We knew that a dramatic re-telling of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s rise and fall “wouldn't be filled with puppies, rainbows and butterflies,” said Heather Havrilesky in Salon. But watching HBO’s two-part miniseries House of Saddam “is more grueling than you'd expect, in part because this script doesn't paint Hussein in very many shades other than the pitch black of pure evil.”

“But when considering the history of a dictator who ordered the extermination of thousands” of people, including “his longtime best friend,” said Tom Shales in The Washington Post, “isn't the word ‘evil’ hard to avoid?” House of Saddam isn’t “the story of a good man gone bad but of a bad one gone worse—a chilling and riveting essay on the evils that men do and continue doing.”

But this miniseries manages to hint at the "softer side" of Saddam—something essential to making any villain interesting, said Joanne Ostrow in The Denver Post. "Just as Hitler was a painter, Hussein was a warm and charismatic guy with a grand vision for Iraq's future as a player in the Arab world." But as we take stock of a war started on flawed intelligence, a look at Saddam the man is just a "narrow slice of what matters to most Americans about the war in Iraq.”