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Dragons, Grief and Family Feuds

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By Guy Lambert@guybertieEntertainment Reporter
HBO Harry Collett and Emma D'Arcy in House of the DragonHBO

The second season sees the Targaryen and Velaryon houses divided

Ahead of the second series of House of the Dragon, a prequel to Game of Thrones, its stars have been speaking to the BBC about what to expect.

Based on George RR Martin’s epic fantasy novel A Song of Ice and Fire, House of the Dragon stars a collection of British talent, including Matt Smith, Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke.

The second season of the HBO prequel picks up just days after the final events of the first season.

While there is promise of more monumental battles and fiery dragon encounters, the new series presents a number of challenging situations, with the characters facing grief and revenge in the aftermath of earlier events.

Getty Emma D'Arcy at the UK premiere of House of Dragons Season TwoGetty

Emma D’Arcy (Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen) at the UK premiere of House of the Dragon season two

Season two sees Westeros on the brink of a bloody civil war as the Green and Black Councils fight for King Aegon and Queen Rhaenyra respectively.

The climatic final events of season one have seen a number of changes to characters’ motives in this next instalment.

D’Arcy, who stars as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, told BBC News that portraying both a grieving mother and a powerful ruler presented many obstacles, but that they relished the opportunity.

“You have no option,” said D’Arcy. “You have to have great stamina. It’s a marathon.

“You come in with colour in your cheeks, and love and joy in your heart. But I love the epic nature of shooting six days a week, for 15 hour days, over six months.”

Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy in an interview with BBC News

Olivia Cooke (left) and Emma D’Arcy (right) both play characters who tackle loss and a struggle for power

Cooke, who plays Queen Alicent Hightower, called the season “really challenging”.

“It’s coming to terms with grief and trauma, and how do you play those and sustain that for a seven-month shoot, playing all the complexities within that?” she said.

“She [Alicent] had all this power and then now becoming dowager queen. She’s trying to figure out within this backdrop of guilt and shame – who she is if she can’t rule from the shadows?”

In House of the Dragon, the franchise’s central struggle for power leads characters to do abhorrent things in order to claim the throne – something adored by the loyal fanbase.

Asked if they thought their characters were terrible people, or good people who have terrible things placed upon them, D’Arcy said: “I think they’re all people trying to sustain themselves in a pretty terrible system.

“That system can cause those characters to do pretty awful things.

“The thing that I adore about Game of Thrones is you have such a complex, exciting, varied constellation of characters, and you’re made to yearn to see those, to watch those collisions take place.”

HBO Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in House of the DragonHBO

Matt Smith reprises his role as the complex fan favourite Daemon Targaryen

Two characters who fans will be eager to see back on screens are the mercurial Daemon Targaryen, played by Smith, and villainous Aemond Targaryen, portrayed by Ewan Mitchell.

Speaking on the waterlogged red carpet at a rainy UK premiere for season two, Smith said: “We are delving back into the fractious world of the Targaryens and there is a lot of grief flying around, and that makes people act strange, it makes people vulnerable, it makes people mad.”

‘Wild ride’

Smith’s Daemon will face a struggle for power while caring for his now shattered family.

“He is tipping over into a mythic place of discomfort. He’s in for a bit of a wild ride this year,” Smith said.

Asked how it felt playing a character so evil, Mitchell said it was “horrible”, explaining: “I don’t like playing evil.

“As a character, Aemond possesses this facade, a shield of armour that he has manufactured over a number of years to hide his insecurities.”

But he added: “As an actor it is so enjoyable playing a character like Aemond and really dive into his multi-faced complexities.”

Reuters Sag-Aftra members on strike in the United StatesReuters

Sag-Aftra members were on strike for 118 days against major TV and film companies

House of the Dragon was one of the few US productions that continued to shoot during last year’s Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes.

For almost three months in 2023, industry writers and actors walked out in a dispute over fair pay and the use of artificial intelligence in the indsutry.

But the House of the Dragon cast did not take part because the show was mainly filmed in the UK under contracts overseen by British union Equity, rather than its striking US counterpart the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

The show’s writer Ryan Condal told the BBC it was a “fraught period”, but a “great privilege” to keep the cast and crew employed.

“There was lots of labour strife,” he said. “We were lucky all of our scripts were done and we were already in production when when the writers’ strike happened.

“The thing I was happy about was keeping our crew of 2,500 people employed. It was a very fraught time, and a lot of people went through really tough times, so just the fact that our crew could keep working was a real privilege.”

Olivia Cooke said the strikes period was “strange”.

“It felt weird. It felt wonky,” she said.

“A bunch of us are members of SAG, but we were under a different union. We sort of had to continue to work, otherwise we’d all get sued.

“We didn’t feel good, but we were also aware that we were really lucky to be still shooting because a lot of cast and crew really relied on this job. It was really multifaceted and strange.”

Early reviews of season two so far have been strong.

Empire gave the season four stars, saying the series “remains a spiky, acidic human drama; an astute, timely and well-performed study of the way power and wisdom are so often mutually exclusive”.

The Telegraph also awarded it four stars, writing: “House of the Dragon has all you could require for a roaring good time.”

Movie review site Roger Ebert called the latest series “captivating”, but added that convoluted writing resulted in a slow start “for better, and sometimes for worse”.

House of the Dragon season two will be available in the US from 16 June, and in the UK from 17 June.





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Suspect charged in shooting of Philadelphia police officer who remains ‘on life support’

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A 36-year-old man was charged with attempted murder in connection with a traffic stop shooting that left a Philadelphia police officer fighting for his life, authorities said.

Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez was charged with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, aggravated assault, evading arrest, home invasion and other related charges.

The shooting happened around 8 p.m. Saturday in the city’s Kensington neighborhood.

The 31-year-old officer and his partner conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle with four individuals inside, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel told reporters outside Temple University Hospital late Saturday.

SHERIFF’S DEPUTY SHOT TO DEATH IN ‘AMBUSH’ WHILE TRACKING STOLEN SUV IN DETROIT

police at scene

The 31-year-old officer was shot in the neck around 8 p.m. Saturday during a traffic stop. (FOX29 Philadelphia WTXF)

While the officers were taking inventory of the vehicle, they spotted someone with a gun holster, Bethel said. 

One man fled and fired three shots at the officers, Bethel said. One officer was struck in the neck, while the other officer returned fire. 

Philadelphia police officer shot

City officials asked the public to pray for the officer. (WPVI)

The wounded officer’s partner drove him to the hospital, where he remained in critical condition. 

POLICE OFFICERS DRIVEN OUT BY PROGRESSIVE TREATMENT OFFER NEXT-GENERATION LAW ENFORCEMENT A BLUNT WARNING

Mayor Cherelle Parker said that the officer was “on life support. On a breathing machine. Fighting for his life.”

individual in custody

Police were seen with an unidentified individual who appeared to be in custody. (WPVI)

“As your mayor, it is not lost on me that on today a husband, a father and a son met his partner and went to work to do a job that he’s been doing for about six and a half years,” Parker told reporters. “He didn’t expect that he would be in a fight for his life right now.”

Vazquez was taken into custody following two barricade situations. All other individuals inside the car at the time of the shooting were also taken into custody, police said.

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Officials have yet to publicly name the wounded officer.



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I almost died trying to get salt from the sea

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By Angie BrownBBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

Darren Peattie Darren PeattieDarren Peattie

Darren Peattie put everything into his dream of building a sea salt company

When Darren Peattie decided to revive the 200-year-old salt harvesting industry in a Fife coastal village he was “absolutely terrified of failing”.

The father-of-two had bought £300,000 worth of equipment including a huge salt pan and hired a factory in the quaint East Neuk village of St Monans.

The 41-year-old had put everything into his dream, working all hours and sleeping in his factory to keep an eye on all the dials and gauges monitoring pressure and brine levels.

But Darren’s punishing work schedule and the conditions in the factory took a terrible toll on his health.

After months of surviving on 20-minute power naps on the factory floor his heart started palpitating wildly, he felt out of breath and dizzy.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance where they told him he had developed a heart condition called atrial fibrillation – an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm.

Darren was told that the constant 45C heat of the factory and the extremely salty air was damaging his heart but after being given three bags intravenous fluids he returned to work.

The extreme heat and the salt in the atmosphere meant Darren continued to be dehydrated – suffering more episodes where his heart “was going bonkers”.

The second time he was taken to hospital the doctor took his bloods and said: “It’s like you have been in the desert for a month.”

Darren Peattie Darren PeattieDarren Peattie

Darren Peattie spent £300,000 on equipment to start The East Neuk Salt Company

Darren was given three more bags of fluids, which put his heart into its normal rhythm.

“He let me go but I didn’t learn and I kept on working and sleeping in the factory,” he said.

He was rushed to hospital for a third time.

“I was dizzy and breathless and I thought I was going to die,” he said.

“I thought ‘this is it but I have a big order to get out of bespoke whisky sea salt’.

“I had a company expecting a big American order so I got to the hospital and said ‘It’s ok just give me the fluids and I’ll be out of your hair’.

“She took my bloods and said ‘Right, we will start with seven bags of fluids’.”

‘Worst pain ever’

After 12 hours his heart was still beating rapidly.

Darren said he was given a drug that works directly on the heart tissue to slow the nerve impulses and keep his heart rhythm normal.

“It’s the worst pain ever,” he said. “All my veins went black and then the next thing I was out cold. It jump-starts you, basically.

“I finally went back into a normal rhythm and I said ‘right, I need to get back because I have work to do’.

“The cardiologist took me aside and said ‘Do you realise how lucky you are? You should not be walking out of here’.”

Darren is now on a daily does of a drug to treat serious – possibly fatal – irregular heartbeats.

Surgeons are planning to operate to give him a catheter ablation – a procedure involving guiding a tube into the heart to destroy small areas of tissue that may be causing an abnormal heartbeat.

“The doctor said the dehydration has adjusted the structure of the electrical signals in my heart,” he said.

“That’s because I slept in the factory, which was boiling and breathing in salty air.

“I would wake up in the mornings and I would feel like I was in the desert and I would rush straight to the tap to get water down me.”

Darren Peattie Darren PeattieDarren Peattie

Darren Peattie takes 6,000 litres of sea water and evaporates it – leaving salt crystals behind

Ruth Goss, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said severe dehydration could cause heart and circulatory system problems.

“When you are dehydrated, there is less blood travelling around the body,” she said.

“This can lead to low blood pressure, dizziness and fainting.

“In response, the heart may start beating faster to help move blood around the body and this can lead to palpitations.

“Dehydration can also thicken the blood, increasing the risk of blood clots and heart attacks.

“At the same time, high temperatures mean that your body has to work harder to keep its core temperature to normal levels, and this puts extra strain on your heart, lungs and kidneys.”

Bill Bruce Darren PeattieBill Bruce

Darren Peattie has stopped sleeping in his factory in East Neuk in Fife

Mr Peattie said the pressure of running a salt factory on his own had caused him to become a workaholic.

Now, although he still works seven days a week and never goes on holiday, he only does emails during the night, which he can do from his house.

“When you take on something like this, when you know it’s come out of an idea and ends up reality, you don’t want to fail so you have got to slog your guts out,” he said.

“This salt company has been a massive struggle, it’s nearly swallowed me up financially twice.

“The average person would not have done what I have done.

“But I’ve done it and I’ve got to live with it and I’ve got to make sure it’s a success.

“That’s my driver, I’m absolutely terrified of failure.”

Two years on since launch, his East Neuk Salt Company is producing up to six tonnes of salt a month and distributing it around the world.

He collects 6,000 litres of salt water from the Firth of Forth and uses the distilled water which is the by-product to make mineral water.

Darren said: “My wife would come into the factory and say ‘You’re going to kill yourself’ or ‘this is getting out of hand’.

“But I think she is the only one who understands me and now she leaves me to it.”



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Gunmen Attack Synagogues and Churches in Russian Republic

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Gunmen attacked synagogues and churches in two cities in southern Russia on Sunday, killing multiple police officers and a priest, in an apparently coordinated assault that underscored Russia’s vulnerability to extremist violence.

Officials said six of the gunmen were killed after shootouts in the two cities, Makhachkala and Derbent, in the predominantly Muslim region of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea. Wielding rifles and Molotov cocktails, they attacked a synagogue and a church in each of the two cities, according to the authorities and religious organizations.

Sergei Melikov, Dagestan’s governor, described the attack as the latest assault “on our fraternity, on our multiethnic unity.”

The precise death toll was not immediately clear. Mr. Melikov said that “more than 15 police officers fell victim to today’s terrorist attack,” without specifying how many of them were killed and how many were wounded.

The motives and identities of the gunmen were also unclear, and there was no claim of responsibility for the attack. Russia’s Investigative Committee, an analogue to the F.B.I., said it had begun a terrorism investigation.

The attack was the latest outburst of apparent extremist violence inside Russia as the country fights its war against neighboring Ukraine. Four gunmen killed 145 people at a Moscow concert hall in March in an attack for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. And in Dagestan last October, an antisemitic mob stormed a plane arriving from Tel Aviv.

In Derbent, the attackers set fire to a synagogue after shooting and killing the police officers who were guarding it, the Russian Jewish Congress said. They also killed a priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov, according to a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. The priest was the only confirmed victim of Sunday’s attack who was not a law-enforcement officer, although Mr. Melikov said “several” civilians had been killed.

At about the same time, early Sunday evening, gunmen also opened fire on a traffic police post in Makhachkala, according to state media reports. The attackers’ targets also included Makhachkala’s Cathedral of the Assumption, according to state media reports, and a synagogue, according to the Russian Jewish Congress.

Videos posted by Dagestan’s interior ministry showed gunmen on the loose in the city of Makhachkala, opening fire and forcing people out of their cars. At one point, police said roads leading out of the city were blocked. It remained unclear late Sunday whether any gunmen remained at large, though Mr. Melikov said the “active phase” of the police response was over.

The mayhem highlighted the long-running ethnic and religious tensions in Russia, particularly in the country’s southern Caucasus region, which includes Dagestan. Patriarch Kirill I, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said it was “no coincidence” that the attack took place on the day Orthodox Christians observe Pentecost.

“We see that the enemy is not giving up on attempts to destroy interreligious peace and harmony within our society,” Kirill said in a statement.

Left unsaid was who, exactly, the enemy was. There was no comment from the Kremlin and the authorities said little about the identities of the attackers, though some state media reports said some of the gunmen may have been sons of a local official.

After the March shooting at a Moscow concert hall — Russia’s deadliest terrorist attack in 20 years — Russian officials repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that Ukraine and the West were behind the violence, even though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for it.

On Sunday, some Russian politicians also pointed a finger at the West, without evidence. Leonid Slutsky, a senior lawmaker, claimed that the attacks had “the aim of sowing panic and dividing the people of Russia” and that “the blood of the victims” was also on the hands of the United States.

The attacks were the latest incident to rattle Russia’s Jewish community, which has faced increased threats since the beginning of the war in Gaza, according to community leaders. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was in contact with Jewish community leaders in Dagestan, and that there were no known casualties among that community.



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