House of the Dragon has already taken some liberties with George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, but the HBO series has mostly stayed true to the source material. However, that changed in a big way in the October 2 episode. The show made a massive change that is not in Fire & Blood.
The twist? Laenor Velaryon is still alive. In Fire & Blood, Laenor is killed by his lover Qarl Correy after they get into an argument visiting Spicetown. That’s not how it goes down in House of the Dragon.
Laenor is left reeling after the death of his sister Laena. When he finally does sit down to talk to Rhaenyra, he discusses recommitting himself to her as she gets closer to sitting on the Iron Throne. However, it’s not what he truly wants.
Laenor and Rhaenyra are both aware that their political marriage hasn’t been all that successful. They agreed to do their duty and explore their own happiness. “But there are times I think when those things can’t mutually exist,” Laenor says.
So Rhaenyra, Daemon, and Laenor make a plan so they all get what they want. Daemon and Qarl help Laenor fake his death. Daemon kills a young squire that looks eerily like Laenor. Qarl and Laenor are seen fighting one another, and a body is later discovered by the fire that is burned beyond recognition. Corlys and Rhaenys are devastated over losing their son.
But Laenor’s not dead. In the final moments, Laenor is seen catching a boat with Qarl that’s leaving Driftmark. He’s completely shaved his head so he won’t be recognized. The body of the man Daemon killed is used to help Laenor fake his death. Laenor gets to live his life freely without burdens, while Daemon and Rhaenyra finally get to marry each other and work together to make sure Rhaenyra gets on the Iron Throne.
The implications of this twist are huge. Will Laenor ever return? Given the Dance of the Dragons and the way his parents play a huge role in the war, it would be odd if Laenor never showed his face in some capacity to defend his family. Time will tell if Laenor resurfaces in Westeros again, but House of the Dragon wouldn’t have dropped this twist if they didn’t likely have plans for Laenor down the road.
“What Laenor really wanted was to be set free,” co-creator Ryan Condal said in a post-episode interview. “And freedom, to him, is freedom from the bonds of his nobility. So if he was thought to be dead, that would mean he could go live a free life however he wanted.”