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Was House Of The Dragon's Gruesome Birth Or Game Of Thrones' Red Wedding Harder To Watch? Fans Have Thoughts

Catelyn Stark at the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones and Queen Aemma in House of the Dragon
(Image credit: HBO)

House of the Dragon has debuted on HBO as the TV successor to Game of Thrones, even though it's set nearly 200 years before the events of the groundbreaking original series. Only two episodes have aired so far, but the very first delivered a scene so bloody and disturbing that it was already drawing comparisons to the Red Wedding of Game of Thrones' third season. So, was Aemma's C-section or the Red Wedding worse? Fans have thoughts. 

There's certainly no denying that both were tragedies, and probably hard for a lot of viewers to watch. The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones killed off Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Robb's pregnant queen, and most of Robb's Northern army in one fell swoop, and it was such an event that even a TV executive used it to refer to some cancellations early this year, nearly a decade after the episode aired in 2013

That said, Aemma's death in the House of the Dragon premiere wasn't for the faint of heart either. When it was clear that they were out of options to try and deliver baby Baelon naturally, the maester told Viserys to choose between both mother and child dying, or cutting his wife open to try and save the baby. Desperate for a male heir, Viserys gave the permission to do the Westerosi version of a C-section... without telling his queen, who was terrified, confused, and in terrible pain. 

But which was worse?  One account on Twitter put out the call for input: 

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Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of opinions in the comments, and it's clear that time doesn't actually heal all wounds when it comes to viewers who were traumatized by watching Robb and Catelyn be terribly betrayed at a wedding. One person let an image speak a thousand words by simply posting a photo of Robb's decapitated body with Grey Wind's head with the comment of "You tell me." Another person on Twitter explained with more words, writing:

Three seasons worth of plot and development and buildup for a beloved character that we were pretty sure wasn’t going to happen or a predictable circumstance for a character we just met. The Red Wedding wasn’t upsetting because it was gory it was shocking because it happened.

As somebody who knew what was coming (aside from the changes like Talisa's death and Roose Bolton saying "The Lannisters send their regards" instead of what he said in the book), I'm still impressed to this day that more nonreaders weren't spoiled rotten about what was going to happen at Edmure Tully's wedding. For another viewer on Twitter, there was no comparison between the Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon scenes:

The Red wedding. You can’t even compare the two. First, we had Robb Stark as a character for three years, second this was the first episode with a character we hardly knew. And I really don’t think the birthing scene was that bad.

Game of Thrones arguably earned its reputation as a show where nobody is safe with the execution of Ned Stark in Season 1, but this Season 3 episode killing off two Starks in mere moments really solidified it. In contrast, Queen Aemma was only in one episode, and her discomfort in her pregnancy suggested that she might not survive it. As another Twitter user put it:

Are you kidding? I had no connection to Aemma-- it was awful, sure, but...eh. The Red Wedding devastated me. I watched characters I had grown to adore get slaughtered in cruel, sadistic ways. Shock and horror and tears. Not even a close comparison.

That said, not everybody in the comments was fully on board with the idea that the Red Wedding was 100% worse than watching Aemma cut open without being told, with lots and lots of blood pouring out of her. Somebody on social media saw both sides:

Upsetting: Red Wedding. But if we’re talking which was harder to watch, that’s a tougher call to make

That's a good point – the Red Wedding was bound to upset anybody who had any allegiance to the Starks on Game of Thrones, and the Starks were presented as the heroes of the story from early on, whereas Aemma was new. But neither scene was exactly a joy to view. For somebody on Twitter, Robb's mistakes sealed his fate, making the birth harder to watch:

Red wedding was boring and predictable. When they made the choice to seek Walder’s help I told my husband they were going to die. The birthing scene is far worse, especially knowing how historically accurate it was & how frequently it occurred in real life.

I will say one thing in Viserys' defense when he made the choice in the House of the Dragon premiere: he had to choose between saving the baby or losing both of them. He wasn't given any option that would save his wife. (I won't defend him making that decision without her and not telling her what was about to happen, though!) Aemma seeing the knife and realizing made the scene worse than the Red Wedding for one on Twitter:

The birth. Watching a woman realize she will die, feeling every bit of the pain, was something I never imagined.

In House of the Dragon, Rhaenyra really seemed to be the only one concerned about the health and life of the queen as opposed to the possible son that she was caring, and nobody in the show protested Viserys' decision. For somebody else on the social media platform, that made the birth scene the worst:

The birth scene bc every knows murdering people at a wedding is wrong & frowned upon. But it was culturally acceptable for husbands to make right-to-life decisions with zero input from the ones whose lives were at risk. So it’s not the murders. It’s that society was ok with one.

At the end of the day, there was no real consensus among the people who responded about which was definitively better and which was worse. Both were pretty horrifying, and both Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Sian Brooke (Queen Aemma) delivered incredible performances. One Twitter user may have summed it all up: 

Uh honestly you can’t pick from these two.. the red wedding: a mom literally watched her own baby boy / grandchild die, when cat yelled “ROB PLEASE” I bursted into tears.. but the Aemmas birth on the other hand: her husband made a decision that killed her and her baby.

Queen Aemma may have only appeared in part of one episode, but I think viewers can agree that hers was the biggest tragedy that was difficult to watch in House of the Dragon so far. Of course, HOTD is only two episodes in, and if there's one thing that even viewers who haven't read George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood can probably guess, it's that more death is on the way. Whether or not we'll ever get something on the scale of the Red Wedding or lose many major characters remains to be seen.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO in the 2022 TV schedule. If you want to revisit Game of Thrones (even if you choose not to rewatch the horrifying Red Wedding), you can do so streaming with an HBO Max subscription.

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. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.