WARNING: spoilers for House of the Dragon
HBO's Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon aired its finale this past Sunday, and it's gotten the show into some hot water with viewers and critics.
The show, which like its predecessor leans heavily into shock value, ended its first season with a graphic scene depicting a traumatic birth experienced by star Emma D'Arcy's character. The scene was the fourth such depiction all season.
And some viewers have had enough, saying they found the scenes gratuitous and triggering for parents who experienced similar tragedies.
Amid the controversy, D'Arcy themself addressed the criticisms in an interview with British GQ, defending the way birth was depicted on the show and comparing it to the way fight scenes have been similarly graphic.
Speaking to the magazine, D'Arcy said of the birthing scenes:
"I take real issue with the idea that we shouldn't see women in labor depicted with gritty realism, and blood, and placentas. Especially on a show where part of its [unique selling point] is big, gory battle sequences."
They went on to suggest that part of the objection to the birth scenes may be just good old-fashioned double standards for women.
“What it feels like is that we want women to conform to a certain image."
"Which is interesting, insofar as acting is concerned, because, there's also a lot of fun to be had getting to do the big physical, physically demanding sequences."
"And it's interesting that maybe sometimes that is not afforded to female characters."
But for many viewers and critics, that take doesn't cut it—especially for those who experienced similar tragedies to D'Arcy's character, Rhaenyra.
In this week's finale, she is depicted going into premature labor and tearing her stillborn baby from her body while shrieking in pain. HuffPost writer Taylor Babington—who herself experienced stillbirth—called it "the most offensive scene of birth trauma and death in the show."
In her piece, Babington described how House of the Dragon's four horrific birth scenes—each seemingly more horrifying than the last—affected her given her own lived experience.
"It’s one thing to watch, as we did in the first episode, a forced C-section (which was admittedly difficult, as someone who has had an emergency C-section)."
"It’s another to watch a mother be burned alive during childbirth, as we did in Episode 6."
"It’s entirely something else to watch, in graphic detail, a dead baby flop on the floor [in the finale], their mother desperately grasping, clinging and hoping that breath will fill his or her lungs."
"When this experience has been your reality, watching it unfold on television without any sort of trigger warning is excruciating."
On Twitter, opinions vary widely on these scenes.
Many share D'Arcy's take on the gritty reality some parents face during childbirth.
Others shared sentiments closer to Babington's.
Given Game of Thrones' propensity toward horrifying graphic rape scenes despite outcry from many viewers, it seems unlikely House of the Dragon will tone down its shock value in its second season nor provide any sort of warnings on episodes.
As one viewer stated, Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon rely on graphic rape and childbirth trauma as primary plot points and drama for female characters. It's lazy and not representative of women.
Do better HBO.