[The following story contains spoilers from House of the Dragon‘s premiere episode.]
Well, that birth scene was about as horrifying as humanly possible.
House of the Dragon viewers witnessed a rather disturbing sequence in the Game of Thrones prequel’s premiere Sunday night.
Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke) was all set to give birth to a son, which would have provided her husband, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), with a desperately needed heir to the Iron Throne.
Complications with the birth resulted in Viserys having to make a choice between saving Aemma or his child — via a certain-to-be-fatal medieval attempt at a cesarean. The king chooses to try and save the child and essentially murders his beloved wife (who is fully conscious and terrified). Afterward, the child dies anyway.
It’s precisely the scene director Miguel Sapochnik was alluding to in The Hollywood Reporter‘s recent cover story on the making of House of the Dragon, and below are his expanded thoughts on the matter.
“Aemma says, ‘The child bed is our battlefield,’” says Sapochnik, who is showrunner on the series along with Ryan Condal. “We felt that was an interesting way to explore the fact that for a woman in medieval times, giving birth was violence. It’s as dangerous as it gets. You have a 50/50 chance of making it. Many women didn’t. If given the choice, the father would choose the child over the mother as a cesarean would kill you. It was an extremely violent part of life. We have a number of births in the show and basically decided to give them different themes and explore them from different perspectives the same way I did for a bunch of battles on Thrones, where each time I tried to put a different spine in each so it wasn’t just doing the same thing as I don’t think putting a bunch of violence on screen for the sake of violence does any good in the world.”
The scene sets up the central conflict of the show over the matter of the king’s succession, with the premiere concluding with Viserys picking his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by Milly Alcock in the show’s early episodes) over his mercurial brother Daemon (Matt Smith).
The Hollywood Reporter also asked Considine why his character ended up choosing his daughter over his brother — even though he knows the realm might never accept a woman on the Iron Throne.
“He absolutely understands that Daemon cannot be king and that’s it,” Considine says. “He does not have the temperament. Daemon would burn everything. He’s way too volatile. ‘My next real choice is my daughter and I’m taking a big gamble because she’s female. But I trust that there’s something inside of her, that she has the best of her mother,’ who was the love of Viserys’ life. He feels instinctively that he can entrust her and that she would listen enough to understand what it takes to be a ruler of that kingdom. It’s almost like giving your kid a burden and knowing that on the surface looks like a gift but that it’s a curse. It’s like I’m giving you something that is gonna be the most difficult thing you are ever going have to do in your life. I’m burdening you with all this shit. She’s the only one that he believes in and can trust. I don’t think it’s particularly political and I don’t think it’s to snub Daemon, I just think he believes she’s the one.”
House of the Dragon chronicles the civil war that ripped apart Westeros nearly 200 years before the events in Game of Thrones.