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House of the Dragon Star Reacts to Blood and Cheese Season 2 Premiere

House of the Dragon Star Reacts to Blood and Cheese Season 2 Premiere

House of the Dragon Star Reacts to Blood and Cheese Season 2 Premiere

[This story contains major spoilers from the season two premiere of House of the Dragon.]

The House of the Dragon premiere’s “Blood and Cheese” ending was a shock to everyone in the audience, with a few key exceptions: those who read George R.R. Martin’s source material, those who read about the source material and those who encountered the spoilers ahead of time. Add one prominent name to that last category: Phia Saban, the actress who plays Queen Helaena.

Blood and Cheese are the assassins Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) hired to murder Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). But the duo instead stumble upon Queen Helaena Targaryen (Saban) and her toddler twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera. They demand Helaena tell them which is Jaehaerys, and kill the child in his bed.

Appearing on the official House of the Dragon podcast this week, Saban opened up about how far in advance she knew about the ending of the season two premiere, saying, “If you give people a sniff that you’re in something like House of the Dragon, and then they know that world at all and you say, ‘Oh, I’m playing Helaena,’ they’re like, ‘You know what happens to you, right?’ I was being told by people on the train that I was sitting next to!”

The story of Blood and Cheese comes straight from Martin’s Fire and Blood, with the book’s version of Prince Jahaerys’ murder even more gruesome than what’s seen in the show. In the same way that every book-reading Thrones fan watched every Richard Madden scene anticipating the Red Wedding, so too have House of the Dragon viewers looked on Saban, knowing the horrid fate awaiting Helaena and her family. 

“But nothing prepares you for opening [the script] up and being like, ‘okay, they’re doing that episode one,’” says Saban. “What I really liked when I read in the script was how simple they made it. It’s all just set in the present, in the immediate moment. And, you know, that’s not like too much dialogue. They’re not trying to do too much with it.”

With that said, there are complex layers lurking beneath the horrific moment. Since season one, fans have speculated Helaena is one of the rare Targaryen dreamers, someone gifted (or cursed) with the power of prophecy. In the season two premiere, there are moments alluding toward the queen’s powers. Early in the episode, Helaena tells her husband Aegon that she’s not afraid of dragons; she’s afraid of “rats,” a sign pointing toward the rat-catcher Cheese. When Helaena points at Jahaerys’ crib, Cheese takes one look into Helaena’s eyes and knows she’s telling the truth, as if convinced by a divine power. 

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Are Helaena’s powers a gift, or a curse? For her part, Saban wonders how different things would have been if Helaena’s loved ones connected more with her abilities. 

“What’s the world like where Helaena gets all the validation that her, her thoughts are interesting or important? How different would she be? Would she be more in touch with or, like, proud of her intuition that she has, her foresight, and therefore see it as a power,” she said. “But the reality is — and this is the other thing that I just keep realizing talking about the show, is that and it’s also so true to family dynamics — is that every child thinks that they’re the one that so have been let down the most, a little bit. And I think you really see that with the brothers and with her. It’s like, ‘We’ve all been hard done by,’ and it’s a bit of the Pain Olympics. But, I think that what she does have, even though she hasn’t been encouraged to have the most free communication style, she is actually really honest… Which is quite pure in a world which is like, we must strike them with the darkness.”

House of the Dragon releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and Max. Follow along all season with THR‘s show coverage.

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