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That Emotional Daemon And Viserys Scene From House Of The Dragon Episode 8 Was Totally Improvised

You might not think that, on a show as full of lore as "House of the Dragon" — which is at once a prequel and spin-off to "Game of Thrones" as well as an adaptation of original author George R.R. Martin's "Fire & Blood" — there would be any room for improvisation or, really, anything that moves beyond the tightly plotted script. Considering that every single character, from King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) to his brother Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) to the heir apparent Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) has a very, very specific set of character motivations, many of which are quite clear — Viserys wants his daughter to succeed him, Rhaenyra wants the throne, Daemon wants Rhaenyra (the two do marry in the show's seventh episode), and so on and so forth — where is there room for a throwaway action or line?

Well, according to Geeta Patel, director of "The Lord of the Tides," just revealed a fascinating new behind-the-scenes fact about this episode, including that one huge moment was improvised. Here's how Matt Smith made a small tweak to a scene that made it way more emotional.

Viserys and Daemon share a tender moment in the episode

As Patel told Entertainment Weekly in a piece about how, at the end of episode 8, Viserys is for sure dead, Smith, as Daemon, improvised one of the episode's most emotional moments. Throughout it, Viserys is sick — so sick that one wonders, frequently, if he's going to pull a full Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly" and start disintegrating on the spot — but decides to attend a council meeting about who will inherit Driftmark to stick up for Rhaenyra's son Lucerys (​​Elliot Grihault), a boy he refuses to admit is clearly not the son of Rhaenyra's first husband and is, actually, a bastard. As Viserys tries to climb the steps to the Iron Throne, his crown clatters to the ground, and Daemon gently picks it up and places it back on his brother's head.

After Viserys declares that Lucerys will hold Driftmark as the future Lord of the Tides, Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), who believes it should be his, flies into a rage about Lucerys' suspect birthright... and though Viserys threatens to take his tongue, Daemon decides to help out by taking the man's head off right at his mouth, in yet another show of obvious loyalty to his brother — despite that they're frequently at odds and have been estranged for years.

Smith totally improvised this sweet gesture

When asked about the episode's most important moments, Patel spoke extensively about the moment between Daemon and Viserys. "There was one moment in the throne room where Daemon helps Viserys up the stairs to the throne 'cause Viserys is so weak, he can't make it himself," Patel recalled. "First, a soldier comes up to Viserys, and Viserys shakes him away and says, 'No, no, no. I can do this myself.' He has the pride. And then another person comes to him and he thinks it's a soldier and it's actually his brother. When we were shooting that — I think the rehearsal again, the first day — the crown fell off of Paddy's head and Matt picked it up and we just kept going. We didn't stop [filming]. There was a discovery there of this moment. So then the three of us got together and they were like, 'We felt this. This felt like the turning point in our relationship. It's just a silent moment."

Apparently, there was also a speech Daemon was to make later in the episode that would have contradicted this moment... so they figured it out as they went along.

And then we thought to ourselves, 'We have the dinner coming up where Daemon's gonna then give a speech. Are we gonna undercut that moment?'" Patel continued. "We decided to shoot it both ways with the crown falling off and with the crown not falling off. Every time the crown fell off, all of us just caught our breath and at the same time we thought, 'Will we have anywhere to go by the time we get to the dinner?' And funny enough, in the edit we discovered that the moment was actually the crown falling off, in my mind at least. Then when you got to the dinner, it was more of an aftermath moment. It was more about the dinner when Daemon gives that speech, there's too many people in the room almost for that to be the emotional moment. I was so thankful that accident happened, that the crown fell off because it proved to be, at least for me, quite a heavy moment and quite a turning point for a storyline that had started in the pilot: Hey, I want your crown and by the end here I'm gonna put the crown back on your head and I'm gonna help you to your throne."

"House of the Dragon" airs on Sunday nights on HBO and HBO Max at 9 PM.