House of the Dragon’s Phia Saban on Season 2’s First Big Moment of Horror

House of the Dragon’s Phia Saban on Season 2’s First Big Moment of Horror

Have you recovered from watching the House of the Dragon season two premiere yet? Considering what happens in the closing moments of “A Son for a Son”—probably not, actually, and we can surely expect you-know-which scene to have reverberations throughout the coming episodes.

At a recent House of the Dragon press day, io9 was part of a group of journalists speaking to Phia Saban, who plays Queen Heleana Targaryen, wife and sister to King Aegon II, and daughter of Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower. Heleana has a big part in the premiere, which is why we’re tossing out one of these…

Though we don’t get their names in the episode, Game of Thrones fans who’ve read George R.R. Martin’s House of the Dragon source material, Targareyn history tome Fire & Blood, know that the assassins who sneak into the Red Keep and murder Heleana’s son, Jaehaerys, are called Blood and Cheese. And they don’t just murder the tyke, they brutally separate his tiny head from his tiny body… after forcing Heleana to point out which among her identically blonde offspring is the heir to the Iron Throne.

Instead of screaming her head off in the usually pretty well-guarded castle, she grabs her other baby and runs into Alicent’s room—where her mother is naked in bed with the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole. But she doesn’t react to that. Nor does she crumble into hysterics at what’s just happened. She’s just eerily calm as she announces “They killed the boy.”

For Saban, figuring out exactly how Heleana—who’s already an offbeat, unpredictable person—would react to the shock of seeing her son murdered, then catching her mother with an off-limits lover, took some time. “That was the most exciting thing about playing that scene for me, because some aspects were scary,” she said. “I had to try and find—something that was cool and positive was reminding myself: this is a specific character, and [we are showing] how she would deal with this. And in a way, that gave quite good boundaries within which to see what happened.”

Saban knew Heleana’s reaction was bound to startle the audience. “I think people are surprised by her apparent lack of—for example, at the end of the episode when she comes in on Alicent and Criston and the way she delivers the information that Jaehaerys is dead, people have been like, ‘that was a bit unfeeling.’ But I think that you can’t underestimate how you behave in something that is as high stakes and as traumatic as that,” Saban said. “And I think she’s someone who is so particular and specific anyway that it would be understandable that it would be an intensified version of that when the shit really hits the fan. I kind of had fun with [her reaction] being quite far from [how I would actually react]. Also, luckily for everyone, no one will have to go through that. But you can’t imagine. You can’t imagine what it would be like. I can’t imagine.”

House of the Dragon drops new episodes Mondays on Binge.

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