“My father looked after me and helped prepare me for my duties. Your mother will do the same for you,” Rhaenyra tells Luke.
Unfortunately, the bad weight of history arrives with Rhaenys’s (Eve Best) dark news. The king is dead and Rhaenyra may as well be the last person on the continent to know about it. What’s more: Aegon II sits on the Conqueror’s throne, wields the Conqueror’s sword, and bears the Conqueror’s name. Rhaenyra is losing the war before she’s even aware it began. The news sends Rhaenyra into premature labor.
House of the Dragon certainly hasn’t shied away from the grim realities of medieval-era (or an approximation of it) childbirth thus far. The show’s first six episodes featured three scenes of labor, two of which were lethal to the mother. And yet, many of us knew that at least one more was coming, and not only because of the precedent set in the book. In the HBO’s post-episode featurette for episode 6, director and showrunner Miguel Sapochnik revealed that the season would feature four childbirths, almost as though he was encouraging viewers to gird their loins for the fourth and final one to come. Ultimately, I appreciated the warning but not much can truly prepare you as a viewer for a graphic and tragic depiction of a miscarriage.
For as long as Rhaenyra lives (and who knows how long that will be), these two events will be inextricably linked in her mind: the day the Greens took my throne and the day the Gods took my daughter. Hell, maybe the Greens took the baby too. Who knows how a pregnant human body responds to the stress of the news that their throne had been usurped. Simultaneously depicting the moment of Rhaenyra’s labor with Daemon’s war preparation, while dark, is creatively sound. One of the first things we heard Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) tell her daughter was that childbirth was a woman’s battlefield. And now here she is preparing for both.
Much of this episode, before its tragic ending, devotes itself to logistics. In that way it serves as an interesting two-hander with “The Green Council.” The death of any monarch presents a logistical nightmare: there is a coronation to schedule and lords to keep in line. Hell, we’ve got to redo the money! It’s particularly hectic when there are two factions seeking to replace that monarch. Daemon (Matt Smith), man of action that he is, immediately works up a plan of action.
First, they have to make sure The Kingsguard on Dragonstone are sensitive to their cause. A visit from Caraxes takes care of that. Then, they have to make sure the regional lords of the Blackwater Bay are onboard: the Bar Emmons, Celtigars, and Masseys. Finally, it becomes time to convince the major lords: the Starks, the Baratheons, the Arryns, the Tullys. All of this talk of politicking and consolidating support could get boring fast. It’s to House of the Dragon‘s credit that it never does.