Breaking Down What Just Happened With Laena on "House of the Dragon"

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We're past the halfway point of the first season of "House of the Dragon," and more major characters are facing their fates. In the sixth episode, Laena Velaryon joins the growing list of the dead. Her childbirth-related death is similar to her fate in the book "Fire & Blood," which the TV show is based on, but the TV adaptation makes a small but significant change that offers Laena a tiny bit more agency.

How Does Laena Die in the "Fire & Blood" Book?

Childbirth is a perilous thing in the fictional universe of Westeros, and several of the story's women die due to its complications. In the book, Laena is one of those victims. After a long and difficult labor, Laena gives birth to a son with serious birth defects, who only survives an hour after birth. Laena herself is fatally weakened by the birth, and her condition deteriorates over three days.

Knowing that she is dying, Laena's final wish is to take one last ride on her beloved dragon, Vhagar. She attempts to get out of bed and reach him but collapses and dies on the steps of the tower. Daemon finds her there and takes her back to her bed, where he and Rhaenyra sit vigil over her body.

How Does Laena Die on "House of the Dragon"?

On "House of the Dragon," the root cause of Laena's death remains the same: childbirth. As she labors, the maester admits that he can do no more. Then, he offers Daemon a choice: he may be able to perform a surgery to save either Laena or the child, but not both. It's a devastating echo of the events of the first episode, when Daemon's brother, King Viserys, allows the maesters to "operate" on his wife, Aemma, in hopes of getting a surviving son — even though it means Aemma dies in a terrible and painful way.

Instead of leaving her fate in the hands of others, Laena overhears the maester's conversation with Daemon and makes her own choice. She summons enough strength to go outside and find Vhagar. Earlier in the episode, she told Daemon that she wants to die "a dragonrider's death, not [the death of] some fat country lord." Laena's last command ensures just that: she issues the order "Dracarys" to Vhagar. At first, the dragon resists her command, but after she repeats it several times, he obeys and breathes fire, burning her alive.

In the behind-the-scenes featurette for episode six, executive producer Sara Hess says, "We've already had someone die sort of in their childbirth bed, and I just felt like Laena doesn't go that way. She's going to go like a warrior." While Laena still winds up dead long before she should have, she fulfills her final wish. "She's unwilling to go the way Aemma went . . . She's a dragonrider," showrunner Ryan Condal says about Laena's death. "She wants to die a dragonrider's death."

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