How Rhaenyra's Return To King's Landing Was Changed From House Of The Dragon's Script

Flexibility and adaptability are the names of the game for filmmakers who want to keep their head above water — especially while shooting a series as sprawling and epic as "House of the Dragon." As much as the very highly-viewed season 1 relied on the strength of its scripts, certain aspects couldn't always be translated perfectly from the page. Whether because of logistical difficulties or bursts of inspiration in the intervening time or something else altogether, reality always has a way of laughing at the plans we make. 

Take one scene starring Emma D'Arcy's Rhaenyra in episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides." Memorable for closing with the death of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and lighting the spark for the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, a much quieter and more unassuming moment earlier in the episode stands out as a prime example of the chaos inherent in a television production. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, director Geeta Patel explained the significance of Rhaenyra's return.

"One of the moments I loved was when we were filming a scene with Rhaenyra. It just felt like we were watching her instead of [being] with her. It's when she arrives to King's Landing and she gets out of this chariot, presents herself, and is very nervous, obviously, because she hasn't been back in so many years. This is a place that, in her mind, judged her and made her into someone she didn't want to be, and here she is as someone who has found herself. She's this little girl coming back."

While the moment originally only showed Rhaenyra after she gets out of the chariot, Patel was inspired to throw in a moment that wasn't in the script.

'Hey, yeah, this is the right direction to go'

Having removed herself from King's Landing to Dragonstone during one of the season's many time jumps, Rhaenyra's return to the capital city to defend her son Lucerys' claim as the heir to Driftmark comes fraught with conflicting feelings for the Princess. Geeta Patel revealed how this important scene came together, and how she spontaneously added an extra shot at the last minute:

"...We're always rushing, rushing, rushing. Out of time, especially that day. We don't have any daylight left. I had this thought of, 'Well, why are we watching her coming out of this chariot? It feels like the story is actually the moment right before she comes out.' So the cinematographer Katie [Goldschmidt] and I were like, 'Okay, we've got 10 minutes.' Everybody, the whole crew, was on board with this idea. Everybody was about the story.

"We moved as fast as we could, got [D'Arcy] inside the chariot, had everything figured out already 'cause we knew it was something we wanted to try. We shot that moment of [Rhaenyra] just sitting there, and then a light went out inside [the chariot]. We were like, 'Wow, that looks better than it did lit.' It's just magical moments where the story is telling you, 'Hey, yeah, this is the right direction to go.'"

The finished product only includes a very brief shot of Rhaenyra from within the carriage, but this was enough to get the point across. If perfection is the enemy of good, "House of the Dragon" proves that spontaneity can lead to something better.

"House of the Dragon" season 1 is now streaming in full on HBO Max.