House Of The Dragon Showrunner Reveals Why (Spoiler’s) Death Was Changed From The Books

Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers from the most recent House Of The Dragon episode (1x6). It also contains some discussion abut the differences between how it happened and the book, but it does not contain any larger book spoilers or spoilers from future episodes.

HBO’s newest hit House Of The Dragon has, so far, mostly decided to follow its source material in Fire & Blood pretty closely, but the show has added and withheld certain details, made a few key changes and maybe referenced obscure theories. Most prominent among those changes is probably related to Laena Velaryon and more specifically, how Laena Velaryon died.

In Fire & Blood, Laena Velaryon dies from complications during childbirth. House Of The Dragon Episode 6 gave us the birthing scene and those complications, but rather than having her pass that way, she was allowed to essentially choose her own death. As a dragon rider, the obvious choice was dying by fire, and we got a terrific scene in which her dragon reluctantly burned her. 

Showrunner Ryan Condal sat down with Variety for a pretty extensive interview talking about creative choices the show has made, and during that conversation, the subject of Laena’s altered death came up. Here’s what he said…

Laena’s a valkyrie. She’s a dragon rider. We met that little girl back in Episode 2; that little girl went on a couple years later to claim the biggest dragon in the world. It felt like she wouldn’t want to go out the way that the history book said. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the season and the storytelling, we didn’t get to spend as much time as I think we would have preferred to with Laena. We had to keep the story moving. So we wanted to give her a memorable out that felt active and in her character. Even though we’re only with Nanna Blondell’s portrayal of her for a very brief time, within that moment, it tells you a lot about who Laena is and was.

A “memorable out” is a pretty quaint way of referring to being burned to death by a dragon, but it fits really well here for what’s going on with House Of The Dragon. Game Of Thrones had a very expansive and complicated plot, and it spent a lot of time developing its characters, especially in the early seasons. We really got to know them and their personalities. That hasn’t happened with House Of The Dragon, apart from a handful of leads, as the show has jumped to different points in time and given us way more plot in order to establish the backstory and the lineage. That was an interesting creative decision, and it has come with a lot of pros and cons.

I think Laena Velaryon and her death is a perfect example of those pros and cons. On the one hand, I’m really happy we got to know Laena a little bit. If the show decided to just start in the future, whenever the actual battle for the Iron Throne begins in earnest, she would only be a memory for the characters. We’d definitely hear about her some in the same way we did Lyanna Stark in Game Of Thrones. Maybe we’d even get her in a flashback, but it wouldn’t be the same. So, in that way, I’m really happy we got to spend some actual time with her and see what a badass she was.

On the other hand, Laena is awesome, and it sucks that we didn’t get to spend more time with her. Her death would have been even more meaningful if we got more than a handful of scenes with her, and while I’ll be happy we got this much once we move forward, I'm left with knowing there's so much left unexplored.

Regardless, I’m happy House Of The Dragon gave Laena a more badass death that comes with some character development. It was one of the best moments of the entire episode, and she will be greatly missed, even if we didn’t get enough of her. 

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Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.