The latest episode of House of the Dragon was too dark for viewers to see, and many of them wrote to HBO complaining about the problem. Some said that they wanted a written apology from HBO for their release of a blank episode, they were so outraged.
Is the problem as big as everyone is making it out to be? Let’s unpack it.
HBO’s Too Dark Episodes in House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones
The seventh episode of the latest Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, “Driftmark” had several scenes in it that were simply too dark for fans to see. Several complaints flooded in, saying that the episode was unwatchable because the screen was just too dark.
The same thing happened during the final season of Game of Thrones in its final season, “The Long Night” was a long battle set in the darkness that left many fans squinting at the screen, struggling to see the essential information that was happening during important sequences. Whether it helped or hindered, the darkness created a sense of disorientation during an already overwhelming battle.
Miguel Sapochnic directed both of the darkly lit episodes of both series, and spoke to IndieWire defending his creative choices for the dimly-lit cinematography.
“It made sense that this was the last hope humanity has, the last beacon of light, and from the perspective of where we needed the story to go – which was to reach a surreal, chaotic climax – we needed an environment that was friendly to that. So all the reasons for doing it were there, and nobody sat there and wondered if it was gonna be too dark.”
There were also some comments defending the choices, which made sense. The difficulty comes in when the team is trying to create a convincing period piece, lit by firelight and moonlight, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for artificial lighting.
HBO’s social media account took to Twitter to defend the dark episode and the creative choice through a series of generic responses like, “Hi Stephen! We appreciate you reaching out about the night scene in House of the Dragon: Episode 7 appearing dark on your screen. The dimmed lighting of this scene was an intentional creative decision. Thanks!” – HBOMaxHelp (@HBOMaxHelp) on October 3, 2022.
Was this particularly helpful for fans and their outrage? Not really, but it’s clear that they are on the side of their director and creative team on this one.
When the episode was produced, it was shot by Fabian Wagner and colour graded by colourist Asa Shoul, and approved by the team as a beautifully shot and illuminated episode to show the shift in characters’ arcs and motives. This was brought up by the writer of The Ringer Joanna Robinson who tried to warn fans ahead of time to alter the settings of their TVs to better accommodate the episode’s darkness. She warned fans to make their TVs brighter and to “watch it with the drapes closed.”
Honestly? It makes sense. There is no way to control the home experience, and how people will view the series. If a TV doesn’t have a deep range of darker colours, it wouldn’t be able to display the depth that it was created for. This seems to have been fixed by turning TVs to a “vivid” setting to compensate for the lack of range. On some newer TVs, there is a “filmmaker mode” that creates a clearer image, or rather shows it how the director intended.
Ultimately, all creative decisions are made for a reason, and to give fans an epic experience, and is possible that they simply weren’t thinking about the capabilities of home TVs when making them. Simple solution? Change some settings and watch it in the dark. It’s frustrating but it’s show-biz.