House of the Dragon's Blood and Cheese was different in the book, so why did they change it?

The premiere episode of House of the Dragon changes a major scene from the book. Was it the right call? I don't think so.
Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO
Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO /

One of the most anticipated moments in House of the Dragon season 2 is an event called "Blood and Cheese," which went down in the premiere episode. But as fans of George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood know, the original scene was much more brutal than what we saw on our screens tonight. Was it a good or bad change? I'm left feeling a bit underwhelmed.

WARNING: There are major spoilers for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 below.

The Game of Thrones prequel series returned after nearly two years with its highly anticipated sophomore season tonight, airing an episode called "A Son for a Son." When the title was first leaked, Fire & Blood fans knew what it meant: Blood and Cheese was definitely coming. In the source material, which is written through secondhand accounts as a Targaryen history book, Daemon Targaryen recruits two men to carry out a murder, making it a "son for a son." If you've seen the season 1 finale, you probably know who this is in reference to.

The first season of House of the Dragon ends on an upsetting note after Aemond Targaryen kills Lucerys Velaryon while riding Vhagar. Though Luke is on dragon back, his dragon Arrax is no match for Vhagar, who is one of, if not the, most powerful dragon in the realm. Though it seems like an accident, what's done is done — Rhaenyra's son is gone, and she's ready to get revenge.

In the season 2 premiere tonight, Rhaenyra returns to Dragonstone after she finds remnants of Arrax and some of Luke's clothing on a beach and gives orders to her council: "I want Aemond Targaryen." Daemon acts quickly, and just like in Fire & Blood, he pays two men at King's Landing to sneak into the castle and make a major kill.

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 /

In the show, however, we see the conversation between Daemon and these two men — who are nicknamed "Blood" and "Cheese" — something we don't get in the book. Daemon instructs them to kill Aemond, and when they ask what they should do if they can't find him, the scene cuts. Now, in both Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon, Blood and Cheese end up killing Aegon and Helaena's son Jaehaerys. But the manner in which the murder goes down is different.

How Blood and Cheese is different in Fire & Blood

For starters, Alicent is in the room when Blood and Cheese happens in Fire & Blood, but in the show, it's only Helaena and her children. Alicent is instead busy getting intimate with Criston when it all goes down in House of the Dragon. Their sexual relationship is established earlier on in the episode with a scene of Criston performing oral sex on Alicent. While I'm all for this messy relationship (who doesn't love the drama?) I don't think Blood and Cheese is as impactful without Alicent there to watch her grandson slayed.

Another change the show makes is reducing the cruelty of the scene itself. In Fire & Blood, Blood and Cheese allow Helaena to choose which child they kill, telling her it has to be "a son for a son" and that they can't kill her as a sacrifice. She chooses Maelor, her and Aegon's youngest son, which the writer of the book says was likely either because Maelor was too young to understand or because he wasn't Aegon's heir. Well, Blood and Cheese go against Helaena's decision and behead Jaehaerys anyway, making for an even more shocking and gruesome event.

House of the Dragon season 2 /

In House of the Dragon, Blood and Cheese already make it known that they want to kill Jaehaerys, and they ask Helaena to point to him. She does, they kill him, and she sneaks out of the room with her daughter Jaehaera. There's no doubt the show scene is still horrific — they kill a six-year-old child, for goodness' sake — but it's not as bad as what happens in the book. Why did the writers make this change? It would've been much more shocking if they followed the source material. The final scene of the season 2 premiere sees Helaena walking into Alicent's room, where Alicent is having sex with Criston. Alicent and Criston are shocked to see Helaena walk in before realizing something's wrong. In a state of shock, Helaena tells her mom: "They killed the boy."

The possible reasons behind making the change

Though I don't totally agree with the changes made to Blood and Cheese in House of the Dragon, I do like this moment between Helaena and Alicent. But is it worth taking away from how effective the original scene is? I don't think so. It's possible that the writers wanted to have Alicent and Criston in bed together during Jaehaerys' murder to develop their inner conflicts; presumably, both characters will have a ton of guilt for not being there. Criston's whole life purpose is to protect the crown, and he couldn't even save Aegon's heir. Alicent, clearly, already has guilt around her relationship with Criston, because as we see in an earlier scene, she tells him they can't be together physically anymore.

Another potential reason why the writers changed Blood and Cheese is a fear of having too many unlikeable characters. No, I'm sure no one is a fan of Blood or Cheese, but these toned-down versions are much easier to understand than the ones we get in Fire & Blood. As Daemon explains when he makes his proposal in the show, Cheese is in a lot of debt and he'd be relieving him of that, while Blood's reason for participating isn't as good — he just hates the Hightowers. In any case, there's a pattern throughout House of the Dragon already of major events happening out of a misunderstanding or accident, instead of allowing the characters to be purposefully responsible for acts of evil.

Fabien Frankel Ser Criston Cole House of the Dragon season 2 /

What's wrong with having straight-up abhorrent characters? Succession followed so many horrible characters and it was one of HBO's most successful shows. You could say the same about Game of Thrones, though Thrones featured many beloved characters, too. It's interesting to think about, and maybe it's not that deep, but I do think if House of the Dragon keeps toning down moments and characters from Fire & Blood, fans won't be satisfied with what they're watching.

New episodes of House of the Dragon season 2 premiere every Sunday night on HBO and Max.

Next. House of the Dragon S1 Recap. 6 major things to remember before House of the Dragon season 2. dark