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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Stuart Heritage

Behold the hand of the king! House of the Dragon drops its first CGI clanger

‘It’s a worry, isn’t it?’ … Paddy Considine as King Viserys in House of the Dragon.
‘It’s a worry, isn’t it?’ … Paddy Considine as King Viserys in House of the Dragon. Photograph: HBO

The final season of Game of Thrones was characterised by an all-round lack of care. You could see it in the storytelling, which sacrificed years of painstaking world-building for a gormless clatter towards a stupid ending. You could see it in the creative choices (one episode was so badly lit it made you feel like you’d been kidnapped and were being forced to watch it through a burlap sack). But most of all, you could see it in the coffee cups.

You remember the coffee cup. During a Winterfell-set scene in episode four, entitled The Last of the Starks, viewers around the world noticed that the careful mise-en-scene had been disrupted by the appearance of a very modern takeaway coffee cup, absent-mindedly plonked in front of Daenerys Targaryen. The mistake quickly went viral, with Emilia Clarke eventually hurling her co-star Conleth Hill under the bus for it.

In this respect, the new Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon has an opportunity to set itself apart from its mother series. Its first episode was deliberately slow and talky, as if to reassure wounded Game of Thrones fans that this time they were going to do it right. Every i would be dotted, every t crossed, and nothing would take viewers out of the moment as egregiously as that darn coffee cup.

This lasted for two and a half wonderful episodes, before someone in post-production cocked up royally. One of the running themes of the show so far is that King Viserys – played by Paddy Considine – is so woefully unsuited to life as a monarch that the Iron Throne itself is slowly doing him in. He keeps nicking himself on its blades, causing all manner of septic wounds to spring up on his body. In this week’s episode, it was revealed that Viserys had lost a couple of fingers to the throne, with the amputated digits being airbrushed from Considine’s hands thanks to CGI.

The mistake, then? You guessed it. In one scene this week, Viserys has all his fingers. But this is no simple continuity error, because Considine happens to be wearing bright green-screen gloves in the shot. In the rest of the show, visual artists use the gloves to remove Viserys’s fingers and paint the background back in. But here, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

It’s a worry, isn’t it? Those fingers were seen by everyone involved in the post-production of the episode – editors, producers, visual artists, network executives – and not a single person caught the mistake. We would have known if they had, because it would have been so easy to fix. In fact, there’s a huge chance that it has already been cleaned up by now. If you watch House of the Dragon tonight, there’s a good chance that Viserys’ hand will be just as mangled and infected as it was supposed to be. But it’s too late. The internet caught it. And the internet never forgets.

In a way, this is probably quite a good thing. The fact that a simple, and small, production error has been caught multiple times by viewers is a sign that House of the Dragon has an attentive and ravenous audience. This isn’t a show designed to be on in the background while you mindlessly scroll through TikTok. This is a show where every frame is analysed and vetted and discussed. This show means something to a lot of people. If it didn’t, Considine could have rocked up to the scene dressed as a giant chicken and people wouldn’t notice.

But, still, the green glove isn’t something you can unsee once you’ve seen it. Given the spotty history of Game of Thrones, this should be a cause for concern in future episodes. What if we see an extra with an AirPod in? What if we see a courtier in a pair of Allbirds? What if Matt Smith briefly walks in front of the camera holding a ghettoblaster on his shoulder like people did in the 1980s? This cannot be allowed to happen. House of the Dragon, get your house in order.

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