By now, you should've already seen the long-awaited premiere of HBO's House of the Dragon season two. If you haven't, then SPOILER ALERT! because a lot happened.

So you've seen episode one and you have questions, starting with why? Why did they not show Jaehaerys being murdered? Showrunner Ryan Condal answered that in an interview with Variety.

Try not to say that out loud in public because it makes you sound bloodthirsty. Mind you, I say sound, not that you are. I'm not accusing anyone of anything. However, I do understand the impulse to ask that question because season two was supposed to give us Blood (Sam C. Wilson) and Cheese (Mark Stobbart). And the most impactful thing they did, at least to those who read George R.R. Martin's Fire and Blood, is that they not only murdered a child, they did it in the grisliest way we can imagine. Or maybe not, again, that's a different conversation — or article.

The purists will note that the show deviated from the book. That they did. But before we delve into all that, just a quick recap as to why a corner of the internet is up in arms with what happened in the fictional world of Westeros.

But in the book: House of the Dragon vs. Fire and Blood

The first episode ended with Blood and Cheese not finding Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) so they make do with the nearest and most available Targaryen they could find: Helaena (Phia Saban) and her children, twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera.

They ask her which one is the male, as this should satisfy Prince Daemon's (Matt Smith) edict “a son for a son.” She points to her son and the two hold the child down. Helaena runs off with Jaehaera, and we can all hear the now-dreadful — at least for me — sound of saw slicing through flesh and bone.

The queen runs off, looking a little lost — and no one should blame her — and finds her way into her mother's bedroom. Said mother, the dowager queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) is busy bedding Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).

In the book, it plays out differently. Jahaerys is still murdered by Blood and Cheese. However, Westerosi historians recount in Fire and Blood that they were not ordered by Daemon to kill Aemond, but they are told “an eye for an eye, a son for a son.”

The book also has Alicent witnessing the entire thing so Helaena wasn't the lone witness to her oldest son's murder. The other thing that may be rankling most purists is that instead of Helaena picking Jaehaerys as “the boy” which sealed his fate, Blood and Cheese asked her which son she chooses to die. She picks Maelor, hoping that Jaehaerys would be spared. However, that wasn't the case.

Let me explain…

Showrunner Ryan Condal explained the departure from the source material, “One of the things that's challenging about adapting ‘Fire & Blood' is that there is this intentionally conflicting narrative in the book where there are often these three different viewpoints on the history that don't line up with one another.”

“So it's our job as adapter to try to find the objective line through this to bring the audience into the narrative as we see it having been laid out,” he continued.

The book also doesn't include the scene where Rhaenyra says, “I want Daemond Targaryen,” the only words she says in the episode.

“It felt like Rhaenyra, despite being in grief, she's looking for vengeance, but she would choose a target that would have some kind of strategic or military advantage,” Condal said.

He added, “Of course, if you did take out Aemond, not only would he be punished directly for his betrayal and murder of Luke, but it would eliminate the rider of the biggest dragon in the world, and immediately create an advantage for their side.”

D'Arcy also noted, “Rhaenyra lets her rage take hold of her voice, and I think it's not something that we saw a huge amount of — certainly with the older Rhaenyra — in Season 1. She was always trying to mediate that fire. And in this season, after Luc's death, she finally lets that thing burn.”

Helaena's choice

Olivia Cooke as Alicent, Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra, Phia Saban as Helaena, House of the Dragons

And as for removing Helaena's choice between her younger son Maelor and older son (and heir to the throne) Jaehaerys, the showrunner said that, that choice “just doesn't exist in this version yet” so the children — both Helaena and Aegon's (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Daemon and Rhaenyra's are “younger in this part of the narrative than they were in the original book.”

Phia Saban, who plays Helaena, sees the scene and her character's lack of choice as “almost more heartbreaking.

She continued, “There's something about the fact that she can't escape the fact that she said, ‘Yes, that one,' and that weighs on her so much.”

“But I also think she really felt that she had no option because I think that the stakes are that high — it's the highest stakes in her existence — and so when he says to her, ‘You tell me the right one, or I'm gonna do terrible things to your children,' she believes him. She's like, I can't mess this up, I need to be completely honest. And I think it's actually more heartbreaking that she's honest,” Saban added.

I think what's heartbreaking in the show — as I was watching it — is that she initially didn't know what was going on. Remember that she was in her own room, in what should have been the safest place for her and her children, and then she's facing strangers who're asking which one's “the boy.” I believe it was reflex that made her point to Jaehaerys, and the horror that had her fleeing with her only remaining child that she effectively sentenced him to death.

House of the Dragon: Heartbreak and horror in equal measure

As for how the death played out, even the House of the Dragon writers room debated at length about it.

“We knew it would be horrifying and brutal — we didn't want it to be gratuitous or over the top,” Condal said. Which is why they decided to have the horror and brutality show on Helaena's face.

“The idea of that sequence was to dramatize a heist gone wrong. So we move off the center narrative of Daemon, Rhaenyra, Alicent and Aegon's world, and suddenly, we're following these two characters that we've just met in an alley in Flea Bottom,” he continued.

“Daemon's given them an assignment to go in and find Aemond Targaryen, and we're following them, and we're following them, and we're not cutting away and we're not going back to the other narratives — oh, God, what's going to happen,” the showrunner added.

Then we end up with Helaena's point of view and experience all of that through her.

Shame, shame, guilt, guilt

I do agree with the change of location, with having Helaena be alone, and the added shame and guilt that Alicent will have to contend with because of what she was doing while her grandson was being murdered. And who she was doing it with, Ser Criston, who was responsible for the castle's safety.

“That's a theme that plays throughout the season: If they hadn't embarked on this affair, would this have happened? They hold themselves accountable completely,” Condol said.

That we have to wait and see to unfold.

I've read the book, too, but I'm not complaining about Jaehaerys' death playing off screen, not just because I don't want to see a child harmed much less killed on screen, but because I believe showing it would have been gratuitous. I think the fact the it was done in the shadows, without any visuals, and only through his mother's face, was effective. We don't know Jaehaerys. He was a child and except for that one scene with his father in the small council meeting, we don't really know what he's like.

However, we know Helaena. At least, we know her better than her child. We all have mothers — some of us are parents — and more than the survivor's guilt that's eating at her, there's also that very believable — to her — knowledge that this was her fault. She picked him out of her two children. If she hadn't… well, the what-ifs are going to drive her crazy. That is, if her grief and her anguish won't do it first.

House of the Dragon season two, episode one is currently streaming on HBO | Max.