The new HBO series’ first episode aired Monday (22 August) featuring a bloody jousting scene and a birth scene that left viewers reeling.
Speaking at a roundtable attended by Insider and other news outlets, showrunner Miguel Sapochnik said his team asked “as many women as possible” if the birthing scene was too violent.
“We did make a point of showing it to as many women as possible and asked the very question: ‘Was this too violent for you?’” he said. “And unanimously, the response was ‘no.’ Often the response was ‘If anything, it needs to be more.’”
Sapochnik, who also directs the series, said they spent a long time making sure they “weren’t glorifying it” and that it felt “horribly real” without being excessive or dwelled upon.
Spoilers follow for the House of the Dragon premiere – you have been warned!
In the episode, Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke) is preparing to give birth to a son, when she faces complications. Her husband, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), has to choose between attempting to save her life or the life of the unborn baby, who would become heir to his throne.
Viserys orders that a caesarean delivery be performed to save the baby. In the particularly brutal scene, the procedure is carried out while Aemma is fully conscious.
Aemma does not survive, but neither does the baby, kickstarting one of House of the Dragon’s central conflicts, as Viserys overlooks his fickle brother Daemon (Matt Smith) in favour of daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) to be his heir.
In a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sapocknik said it was important to highlight the plight of women in the middle ages.
“Aemma says, ‘The child bed is our battlefield’,” he said. “We felt that was an interesting way to explore the fact that for a woman in medieval times, giving birth was violence. It’s as dangerous as it gets.
“You have a 50/50 chance of making it. Many women didn’t. If given the choice, the father would choose the child over the mother as a cesarean would kill you. It was an extremely violent part of life.”
He continued: “We have a number of births in the show and basically decided to give them different themes and explore them from different perspectives the same way I did for a bunch of battles on Thrones, where each time I tried to put a different spine in each so it wasn’t just doing the same thing as I don’t think putting a bunch of violence on screen for the sake of violence does any good in the world.”
House of the Dragon is available to watch now in the UK on Sky and NOW and in the US on HBO.