House of the Dragon, the spinoff/prequel to the Game of Thrones, began streaming on HBO Max (and Disney+ Hotstar in India) on Sunday. The first episode had everything that made GoT so popular–sex, violence, and politics. But many critics and viewers felt the spinoff surpassed the original in terms of gore and violence on screen. Now, the show’s director has defended one particular scene that has the viewers talking. Also read: House of the Dragon episode 1 review: Game of Thrones prequel adopts its worst qualities
Spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 1 ahead!
You may want to stop reading if you haven’t watched the first episode of House of the Dragon yet for the article is dark and full of spoilers. House of the Dragon is set two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones when Westeros was ruled by the Targaryens at the height of their power.
The scene in question shows King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and Queen Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke). The queen is about to give birth to the new heir but the maester informs the king that there are complications. They can only save the child if they tear up queen’s womb, which would end up killing her. What follows is a rather bloody and brutal birthing scene, interspersed with visuals of violence from the celebration tourney being held at the same time. Many viewers termed the scene unpalatable.
Miguel Sapochnik, the show’s director, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, defending the scene. “Aemma says, ‘The child bed is our battlefield.’ We felt that was an interesting way to explore the fact that for a woman in medieval times, giving birth was violence. It’s as dangerous as it gets. You have a 50/50 chance of making it. Many women didn’t. If given the choice, the father would choose the child over the mother as a cesarean would kill you. It was an extremely violent part of life,” he said.
Miguel, who also worked on Game of Thrones, added that the violence in the scene was necessary and not gratuitous. “We have a number of births in the show and basically decided to give them different themes and explore them from different perspectives the same way I did for a bunch of battles on Thrones, where each time I tried to put a different spin on each so it wasn’t just doing the same thing, as I don’t think putting a bunch of violence onscreen for the sake of violence does any good in the world,” he added.
House of the Dragon is based on Fire & Blood by George RR Martin, a companion book to his Song of Ice and Fire series, on which Game of Thrones was based. It follows the famous Dance of the Dragons civil war in the Targaryen dynasty.