How the ‘House of the Dragon’ Blood and Cheese Murder Differs from the Book

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Season 2 of House of the Dragon.

A long-awaited return to Westeros in the time of Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors took place in Season 2 of the Game of Thrones spinoff show House of the Dragon, which launched Sunday night on HBO and Max. The first episode of the second season took no time in plunging viewers back into the violence and backstabbing that prove key to the series.

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In the background of the bloody fight for The Iron Throne, a key plot point — The Blood and Cheese murder — from George R. R. Martin’s book — saw some changes at the end of Episode 1, titled “A Son For A Son.”

As viewers will recall, Season 1 ended with the tragic death of Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) son Lucerys or “Luke” (Elliot Grihault) at the hands of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) and his dragon Vhagar. In Episode 1 of Season 2, Daemon (Matt Smith) who is now married to Rhaenyra, hired assassins Blood (Sam C. Wilson), a City Watch deviant, and Cheese (Mark Stobbart), a rat catcher, to kill Aemond out of revenge and to ease Rhaenyra’s grief. The arrangement isn’t wildly out of the box for the medieval series, but the plot thickens when the hired assailants kill Jaehaerys, the 6-year-old firstborn son of current King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his sister and wife Helaena (Phia Saban).

In the book, Fire & Blood by George R., R. Martin, off which the show is based, Aemond’s request to kill a young prince leaves room for interpretation, and the show cuts away after the murderers ask Daemon what to do in the case that they may not be able to get ahold of Aemond. This puts into question whether Matt Smith’s character in the series is vicious enough to plot to kill a child, which softens the character found in the source material. There remains the thought, as voiced by Greta Johnson on the latest episode of The Official Game of Thrones Podcast, that Daemon wants to get rid of the Green Council heirs to the Iron Throne any way possible, which could lend to Helaena’s son as a backup target.

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The assassins lie in wait for Helaena in the book, and they force her to choose between her two children to spare because Jaehaerys has a twin sister Jaehaera, and there is also a third child, son Maelor. The show narrows the choice to Jaehaerys, and the guards just demand which of the twins is the son instead of making Helaena choose between her two sons.

“Rhaenyra and Daemon’s children are much younger than they were in the book, as are Helaena and Aegon’s children. They haven’t been together long enough to have two generations of kids. So Maelor does not yet exist, and we only have the twins,” showrunner Ryan Condal told The Hollywood Reporter of the changes. “So working from that place, we just wanted to try to make Blood and Cheese a visceral television sequence. We decided to tell it from their point of view and make it like a heist gone wrong. Whereas in the book, it’s depicted purely from Helaena and Alicent’s perspective. Blood and Cheese come upon Helaena, and she’s sort of the third act of their story.”

After the deed is committed off-screen with only noises of struggle and stabbing heard to allude to what is happening, Heleana takes Jaehaera to her mother Alicent Hightower’s (Olivia Cooke) bedroom to report the murder, only to find Alicent having sex with Croston Gole (Faben Frankle), which is scandalous not only because he is not her husband, but because Criston is supposed to remain celibate as a Kingsguard soldier. This part of the ending is not in the book. Instead, Alicent and the maids are held hostage by the assassins while they wait for Haleana. The murderers’ threats to rape Jaehaera and kill all the children were kept out of the show’s script, and in the book, according to Time, Helaena actually chooses Maelor to die, but Blood and Cheese chop off Jaehaerys’ head.

RELATED: ‘House Of The Dragon’ Official Trailer Revealed; “F–k Dignity. I Want Revenge’

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