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House of the Dragon Showrunner Explains Why Blood and Cheese Have a Different Target in the Series Than in the Book

'It felt like Rhaenyra, certainly, Daemon, probably, would at least have a better first idea'

Kat Moon, Tim Surette

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1, "A Son for a Son." Read at your own risk!]

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 ended in the most disturbing (and most House of the Dragon) way possible: with child murder. Many fans of George R.R. Martin's novel Fire & Blood — which the HBO series adapts — knew what to expect when they saw the premiere episode's title, "A Son for a Son." That's because the phrase is taken directly from the book, where Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) gives an order to the assassins Blood (Sam C. Wilson) and Cheese (Mark Stobbart): "an eye for an eye, a son for a son." Even then, the gruesome murder of Jaehaerys Targaryen unfolds slightly differently in the series. Daemon's intended target, for one, is a significant change.

In House of the Dragon, the prince approached Blood and Cheese and specifically asked for the head of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell). His commission took place moments after a grieving Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) returned to Dragonstone and demanded justice for the one-eyed prince responsible for killing Lucaerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault). But historians recorded Daemon as having wanted "a son for a son" in Fire & Blood, which suggests he wanted one of Aegon II Targaryen's (Tom Glynn-Carney) heirs to be slayed (the king had two sons at this point in the novel — Jaehaerys and his younger brother, Maelor — the latter of whom is not in the series).

"We looked at that and wondered, was that really — Daemon is certainly impulsive and capable of that — but was that the original plan?" House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal told TV Guide. "Or was there something else that went awry?" He explained the decision to have Aemond, and not Jaehaerys, be the target. "In the characters that we've established in our show, it felt like Rhaenyra, certainly, Daemon, probably, would at least have a better first idea — versus going right to the lowest possible denominator," Condal said. 

ALSO READ: House of the Dragon Season 2 premiere recap: Do two wrongs make a right?

The showrunner further shared why targeting Aemond would've made sense for the Blacks. "The more effective thing to do would be to kill Aemond and take Vhagar's rider off the board, because that's direct vengeance on the guy who did the crime in the first place, and it's also a major strategic win because you disarm the biggest dragon in the world," Condal said. "So that felt like a Daemon choice that he then puts two knuckleheads in charge of, and of course, as things do in this world, it goes wrong."

But Condal wanted to highlight an important moment during Daemon's exchange with the assassins. "What we don't know, we don't see on camera is intentional — which is when Cheese asks, what if we can't find [Aemond]? And then you go to Daemon as he pauses and ruminates," Condal said. "I think Daemon did make some order like that." In other words, the prince could have instructed killing Jaehaerys as the backup plan. "But I don't think he sent them in with the express intent of murdering a child right out of the gate," Condal explained.

Mark Stobbart, Sam C. Wilson, House of the Dragon

Mark Stobbart, Sam C. Wilson, House of the Dragon


More on House of the Dragon Season 2: 

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 is available to stream on Max.