One Major Way HBO's House Of The Dragon Will (Probably) Be Less Triggering Than Game Of Thrones

Young Rhaenyra Targaryen and Young Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon.
(Image credit: HBO)

The weeks are counting down before House of the Dragon premieres to take viewers back to Westeros for the first time since Game of Thrones ended in 2019. There are bound to be some big similarities between the two shows, but one writer has clarified a way that the spinoff is probably going to be less triggering than the original series. The sexual violence that was common in Game of Thrones won’t be an element in the new show. 

Sexual violence and rape occurred repeatedly throughout the eight seasons of the HBO show, starting in the very first episode with Daenerys Targaryen. According to House of the Dragon writer and executive producer Sara Hess to Vanity Fair, however, that won’t be the case with the new show. She explained:

I’d like to clarify that we do not depict sexual violence in the show. We handle one instance off-screen, and instead show the aftermath and impact on the victim and the mother of the perpetrator. I think what our show does, and what I’m proud of, is that we choose to focus on the violence against women that is inherent in a patriarchal system.

While sexual violence will still play a part in House of the Dragon with "one instance," the writer and EP promised that the actual assault itself won’t happen on screen, which echoes previous comments from actress Olivia Cooke. Plus, the reveal that the show will explore the aftermath suggests that the assault itself is important to the story, and not simply included for shock factor or to follow the example of Game of Thrones. (You can stream all eight seasons with a subscription to HBO Max.)

In fact, it sounds like House of the Dragon will shine a different kind of light on the power imbalance between men and women in the world of Westeros, and it will address forms of abuse that manifest in ways other than sexual violence. Sara Hess elaborated:

There are many ‘historical’ or history-based shows that romanticize powerful men in sexual/marriage relationships with women who were actually not of an age to consent, even if they were ‘willing,’ We put that onscreen, and we don’t shy away from the fact that our female leads in the first half of the show are coerced and manipulated into doing the will of adult men. This is done not necessarily by those we would define as rapists or abusers, but often by generally well-meaning men who are unable to see that what they are doing is traumatic and oppressive, because the system that they all live in normalizes it. It’s less obvious than rape but just as insidious, though in a different way.

The power imbalance between men and women appears to be central to House of the Dragon, as King Viserys will have to select his heir between his oldest surviving child and his younger brother. The only reason for any doubt is that his oldest child happened to be born a princess instead of a prince, with Rhaenyra played by Milly Alcock in her younger years and Emma D’Arcy as an adult. Daemon Targaryen considers himself his brother’s heir, based on what the trailer portrays, since he is a man. 

All things considered, less sexual violence in the story and no such violence on screen should be a nice change from Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which GOT was based, told EW back in 2015 that rape was included so often in the source material because it reflects a “patriarchal society based on the Middle Ages” that were “not a time of sexual egalitarianism.” He said that it would be “fundamentally dishonest” to write about war and include “all the cool battles and heroes” without portraying the sexual violence. 

Of course, the show also included some such scenes that weren’t even included in the books, such as Ramsey Bolton assaulting Sansa. It also changed a consensual (albeit twisted) encounter between Jaime and Cersei into what many viewers interpreted as rape, despite what the stars and director said about the scene. Viewers don’t have to wonder (or worry) about such scenes in House of the Dragon

The wait for House of the Dragon is nearly over. The long-awaited spinoff premieres on Sunday, August 21 at 9 p.m. ET in the 2022 TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).