Warning: Major spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1.


It was the scene that was branded "heinous" by Alicent Hightower actress Olivia Cooke and dreaded by fans of George RR Martin's Fire and Blood, but House of the Dragon's Blood and Cheese didn't quite shock in the way viewers expected.

The iconic scene from the novel, featured at the end of season 2 episode 1, A Son for a Son, sees Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) seek bloody revenge on the Greens for the death of Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) at the hands of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell).

He hires two assassins, the imposing Blood (Sam C Wilson) and rat-catcher Cheese (Mark Stobbart), who has an unrivalled knowledge of the Red Keep.

In the show, Daemon tells them to find Aemond and, when asked what to do if he can't be found, we don't hear Daemon's reply. However, it later becomes clear that he told them: "A son for a son."

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So, as Blood and Cheese sneak into the Red Keep (and make their villainous natures all the more clear by their horrible treatment of a dog), they find King Aegon's (Tom Glynn-Carney) wife, Queen Helaena (Phia Saban), and her children, twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera. Perfect - a son for a son. So far, so faithful.

Phia Saban as Queen Helaena Targaryen wearing a blue gown and being illuminated by an orange light while looking worried.
Phia Saban as Queen Helaena Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. Ollie Upton/HBO

Here's where the big change comes in, making the scene so much less brutal but so much more meaningful. In the books, Aegon and Helaena have a younger son, Maelor. So, when Blood and Cheese threaten the children, they force Helaena to choose which son should die.

But it gets worse. After Helaena painfully makes her choice, picking Maelor, Blood and Cheese gleefully kill the other son, Jaehaerys, before taunting Maelor with the knowledge that his mother wanted him to die.

Maelor being taken out of the equation in the show means that Helaena's choice is (while still awful) rather less heinous. While she still has to make a choice in whether she truthfully tells Blood and Cheese which child is a boy, it feels less in her control, and there's no taunting of the children afterwards. The children are also younger in the show, meaning Jaehaerya is too young to really understand what happened to her brother.

Of course, that's not to say it isn't still a horrific scene. Helaena still witnessed the brutal murder of her young son and is left traumatised and grief-wracked - not to mention that we as viewers hear the bone-chilling sound of Jaehaerys's head being cut off by Blood and Cheese.

From this moment on, we see parallels between Helaena and Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy), the two mothers who have lost their innocent children to the brutality of the Dance of Dragons.

Matt Smith as a hooded Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2.
Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

While some fans have been left underwhelmed, though, the exclusion of Maelor means this moment could be all the more meaningful. In both the book and the show, Aegon's heir is brutally murdered - but only in the show is he now left without a male heir entirely.

With no younger son left, the Greens' position is suddenly so much more precarious. With Aegon throwing caution to the wind and threatening to lead the charge into battle himself, it's all his mother and grandfather (Otto Hightower, played by Rhys Ifans) can do to keep him safe. Now that mission is even more crucial due to the lack of male heir.

Of course, Jaehaera, Aegon and Helaena's daughter is still alive. But the entire crux of the Greens' claim to the throne was that Aegon was Viserys's male heir - as opposed to Rhaenyra, his named female heir.

To name Jaehaera as Aegon's heir would be to inadvertently fortify Rhaenyra's claim to the throne, an impossible way forward for them. It's an ironic and tragic position for the Greens to be left in, and their next move must be calculated incredibly carefully.

But why is Maelor missing from the story? Showrunner Ryan Condal opened up about that choice, and it's all down to trying to tell so much of the story in season 1.

He told RadioTimes.com: "Essentially we made 30 years [of history] happen in 20 years, and that just meant some of the youngest kids in the story weren't yet around or are younger than they are in the books. Rhaenyra and Daemon's children, for one, and then certainly Halaena and Aegon. Maelor is just not yet in the narrative in this story."

But, after such a tragedy, will all family members want to be part of this next move? Helaena actress Saban hinted that might not be the case, telling RadioTimes.com: "Helaena essentially bought the social agreement that she would do what was necessary for the royal family in return for relatively being left alone and that she'd be safe in her marriage to her brother, that she'd be left to her own devices in return for heirs.

"In this season, she's realising that it's not true and it's not a fair bargain. She's realising that maybe she's not willing to sacrifice what she needs to sacrifice for this family of absolute wrong'uns!"

So, will Blood and Cheese and the death of Jaehaerys tear the Greens apart? Or will they unite in tragedy?

House of the Dragon season 2 continues on Sky Atlantic and NOW on 24th June 2024 – find out more about how to sign up for Sky TV.


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