‘House of the Dragon’ Creator Explains That Blood & Cheese Book Change

Phia Saban as Queen Helaena Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon' Season 2
Spoiler Alert
Ollie Upton / HBO

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 1, “A Son for a Son.” It also contains discussion of sexual assault.]

One of the most brutal chapters of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood came to pass in the House of the Dragon Season 2 premiere on Sunday, June 16 on HBO. But readers of the book undoubtedly noticed a major book change from this bleak hour of Targaryen history.

If you’ve been tuning into House of the Dragon Season 2 press, you may have come across the title “Blood and Cheese.” It’s not the title of a chapter in the book, which was published in 2018, but rather the name of two people who committed an act that plunged the Targaryen civil war into new depths.

So, what is Blood and Cheese? And what was House of the Dragon‘s take on it? Here, we break down the pivotal moment, with commentary from series creator and showrunner Ryan Condal about why they made certain changes.

Fire & Blood‘s Blood and Cheese explained

Harry Collett, Emma D'Arcy, and Oscar Eskinazi in 'House of the Dragon' Season 2

Rhaenyra, Jace, and Joffrey grieve Luke in House of the Dragon Season 2 (Theo Whitman / HBO)

Blood and Cheese references an event that takes place in Section 14 of Fire & Blood titled “The Dying of the Dragons – A Son for a Son,” from which the Season 2 premiere gets its title. Blood and Cheese are the names given to the two men at the center of this violent piece of Westeros’ history. The murder they commit is comparable to the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, not in the number of deaths but in brutality.

In the House of the Dragon Season 1 finale, Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) attacked his nephew, Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) on purpose but inadvertently killed him. Luke’s mangled body (along with his dragon, Arrax) fell into the sea below after Aemond lost of control of his dragon, Vhagar. The creature took a massive bite out of Arrax and Luke was collateral carnage. This triggers the war between the two houses that comprise the late King Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) family, the Targaryens and the Hightowers, now called the blacks and the greens in the conflict ahead.

The Season 2 premiere is titled “A Son for a Son,” a direct reference to a line in the book. It reads: “On Dragonstone, Queen Rhaenyra collapsed when told of Luke’s death. Luke’s young brother Joffrey (Jace was still away on his mission north) swore a terrible oath of vengeance against Prince Aemond and Lord Borros. Only the intervention of the Sea Snake and Princess Rhaenys kept the boy from mounting his dragon at once. (Mushroom would have us believe he played a part as well.) As the black council sat to consider how to strike back, a raven arrived from Harrenhal. ‘An eye for an eye, a son for a son,’ Daemon wrote. ‘Lucerys shall be avenged.'”

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon' Season 2

Theo Whitman / HBO

House of the Dragon‘s Blood and Cheese

In the episode, after Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) found Luke’s body she returned to Dragonstone and told her council, “I want Aemond Targaryen.” Daemon (Matt Smith) snuck away to King’s Landing in secret to try and avenge Luke for Rhaenyra. Like in the book, he found two lowborn men to assassinate a prince from the Hightower camp. One man is a former member of the City Watch and known for brutal violence (Blood) and the other is a rat catcher (Cheese) who works in the Red Keep, giving him knowledge of the castle’s pathways.

In the book, Daemon orders Blood and Cheese to kill a son of King Aegon II Targaryen (played by Tom Glynn-Carney in the series). Aegon and his sister/wife, Helaena (Phia Saban), have three young children in the novel, twin son and daughter Jaehaerys and Jaehaerya and son Maelor, a toddler. House of the Dragon omitted Maelor entirely and had Smith’s Daemon order the men to kill Aemond. He didn’t give an alternative option in the event that the men didn’t find their target, so they improvised and found the first prince they could find.

They held Helaena at knifepoint and ordered her to identify which young twin was the son. The cornered queen revealed the truth instead of trying to dupe them, literally pointing the way to her son’s murder.

In the book, Helaena urges them to kill her instead, but the men threaten to sexually assault her and kill her daughter as well. She then chooses Maelor (her youngest) as the son to die. They do the opposite and killed Jaehaerys, Aegon’s heir, anyway. The book says that Jaehaerys was decapitated right in front of Helaena and Blood and Cheese took the head with them. Thankfully, we don’t see Jaehaerys’ death onscreen in the episode, but we do watch Helaena’s horrified reaction as it happens. Condal explains why they didn’t include Maelor as a character to TV Insider.

“In this timeline, Maelor hasn’t been born yet. We had to compress history in the first season in order to make it producible,” Condal says. “Really, 30 years passed between Rhaenyra’s childhood and her being named heir and then the beginning of the Dance of the Dragons. It’s a very long time. And if we had done it true to that, it would’ve just required much more recasting and I think it would’ve been more unbalancing for the audience. So, we stuck with this 20-year plan, which was great, and it worked. It just means that the youngest kids are younger, so Aegon and Viserys, Rhaenyra and Daemon’s children, are younger, and then Jaehaerys and Jaehaerya are younger and thus Maelor is not yet around in the story.”

Condal says “the core of what Blood and Cheese is about” is still in the episode. It’s “this horrible counter attack and punishment, vengeance for the murder of Luke over Storm’s End, Daemon sending the queen’s justice in for the green side, and it resulting in the murder of Jaehaerys and Helaena bearing eyewitness to [the murder of] the most innocent person on either side of this conflict. To us, those were the core dramatic points of this and that felt like the truest-in-spirit adaptation of that source material.”

If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network‘s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

House of the Dragon, Season 2 Premiere, Sunday, June 16, 9/8c, HBO, Streaming on Max