Why House of the Dragon Changed One of the Most Gruesome Moments From the Book

Why House of the Dragon Changed One of the Most Gruesome Moments From the Book

Last night’s second season premiere of Game of Thrones’ spinoff House of the Dragon tackled one of George R.R. Martin’s most infamous deaths—in a new way that surprised the fandom.

In an interview with Variety, showrunner Ryan Condal explained the reasoning for the Max show’s departure from Martin’s original recollection of an event known by readers of Fire and Blood—the author’s historical explanation of Targaryen history in Westeros— as “Blood and Cheese,” named for two assassins who are responsible for the murder of Jaehaerys Targayren. In “A Son for a Son” Blood and Cheese take center stage, hired by Daemon (Matt Smith) to retaliate for the death of Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) son Lucerys at the end of last season. We pick up on the duo’s journey to do the dastardly deed which, in the show, is much more directly orchestrated than in Fire & Blood, having Rhaenyra call for Aemond’s (Ewan Mitchell) death.

“One of the things that’s challenging about adapting Fire & Blood is that there is this intentionally conflicting narrative in the book where there are often these three different viewpoints on the history that don’t line up with one another,” Condal explained, “so it’s our job as adapters to try to find the objective line through this to bring the audience into the narrative as we see it having been laid out.” In the book, it’s a whole lot more messy—Blood and Cheese weren’t given a specific target, just Daemon’s orders for “an eye for an eye, a son for a son,” and so try to kill the first boy they find.

“It felt like Rhaenyra, despite being in grief, she’s looking for vengeance, but she would choose a target that would have some kind of strategic or military advantage,” Condal continued. “Of course, if you did take out Aemond, not only would he be punished directly for his betrayal and murder of Luke, but it would eliminate the rider of the biggest dragon in the world, and immediately create an advantage for their side.” Jaehaerys still dies in House of the Dragon, but it’s presented more as due to Blood and Cheese’s incompetence—instead of finding Aemond, the assassins stumble upon his sister and wife, Queen Helaena, in her room with her twin children.

In the books, Helaena actually offers up her youngest son, Maelor (who isn’t included in House of the Dragon due to how the show has condensed the timeline of Fire and Blood), only for Jaehaerys to be killed by Blood and Cheese anyway—but in the show, Helaena is forced instead to sacrifice him to save her daughter. “We knew it would be horrifying and brutal—we didn’t want it to be gratuitous or over the top,” Condal said of the murder. “The idea of that sequence was to dramatize a heist gone wrong. So we move off the center narrative of Daemon, Rhaenyra, Alicent and Aegon’s world, and suddenly, we’re following these two characters that we’ve just met in an alley in Flea Bottom. Daemon’s given them an assignment to go in and find Aemond Targaryen, and we’re following them, and we’re following them, and we’re not cutting away and we’re not going back to the other narratives—‘oh, God, what’s going to happen?’”

House of the Dragon airs Mondays on Binge.

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