House Of The Dragon’s Matt Smith improvised a key scene in episode 8

House of the Dragon is quickly becoming one of the best TV shows of 2022, with each episode better than the last.

Last Sunday’s episode, ‘The Lord Of The Tides’, was no exception, thanks in large part to Paddy Considine’s strong, worthy performance as King Viserys I.

As I noted in my review of the episode, Considine steals every scene he’s in. His desire to see his loved ones “put aside your petty grievances” and try to get by is beautiful but ultimately tragic.

His death sets the scene for the Dance of Dragons, the bloody, fiery civil war that erupts when Alisen and the Hightowers decide to put Aegon on the Iron Throne despite Viserys naming his daughter, Rhaenyra, as heir.

One of the most powerful scenes in the final episode takes place when Viserys unexpectedly appears in the throne room to judge the succession of the Driftwood Throne and the Driftmark.

When Lord Corlys Velaryon is wounded and seemingly on the brink of death, his brother Vaemond asks the crown to name him heir to his family seat. His reasoning is simple: He believes that Lucerys Velaryon, Rhaenyra’s son, is not Laenor Velaryon’s son.

So the interested parties all come to the Red Keep, where Alicent holds court in her husband’s place. Rhaenyra argues that the matter has been decided and Corlys has chosen his grandson as heir. Vaemond disputes the legitimacy of the claim. Then, to everyone’s shock, Viserys appears. Rhaenyra had visited him earlier and begged for his help, but he looked too weak and rotten to move.

Despite this, he appears and wanders around the throne room. His hand, Otto Hightower, looking completely taken aback, is forced aside as the king ascends the stairs. At one point, as he makes the arduous climb, his crown falls from his head to the floor.

It is then that the Demon, his brother, moves in with him, lifting his crown and helping him to the Iron Throne. He places the crown gently on his older brother’s head.

“When we were shooting it,” director Geeta Patel told Entertainment Weekly, “I think the rehearsal again, the first day — the crown fell off Paddy’s head and Matt picked it up and we went on. We didn’t stop [filming]It ended up sticking, and the director and actors felt they created a powerful moment in the two characters’ often tense relationship.

“There was a breakthrough of the moment,” Patel said. “So the three of us got together and said, ‘We felt this. That was the turning point in our relationship.”

This turning point was largely a symbolic move by Daemon who was once heir to the Iron Throne. I don’t think he ever really wanted it that much, but he certainly wasn’t happy with his brother for the myriad of different displays.

Patel says the moment symbolizes Daemon’s change of heart: “Because it turned out to be, at least for me, a very heavy moment and quite a turning point for a story that had started in the pilot: ‘Hey, I want your crown and Until the end here I will put the crown back on your head and help you to your throne.”

A speech by Daemon at the dinner later was cut both because of time and because Patel says the truly impressive, emotional impromptu crown scene would have undermined its poignancy.

“Then when you got to the dinner, it was more of an afterthought. It was more about the dinner when Daemon gives that speech, there’s too many people in the room almost for it to be that emotional moment,” he said.

I certainly would never have guessed that this moment was improvised by watching the scene. Like so much of this show, it’s steeped in symbolism and throbbing with unspoken meaning. It speaks to the quality of the entire play—its writing, its actors, and its direction—that such a powerful scene was just a happy accident.

House of the Dragon returns on Sunday. You can read my review of the latest episode here.

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