‘House of the Dragon’ Showrunners Wanted to Depict Birth as a ‘Battlefield’

TL;DR:

  • House of the Dragon Episode 1 contains a controversial birth scene.
  • Showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal compared it to a “battlefield.”
  • According to King Viserys actor Paddy Considine, that moment wasn’t easy to film.
Sian Brooke as Aemma Arryn in 'House of the Dragon,' which has a controversial birth scene in its premire. She's lying on a bed with her hair messy and face sweaty.
Sian Brooke in ‘House of the Dragon’ | Ollie Upton/HBO

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 1.]

House of the Dragon Episode 1 made its debut on Aug. 21, and the Game of Thrones prequel has already stirred up controversy online. The premiere features a violent birth scene that left many fans feeling uncomfortable. And according to House of the Dragon showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal, they wanted to depict birth as akin to a “battlefield.”

‘House of the Dragon’s violent birth scene is stirring up controversy online

The House of the Dragon premiere has no shortage of violence, but one scene, in particular, has gotten fans talking. During “The Heirs of the Dragon,” Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke) goes into labor with King Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) next child. The birthing goes poorly, with Aemma dying in the process — and the baby doing so shortly after.

Because of the baby’s position in Aemma’s womb, Viserys is forced to choose whether he wants the Maesters to cut her open and save the baby or let both of them perish. He makes that decision without Aemma’s input, with House of the Dragon going on to show the forced birth.

It’s a bloody and brutal moment to watch, even for the most seasoned Game of Thrones fans. Many took to Twitter and Reddit to question the necessity of the scene — and note that it was difficult to stomach.

After all the backlash Game of Thrones received for violence against women, viewers may be wondering why the House of the Dragon showrunners included such a development. They recently revealed the thought process behind the scene, emphasizing that they wanted to portray birth as a “battlefield.”

Showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal explain what they were going for with that birth scene

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During an interview with Insider, House of the Dragon showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal opened up about the premiere’s controversial birth scene.

According to Sapochnik, they ran it by “as many women as possible,” all of whom said it wasn’t “too violent.” And Sapochnik emphasized that they “shouldn’t be shying away” from the brutality of Aemma’s fate — especially since they wanted to highlight the similarities between childbirth and fighting a battle:

“As we stated earlier in the episode, the birthing bed is almost a battlefield. You have 50 percent chance of survival. And so it seemed like this was an appropriate time to draw that parallel visually between the male and the female struggle. One’s fighting on the battlefield, the other’s fighting for survival — sometimes from the person closest to her.”

Condal expressed a similar sentiment during HBO’s Inside the Episode, revealing that’s why they flashed back and forth between Aemma’s childbirth and a physical fight.

“It was actually Miguel’s idea to intercut the birth with the specific Criston Cole fight,” he explained, “because as Aemma tells Rhaenyra earlier in the story, ‘The child bed is our battlefield.'”

Paddy Considine called ‘House of the Dragon’s premiere ‘tough to shoot’

Clearly, the House of the Dragon showrunners had their reasons for including Aemma’s birth scene in the premiere. However, that didn’t make it any easier to watch — or film.

Speaking with Insider during a roundtable discussion, King Viserys actor Paddy Considine admitted that moment “was tough to shoot.”

“It was very emotional,” Considine said. “In fact, it was a lot more brutal and a lot more emotional than it ends up in the final episode. And I wasn’t sure about that when I first saw it.”

Sian Brooke, who was front and center as Aemma, told Variety that the scene “was a bloodbath.”

“Behind that belly was a whole bag full of blood and fluid,” she recalled. “When the incision was made, they would have to time it with pumping this blood out of the belly.”

Needless to say, it sounds like a lot of work — and emotion — went into filming House of the Dragon‘s premiere. And despite how it’s been received, the showrunners got their message across. We’ll have to wait and see if House of the Dragon Episode 2 proves less disturbing.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air on HBO at 9 p.m. ET/PT every Sunday.

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