House of the Dragon: Why Did Laena Kill Herself?

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House of the Dragon Episode 6 brought a shocking turn of events in many aspects of the ongoing HBO fantasy series, including an unexpected death. But why did Laena kill herself in House of the Dragon, and was her fate the same in the source material, or is this another unnecessary death for a female character?

What Happened to Laena in the Decade Time Gap?

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House of the Dragon is divided into two parts, each of which functions almost as its own mini-series.

The first part sets the early stage for the civil conflict that will come to be known as the Dance of Dragons.

The second part, which starts with episode 6, takes place around a decade later, during which many changes have happened, including Laena's marriage to Daemon Targaryen.

Daemon and Laena met at the wedding feast of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Leanor Velaryon and there was an obvious attraction between the two.

The tv show, however, went fast forward to a time when they'd been married for several years.

In the Fire & Blood book, Laena was initially betrothed to another, though her father delayed the wedding as he wasn't pleased with the match but couldn't find a graceful way to cancel it.

Later on, Daemon killed Laena's betrothed in a duel, and the two were swiftly wed.

Knowing that the court wouldn't approve of their union, they flew to the free cities, where they had their two daughters, Rhaena and Baela.

The tv show doesn't elaborate on any of the above, so it's unclear if these events happened, if they are not at all a part of the series, of if they were just deemed irrelevant and omitted.

Related: House of the Dragon: Why Did Criston Kill Joffrey?

Why Did Laena Kill Herself?

House of the Dragon Why Did Laena Kill Herself 2
Credit: HBO

In a scene that mirrors Queen Aemma's death after a forced birth in Episode 1, Laena suffers fatal marriage complications and makes her dragon kill her by fire. It's implied that she did so to end her suffering, and to die as a member of her people whom she missed.

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Earlier in the episode, Daemon insists that he is pleased to remain in Pentos indefinitely, causing a rift between himself and Laena.

The latter had missed her own family and her people and wished to live as Westeroshi one more and die as part of her people.

When she suffers complications during labor, Daemon is presented with the same dilemma that Viserys encountered in Episode 1.

Knowing Daemon, it's unclear whether he would try to save Laena or their unborn child, although, given the way he shakes his head, it's likely that he wouldn't want to enforce Aemma's fate on Laena.

Before this is discussed any further, Laena takes matters into her own hands, ending her life through her dragon's fire.

This is a marked difference from Laena's demise in the book where she goes into labor and gives birth to a malformed baby who doesn't survive, only to die herself a few days later after a failed attempt to reach her dragon.

In a recent interview, showrunner Ryan Condal revealed details on the reasons why Laena's death was changed in the show:

"Laena’s a valkyrie. She’s a dragon rider. We met that little girl back in Episode 2; that little girl went on a couple years later to claim the biggest dragon in the world. It felt like she wouldn’t want to go out the way that the history book said. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the season and the storytelling, we didn’t get to spend as much time as I think we would have preferred to with Laena. We had to keep the story moving. So we wanted to give her a memorable out that felt active and in her character. Even though we’re only with Nanna Blondell’s portrayal of her for a very brief time, within that moment, it tells you a lot about who Laena is and was."

While Laena's death might, in some ways, feel less horrifying than the forced birth scene in the first episode, it might fall a little flat given how little time we spent with the character.

We only see Laena in a few scenes and the huge time skip leaves her marriage to Daemon, her relationship with her dragon, and with her daughters underexplored.

Related: Does Rhaenyra Become Queen in House of the Dragon?

That being the case, we can't help thinking that, if things were going to be changed anyway in the show, her fate could have been averted or at least postponed.

While it's no news that Game of Thrones draws from Middle Ages scenarios where birth complications were very common, it does get a little repetitive in a 21st-century fantasy show, especially given the other forms of violence towards women within said show.

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House of the Dragon Episodes 1 through 8 is currently streaming on HBO channel and HBO Max with new episodes releasing weekly.