A shocking birth scene in House of the Dragon that many viewers deemed “traumatic” and “horrific” has been defended by the show’s makers.
(Read on at your own peril; there will be SPOILERS!)
Author George R. R. Martin and series showrunner Ryan J. Condal discussed the dramatic reaction the first episode of the new series sparked in an interview with Vanity Fair, pointing out that the brutality was required.
As the prequel to the multiple Emmy Award-winning series Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon explores events that took place around 200 years before those in the HBO series.
The programme also has a stellar cast, which includes Milly Alcock, Matt Smith, Emma D’Arcy, Graham McTavish, Rhys Ifans, and Paddy Considine. These actors all had significant roles in the most well-known sequence from the premiere.
It was the horrific death of Queen Aemma, who bled to death after her husband, King Viserys I Targaryen, ordered a Caesarean section against her will. Following the treatment, Queen Aemma and her infant both passed away.
The birth was only briefly mentioned in Martin’s 2018 book Fire & Blood; this scene was a dramatic expansion of that passage. “Queen Aemma was brought to bed in Maegor’s Holdfast and died whilst giving birth to the son that Viserys Targaryen had desired for so long,” the scene went.
“The boy (named Baelon, after the king’s father) survived her only by a day, leaving king and court bereft,” Martin’s scene concluded.
Less than a line apparently turned into a horrifyingly violent incident in which King Viserys, without previously consulting his wife, authorised his wife to undergo a fatal Caesarean section.
Martin and Condal elaborated on this change, with Condal telling Vanity Fair the following: “It’s not meant to be gratuitous.”
“There’s this whole idea in Game of Thrones, or in the Middle Ages, or in historical age like this, that the men marched off to the battlefield and the women’s battlefield happened in the child bed,” he added.
“That was a very dangerous place to be. All of the complications that people go through in modern birth that are now fixed by science and medicine and surgery were not really possible back then. Any slight complication, anything could lead to very tragic consequences for the child and the mother,” Condal added.
George R. R. Martin, the creator of Game of Thrones, then added this commentary: “That is so powerful […] The terror on [Queen Aemma and King Viserys’ faces], they’re both so powerful. Yeah, I think that was certainly the right way to go.”
Regarding the show’s ongoing charges of being gratuitous, Martin says: “I don’t think anything is gratuitous. Of course, I’ve been accused of gratuitous violence and gratuitous sex and occasionally of gratuitous heraldry and gratuitous feast scenes […] I want to live the book. I want to be there. I want my emotions engaged. Those are the kind of novels I love to read and the kind of things I love to write. That’s what affects you emotionally.”
Social media users expressed their concerns (and support) over the graphic scenario, with one tweeting: “Watching that one scene was TRAUMATIZING. Being a woman during a time like that is not for the weak of heart #HouseoftheDragon.”
— Kalina Hyde (@KalinaHyde) August 22, 2022
However, another fan praised the popular new show in their comments, writing: “I finally finished #HouseoftheDragon and here we go again with me and this universe. This episode brought me back to the feeling I had when I binged all 7 seasons [of Game of Thrones] in the span of 2 weeks to be able to watch Season 8 live when it aired. A great first episode!”
I finally finished #HouseoftheDragon and here we go again with me and this universe. This episode brought me back to the feeling I had when I binged all 7 seasons in the span of 2 weeks to be able to watch Season 8 live when it aired. A great first episode! pic.twitter.com/5BJUwk8A0Z
— Duane Miller (@Cinemaniac94) August 22, 2022
The excruciating scene’s substance must have been effective because, according to Deadline, 10 million people watched the first episode of the show. Episodes are scheduled to air on HBO Max every Sunday.