Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for the first episode of House of the Dragon on HBO.
House of the Dragon finally debuted on HBO, more than three years after the end of Game of Thrones. The new show picks up with House Targaryen in power with plenty of dragonriders, but still with the struggle of who should be next in line for the Iron Throne. King Viserys’ drive to have a son to inherit resulted in the bloodiest scene of the series premiere, and it surprisingly wasn’t from Daemon’s raid on the criminals of King’s Landing or the joust, but rather Queen Aemma’s labor and botched delivery of their son.
Aemma made it clear to her husband that this would be her last pregnancy because she couldn’t take any more, while Viserys was confident that she would have a boy. They were both ultimately correct, although not how either expected. The infant prince was cut out of Aemma (with Viserys’ permission) for an extremely bloody scene. Paddy Considine, who plays Viserys for House of the Dragon, credited actress Sian Brooke for her work as the queen, and broke the scene down to CinemaBlend at a press event:
Sian Brooke may not have had the most time on screen in the first episode of House of the Dragon, but the actress guaranteed that her performance was one of the most memorable. Between Aemma’s clearly difficult pregnancy, her attempts to give birth, and her reaction when she realized that Viserys had given the permission for her to be cut open to save the child while she was still fully conscious, it’s not hard to understand why it was emotional to film!
According to Paddy Considine, he filmed some versions as a more devastated Viserys. The king is certainly upset in the finished product; apparently the bloody loss of his wife (and son shortly thereafter) took more of a toll in different takes. The actor elaborated on what his co-star went through for the sake of Aemma’s birth scene:
Authenticity was key to selling this scene, and the finished product definitely hid any of the technical tricks and pumps used for the horror of what Aemma was going through, and what her husband was putting her through for the sake of getting an heir. What they were filming wasn't exactly simple in case they needed to do take after take, which is a big difference from a blood-free dialogue scene, like the one that delivered the big Game of Thrones tie that may not have been entirely necessary.
But as Paddy Considine said, it worked! Sian Brooke wasn’t listed as a series regular when HBO released the character list, so it’s not shocking that Queen Aemma didn’t last too long. The actors had to find a way to sell a loving marriage that already produced one healthy child with Rhaenyra, without a lot of time together. Considine explained:
Even though Queen Aemma is gone (and likely to be replaced sooner rather than later, based on what the trailer revealed), her life and death will evidently stick with her husband. He already made a big move by naming their daughter as heir to the throne; however he moves forward, she won’t be forgotten.
Still, a time jump is on the way at some point, since older versions of both Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower have been cast and featured heavily in the preview footage. It should be interesting to see if Aemma’s legacy continues to weigh on Viserys after the time jump, or if his mourning will be left in the past. It seems safe to say that whatever happens next, things could get seriously chaotic in the Seven Kingdoms.
Keep tuning in to HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET for new episodes of House of the Dragon in the 2022 TV schedule. You can always catch up on all the action in Westeros so far with the full series of Game of Thrones streaming via an HBO Max subscription.
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.
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