‘House of the Dragon’ changes the books in shocking controverial ‘Blood and Cheese’ murder

‘House of the Dragon’ changes the books in shocking controverial ‘Blood and Cheese’ murder

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They served up some Blood and Cheese. 

Spoilers below for the first episode of “House of the Dragon” Season 2. 

The season premiere for the “Game of Thrones” spinoff’s second season, “House of the Dragon,” covered an infamous and controversial murder, known to fans of the books as “Blood and Cheese.” 

As Season 2 begins, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, but her half-brother, Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), and his supporters have usurped her, and now both sides are at war over whether Rhaenyra or Aegon should be monarch. 

Season 1 ended with Aegon’s mercurial brother, Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) killing Rhaenyra’s son. In the Season 2 premiere, Rhaenyra’s husband, Daemon (Matt Smith), hires rat catchers in the castle (known as “Blood and Cheese”) to retaliate by killing Aemond. 

As the episode title says, “a son for a son” is Daemon’s planned revenge.

Daemon (Matt Smith) hires assassins to target Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) but the plan goes wrong.
Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) with Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell). wbd
Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) with his brother Aegon (Tom Glynn Carney) in “House of the Dragon.” wbd

This plot goes awry, however, and spirals into tragedy. The assassins end up not killing Aemond, but instead killing his nephew, a child: Aegon’s son with their sister, Heleana (Phia Saban). 

The horrifying act isn’t shown onscreen, but the child struggling can be heard, along with stabbing noises. 

Heleana grabs her remaining child, flees in terror, and runs into her mother’s bedroom, where Alicent (Olivia Cooke) is having sex with Criston Cole (Fabien Frankle) – a scandalous affair, since Criston is a member of the Kingsguard and is supposed to be celibate. 

It’s a wild writing choice for the show to throw a sex scene into this moment – really, now?! 

But, they went there. 

Although Alicent seems mortified that her daughter caught her, Heleana is so traumatized that she barely seems to register the hanky-panky playing out in front of her, stammering out, “They killed the boy” as the episode ends.

Heleana (Phia Saban) ends up in a horrifying scene with “Blood and Cheese. wbd
Aegon’s (Tom Glynn Carney) young son ends up getting murdered. wbd

“House of the Dragon” is based on the book “Fire & Blood” by George R. R Martin. Unlike the novels that “Game of Thrones” was based on, it’s written like a fictional history textbook – so, it’s more like a Wikipedia entry than a novel with fleshed out characters. It’s also written by fictional scholars who have conflicting accounts of “what happened.” 

This leaves the show room to make changes, and there are some big curveballs to “Blood and Cheese.”  As awful as it was onscreen, it’s considerably softened from how it was on the page. 

In the book, it’s never clear that Daemon didn’t deliberately target a child. The show does leave some room for ambiguity – Blood and Cheese ask Daemon what they should do if they’re unable to find and kill Aemond. The scene ends there, purposefully leaving Daemon’s reply unknown. 

But, onscreen, Daemon’s primary orders are for them to kill Aemond – a dangerous young man who killed his stepson –  not an innocent child. This makes him seem like less of a monster for this atrocity than he does in the book. 

Daemon (Matt Smith) hires assassins to take out Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) to retaliate for Aemond killing Rhaenyra’s son. The assassins instead kill Aemond’s nephew, a child. wbd
Aemond killed Luke (center right) at the end of Season 1, so Blood and Cheese is Daemon’s retaliation. wbd

The whole sequence is also more of an ordeal in the book, with Blood and Cheese holding Alicent and maids hostage, and lying in wait for Heleana. In the show, the assassins stumble upon Helena by happenstance and bumble their way into the atrocious deed, continuing the show’s trend of “atrocities happening by accident,” (since Season 1 also softened Aemond’s murder of Rhaenyra’s son to be accidental, where the book didn’t make that clear. Season 1 also softened Alicent’s support of her son’s coup to be a “misunderstanding” of her husband’s dying wishes, rather than a deliberate power-grab). 

Blood and Cheese aren’t too smart – as one of them grabs Helena onscreen and holds a knife to her throat, the other man points out that Daemon’s instructions to them were, “A son for a son.” Exasperated, he tells his collaborator, “Does she look like a f–ing son to you?”

Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) was the supposed target for the assassins Blood and Cheese, but the plan went sideways. wbd

So, the murder in the show results from their incompetence, not from them planning it that way and lying in wait to execute their evil plan, the way it happens on the page.

In the book, they also give Heleana a terrible choice of which child she wants them to spare. In the show, they still make her point to a child, but they tell her to point out which one is Aegon’s heir. So, it’s clear that these men are up to no good, but their heinous intentions are not as explicitly stated to Heleana.

The book also doesn’t have her flee the scene, only to stumble on her mom getting it on with Criston. That wild part of the sequence was entirely a show-only creation.

“House of the Dragon” Season 2 airs Sunday nights on HBO (9 p.m.) and streams on Max. 

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Lauren Sarner

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