Phia Saban as Helaena Targaryen in House of the dragon season 2 episode 1

Fans Think ‘House of the Dragon’ Fumbled a Major Season 2 Plot Change

This was supposed to be HOTD's Red Wedding, y'all!

It’s that time again when Sunday evenings aren’t about dreading Mondays but looking forward to a new House of the Dragon episode. Season 2 episode 1, “A Son for a Son,” has dropped, and while it was a good start, some fans found a particularly anticipated scene underwhelming.

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Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1!

Days before the new season arrived, there was excitement amongst the Fire & Blood readers around this one plot point, expected to happen sometime in the first episode. Some fans even claimed that if done right, it could be more shocking and devastating than The Red Wedding from Game of Thrones. Okay, those are some great expectations.

Unfortunately, fans were left disappointed by how the episode “A Son for a Son” handled the Fire & Blood chapter “Blood and Cheese.”

What happens on House of the Dragon with Blood and Cheese?

At the end of HOTD season 1, Aemond Targaryen, riding his dragon Vhagar, kills Lucerys Targaryen and his dragon Arrax while they’re returning from Storm’s End (seat of House Baratheon). The episode title, “A Son for a Son” is about the Blacks’, specifically Daemon’s, efforts to get a little tit for tat and kill Aemond to avenge Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys. “An eye for an eye. A son for a son,” goes the line, harking back to Alicent demanding Luke’s eye, all those years ago, as retribution when Aemond lost his.

Ewan Mitchell as Aemond Targaryen in House of the Dragon

Throughout season 1, and in a few clever shots in season 2 episode 1, we see that rats have become an unbearable nuisance in the Red Keep. There are ratcatchers walking around all over the castle, setting traps for the vermin. It is one of these ratcatchers, nicknamed Cheese, that Daemon Targaryen bribes to fetch him Prince Aemond’s head. Cheese claims he knows the secret Maegor’s tunnels “better than the shape of his own c*ck.”  

Along with Cheese, Daemon sends one of the men from the City Watch who hates the Hightowers. Together, they are Blood and Cheese, sneaking into the Red Keep until they stumble upon Queen Helaena Targaryen and her infant twins, Prince Jaehaerys and Princess Jaehaera. At knifepoint, they threaten her to tell them which one of the children is the son, so they can kill him.

Helaena points to her son, and Blood assumes she is lying to protect the heir, but Cheese contemplates her face for second and declares she is telling the truth. They then go on to murder the prince, while Helaena runs out with her daughter, terrified, barging unknowingly into the room where Alicent and Ser Criston Cole are having sex. Helaena then says, “They killed the boy.”

Sam C. Wilson and Mark Stobbart as Blood and Cheese in house of the dragon season 2 episode 1

How “Blood and Cheese” happens in the book

In the book, it isn’t Aemond in particular that Daemon wants dead; he knows that killing one of the heirs to the Iron Throne might be more impactful. But the biggest difference between the book and the show is that in the book, Aegon and Helaena have not two, but three children—six-year-old twins Prince Jaehaerys and Princess Jaehaera, and a two-year-old son, Maelor. Maelor is absent in the show, and the twins are shown to be much younger.

Furthermore, in the book, Blood and Cheese know a little more than just secret tunnels. They know that every night, Queen Helaena would bring her kids to say goodnight to their grandmother, the Dowager Queen Alicent. So when they go into that room, there’s Alicent and her maid there, waiting for Helaena. The maid is killed, and Alicent subdued while Blood and Cheese wait for Helaena and her kids.

When asked to choose which of her two sons should be killed, Helaena chooses Maelor. Author George R.R. Martin writes that perhaps she thought he was too young to understand what was happening, or perhaps it was because Jaehaerys was Aegon’s firstborn son and heir. But Cheese tells Maelor that his mother wants him dead, and then proceeds to behead Prince Jaehaerys instead.

Why are fans unhappy with House of the Dragon’s version of “Blood and Cheese”?

Blood and Cheese in House of The Dragon is one shocking moment, because even though you don’t see the beheading (thank God!), you can hear it. And Phia Saban is excellent as Helaena in the scene. Her character in season 1 repeatedly warned Alicent to fear the “beast beneath the boards,” and look how the rats led to her losing her son.

Yet, when you compare the jeopardy of what happens in the books with what happens in the series, it’s evident that House of the Dragon underplayed this plot point. And many fans questioned why they had to change a perfectly good plot line by giving Aegon and Helaena two kids instead of three. It reduces the stakes for Helen’s Sophie’s Choice moment of having to choose between two sons.

Also, the princess being older in the books means she fully understands what happened. And the presence of Queen Alicent in the room, witnessing her grandson’s brutal death, would of course be devastating, and a parallel to the Red Wedding where Catelyn Stark has to watch her son and unborn grandchild be murdered.

The fan ire is understandable, and even though Martin is involved with House of the Dragon, it isn’t quite clear why this change was made. Not showing the beheading of a child is a fair decision, but the change to Helaena’s circumstances and the absence of Alicent during the act do make the scene underwhelming.

I guess Red Wedding stands undefeated as the most shocking moment from the screen adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire.

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.