Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen standing in traditional garb and with long blond hair.

Dracarys!

House of the Dragon Episode 6’s shocking ending, explained

Like usual, the books have the answer.

Dracarys has never sounded so chilling. House of the Dragon Episode 6 ends on a particularly dark note, even for the grim world of Westeros. But if you’ve never read the books, you might be confused about why exactly certain decisions were made. Don’t worry, we’re here to explain.

Major House of the Dragon spoilers ahead.

House of the Dragon Episode 6, explained

Let’s start at the beginning. House of the Dragon jumps 10 years into the future in Episode 6. In King’s Landing, both Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower are now adult women with children, but the bigger surprise comes further east, where we learn that Daemon Targaryen is married to Laena Velaryon with kids of their own.

Adult versions of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon.HBO

When we pick up the story, Laena is pregnant with another child, but it doesn’t end well. Laena goes into labor but fails to deliver the baby. The “doctor” tells Daemon that they’re out of options. The only choice left is a medical cesarean delivery, but before any decision can be made, Laena gets up and walks out of the room.

She exits the castle and reaches the beach where her dragon, Vhagar, is waiting. Laena stands in front of the dragon and says one word: “Dracarys.” Vhagar seems to hesitate, but eventually, the beast gives in, engulfing her master in deadly fire and burning her to a crisp.

Why did Laena kill herself in House of the Dragon?

Laena in simpler times.HBO

It’s not completely spelled out, but the implication is clear: Laena is dying in childbirth. The mention of a C-section only drives home this point by referencing the disturbing scene from House of the Dragon Episode 1. So like a true Targaryen, she takes matters into her own hands and kills herself with fire.

If you’re still confused, it may help to take a look at how Laena’s death plays out in the books, where it’s slightly different and much more explicit.

Laena’s death in the books

Author George R.R. Martin at the San Diego Comic-Con panel for House of the Dragon.FilmMagic/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Instead of completely going against canon, the House of the Dragon writer’s room — which includes A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin — decided to honor the way Laena’s death plays out in the books, but with an on-screen twist.

Like the HBO adaptation, Laena dies young, tragically, and partly because of childbirth in the books. By then, she has a pair of twins with her husband, Daemon.

Unlike House of the Dragon, however, Laena’s death in the books does not directly involve her dragon, Vhagar. Instead, Laena has an inordinately difficult labor and gives birth to a “malformed” son who dies within an hour of being born. Soon after, grief and illness set in. The books claim that neither a maester from Driftmark nor Dragonstone could save Laena. After three days, she finally passes. Legends claim that Laena tried to reach Vhagar to have one last ride, but she couldn’t make it to her beloved dragon.

In the show, we see that this legend was tweaked for dramatic effect. Instead of trying to ride Vhagar for one more flight prior to dying, Laena asks Vhagar to give her a “merciful” death, possibly knowing that neither she nor her unborn son could be saved. Her suicide was more like assisted euthanasia. Vhagar hesitates to follow her master’s commands, but perhaps sensing that her master was suffering, she goes ahead and responds to “Dracarys!”

House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.

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