Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+; maybe it was Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Apple TV+. The streaming giants are still fighting for dominance, but the simple fact remains: Most people get their content from some constellation of streamers. Add to that the fact that those legacy channels now have their own services like Peacock and Paramount+, and everything old is new again.

This is not the future we were promised. When players like Netflix came on the scene, their claim to fame was that they were “disruptors,” here to shake up Hollywood by giving people what they wanted when they wanted it. Consumers rallied around a cry to “cut the cord” and leave cable packages behind forever to watch prestige TV over the internet. It worked. Streaming boomed. Then, as competition crept in and viewers started to realize they were spending almost as much money on internet and streaming subscriptions as they used to pay for cable, they called for new, more affordable options. The only way to do that—a tale as old as time—was for their offerings to be subsidized by advertisers.

Over the past year, as Netflix’s stock price and subscriber numbers have shrunk, it’s raced to develop an ad-supported model in pursuit of users and revenue. During a call with reporters today announcing the new $6.99-per-month plan, Netflix chief operating officer Greg Peters noted: “We built Basic with Ads in six months.” When it launches—first in Canada and Mexico, with the US, UK, and other regions coming later in the month—it will beat Disney+’s December 8 launch of its ad-supported model for $7.99 per month. During the call, Peters said the company wasn’t “anchoring” its launch time or price around the competition, but the timing does indicate a big shift, a beginning of the end for streaming as viewers know it.

Consider it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Back in July, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings predicted the demise of linear TV in the “next five to 10 years.” What he didn’t say was that Netflix and other streamers would just emerge in its place. The deals are a little different—the ads on streaming are fewer than on network TV; network TV is free—but with each one, streaming looks a little more like the television of 50 years ago. (See also: Starting in 2023, Netflix will be tracked by Nielsen—a huge move for a company that has closely guarded its viewership numbers.) Linear TV might be ending, but its replacement isn’t much more than meets the eye.

What Atlanta Gave Me

What Atlanta Gave Me

In 2012, the visual artist Alisha B. Wormsley embarked on a multiyear project in Homewood, one of Pittsburgh’s historically Black neighborhoods. Profoundly impacted by the teachings of Afrofuturism and the belief that Black people are the authors of their tomorrows, she began collecting objects from town residents. Of those she gathered, she imprinted on them an emphatic declaration: “There Are Black People In the Future.” Years later, in 2014, I came across one of Wormsley’s “artifacts” on Tumblr; it was a window pane with the statement in thick lettering, its edges rusted and chipped. At first glance, the statement seemed to be fading away. In truth, the opposite was happening—the words were coming into view. The feeling of seeing Wormsley’s artwork for the first time was immediate: I simultaneously felt transported, empowered, and proud.

Atlanta, the FX dark comedy created by and starring Donald Glover, has given me that same feeling since its debut in 2016. Alas, it’s time to bid it farewell. The show will culminate with its fourth season—it kicked off Thursday with a two-episode premiere—and bring to a close an era in television that embraced Black futurity head on.

In its final season, the outlines of the show remain as they ever were: thrillingly intangible. The brilliance of the series was always about the unsaid and the unseen (sometimes quite literally; remember the invisible car that charged through a club parking lot in season one?). To its benefit, Atlanta learned to speak between the lines. It was all in the knowing, in what didn’t need to be voiced or explained in great detail—because what was understood was already understood. At its most transcendent, Atlanta was a head nod. If you got it, you got it. Nothing else needed to be said.

Which is maybe kind of ironic when you think about it. The show has never lacked for voice—although sometimes it struggled narratively from an excess of voices; season three was congested with thematic issues—it has only asked that we listen with open ears.

Afrofuturism insists that Black people are the makers of their destiny. Atlanta’s central quartet attempted, sometimes to hilarious effect, to steer their lives on their terms. As characters they were a striking study in motion. In its four seasons, not once did they stop running to or away from the eeriness of the world, its darkness and wonder, and all the questions within.

Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) best exemplified this distinct kineticism. He was both the show’s north star and, as Doreen St. Felix observed, also its “Odysseus figure.” A local rapper who finds fame, his story was as colored by the volatility of career maneuvering as it was inner strife. (Go back and watch the episodes “Woods” and “New Jazz.”) That was part of its radiance, too. Even when it dipped into the surreal, which it frequently did with Paper Boi, the show’s exhaustive imagination was always bound to reality. Atlanta was fiction only in genre; the organs of the series—its heart, brain, and lungs—were adapted from the body of life.

Comic-Con 2022: The Most Wildly Creative Cosplay Masks

Comic-Con 2022: The Most Wildly Creative Cosplay Masks

Comic-Con wouldn’t be Comic-Con without cosplay.

As much a part of the event as Hall H panels and comics themselves, getting decked out in elaborate costumes—or looking at people decked out in elaborate costumes—is one of the main reasons people attend. This year, cosplay felt even more crucial. Due to health concerns over the spread of Covid-19, there hasn’t been an in-person Comic-Con for the past two years. Last weekend, when the event once again filled the streets of San Diego, the cosplayers came back too.

But not without some, um, modifications. Just because Comic-Con held an IRL event this year doesn’t mean Covid is over—far from it—so people had to take precautions to stay safe, namely by wearing masks. Now, cosplayers are used to wearing masks, but the kinds required to stop the spread of infectious disease aren’t necessarily the kind that Spider-Man wears. So, as should be expected, fans got creative.

WIRED asked photographer Daniel Gonçalves to attend last week’s convention and look for cosplayers with some of the most creative masks around. He found some great ones—and a few that didn’t have masks at all.

Netflix Has Defied the Russian Government, for Now

Netflix Has Defied the Russian Government, for Now

Last week, Netflix turned part of the English city of Bradford into a slice of Russia. The streaming giant was filming scenes for The Crown and was reportedly re-creating a trip the Queen and Prince Philip took to the Kremlin in 1994—the first visit by a British monarch to the seat of Russian power.

It’s doubtful anyone in Russia will ever actually see those scenes, though. On the same day photos from the shoot emerged, Politico reported that starting March 1, Netflix would be legally obliged to broadcast 20 free-to-air Russian television stations if it wanted to continue to operate in the country. The channels are a mix of news, sports, and entertainment—and under what is known colloquially as the Vitrina TV law (named after an online platform of the same name that launched in 2017), all streaming platforms with more than 100,000 Russian users have to offer them as part of their services. 

That’s a problem for Netflix—Russia’s state-funded media is awash with propaganda, and carries an unhealthy dose of misinformation about the brutal invasion of Ukraine, which journalists in Russia are banned from calling a war. News that Netflix would likely be forced to broadcast Russian propaganda sparked a furious response from subscribers in the West, with hundreds taking to Twitter, and some terminating their membership. “I canceled my subscription because I don’t want to support a company that is helping to spread disinformation to justify Putin’s invasion,” says Martta Tervonen, a writer from Finland who had been a Netflix customer for 10 years. Netflix was in something of a bind: fail to comply with the law and it would risk being banned in Russia; comply and it would likely be admonished by subscribers and Western politicians for helping to spread Russian propaganda at a time when the country is being accused of war crimes.

Or maybe not. At the time of writing, Russia has not yet enforced the Vitrina TV law, and according to Netflix, it had already decided not to comply with it anyway. “Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” the company said. “That’s exactly what I wished for when canceling,” says Tervonen. “Now they just have to keep their word.”

It remains to be seen how Roskomnadzor, the Russian regulator, will respond—but in theory, Netflix could face fines or have its license to operate in the country revoked. (Roskomnadzor did not respond to a request for comment.)

There’s political pressure, too. On March 1, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had a call with Thierry Breton, the European Union’s commissioner for internal markets, who has been working closely with Ukraine’s first vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, to counter Russian propaganda. “Media regulators, telecoms operators, streaming services, online platforms—everyone needs to play its role in countering the Kremlin’s war propaganda,” Breton told reporters afterwards. “We can leave no stone unturned in the fight against Russian state-backed disinformation and belligerence.”

But that’s not quite what’s happening with Netflix. Although it’s not caving to Roskomnadzor’s demands, at the time of publication the service was still available in Russia—though some subscribers were reporting difficulties paying for Netflix as a result of Western sanctions on Russian banks.