“House of the Dragon” is a hit, and it’s clearly trying to raise the bar set by “Game of Thrones” in every department — including disgust and shock value. Just shy of half a season in, this show is on track to out-gross its predecessor with violence, body horror, and incest. It might be nauseating to watch sometimes, but it’s still impressive.
To celebrate this perverse achievement, here are the 10 grossest things in “House of the Dragon” Season 1 (so far).
10. “The Heir for a Day”
The only verbal and not visual item on this list still bears noting. After Queen Aemma is killed in childbirth, her baby Baelon lives for a few hours before he also dies. Not one to lose out on even a day’s worth of smugness, Prince Daemon gets drunk and parties with his City Watch buddies, referring to baby Baelor as “the heir for a day.” This disgusting comment makes its way back to the King, who is honestly not mad enough about it.
9. Viserys’ Decay
Something isn’t right with King Viserys, and it’s not just the fact that his parents were siblings. In the first episode, he appears to be dealing with some sort of infection that is causing a sore on his abdomen to ooze pus (“Thrones” fans may have flashed back to that infamous grayscale transition in Season 7). Though the cause isn’t certain, Viserys insists that this is some kind of injury caused by sitting on the Iron Throne all day. In Episode 2, the maester recommends Viserys literally allow maggots to feast on his rotting hand. Why is his hand rotting! Are these problems related? What fresh hell will the King’s health see next week? In George R. R. Martin’s books, a ruler injured upon the Iron Throne is said to be rejected by it, but usually this takes the form of scratches and cuts, not oozing sores and necrotizing fasciitis.
8. The Wigs
Not a week goes by when Twitter does not spiral into traumatic wig discourse, because what HBO is doing to its Black actors should warrant a lawsuit. Are Corlys’s dreads glorious? Yes, of course. But the other Velaryons deserve better. Are Laena’s curls killer? Yeah, for Halloween at the Red Keep! I can’t even talk about that thing on Laenor’s head in Episode 3. Have some respect for your Emmy-winning hair and makeup team and viewers who know what hair looks like!! Shave some heads if it’s less distracting, or add a line about how Aegon the Conqueror conquered all salons and barbershops with his dragons and what remains is a society rebuilding a dying industry. Anything but this.
7. The Tourney
Combat violence is par for the course in anything “Game of Thrones,” but “House of the Dragon” throws viewers bodily back into Westeros with Episode 1’s jousting tournament. What should be a couple of casual fights between small folk for the King’s entertainment quickly devolves into targeted brutality. It gets so out of hand that a squire vomits from disgust, which is yet another disgusting thing to witness! Hopefully Viserys learned something and celebrated his next child’s birth with a feast.
6. Daemon’s Justice
“Game of Thrones” loves a little casual dismembering (anyone else fast forward through all Theon’s scenes in Season 2?), and “House of the Dragon” wants to invoke those fond memories right off the bat in Episode 1. As commander of the City Watch, Daemon metes out justice to all kinds of criminals, mainly by cutting off their body parts. That’s one way to teach a lesson, but we can go without seeing wheelbarrows piled full of human limbs and heads and hearing the screams of offenders as they go through this.
5. Everything to Do with the Crab Feeder
Episode 2 of “House of the Dragon” opens with crabs feasting on the flesh of soldiers otherwise roasting in the sun. It is decidedly un-chill for a show whose audience is still recovering from the previous week’s jousting tournament gone awry and intercut with a fatal and graphic C-section. Viewers could know some comfort that the show wouldn’t immediately depict more blood and visceral childbirth (though more is on the way), but nothing could have prepared them for this alternative. Throughout Episodes 2 and 3, the show cuts between King’s Landing and the Stepstones, where crabs continue to munch on Westerosi sailors in broad daylight and high-res closeup. No thanks!
4. Aemma’s Delivery
At this point it would be redundant to recap the events of the “House of the Dragon” premiere that led to the death of sweet Queen Aemma, but it is a scene that will linger in viewers’ memories for a long time to come. Actor Sian Brooke’s performance alone leave an impression, as she’s held down and her husband weeps beside her. Every shot reminds us that this woman is in anguish, that she is bleeding more than seems possible, that all of this is happening because her husband wants a son and wants it more than he wants her to live.
3. Corlys and Otto Pimping Out Their Daughters
In the world of “House of the Dragon,” men want sons so they can continue their bloodline or rule of the kingdom. They do not want daughters, but when they have them, you best believe they’re using those little girls to form strategic alliances, elevate their social status, and wed them to a significantly older man in the hopes that he’ll die and daddy can take his money. Otto Hightower slides metaphorically into King Viserys’ DMs by ordering his daughter Alicent to slide into the King’s bedchamber and comfort him after the death of his wife. This Westerosi equivalent of a “u up” continues for months before Viserys decides to marry Alicent and almost thinks it was his own idea.
But before he names Alicent as his betrothed, Viserys receives an offer from House Velaryon in the form of literal child Laena. It’s bad enough that her parents are so ready to offer the young girl up as a bride, but then they make Laena herself meet with the King for…I guess a date?? They walk in the gardens like so many potential spouses seeking arranged marriage, but one of them is under four feet tall and talks about being 14 as something in her future. It’s not incest, but it’s pretty damn gross.
2. Crab Feeder Cut Down to Size
Daemon Targaryen doesn’t say a word as he fights to reclaim the Stepstones. He cuts down his opponents on the battlefield, seethes as Laenor swoops in on dragonback, and then goes rogue (the rogue prince!) to take down the Crab Feeder himself. Little of their altercation is actually seen, but when Daemon exits the cave he’s dragging half of his opponent — the top half, to be exact, its intestines trailing along in the sand. The rest of him is probably already crab food.
1. Daemon and Rhaenyra
The King’s daughter and brother have been making all kinds of eyes at each other since Episode 1, basically begging anyone to deliver on the family legacy of incest while speaking in High Valyrian like their own secret sexual language. In Episode 4, they make good on those promises and somehow make this even grosser; They meet up in the dead of night to sneak out of the castle and visit a brothel, straight out of any Westerosi dating handbook! Surrounded by actual copulation, these blood relatives can’t help being horny and making out with the closest Targaryen in sight (each other!). As if this isn’t bad enough, Daemon starts to remove Rhaenyra’s clothing, and then STRAIGHT UP LEAVES. The princess returns to the Red Keep and releases her sexual frustration with Ser Criston Cole, a genuine relief.
“House of the Dragon” air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.