The following article contains major spoilers for episode one of House of the Dragon season two.

Game of Thrones never exactly shied away from mercilessly killing kids—remember Shireen Baratheon’s piercing screams when her dad burned her alive?—and now House of the Dragon has joined in on the infanticidal action.

The season two opener “A Son For a Son” ended by living up to the promise of its title. In revenge for the death of Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) son Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), she calls for the head of his killer: Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Her uncle-lover Daemon (Matt Smith) takes this very seriously, and solicits the services of a rat-catcher—who has pin-point knowledge of the Red Keep’s maze-like passages and rooms, plus access to pretty much the entire castle—to, quite literally, cut off Aemond’s head. The rat-catcher asks along a disgruntled guard to help with the deed. In the books, they’re known as Blood and Cheese.

So, what does the show change?

In “A Son For a Son,” the duo stumble their way from the sewers up into the bowels of the castle, through the throne room — where King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his mates are having something of a sesh — and up to the royals’ private chambers. They can’t find Aemond, but do find Queen Halaena (Phia Saban) and her tiny children. They force her to reveal which of the two is the male heir, and subsequently cut off his head, in a scene that is harrowing but surprisingly subdued for a franchise that isn’t exactly known for eschewing graphic violence.

So, it’s already pretty nasty. But in the book House of the Dragon is adapted from, George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, Halaena and her kids arguably had it worse off. In it, Blood and Cheese sneak into Dowager Queen Alicent’s (Olivia Cooke) bed chamber, where they tie her up, gag her, and strangle one of her maids to death; they know that Halaena and the children visit with their grandmother every night before they go to bed. On Halaena and the kids’ arrival, Blood and Cheese take them at knifepoint, and force the queen to make an impossible decision: which of her sons shall they kill?

An eye for an eye, and a… son for a son.

Yeah! It’s fucked up! Ten times more fucked up than we saw in the show, if that’s possible. But it gets worse. Halaena offers up herself instead, which the men refuse — it has to be a son, lest they miss out on the chance of poetic symmetry — and, ultimately, she chooses her youngest, Maelor. After taunting the wee boy after his mother’s choice, Blood takes a swift sword to the neck of Prince Jaehaerys, the firstborn and thus heir to the throne. That’s just harsh, bro.

But why did they change it?

According to series co-creator Ryan Condal in conversation with Entertainment Weekly, there were a handful of reasons. For one, in the interview, he alludes to the fact that book readers expect these big events to happen — they’re waiting for the show to “play the hits,” in his words — so subversion never goes amiss. “Sometimes you have to do a little bit of misdirection so that it is revealed in a satisfying way,” he said.

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