I have now seen Episode 1 of Season 2 of House of the Dragon.

in #gotlast month


A few thoughts (SPOILERS follow):

The main plot development of the episode is the "Blood and Cheese" murder of Aegon II and Queen Helaena's son Jaeharys in retaliation for the death of Lucerys, son of Queen Rhaenyra, at the hands of Aemond Targaryen. Continuing a strategy from Season 1, the show-runners have tried to maintain audience sympathy for the characters - especially the Blacks (Rhaenyra's faction) - by making their actions less heinous than in the book.

In the book, Rhaenyra wants vengeance, and her husband/uncle Daemon specifies it must be the death of one of Aegon's sons in retaliation for Luc's death ("a son for a son"). Thus, he explicitly orders the death of a child (in the books, Aegon II has 2 sons, aged 6 and 2). In the show, Rhaenyra and Daemon demand the death of Aemond (an adult and no innocent), and it is left unclear whether Daemon says Blood and Cheese should kill a child-son instead of Aemond if they can't find the latter. It's implied Daemon instructed them to do this, but we don't see it.

Thus, most of the onus for the horrible child-murder gets shifted to two low-level villains. Also, unlike in the book, Blood and Cheese do not force Helaena to choose which of her sons should die, and then kill the other one (the one she did NOT choose).

In all these ways, the horror of this episode gets tamped down. It's still awful. But our lead characters on the Black side are far less at fault than in the book, for what is one of their faction's most awful atrocities.

On the Green side, Alicent continues to get played up as a relatively sympathetic character, which somewhat diverts attention away from the more villainous nature of the others.

That said. I still liked the episode, which does move the plot along reasonably well. And I do understand why the show-runners want to make the Black leaders more sympathetic. If everyone is as awful as they are in the books, the audience might be turned off. As it is, they can (sort of, at least) sympathize with Rhaenyra, and even root for the Blacks as a kind of less-bad alternative compared to the Greens. In the show, the former - so far - enjoy considerably greater moral superiority over the latter than in the book (where any moral difference between the two sides is very small).

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