House of the Dragon criticized for lack of trigger warning before “traumatic” scene

King Viserys and Aemma Arryn in House of the Dragon episode 1HBO

House of the Dragon has been slammed for not including a trigger warning before a “traumatic” birth scene in the show’s debut episode.

Three years after Game of Thrones reached its infamous conclusion, we’ve returned to Westeros with House of the Dragon, a prequel exploring the rise and fall of the Targaryen dynasty.

Its first episode was a smash-hit; not only does it recapture the thought-to-be-lost magic of the franchise’s prime, but it had the biggest premiere in HBO’s history, paving the way for another pop culture big-hitter.

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However, it’s not been without criticism; more specifically, Episode 1’s most grueling scene has become the subject of controversy, particularly due to the lack of a trigger warning.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 1 to follow, and some people may find the details distressing…

What happens in House of the Dragon Episode 1?

Towards the end of Episode 1, Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke), the pregnant wife of King Viserys (Paddy Considine), goes into labor. Prior to this, we learned how Aemma lost several babies in her efforts to provide an heir, either as a result of miscarriages or stillbirths.

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King Viserys and Aemma Arryn in House of the DragonHBO
Aemma Arryn’s death was incredibly tough to watch.

Complications arise, and doctors give her as much “milk of the poppy” as they can without endangering the child. Viserys then has to make a difficult decision: he can save the child, but it’ll be at the expense of his wife’s life.

A gruesome caesarean section is performed on Aemma while she’s still conscious, and the scene cuts between the nearby jousting tournament and her writhing and screaming, not to mention quite a bit of blood.

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Aemma dies as a result of the procedure, and while the baby appears to have survived at first, the child also passes away in Viserys’ arms.

Charity slams House of the Dragon for not having a trigger warning

Jen Coates, the director of bereavement support charity Sands, spoke to BBC News about the scene and why HBO should provide a warning for such content.

She said: “I think it’s fairly traumatic for anybody actually. With 13 babies dying every day in the UK, the situation impacts an enormous community of people directly too.

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“That way, people can be better equipped with the knowledge and make an informed decision to watch or skip particular scenes or episodes.”

Viewers took to social media to warn others about the scene, with one writing: “If you still don’t know that trigger warnings are a tool to prevent people from re-traumatizing themselves with something specific to their trauma, I truly cannot make you learn, go with god, if you’re not in the category of affected people then this isn’t your business anyway.”

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Another user wrote: “If you had a bad birth experience, such as an unplanned c-section, do not watch House of the Dragon. Hell, if you are a reproductively capable woman… just, know what you are going to see. This completely needed a trigger warning. Episode 1 is painfully explicit.”

House of the Dragon Episode 2 airs on August 28 in the US and August 29 in the UK.