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House Of The Dragon Season 1's Most Disturbing Moments Ranked

Fiery "Game of Thrones" prequel "House of the Dragon" brings viewers back to Westeros in explosive style. The series has an impressive amount of ground to cover in adapting George R. R. Martin's "Fire & Blood": "House of the Dragon" captures the Targaryen dynasty 200 years before Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) draws breath, as it descends into an incredibly complex war of succession. The family's legendarily hot temper is on full display in characters like Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), who is quick to anger and slow to learn, while their dragons incinerate their enemies with aplomb. Season 1 is stuffed with betrayal, subterfuge, and shocking choices, and fans can't get enough of it.

Even amidst all this cutthroat politicking and clandestine murder, certain moments in "House of the Dragon" manage to stand out as especially harrowing. Viewers watch people succumb to merciless illness, declare war against those they once held dear, and treat their own children with hideous contempt. Longtime fans of the franchise have come to expect this sort of intensity, but that doesn't mean these striking scenes don't linger in the mind long after the credits roll. These are "House of the Dragon" Season 1's most disturbing moments, ranked.

14. Queen Aemma's death

"House of the Dragon" wastes no time revealing just what kind of unflinching series fans will be tuning into each week. In Episode 1, "The Heirs of the Dragon," Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) struggles to give birth. King Viserys (Paddy Considine) proves how desperate he is for a viable heir when he's presented with a terrible choice: Should the child be surgically removed, which will undoubtedly kill Aemma, or should he let nature take its course, potentially killing them both?

In the end, both mother and child perish. But before their unfortunate fates descend, "House of the Dragon" gets in one of the most unsettling scenes in Westerosi history. In a frantic attempt to save the baby, the King orders the boy to be removed from his mother's womb while she writhes and screams in pain. The procedure is horrifying to witness, especially as the life slowly drains out of Aemma, who is terrified and crying in protest. She has absolutely no control over her own body, life, or fate. Suffering in a pool of crimson, Aemma takes her final breath. Baby Baelon does not long outlive her. This tragedy is all the more disturbing for the way it reveals Viserys' short-sightedness and self-serving nature, which manage to eclipse his otherwise kind tendencies.

13. Viserys' first injury

Viserys suffers from grotesque illness over the course of "House of the Dragon" Season 1, and it all begins with a shot of his suppurating wound in "The Heirs of the Dragon." The scene fully commits to graphic realism: Viewers are treated to a close-up shot of a maester's instrument carefully gathering pus from the ugly sore. This is the very beginning of Viserys' physical decomposition, and though it seems trivial, it is anything but.

Viserys insists the injury is simply a cut from the infamous Iron Throne, forged by Aegon the Conqueror. This can be taken as a symbolic sign that Viserys is not fit to rule, especially as the wound refuses to heal. He soon receives yet another slice on his hand, which eventually spreads the infection so severely that it takes his fingers. By the end of the season, he's a ravaged wraith whose teeth show through the rotted skin of his face. That's a considerably more shocking sight, but there's something about the very first sign of his deterioration that chills the blood. It's uniquely disgusting, for one thing, but it's also a vivid indication that Viserys is blind to the divisions eating away at the Targaryen family. His grave ignorance makes him an unwitting player in the coming civil war, which he does not live to see.

12. Viserys' maggot therapy

Viserys is determined to beat his flesh-eating disease by any means necessary, including a stomach-turning solution seen in Episode 2, "The Rogue Prince." At the maesters' suggestion, Viserys plunges his decomposing hand deep into a pile of wiggling maggots, in the hopes that they will chew off the dead flesh and clean his wound. Though it might seem medieval, maggot therapy is actually still in use today. But that doesn't make this scene any less difficult to watch. 

It's even more upsetting when one knows that Viserys is doomed either way. If this stubborn ailment didn't kill him, the stress of his family certainly would. It's painful to see the king suffer, especially in such a revolting way, when there's so little he can do to help his pitiful situation. House Targaryen will tear itself apart, no matter what lengths he goes to. This repulsive moment darkly foreshadows what's to come.

11. The Crabfeeder's victim

In Episode 3, "Second of His Name," we see what happens when the common folk find themselves in the midst of a dragon-heavy battle. Just when one of the Crabfeeder's (Daniel Scott-Smith) unlucky victims is about to become dinner, Prince Daemon swoops in on his fearsome dragon, Caraxes. The man joyously exclaims in relief, thinking Daemon is there to save him. But Caraxes crashes down and splatters the Targaryen supporter with nary a thought, then breathes unforgiving dragon fire all over the beach. 

This moment follows a brutal sequence in which the unnamed soldier is nailed to a wooden plank, to be feasted on by crustaceans. Such agony makes his brutal death all the more tragic: He means nothing to Daemon, who callously marches on to victory, just as he means nothing to the Crabfeeder. This reiterates the ordinary citizen's insignificance to the Westerosi elite, who are too busy soaring on dragon back to notice the people they crush.

10. Otto Hightower suggests Rhaenyra marry Aegon

House Hightower's influence over Viserys runs deep in the first few episodes, as Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King, tries to assert his will over the ruler. This is especially evident in his coy efforts  to set up his daughter Alicent (Emily Carey, Olivia Cooke) with the grieving king. His work pays off: The marriage takes place, and dramatically expands his family's power and leverage.

Otto kicks things up a further notch when he makes a startling suggestion in "Second of His Name." Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock, Emma D'Arcy) faces an immense amount of pressure to marry, but she disdains all suitors. Thus, Otto proposes she keep the Targaryen line pure, as is tradition, and marry Viserys and Alicent's firstborn son, Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney, Ty Tennant). As if this incestuous detail weren't off-putting enough, Aegon II is only two years old at the time, while Rhaenyra is 17. Unsurprisingly, Otto is able to overlook such an age difference if it means wedding his grandson to the heir to the Iron Throne. 

9. Two powerful and unnerving couples

"House of the Dragon" Episode 4, "King of the Narrow Sea," establishes two of the show's main couples in one disconcerting scene. We begin with the highly anticipated reunion between Daemon and his niece Rhaenyra. The sexual tension is palpable between these dragon-riders, and begins to surface in the pleasure houses of King's Landing. While this takes place, Viserys sends for Alicent to be taken to his chambers. The troubling nature of both relationships is heightened as shots of Rhaenyra and Daemon kissing in the dark are intercut with ones capturing Viserys in bed with a blank-faced Alicent.

This striking parallel emphasizes the Targaryen men's power over the women in their lives. Alicent and Rhaenyra go on to become two dueling strategists, rather than simple pawns to be married and controlled, but their power only extends so far. Daemon is unquestionably the driving force behind his excursion with Rhaenyra, while Alicent has absolutely no choice but to submit to what the king asks of her.

8. Criston Cole slays Joffrey

In Episode 5, "We Light the Way," Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) unravels. After Rhaenyra ends their intense physical relationship, his enraged jealousy is put on full display. It gets even worse when she agrees to marry Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan). As the future queen, Rhaenyra must marry strategically. She can accept this, after a fashion, but Criston cannot. At the wedding, he learns that the bride and groom have an arrangement: They will do their duty, but pursue their own paramours. He flies into a fit of rage, and takes his frustrations out on Laenor's lover, Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod) 

It's an utterly vicious moment: Criston beats Joffrey's face into a bloody pulp in front of the entire party, and even assaults Laenor. Yet he faces no consequences for his inexcusable actions. This sickening show of violence is a testament to what Criston is truly capable of, while his exemption from punishment is an outrage. His protection stems from his burgeoning closeness with Alicent, who is eager to signal that House Hightower is not to be messed with — even if that means unleashing a deranged knight upon innocent partygoers.

7. Laena Velaryon's death

As is illustrated multiple times on "House of the Dragon," childbirth can be as dangerous as war in Westeros. Laena Velaryon's (Nanna Blondell) death in Episode 6, "The Princess and the Queen," is a particularly heartbreaking example. Though Laena labors for hours, her baby fails to emerge. Daemon is far too emotionally unavailable to properly console her, even as the danger of this prolonged labor becomes more and more clear. In terrible pain, Laena staggers outside and begs Vhagar, her dragon, to end it all. Vhagar hesitates, which is tear-jerking unto itself and a chilling bit of foreshadowing regarding the dragon's free will. But after a few more pleas from Laena, the dragon finally opens her mouth and engulfs her rider in flames. This extremely bittersweet moment displays Vhagar's awesome might and bond with her rider, while also bringing Laena's life to a tragic end. The pain is palpable.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

6. Aemond loses his eye

The tension between Rhaenyra and Alicent's children builds steadily throughout Season 1. Episode 7, "Driftmark," brings it to a boil. In the wake of Laena's death, young Aemond Targaryen (Leo Ashton, Ewan Mitchell) claims Vhagar for himself. He is swiftly confronted by Laena's daughters and Rhaenyra's sons. Aemond taunts the latter group mercilessly, spurring Jacaerys (Leo Hart, Harry Collett) to pull out a sharp blade. This heightens the juvenile squabble into something much more dangerous. 

Chaos ensues, coming to end when Lucerys (Harvey Sadle, Elliot Grihault) slashes Aemond's face. Aemond reels backward, blood pouring from his wound. As the families assemble in the aftermath of this fight, it becomes clear that Aemond has lost his eye. Seeing children descend to such savagery is haunting enough, but the way this scene foreshadows the troubles to come is even more disturbing. These characters might be young, but their brutal destinies are already upon them.

5. King Viserys' final stand

Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides," finds Viserys moments away from death. This produces one of the season's most truly discomfiting scenes. After learning Rhaenyra and her family have arrived in King's Landing, the king refuses to take milk of the poppy, dons his finest garb, and slowly limps toward the towering Iron Throne. Though he is clearly suffering, he refuses to stop. Once atop the deadly seat, he vehemently defends Rhaenyra's honor against those who accuse her of infidelity, unsheathes a dagger, and demands the accuser's tongue.

Viserys' struggle makes for uneasy viewing on its own, but this scene's true power is in its tragedy. Viserys deeply loves Rhaenyra, whom he still champions as his heir. He even confides Aegon's climactic prophecy in her. Watching him come to her aid despite his failing body is incredibly moving — but the viewer also knows it's in vain. His family is descending into war, and there's nothing he can do about it. It's utterly harrowing to watch Viserys put himself through unimaginable pain and know it's all for naught.

4. Daemon butchers Vaemond Velaryon

House Velaryon suffers an uneasy transfer of power as Corlys (Steve Toussaint), the head of the family, languishes in far-off danger. Having suffered a grave injury in battle, Corlys might be at death's door. Thus, the family is forced to explore other possible means of inheritance. Driftmark, the Velaryon seat of power, would fall to Rhaenyra's children, as they're Laenor's heirs. This causes civil unrest among several influential members of the realm, including Corlys' brother, Vaemond (Wil Johnson). Vaemond feels he has much more of a legitimate claim, as Rhaenyra's children, he loudly declares, are illegitimate.

This proclamation sends King Viserys into a spitting rage. But before he can do anything about it, Daemon slices through Vaemond's skull like butter. This is a staggering, scene-stealing moment: Vaemond loses everything above the lower jaw, and falls to the ground like a sack of potatoes. It's gory, gross, and shocking, and it makes Daemon and Rhaenyra's ruthlessness loud and clear.

3. The fighting pits

"Game of Thrones" often pushed television's boundaries with arguably gratuitous scenes of sex and violence. "House of the Dragon" hones this legacy by using precise and intentional editing choices when portraying heavy subject matter. This is made especially clear in an excruciating scene from Episode 9, "The Green Council."

In the wake of Viserys' death, Aemond is recruited to locate his brother and soon-to-be king, Aegon. As he and Criston Cole search, they happen upon a heart-wrenching sight. In the darkest pits of Flea Bottom, children with sharpened nails and filed teeth are forced to fight while sick onlookers make bets and cheer. These traumatized youngsters shriek and cry, but swing all the same. It's a bone-chilling sequence that illustrates what humans, especially in this brutally unforgiving world, are truly capable of. Though "House of the Dragon" spares us from witnessing the attacks up close, the audio track fills in the awful details.

2. Rhaenys and Meleys decimate the Dragonpit

While a dragon's might is legendary, the wrath of a dragon-rider is not to be underestimated — especially when that rider is Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best). After Alicent attempts to sway Rhaenys to her cause in "The Green Council," Rhaenys finds herself swept up in the mob rushing to Aegon's coronation in the Dragonpit. Aegon is gaudily adorned with his conquering namesake's artifacts, including his crown and his breathtaking Valyrian blade, Blackfyre.

As the coronation takes place, Rhaenys slips into the Dragonpit's depths to search for her dragon, Meleys. A little while later, Meleys and Rhaenys erupt into the Dragonpit's main hall, slaughtering countless innocent civilians. Meleys kills without discretion, swiping her mammoth wings and limbs this way and that. After a final roar, she flies off. It's a stunning scene, but the absolute disregard for the common people is shocking: Meleys' victims die horribly, and none of the main characters even seem to notice. The fact that they're in the Dragonpit to cheer on the Targaryens makes the moment even more disturbing. The rulers these commoners are celebrating don't even notice when they die beneath their dragons' claws.

1. Aemond and Vhagar kill Arrax and Lucerys

"House of the Dragon" saves the most disturbing moment for last. In Episode 10, "The Black Queen," Lucerys is sent as an envoy to Storm's End, to remind House Baratheon of the oath it swore to Rhaenyra. But Aemond has gotten there first, and promised to wed one of Borros Baratheon's daughters. The one-eyed Targaryen youth seems positively starved for revenge: Mere minutes pass before Aemond demands Lucerys' eye in repayment for his own. Lucerys flees atop Arrax, his young dragon, but Aemond pursues him on Vhagar's back. They soar into a furious thunderstorm over Shipbreaker Bay.

As the dragons duel, they pay less and less attention to their riders' commands. Arrax unleashes a final bout of dragon fire, which enrages the enormous Vhagar. The leviathan rises from the clouds and viciously chomps the small dragon and rider. All that's left of Arrax and Lucerys is a fluttering jumble of body parts, which fall into the sea. This is a jaw-dropping moment, as shockingly violent as it is emotionally impactful. In one brutal swallow, the Dance of the Dragons begins, changing the course of Westerosi history forever.