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House Of The Dragon Season 2 Episode 1's Gross Ending Was Originally Way Worse

Contains discussions of sexual assault

Contains spoilers for "House of the Dragon" Season 2 Episode 1 — "A Son for a Son"

In the final moments of the Season 2 premiere of "House of the Dragon," a truly vile act occurs: specifically, the murder of a young child. Seeking revenge for the death of Lucerys Velaryon (Elliott Grihault) at the hands of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) in the Season 1 finale, Matt Smith's Daemon Targaryen — the husband and uncle of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) and a leader of Team Black — turns to unsavory means. Through his former lover and spy Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), he hires two men known only as "Blood," a swordsman (Sam C. Wilson), and "Cheese," a rat-catcher (Mark Stobbart), and tells them to bring him Aemond's head. This doesn't go as planned ... but despite how gruesome this is in "A Son for a Son," it's even worse in George R.R. Martin's novella "Fire & Blood."

For starters, in the book, the scale of the act is much larger ... in that the Dowager Queen, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is involved. As Martin writes, the two infiltrate Alicent's bedchambers, knowing that her daughter, Queen Helaena (Phia Saban) — who has children with and is the queen consort to her own brother Aegon II Targaryen, played by Tom Glynn-Carney — always brings her children to bid their grandmother goodnight. After gagging and binding Alicent, the book goes into gruesome detail about how Helaena and her children — six-year-old Jaehaerys and Jaehaera, and two-year-old Maelor — enter a room full of horrors.

The Blood and Cheese scene is far more brutal in Fire & Blood

Just as in the book, the show forces poor Helaena to choose which of her children will die, despite the fact that she begs the duo to simply kill her instead. ("A wife's not a son," Blood tells her in the moment. "It has to be a boy," Blood tells her.) Cheese also tells Helaena that she needs to make her horrific choice quickly, or Blood will sexually assault her six-year-old daughter Jaehaera; worse, the two will also kill all of the children if Helaena doesn't decide.

"On her knees, weeping, Helaena named her youngest, Maelor," the original text reads. "Perhaps she thought the boy was too young to understand, or perhaps it was because the older boy, Jaehaerys, was King Aegon's firstborn son and heir, next in line to the Iron Throne. 'You hear that, little boy?' Cheese whispered to Maelor. 'Your momma wants you dead.' Then he gave Blood a grin, and the hulking swordsman slew Prince Jaehaerys, striking off the boy's head with a single blow. The queen began to scream."

In the series, Helaena is too terrified to try and trick either Blood or Cheese, and simply points, leading them to the right child. Clearly, though, this entire scenario could have been much more gruesome on-screen ... and was significantly scaled back.

The murder of Prince Jaehaerys will send shock waves through the Targaryen family in Season 2

Why does Season 2 even begin with such a heinous act? Because Season 1 ends with the death of Rhaenyra's second-eldest son Lucerys — and it's the fault of his uncle Aemond, who happens to be Alicent's second-eldest son. After the two separately arrive at the Baratheon stronghole of Storm's End to try and curry favor with the house — meaning enlist them to fight for either Team Green or Team Black — Lucerys leaves with no gains for his mother, and Aemond, who promises a royal marriage to the Baratheons, has already triumphed. Regardless, he chases his nephew through a thunderstorm with both of them on dragonback ... and when push comes to shove, Lucerys' smaller dragon Arrax is simply no match for Aemond's enormous steed Vhagar. After Arrax successfully burns Vhagar, the bigger dragon attacks without mercy — and despite Aemond's orders — and kills both Lucerys and Arrax with a single bite.

Though Rhaenyra clearly wants revenge at the end of Season 1, it feels unlikely that she wants a young child killed in her name ... and the fact that Daemon engineered this cruelty without consulting his queen will surely cause problems within Team Black. As for Team Green, they'll be (understandably) grief-stricken over the loss of their young prince — ultimately, there's no question that Prince Jaehaerys' murder will reverberate throughout Westeros in Season 2. The depiction also could have been a lotlot worse to watch.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).