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The Secret House Of The Dragon Detail That Makes [SPOILER]'s Death Even More Tragic

Contains spoilers for "House of the Dragon" Season 2 Episode 4 — The Red Dragon and the Gold"

In the fourth episode of the long-awaited second season of "House of the Dragon," audiences finally get their huge dragon battle ... and it comes with a huge casualty. Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), sister of the late King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) who was sometimes called the "Queen Who Never Was," falls in "The Red Dragon and the Gold," alongside her beloved and powerful dragon Meleys. Sent into battle against her nephew King Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) on behalf of her chosen queen, Viserys' daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy), Rhaenys undertakes a dangerous mission, and ends up dying after a vicious attack courtesy of Aegon's brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and his huge dragon Vhagar.

Rhaenys' death is a gut punch, and it's sadder than you think. "The Red Dragon and the Gold" aired on July 7, and as it happens, Rhaenys' birthday in George R.R. Martin's book "Fire & Blood" matches that. "Princess Rhaenys was born on the seventh day of the seventh moon of the year, which the septons judged to be highly auspicious," Martin's book tells us, and elsewhere, he clarified what "moon" means here. On Westeros.org, a quote from the author explaining time in Westeros reads, "Twelve moon tuns to a year, as on earth ... A year is a measure of a solar cycle, of how long it takes the earth to make one complete revolution around the sun. The same is true for the world of Westeros. Seasons do not come into it." 

What this all means is that the episode of "House of the Dragon" where Rhaenys dies basically aired on her birthday. With that established, what did Best herself think of her character's demise?

Eve Best says she knows why Rhaenys had to go into battle for her queen

After "The Red Dragon and The Gold" aired, Eve Best spoke to Vulture critic Roxana Hadidi about the end of her character's story — and the actress says that the choice to send Rhaenys into battle instead of any of Rhaenyra's other fighters was actually quite significant. Not only that, but to make it all even sadder, Best says that Rhaenys knows she's essentially doomed before the battle even begins.

Best, who said she was happy to get one last emotional arc on the show, explained, "Rhaenys knows full well that it's very likely to be a suicide mission, a kamikaze mission, and that's why she proposed herself to do it. Somebody described her to me as Rhaenyra's Lancelot — she's their best fighter, and she knows that she's the one that has to go in."

Not only that, but Best said that they changed one specific line to make it more significant ... specifically so that, when it came time for Rhaenyra to choose her fighter, the language was unequiocal for Rhaenys. "That scene when Rhaenys is proposing herself to go, when they're making the choice to do this and she steps forward and says, 'You must send me,' initially that line was 'Send me,'" Best explained, saying that writer Sara Hess came through with the suggestion. "Which is so brilliant, because 'send me,' that's still a kind of suggestion," she noted. "There's a possibility in there. 'You must send me' is an instruction."

While in battle, Rhaenys takes a much more measured approach — Eve Best says this was deliberate

The line change when Rhaenys steps forward to volunteer as Rhaenyra's defender against her own nephews isn't the only important small detail about the character you can find in this episode. During that same interview, Roxana Hadidi correctly noted that while Aegon and Aemond both encourage their dragons to shoot fire more or less constantly throughout battle, using the command "dracarys," Rhaenys simply tells Meleys to "attack." This too is significant; as Best pointed out, this is a war between family members. As Rhaenys says to Rhaenyra earlier in the series, "There is no war so hateful as a war between kin and no war so bloody as a war between dragons."

"That's well spotted, because exactly right," Best told Hadidi, regarding her observation about the major difference between Aegon, Aemond, and Rhaenys in battle. "They're just like boys with guns; they want to maximize the amount of carnage. And there's something very ... I don't want to generalize, but, you know, it's very male. Whereas she's very specifically going for the dragon: Let's take out the weaponry, and don't burn everybody else randomly. There's a gritted-teeth-ness about it, because these guys are her nephews, however appallingly badly they've behaved and are behaving and however dangerous they are."

Not only that, but Best explained that, on some level, Rhaenys intended for this battle to culminate in her destruction, only because she is fighting her own family. "The responsibility of that is so huge that it has to be a kamikaze mission, because how can one live with it?" Best mused. 

Eve Best says that, in her final moments, Rhaenys is at peace

At the end of the day, audiences need to remember one thing and one thing only about Targaryens: they're bonded to their dragons, and that bond supersedes nearly everything else in their lives — especially in times of trouble. As Eve Best told Roxana Hadidi, Rhaenys and her beloved husband Corlys Velaryon (Steve Touissant) have been at odds throughout Season 2, and thanks in part to that, Meleys is nearest and dearest to Rhaenys' heart. "Meleys being attacked was actually one of the hardest things of all, because Meleys by the end has become the only person — the only being — with whom Rhaenys can really connect ... That moment of vulnerability with Meleys — that connection was so important, and seeing her being destroyed by Vhagar was so hard."

The attack in question is particularly brutal — Aemond's dragon Vhagar grabs Meleys by the neck, beheading the smaller dragon with Rhaenys still atop her back — and Best was unequivocal that Meleys' impending death was the final straw for Rhaenys. "That's it for Rhaenys," Best revealed. "It's not a giving up, because that implies reluctance. It's a surrender. She's been letting go and letting go and letting go, and becoming more and more detached through the whole arc of the two seasons [...] Rhaenys has been holding it all together and holding everybody else together and holding it in, and always rising above it and always seeing the bigger picture."

In fact, Best says that, after watching Meleys die, Rhaenys finds solace in both of their final moments by letting everything go. "It was this unbelievable weight, and she could just let go in that moment. And their final moment felt intensely peaceful, like a relief," Best said.