House of the Dragon creators defend "horrific" birth scene in episode 1
22 August 2022, 16:33 | Updated: 31 August 2022, 15:27
"It’s visceral and it’ll rip your heart out and throw it on the floor. It has the kind of impact that the Red Wedding had."
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Well, it wouldn't be a Game of Thrones prequel without an absolutely traumatising scene that leaves viewers looking away from their TV screens in horror, right?
The highly anticipated House of the Dragon aired its first episode last night (Aug 21), throwing us right into the middle of the Targaryen reign. We quickly learn that King Viserys' wife Queen Aemma is pregnant, hopefully with the son that Viserys so desperately wants and needs as his heir – despite his daughter Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) being the perfect heir anyway.
Unfortunately, Aemma experiences some serious complications while attempting to deliver the baby, leading to one of the most harrowing scenes the GOT universe has ever shown.
Fans have since been warning others about the graphic nature of the scene and sharing their opinions about whether or not it was necessary to show the devastating moment in such details.
Now, showrunner Ryan J. Condal and author George R.R. Martin have defended the decision to include the expanded scene that plays out very differently in the books.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon episode 1!
While Queen Aemma dies giving birth to baby Baelon in the books, the show's version of events have made the heartbreaking moment even more horrifying, traumatic and visceral.
Shortly after Aemma goes into labour, King Viserys is told that he has to make a choice in order to save the baby's life. Without consulting Aemma at all, Viserys gives the go-ahead for a C-section to be performed on his wife, in the hopes that it will save the life of the breech baby. The procedure pretty much cements Aemma's death, something she quickly comes to realise.
Aemma, who has not agreed to this, screams in horror as she is held down and cut open by doctors. She dies shortly after their son is delivered, having completely bled out during the C-section – and we see most of it, too. Baby Baelon also then dies a day later.
Fans have been quick to share their horrified reactions and criticisms about the scene, as well as trigger warnings for others who were planning on tuning in.
HotD pilot was very solid, but that birth scene has to be one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever watched on TV.— Dev (@Dmccarthy_6) August 22, 2022
Can we talk about Queen Aemma's "childbirth" and the horrors that came with it? Her face when she realized what was gonna be done to her and during the process was heartbreaking. She did NOT deserve all that.#HouseoftheDragon #HouseOfTheDragonHBO pic.twitter.com/JmZEMyEsLw— 𝐉𝐢𝐚𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐬 𝐈 𝐓𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐲𝐞𝐧 (@Rhaenyra_Blacks) August 22, 2022
still think the worse thing about aemma's death is how viserys took away her ability to choose in favour of treating her like a broodmare #HouseoftheDragon— j | hotd spoilers (@INEJSKNlVES) August 22, 2022
just realized that when they said there's going to be something like the red wedding in the first episode they didn't mean in terms of quality and storytelling they were just talking about a pregnant woman being brutally butchered... 😐— sim (@ARCANEMILIA) August 21, 2022
Defending the scene, and explaining why that moment was expanded on in such a harrowing way compared to the books, showrunner Ryan J. Condal told Vanity Fair: "It's not meant to be gratuitous. It's meant to show there's a heavy theme in this particular period."
"In Fire and Blood, there's a lot of very difficult births," he continued. "It was something we wanted to carry over the season. There's this whole idea in Game of Thrones, or in the Middle Ages, or in historical age like this, that the men marched off to the battlefield and the women's battlefield happened in the child bed. That was a very dangerous place to be.
"All of the complications that people go through in modern birth that are now fixed by science and medicine and surgery were not really possible back then. Any slight complication, anything could lead to very tragic consequences for the child and the mother. We wanted to dramatize that. We think you see plenty of violence of all colors in Westeros, but there is a particular violence to childbirth, even childbirth that goes well in the end."
Explaining why the show decided to deviate from the book and add Viserys making that devastating choice, George R.R. Martin added: "What would it mean if Viserys was watching the tournament, and a messenger comes running in and says, 'Your wife has died'? Is that going to have any effect on you [as a viewer]…? I don't think so."
Describing the scene ahead of the premiere, Martin said: "That scene is…you don’t want to use the word ‘enjoyable’ for a scene like that, but it’s incredibly powerful. It’s visceral and it’ll rip your heart out and throw it on the floor. It has the kind of impact that the Red Wedding had. It’s a beautifully done scene of something horrible.”