‘House of the Dragon’ Showrunner Explains That Shocking ‘Blood and Cheese’ Scene

The “House of the Dragon” Season 2 premiere ended with one of the most anticipated moments from George R.R. Martin’s book – the infamous Blood and Cheese assassination — and the shockingly violent ending certainly had viewers rattled on Sunday night.

The premiere, titled “A Son for a Son,” showed Daemon (Matt Smith) sneaking off to King’s Landing and paying a former City Watch guard associate to help get into the Red Keep to kill Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) as retribution for murdering Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) son Luke at the end of Season 1.

The guard, going as Blood (Sam C. Wilson), introduces Daemon to a ratcatcher named Cheese (Mark Stobbart) who knows a variety of ways into the Red Keep. The pair make it inside but can’t track down Aemond. Who they do find is King Aegon II’s (Tom Glynn-Carney) wife Helaena (Phia Saban) and twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera fast asleep. Blood and Cheese hold Helaena at knife point and ask which of the two is the boy – Aegon’s heir. After trying to talk them out of it, Helaena concedes and flees the room with Jaehaera as Blood and Cheese brutally kill the 6-year-old.

“The hope is that you kind of follow these two goons on a mission … and you go into their point-of-view, and then the third act twist is that the POV passes over to Helaena, one of our existing known characters and then you experience the awful things to come through her eyes,” Condal told TheWrap of putting the sequence together. “We just wanted to make the sequence subjective in that way, versus what’s in the book.”

In the book “Fire & Blood,” the Blood and Cheese moment still ends the same – with the young prince getting beheaded – but the plan and decision to kill Jaehaerys are different, and somehow a bit more upsetting. Originally, Blood and Cheese are asked by Daemon to kill one of Aegon’s two sons as price for Luke rather than Aemond.

Their plan is nearly as simple as in the Season 2 premiere, but slightly altered. They still use Cheese’s knowledge of the secret passages in the Keep to break in but they make a beeline for Alicent (Olivia Cooke), knowing that Helaena brings her three children to the dowager queen’s room each evening to say goodnight. It’s Alicent who gets held at knifepoint while the assassins wait.

When Helaena arrives, Blood and Cheese give her the terrible choice of picking which son they kill – six-year-old Jaehaerys or 2-year-old Maelor, who is absent from the show. After being denied the opportunity to have herself killed instead, Helaena relents and tells them to kill Maelor. Cheese bends down and whispers, “You hear that, little boy? Your momma wants you dead,” to Maelor before giving the go-ahead for Blood to decapitate Jaehaerys in a single swing of his sword instead.

Condal said that actual legality involving young actors played a factor in why the show couldn’t adapt the moment exactly like it happens in “Fire and Blood.”

“It was not really possible, given the age of those characters, to play realistically what is in the [book],” he said. “I mean, there are things that you actually cannot do with with children on set, and rightfully so, sort of from a decency standpoint, and also from a legal standpoint, what children are allowed to see and do on a set would have made shooting it very difficult.”

Condal said there was a lot of debate about how, exactly, to adapt the moment from the books.

“The ages of those children are so young that you wouldn’t really be getting actors, you would be getting stand-ins, essentially extras who are played by children, because the child has to be a certain age in order to be to be able to take direction from a director,” he continued. “So there was a lot of debate about how do we write this? And how do we structure this so we can make it satisfying, but also producible? And of course, what’s written on the page is great and it’s classic and affected everybody that read that book, but we had to figure out a way to take that and make it for the screen in a way that would be executable and also dramatically satisfying.”

The moment also kicks off a chain of events that escalate the civil war between Team Black and Team Green, which is the central focus of Season 2. Strap in.

New episodes of “House of the Dragon” air Sundays on HBO and stream on Max.

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