‘House of the Dragon’ Star Explains Helaena’s ‘Unfair’ Choice in Season 2 Premiere

“House of the Dragon’s” second season premiere ended with Helaena Targaryen (Phia Saban) making the terrible choice of sacrificing one of her children to a pair of assassins in order to save another.

Saban told the official “House of the Dragon” podcast that the “unfair” decision to tell the killers — Blood and Cheese — which of her twins was the king’s heir and which was merely his daughter was about more than being afraid. It was about “saving a child’s life.”

“I think that what she hears from them is, we are extremely dangerous men and we are more than capable of killing all of you, and you can make this easy for yourself or you can make this harder for yourself,” Saban said. “Obviously, there’s nothing easy about it. I would think it’s unfair to say that somebody braver would be like, ‘No, you won’t have either of them.’ I don’t think that’s an option. I genuinely don’t believe that’s an option in that moment.”

Blood and Cheese were hired by Daemon (Matt Smith) to kill Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) as retribution for him and Vhagar murdering Luke (Elliot Grihault) in the Season 1 finale. They never find Aemond, but they do stumble upon Helaena and her twins — Prince Jaehaerys and Princess Jaehaera. The assassins compel her at knifepoint to tell them which is the boy and the King’s heir. After failing to sway them with gold, Helaena relents and points out 6-year-old Jaehaerys, who is killed while the Queen flees the room with her daughter.

“I actually think it’s kind of powerful that she’s honest the first time, because I think that is exemplary of how high the stakes are for her,” Saban added. “Like, ‘I am not going to mess this up or I don’t have an option here.’ This is about saving a child’s life.”

The moment is slightly altered onscreen from how it appears in the book. While the bloody end result is the same, on the page, Helaena is forced to choose which of her two sons will die and when she finally makes a decision, Blood kills the opposite. Showrunner Ryan Condal told TheWrap that adapting the big moment led to a lot of decision-making.

“There was a lot of debate about how do we write this? And how do we structure this so we can make it satisfying, but also producible?” he noted. “And, of course, what’s written on the page is great and it’s classic and affected everybody that read that book, but we had to figure out a way to take that and make it for the screen in a way that would be executable and also dramatically satisfying.”

New episodes of “House of the Dragon” air Sundays on HBO and stream on Max.

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