House of the Dragon co-showrunner and director Miguel Sapochnik talks about how the series depicts childbirth, and how it represents the more significant ideas of the series. Sapochnik directed episodes 1 and 6 of the first season, both of which featured important childbirth scenes that shape the narrative of the series. He’s also set to direct at least one more episode of the first season before he departs from the show, leaving Ryan Condal as the sole showrunner for future seasons.
House of the Dragon takes place two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones and explores the succession of King Viserys Targaryen, with his daughter Rhaenyra as his current heir. The pilot for House of the Dragon notably featured the death of Queen Arryn in childbirth, after declaring to Rhaenyra that « the child bed is our battlefield » in an earlier scene. Episode 6 opened with Rhaenyra giving birth to her third child before taking a lengthy pained walk across the castle to present her child to Queen Alicent.
When on The Game of Thrones Podcast: House of the Dragon, Sapochnik talks about the significance of childbirth in the series. Sapochnik talks about wanting to explore the world from a more female-centric perspective in the spinoff, and how childbirth is the generalized female version of the sex and violence that’s associated with Game of Thrones. He goes on to say how the same danger men feel on the battlefield women feel on the childbed, as a parallel to how both sexes face their responsibilities in that world. Read his quote below:
The notion of the childbed is our battlefield is in making a show that has historically been from a male perspective and wanting to shift… So, it’s part of the cycle of life, and so in theory, this is going to happen to every woman in the story, which means they are going to be in danger. It’s probably not dissimilar to a man at some point being in a dangerous situation where they have to fight for their lives in that era… And so the opportunity was to depict and find a place for sex and violence in a context that felt like it was both relatable but also a different perspective on these two subject matters… There were various opportunities because it was a generational drama, to have people have children, and suddenly, it became apparent that as an image and a motif to explore those births in detail, or in more detail than normal, was something that was unusual, and it’s surprised me the lack of depictions of labor there are in Western art. It’s kind of frightening because we don’t want to see it, right?… It became apparent that if we were going to have multiple different births, and we needed them from story purposes, but also from a character perspective, they’re hugely traumatic events… And that’s, I think, where both the parallel from the female perspective, that it is the battleground came about, but also the thematics of we need each birth to be different because if they’re the same thing, then that’s all we’re doing is repeating ourselves.
Emphasizing the parallels between Rhaenyra and her mother, House of the Dragon shows how far the character has come in such a short time. Sapochnik talks about how their generational trauma shapes them and shares the overarching motif of women being brutally repressed in multitudes of ways in the world of Westeros. Sapochnik also brings up how rare it is to see childbirth in Western art, which might be part of the reason the two birthing scenes were so memorable for audiences.
With such weighty themes of motherhood and the physical toil of such, House of the Dragon has done a very compelling job of exploring feminist themes in ways that feel genuine and sincere. Perhaps one day that sincerity can be explored by more female directors in future seasons, adding extra nuance to proceedings. It’s clear that birth is a very important element in the story of House of the Dragon, and one of the most compelling parts so far, so hopefully in the final episodes Sapochnik and his team can bring the thematic weight to an appropriate crescendo and give the buildup the payoff it deserves.
Source: The Game of Thrones Podcast: House of the Dragon