How 'House of the Dragon' weaves real-world echoes into its fantasy realm
Medieval-style medicine obviously had its limits. But a pivotal moment in the "House of the Dragon" premiere will likely resonate for many in a way that goes beyond the realm of fantasy and touches upon real-world concerns about women's reproductive rights.
In the opening chapter of the HBO series, the queen, Aemma Targaryen (Sian Brooke), is in the midst of a difficult labor.
Her husband, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), is desperate for a son in order to secure a male heir to the throne, in accordance with tradition.
Told that the baby is a breach birth, the medical advisers say that the king faces a terrible choice, one that will require either losing the baby, or sacrificing the life of the mother in order to try saving it.
After agonizing for a time, the king chooses the latter, with the blood loss from the grisly procedure killing the queen.
Earlier in the episode, Aemma refers to women giving birth as "our battlefield," and thanks to the limited tools of the time, that's particularly true in the show's reality.
As the Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd put it, "the first season does for giving birth what 'Game of Thrones' did for weddings."
While the series is cast as a fictional fantasy, it's impossible to entirely divorce that from the discussion about abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, fueling fierce debate about issues of forced birth and women's freedom to make their own healthcare choices.