House of the Dragon Season 1 Finale Deaths Explained By Showrunner
WARNING! SPOILERS ahead for House of the Dragon episode 10 and George R.R. Martin’s Fire & BloodHouse of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal offers his insight on the deaths in the HBO show’s season 1 finale. Game of Thrones was no stranger to major character deaths, famously killing off protagonist Ned Stark (Sean Bean) in season 1 and only ramping up the kill count from there. GOT prequel series House of the Dragon, based on George R.R. Martin’s 2018 book Fire and Blood, has continued that tradition throughout season 1. The show bears many differences from its predecessor in terms of pacing and scale, as well as updating the franchise’s death scenes to become even more shocking and gruesome.
The House of the Dragon season 1 finale saw a major book event translated to the screen when Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) accidentally murdered his nephew Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) after he lost control of his dragon, Vhagar. Though the book made the killing seem more intentional, the end result was the same, catalyzing Lucerys’ mother Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) next move in the war. Prior to the death of her son, the recently crowned queen underwent another major trauma when the baby she had been carrying started to come too early, resulting in a graphic and painful stillbirth, reminiscent of the fateful birth scene that killed her mother Aemma (Sian Brooke).
In a conversation with Deadline, Condal speaks about the eventful season finale. The showrunner acknowledges that the disturbing childbirth scenes in the pilot and finale share « a nice piece of symmetry » despite the circumstances. However, when asked whether the creators had always planned to start and end the series with traumatic and fatal Targaryen birth scenes, Condal is quick to dispell the idea. See what he has to say below:
No. I mean there’s a lot of beautiful symmetry in this season. It also began with a dragon ride and ended with a dragon ride. There’s a lot of symbolism to take from it. But yes, I think we realized in the domino-ing of events that happened in the final episode, one aspect was linking the horrific birth that goes terribly wrong in the pilot with another horrific birth that goes wrong in the finale. It’s mother and daughter. It’s the daughter of the woman who died in the pilot now having this very difficult birth. That was always her fear, birth is a battlefield and now Rhaenyra finds herself at war and this is her going through her own battle. She’s having a miscarriage, she knows she’s not far enough along in her term that she’s going to have a viable infant. It’s medieval times. There is no premature baby unit in the maester’s hospital. It’s a nice piece of symmetry that we did not see at the outset.
Though House of the Dragon’s graphic birth scenes have proven controversial, the creators previously stood by the decision, equating traumatic births to war and battle for the women of the series. Another memorable birth scene came when Laena Targaryen (Nanna Blondell) made the tragic decision to have her dragon burn her alive when she realized that delivering her baby would kill both mother and child. Condal doubles down on that choice in his response, proving the show’s commitment to portraying birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth as integral scenes on the level of important battles. Though Rhaenyra doesn’t have time to process what she’s been through in the season finale, House of the Dragon season 2 will likely see the queen come to terms with the loss of both her babies, with her desire to protect what’s left of her family likely fueling her actions against the Greens.
In Fire and Blood, Rhaenyra blames Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and her supporters for the death of her unborn daughter, stating her desire for revenge. Though the queen doesn’t speak those words in the series, her labor was induced due to stress upon learning of her father’s death and her throne being stolen, so the show seems to be following the same route as the novel. While Condal states that the creators did not originally intend to end the way they did, Rhaenyra’s ability to brave that battle with her body, survive one of her biggest fears, and experience the loss of two children at the hands of her enemies means that an even stronger and more ruthless Rhaenyra will emerge in House of the Dragon season 2.