SPOILERS for House of the Dragon season 1, episode 6.House of the Dragon co-showrunner, Ryan Condal, recently explained why Lady Laena Velaryon’s (Nanna Blondell) death scene was changed from the book. Set around 200 years before the events of the hit HBO television show Game of Thrones, the new fantasy-drama series focuses on the familial strife within the silver-haired dragon-riding House Targaryen during their reign over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Initially offered as a potential spouse for Viserys following his wife’s unexpected death in childbirth, Laena was turned down due to her youth. Years later, Laena grows fond of Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), as depicted with her overt flirtations with the Prince during Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Milly Alcock) wedding feast.
Following the 10-year time jump between episode 5 and 6, it is revealed that Daemon and Laena have married and had two children of their own. However, while giving birth to their third child, Laena experiences unforeseen complications resulting in the child being stuck within her womb. Knowing that she stood no chance for survival, Laena takes herself to her dragon, Vhagar, and commands the dragon to kill her by fire. However, her death differed greatly from her demise as described in George R.R. Martin’s novel, Fire & Blood, which states that she dies due to fever three days after giving birth to a deformed child son, who also died.
In a recent interview with Variety, Condal shared why Laena’s death in House of the Dragon episode 6 was changed from its depiction in the original book. The showrunner explained that with Laena’s role in the show is rather fleeting, he wanted her death to be as impactful and « memorable » as possible. Read what Condal said below.
« Laena’s a valkyrie. She’s a dragon rider. We met that little girl back in Episode 2; that little girl went on a couple years later to claim the biggest dragon in the world. It felt like she wouldn’t want to go out the way that the history book said. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the season and the storytelling, we didn’t get to spend as much time as I think we would have preferred to with Laena. We had to keep the story moving. So we wanted to give her a memorable out that felt active and in her character. Even though we’re only with Nanna Blondell’s portrayal of her for a very brief time, within that moment, it tells you a lot about who Laena is and was. »
Condal’s comments indicate that he viewed the television show’s version of Laena as bold and did not want her to die in the manner as depicted in the book. Instead, with such a strong personality and limited time to explore Laena, he gave her stand-out moment by having her command her loyal dragon partner to kill her and her unborn child in a most brutal way. Killing Laena off this way gives her one of the most dramatic deaths of the season, as well as establishing the strength of her bond with Vhagar after only one dragon-riding scene.
With Daemon is again a widower and left with two children, his restless nature will likely once again rear its head. The Prince may begin to scheme and search for a way back into the good graces with his brother, King Viserys I, as well as his niece Rhaenyra. With the depths of his ambition bottomless, defying his brother multiple times, including waging war in the Stepstones as well as nearly bedding his niece, Daemon may find himself vying for the Iron Throne as his brother’s life nears its end. With Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) calculating her firstborn son’s rise to the throne, House of the Dragon is setting itself up for a bloody fight that will tear the Targaryen family apart.