The Director of House of The Dragon Confirms the Death of A Major Character
With this week’s eighth episode of House of the Dragon, the Many-Faced God has arrived to take another life.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and her growing family return to King’s Landing six years after the events of episode 7 of Game of Thrones to defend the legitimacy of her son, Luke Velaryon (Elliot Grihault), as heir to the throne of Driftmark against a petition brought by Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson).
There she discovers that King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), her father, is in even worse form than she had imagined. One of his eyes is permanently damaged, and he spends most of his time in bed, mumbling to himself in milk of poppy haze and unable to walk for extended stretches.
It’s evident that Viserys doesn’t have much time left when he makes one last attempt to defend Rhaenyra and her children from the ruthless Greens.
Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) puts him to bed in the episode’s last scene. Alice thinks the king wants her to put their son, Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney), on the throne because, in his haze, King Aegon I (Richard Eyre) mistakes her for Rhaenyra and begins talking about the prophecy of Aegon the Conqueror.
Despite the increasingly audible sound of Viserys’ heavy breathing, she decides to let her husband alone to sleep. There is no one else in sight, so he raises his hand to the sky. As he sighs deeply again, he says, “My love…” before the screen goes black.
Episode 8 director Geeta Patel has confirmed to EW that this signifies the end of King Viserys Targaryen’s (first of his name) reign. It’s time to start the Dragon Dance.
“To me, the episode’s climax has always served as a litmus test. Did we feel what we wanted to feel in that final scene every time we watched or thought about it?” Patel declares in an interview. “Was our heartbroken by their passing? Were we satisfied that Viserys finished telling his tale?
Did it seem to us that he truly loved his late wife? Was Alicent his true love? Is Rhaenyra someone he loved? Was there anything that he deeply regretted? Did we sense the good or bad effects of Viserys’s many-layered design?”
The death of Viserys is a watershed moment in the impending civil war within House Targaryen known as the Dance of the Dragons. Black (Team Rhaenyra) and Green (Team Alicent) can no longer prevent each other from destroying the chessboard because the last referee, or possibly the lone referee, has been removed. Real fighting to put Rhaenyra or Aegon on the Iron Throne is about to begin.
First, though, Patel breaks down the important events of Episode 8 of Season 1, including Alicent’s conversation with Diana, Vaemond Velaryon’s (Wil Johnson) beheading, and Viserys’ farewell scene.
For you, what was the biggest memory that stands out from filming this episode?
There isn’t even [one] of them. As a job director, this was my best experience to date. Everything about this exceeded my expectations. Moments of beauty can be found. The episode’s writers wanted to explore Rhaenyra and Alicent’s thoughts in order to better understand them. Take these two adversarial characters. Alice in particular; wanted to know how she felt and get inside their heads. It’s almost as bad as having two friends who dislike each other. That’s more grounded in reality and more accessible to everyone.
We filmed a sequence with Rhaenyra, and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. It felt more like we were spectators than companions. She hasn’t come back to King’s Landing in a very long time, so it’s natural that she’ll be a little on edge as she steps down from the chariot and introduces herself.
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Here she is, having finally come into her own, in a place she once felt judged her and transformed her into someone she didn’t want to be. To recapitulate, she is the little girl who came back. When you visited, you surely noticed that everyone here is in a constant state of motion. Long past the deadline, especially on that day. As far as I can tell, the sun has set and we will have no more daylight. My mind wandered to wonder, “Then why are we standing about to see her disembark from this chariot?
There’s a sense that the story is taking place at the precise moment before she emerges.” So, cinematographer Katie Goldschmidt and I were like, “Okay, we’ve got 10 minutes.” Absolutely everyone on board agreed with this plan.
The story was the talk of the town. Since we knew this was something we wanted to try, we worked quickly to get [D’Arcy] inside the chariot and plan out the rest. We caught Rhaenyra seated there before the chariot’s inside lights turned out. Wow, that looks much better than it did when it was lit, we thought. Just little epiphanies where you know the story is pointing you in the right way.
OK, so maybe it was a joint venture. Working with the performers is what keeps me going. One of my brothers, Ravi Patel of Meet the Patels, is an actor. To be honest, he was the one who first showed me their incredible talent as entertainers.
The more technical the filmmaking, the better. The lengthy takes and the large crane shots are two of my favorite aspects of filmmaking, but I wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice them if it meant getting a few more takes of the performance if we felt like we needed to respond to an unexpected development.
That’s probably why we had so much amusement here. The actors gave their absolute best performances and put in a lot of effort to fully realize their characters. There’s not much else that’s as entertaining as that in my line of work.
That felt like the tale we wanted to convey, and I believe it took a lot of people working together to make that happen. Showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik made it quite apparent that they intended for the stakes to be extremely high, with the world hanging on a thread. In my opinion, that necessitates the use of every storytelling technique.
Consequently, we were incessantly holding meetings, going through the scenes, and checking and rechecking every single one to ensure that the strings were stretched as tightly as they could go, almost to the point of breaking. It required talking to the actors to realize there were no easy answers. Nothing. To some extent, every move had to be made with caution.
My initial reaction to Alicent in the show was one of distaste. Once she recovered from Miguel’s experience, I continued asking, “Can you gimme something to go on?” No, he says, “I’m sorry.” In the previous scene, she is seen chatting with Larys Strong.
There’s something you have to figure out. I jest, but it was crucial to the episode’s success that the dynamic between Alicent and Rhaenyra—their tension and their friendship—felt genuine. However, if you pay attention to the words they don’t use to express their feelings for one another, you’ll notice that “I miss you.” None of them ever admits to the other, “I’m lonely.” Not once have I heard them express such views. Finding these junctures was crucial for Ryan, Miguel, and me in allowing everything to function as subtext.
The sequence at the opening of the show in which Alicent speaks to the girl who was raped by her son was another highlight of filming for me. After reading the moment and recalling the events leading up to it, it’s simple to conclude that “Alicent is a cold-hearted snake.” Before, while we were discussing the issue, we were like “That must not occur.
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We need that Alien sensation.” Of course, we figured out a way to film it so that you may experience it with Alicent. The plan was to simulate a day in her life as closely as possible. Walk the halls, attend meeting after meeting. You get the impression that she’s a working mother and that she makes mistakes and doesn’t have unlimited options.
She is nearly put in the position of having to decide between the worst possible outcomes. It’s odd that, even when we reached that point, my worries hadn’t subsided. I told myself, “Please don’t let her seem like a snake.” But what exactly is she doing at this very moment?
Okay, so she’s bribing the victim to keep quiet about the rape. Olivia has completely blown it out of the water. She simply was Alicent in the deepest, most nuanced, and most heartbreaking ways imaginable. All of us involved had a blast throughout the making of that particular sequence.
Sara and I are quite close, and we often discuss such events; I do the same with Ryan, and I believe we were all on the same page. That is to say, yeah, being raped or sexually harmed is a serious thing, and we wanted that gravity to come across in all of these moments. Society in these modern times is also complicated, adding other layers of difficulty.
Is this the kind of incident that would prompt a person to call the police and make a big deal out of it, or does it happen frequently and nobody gives it much thought? It’s fascinating to explore the ambiguity that exists there. Therefore, this scene and this section of the story were the subjects of much discussion.
That was a massive chain of events. During that period, we had numerous logistical challenges. It’s not important to go into detail, but it was already the biggest hurdle we had to overcome in order to turn things around for Paddy [Considine]. There was talk about him walking down the aisle, and he spent a lot of time in prosthetics getting ready for it.
As the director and producer, you glance at your watch and think, “Oh my God, that’s just the first take and it took, like, 20 minutes.” as he walks down the aisle. Someone came up to me at some point—I forget who—and suggested, “Maybe we should simply cut around here.” To not do it seriously; to say something like, “Let’s only do it once.”
My response was, “No, we are going to do the walk because the story is essential that he is walking down this aisle.” He seems to be suffering tremendously. What he is heading for is unclear. He hopes to rescue the country. If we shortened it, we’d lose that crucial detail in post-production. That prospect would never arise for us. We just lowered our gaze and followed Paddy on foot as he was shot.
It’s a long way to walk, and even with Paddy’s cane, he probably strained his back if he did it more than once. I’m glad we didn’t back down because we knew we were on the right track; it really did assist the audience to connect with the story.
In our discussions about that scene, Ryan, Miguel, and I have always assumed that he is looking at the throne. That’s how they planned to film it. Viserys puts out effort, and it becomes clear that he is striving to ascend to the throne for the benefit of his realm.
Rhaenyra happened to be in the middle of our practice as if she had been strategically placed there. When I first heard that, I thought, “Hey, hold on there. Instead of heading for the throne, he’s making his way straight to her.”
That brought me to tears right there in practice, at least according to my own interpretation, because I am the daughter of a father who loves me so much that he would have walked through fire to protect me. Suddenly, with no time to spare as we usually maximize, we did everything in our power to capture Rhaenyra and Viserys’s tender moment together.
That’s fantastic news that was uncovered. Even if I had thought of it a day earlier, it would have been better. If I could go back in time, I would have taken more shots of it. I’m relieved, though, that some of the images we took ended up being usable after all.
There was a scene in the throne room in which Daemon helped Viserys climb the stairs to the throne since Viserys was too feeble to do so on his own. At first, a soldier approaches Viserys, but the latter brushes him off and declares, “Please don’t say anything. This is something I can handle on my own.” He is full of himself.
Then someone else comes to him, and at first, he mistakes them for a soldier, but it turns out to be his brother all along. I believe the crown came off of Paddy’s head during the first day of filming (or the rehearsal for that day), but Matt quickly scooped it up and we continued shooting. We kept on [shooting]. Recently, a new find was made in that area. So we huddled as a trio, and they were all, “The impact was palpable.
This seemed to be a turning point in our friendship or romance.” Now there is only silence. Then we asked ourselves, “On the agenda for this week is the dinner where Daemon will deliver his address. Is it our intention to ruin the atmosphere?” Daemon’s entire monologue was edited for time. We decided to film it both with and without the crown coming loose.
We all took a deep breath every time the crown came off, and wondered, “Will we have any place to go by the time we get to the dinner?” Interestingly enough, I interpreted that point in the edit as the crown coming off. By the time you got to the dinner, it was already the aftermath.
More of an emotional moment occurred during the supper that preceded Daemon’s speech. For the sake of the plot, I’m glad that the mishap occurred and the crown fell off; it was a pivotal event in the unfolding plotline that began with the statement, “Hey, I want your crown,” in the pilot episode.
Yeah. The conclusion of this episode has always seemed like a litmus test to me. Did we feel what we wanted to feel in that final scene every time we watched or thought about it? Did we experience grief? Were we satisfied that Viserys finished telling his tale? Did it seem to us that he truly loved his late wife? Was Alicent his true love? Is Rhaenyra someone he loved?
Was there anything that he deeply regretted? Were we affected positively or negatively by Viserys’s many layers? That’s when I’d give myself a reality check, realize that “I guess we’re not there, we’re they’re here,” and return to the drawing board with Miguel and Ryan. Actors included, who were no doubt similarly engaged in a never-ending process of double-checking that last scene. That was the intended result, anyway.
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Well, I’m not the best person to ask, seeing as how I had the good fortune of speaking with Paddy, and he whispered to me who he was thinking of. Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to say it. I guess I’ll let him ask if he wants to, but I was wondering the same thing. Just the finest part of working here. It’s fascinating to put oneself in Paddy’s position as Viserys and to speculate on the outcome.
I did play a significant role, but I feel obligated to point out that Miguel and Ryan were the true brains behind the entire cast. The story’s premise was laid out for me, and from there, my duties began. I was familiar with the plot, its major events, its central conflict, its protagonists, its antagonists, its origins, and the pig’s backstory.
Then I helped them improve their acting skills. They put in the effort, they found their personas after we took the time to work with them in rehearsals and in a lot of chats. I got the creeps just seeing Ewan on screen, but he’s the nicest guy in real life. After each and every try, he will always exclaim, “Are there specific ways you’d like me to improve upon it? I’m more qualified to accomplish this task.
And what is it that you want me to accomplish?” He’s one of those people that puts in a tonne of effort, but as soon as the camera is on, he completely transforms into a different person. I thought he did a great job of developing his character and giving him depth and insight into who he was. That’s why I’m so pleased with his achievements.
The same goes for you, Tom. Somehow, despite the fact that [Aegon] is an outcast and misunderstood kid, he managed to win our hearts. When very second that Alicent leaves him, he is stripping naked on his bed. I don’t know if anyone else saw the kid in him, but I definitely did.
We made it clear in this episode that we wanted to be around everyone, and that included later at the table when he was seated next to Paddy. And if you just put the camera on Tom, there’s always something intriguing occurring, so we got him alone and zeroed in on his moments. The challenge, as directors and directors of photography teams, is organizing your schedules to capture every one of these monumental moments. It’s for the best that we were able to.
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