The Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon has divided the internet into two camps. The first camp is full of furious viewers who couldn't see a damn thing in the latest episode, and the second is where you'll find a bunch of smug people with the best OLED TVs. If you're in the former camp, it's not just you. Tons of viewers were quite literally left in the dark.
The problem, for those of us without OLED TVs, is that the latest episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik – the same director who made an infamously dark episode in the final season of Game of Thrones. Sapochnik likes to use darkness as a reflection of the severity of a situation and the darkness of the atmosphere, but if you don't have a TV that's really good at differentiating between slightly different amounts of darkness then you get something that's pretty much unwatchable.
Keeping viewers in the dark was entirely deliberate
When viewers complained online, HBO Max - which streams the show in the US – responded on its official Twitter account: "We appreciate you reaching out about a 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!"
There's an interesting deep dive into this by Alex Cranz of The Verge, who points out that streaming doesn't help either: "The filmmakers are watching way more data than you and I will ever see outside of a UHD Blu-Ray," Cranz writes. But ultimately the reason is really simple: the filmmakers are watching in an editing suite with very expensive and perfectly calibrated displays, so what they see is completely different from what the vast majority of us see on our TVs.
As loath as I am to say "buy a better TV", I do think that if you're in the market for a new TV it's becoming really important to think about the type of panel you're going to get. I don't watch super-dark series (I don't like fantasy shows because I'm allergic to wizards) so I didn't need to go for OLED, but if you're into your movies – especially more serious movies than MCU eye candy – then OLED and QD-OLED TVs do offer a much superior performance for directors who love a bit of darkness.