House of the Dragon‘s season two premiere ended with a violent scene readers of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood have desperately waited to see. It was the iconic, infamous event known as “Blood and Cheese,” arguably the single most shocking, cruel, and heartbreaking moment in the history of Westeros. And House of the Dragon completely botched it by needlessly delivering a vastly inferior version.

Alicent seen kneeling from overhead on House of the Dragon

I love every single book and short story George R.R. Martin has written about Westeros. Yet I also know books are not TV shows and TV shows are not books. Adaptations, even faithful ones, must make significant changes if they hope to succeed. The written word, no matter how good, simply does not always translate to the screen. In its first season, House of the Dragon made a lot of amazing changes, the majority of which I supported and celebrated. From the revelation of Aegon’s Dream to an infinitely more dynamic King Viserys, it provided so many fantastic new aspects to Martin’s story.

Of course, the show also made some terrible changes. It undercut the major figures’ storylines and created big spectacles free of logic. Those kinds of alterations are frustrating (to be polite), but it’s a part of the process. I get that. I really do.

But some scenes need zero changes because they’re not only perfect on the page, they’re already perfect for the screen. And—more than any other moment in all of Fire & Blood, and maybe in all of A Song of Ice and Fire—no scene was ever more TV ready than “Blood and Cheese.”


The murder of Prince Jaehaerys on House of the Dragon almost certainly shocked and bothered those who had no idea what was coming. The violent murder of a child, even in Westeros, is still inherently stunning. The problem is those who did know what was coming, the people most excited and invested in this scene, know this version is monumentally, infuriatingly worse. George R.R. Martin’s version is so much more powerful, creative, and awful than House of the Dragon‘s. It’s also more logical and far more meaningful to the story.

In Fire & Blood a scheming, angry, worried Alicent Hightower is the chief architect of Aegon usurping his half-sister’s throne. House of the Dragon took away some of her agency by making her believe Viserys had a deathbed change of heart about succession. Fortunately season two’s premiere gave some back to Alicent by showing she knows the only way forward now is violence. She accepts blood must be shed and she has played a role in that inevitability. That scene with her father (along with the rat catcher walking by her earlier in the episode) also seemed to be setting up the horror that awaited her at the end by having her naively believe a war for the Iron Throne would free of “wanton” violence. The series did a fantastic job foreshadowing the worst moment in Alicent’s life, one that would make her truly face the consequences of her choices.

Then it didn’t have her experience it.


In Fire & Blood, Daemon’s two hired assassins aren’t bumbling around without a plan. They are far more capable, focused, and diabolical. The rat catcher is chosen specifically because he knows how to get around the Red Keep’s secret tunnels (including where the royals live) in a way few others do. That includes even those who actually live there. Cheese, as he is eventually called, knows all the hidden passageways in and out of bedchambers and offices. His intimate knowledge is also partly why they targeted Haelena’s young son rather than Aegon or Aemond in the first place.

Book Alicent resides in an accessible part of the castle, the Tower of the Hand. The highly protected King and his family sleeps in Maegor’s Holdfast, which has no secret ways entrances. King Maegor had the Red Keep’s secret tunnels installed, but wisely didn’t want any where he lived and slept. The subtext of Martin’s story reveals no one in the royal court worried about where Alicent, Helaena, and the kids went anyway because they obviously weren’t targets. This is a war between Rhaenyra and Daemon against Aegon and Aemond. Even the murder of Lucerys Targaryen wouldn’t make someone think little Prince Jaehaerys was in danger. He’s a literal child. But that’s one of the major points of the entire scene, which is really not about Jaehaerys or Helaena at all. They’re just victims. The scene is really about Alicent and how she made her loved ones targets.


In Martin’s book, Blood and Cheese hide in Alicent’s bed chamber because that’s how they can get what Daemon wants, “a son for a son.” Spies let Daemon (not still on Dragonstone at this point) and Mysaria (still in King’s Landing and willingly involved in this scheme) know about the Queen’s activities. Every night Helaena takes her three kids— the twins Jaehaerys and Jaehara, aged six, and son Maelor, aged two—into their grandmother’s bedroom to say goodnight.

On that fateful evening, Blood and Cheese had already bound and gagged Alicent and strangled her bed maid. Then they waited, as a helpless and terrified Alicent looked on, not knowing exactly what they had planned. When Helaena walked in with the three kids holding Maelor’s hand, Blood “barred the door and slew the queen’s guardsman, whilst Cheese appeared to snatch up Maelor.” After promising to kill them all unless Helaena stayed calm and quiet, they also swore to only harm one son. Only, in one of the most horrific decisions ever faced by anyone in Westeros, Helaena would have to pick which son died.


The Queen pleaded with them to take her instead, but they threatened to assault her daughter if she didn’t choose. Finally, “on her knees, weeping, Helaena named her youngest, Maelor.” Why him? Some think because he was too young to understand, others because Jaehaerys was the King’s heir. Whatever drove her choice, it didn’t matter. Cheese whispered to little Maelor, who must have been so confused and scared, “You hear that, little boy? Your momma wants you dead.” Cheese then smiled at Blood, who instead struck Jaehaerys’ head off with a single blow.

Yeah. Yeah.


On the page this horrible, shocking, heartbreaking scene—a true testament to Martin’s gift as a writer—reads like a short play in a way few moments of Fire & Blood do. It’s all there. There’s no guessing at the action, tension, and dialogue. There’s no mystery to fill in. Nor is there any way to improve it. It’s perfect, as is the purpose it serves in this story about two women fighting over the Iron Thrones. That’s what really matters.

This is the moment where Alicent literally must face what she’s put in motion. For all her talk about protecting her family from Rhaenyra, she is the one who put them all in mortal danger. She started this war. Her anger and ambition helped make such a moment of evil possible.

And for all of the Greens’ arrogance about righteousness, they must now spend the rest of the war knowing none of them, not even the youngest and most innocent, are safe. This is a fight to the death no one will win even if they survive. Helaena, Alicent, Jaehaera, and Maelor all walk away from Blood and Cheese with their lives, yet each life is destroyed in its own way.


For indefensible, incomprehensible reasons, House of the Dragon decided not to have Alicent present for any of this. Neither does it make Helaena agonize over an impossible decision only to be left with a son who knows she named him for death. Instead Alicent only had to hear about what happened while Helaena instantly gave up her son. (Which itself was an illogical moment of non-tension. Blood and Cheese could have easily looked under the kids’ pajamas to identify Jaehaerys.)

Why did House of the Dragon take a scene this good and beloved, one of the most highly anticipated in all of Game of Thrones history, and make it inferior? Why did it lessen the emotional impact, horror, and meaning to the story? It’s not as though these changes were about lessening the violence. The show actually amped the physical brutality of the moment. The murder of little Jaehaerys was worse because Blood slowly sawed off his head rather than chopping it off in a single blow. Why amplify the physical awfulness but lessen the emotional aspect when that’s the entire reason for the scene in the first place?

Ultimately the show’s reasons doesn’t matter, at least not to book readers who know what they missed out on. The only thing that matters is that House of the Dragon blew a rare opportunity. It had the chance to adapt a book moment that was already perfect for the screen in every way.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on  Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings. (Or complaining about how House of the Dragon did the impossible and screwed up “Cheese and Blood.”)