House Of The Dragon's Most 'Extreme' Scene Was Intended To Be Difficult To Watch

Spoiler for the first episode of "House of the Dragon" follow.

Three years ago, the final season of "Game of Thrones" ended with a handful of polarizing choices that had longtime fans feeling disappointed. Many of us were left wondering if we'd ever care about the world of Westeros again, a feeling that in my case lingered even as HBO started hyping up the show's new Targaryen family prequel series, "House of the Dragon." Yet last night, when "House of the Dragon" finally premiered, fans still tuned in, and then inevitably logged online to share first impressions. The show took over Twitter for the evening, demonstrating that George R.R. Martin's fantasy world still has considerable appeal even after the roller coaster ride that was "Thrones."

But among all the excitement, one of Twitter's trending phrases, in particular, stood out: C-section. It was in reference to the premiere episode's most disturbing and violent scene, a forced cesarian birth that ultimately ends with both the mother and child involved dead. The parent in question is Queen Aemma Targaryen (Sian Brooke), who seemed like she could've been a main character until her light was shockingly snuffed out in the show's first hour. When her attempt at delivering a child goes wrong, her husband, King Viserys (Paddy Considine), opts to have doctors perform a non-consensual c-section on her in hopes of saving his male heir.  It's a brutal scene, one that could understandably upset viewers, but in an interview with the LA Times, Brooke and executive producer and episode director Miguel Sapochnik say it had an explicit purpose.

A brutal C-section

Sapochnik told the outlet that his goal with the scene was "not to shy away from what was happening but also not to sensationalize it," with the goal of showing the vast difference between the experiences of the person actually giving birth and the father standing by. The filmmaker says that the team began with an "all-in version" of the scene, then cut it down in the editing room to make sure it didn't feel gratuitous. Whether or not they succeeded is up to viewers to decide. The result is still a jarring and distressing sequence, but that seems to be by design.

"I know it may sound extreme, but we wanted it to be difficult to watch," Sapochnik said. He pointed out that in a post-Roe v. Wade America, the scene feels "more timely and impactful than ever." Brooke, who portrayed Aemma's drug-addled anguish and pain with chilling effectiveness, also frames the scene in a way that makes its modern-day parallels extremely clear. "You've got this battle showing man's eternal quest for power and status," she told the LA Times. "And then within that, you've got this woman who's at the mercy of a man's decision."

The show centers stories about autonomy (or lack thereof)

Of course, it's understandable that some fans would be put off or even triggered by this scene. While some could simply be irritated to see a "Game of Thrones" show up to its old, seemingly misogynistic tricks again, others may simply have personal reasons for being upset about a scene involving childbirth gone wrong and a woman being stripped of her autonomy so violently. Yet as /Film's Danielle Ryan points out in her review of the first six episodes, "House of the Dragon" is more sparing in its exploitation than "Thrones," and much more seriously focused on the struggles of womanhood within a patriarchal system than its predecessor, too.

"The choices the women make and the struggles they suffer feel more contemporary than ever," she writes, "as the women of Westeros lament the lack of ownership over their own bodies." In this context, the scene becomes the show's bloody, unforgettable thesis statement, setting the stakes for a series in which, as Brooke tells the LA Times, women are seen as "a vessel for childbirth" above all else.

"It is the story's inciting incident and needed to be strong and unflinching," Sapochnik says, pointing out that it's also an action that King Viserys, desperate for an heir, can never take back. He can never undo it, and for better or worse, we can never unsee it. "House of the Dragon" airs Sundays on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.