‘House of the Dragon’ director Geeta Vasant Patel breaks down Rhaenyra and Alicent’s pivotal meeting


Alicent Hightower walks up the steps leading to the Grand Sept, wearing a green gown and flanked by two knights.

After several episodes apart, House of the Dragon‘s Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) finally reunite onscreen in Season 2, episode 3. Given that their relationship is at the heart of the series — and the civil war that looms over Westeros — episode director Geeta Vasant Patel knew that this meeting had to be unforgettable.

“We wanted it to feel monumental,” Patel told Mashable.

Achieving that monumental effect started with the sequence in which Rhaenyra sneaks into King’s Landing disguised as a septa and makes her way to the Grand Sept. Originally running three lines long in the script and scheduled to be shot over three to four hours, Patel and showrunner Ryan Condal decided to expand upon it in order to build suspense.

“We got every angle to really give it the treatment of a thriller,” Patel said of filming Rhaenyra and Alicent’s arrival in the sept, which ended up taking a whole day of shooting. “It’s almost like an Ocean‘s scene.”

Beyond thrillers, Patel also drew inspiration from a major Game of Thrones moment: Cersei Lannister’s Walk of Shame from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. “This was something similar in that you have someone looking at where they need to get and are holding their breath hoping they get there,” Patel explained. “So when she arrives in the Sept, we’re already charged.”

Patel described the actual conversation between Rhaenyra and Alicent as “a litmus test of what came before,” with her, D’Arcy, and Cooke drawing on their prior work together in Season 1, episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides,” in preparation for the shoot. That episode brings us the closest we’ve ever been to Rhaenyra and Alicent reconciling, with Rhaenyra thanking Alicent for her loyalty to Viserys (Paddy Considine), and Alicent declaring that Rhaenyra will make “a fine queen.” In their final scene together, Rhaenyra says she’ll return to King’s Landing on dragonback, hinting at a renewed bond between the two.

Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen have a discussion next to a banquet table in the Red Keep.

The last time Rhaenyra and Alicent were together, in “The Lord of the Tides.”
Credit: Ollie Upton / HBO

“In [“The Lord of the Tides”], these two women made a promise to each other,” Patel said. “But Rhaenyra also saw her father prove that he loved her, and that she was his heir.”

However, Alicent betrayed that promise and newfound trust when she had Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) crowned king, upending Rhaenyra’s perception of her relationship with her father in the process. After standing by her side for so long, did he actually abandon her in his last breath?

That question hangs over Rhaenyra as she reunites with Alicent. “Even though it seems like Rhaenyra is coming to [King’s Landing] to stop the war, what she’s really coming for is to know if her father loved her, to look into Alicent’s eyes and ask, ‘did he really change his mind?'” Patel said.

The conversation is also a chance for both Rhaenyra and Alicent to remind one another of the love you once shared. “[The scene] is really all about the relationship between Rhaenyra and Alicent,” said Patel. “It’s Rhaenyra saying, ‘you promised me you wouldn’t turn on me,’ and also Alicent wanting to tell her friend, ‘I didn’t mean to do all that. This isn’t my fault. I had every intention of making you queen.'”

Still, the character-driven drama of the scene leads to a revelation that may have sizable repercussions for the entire realm. In her efforts to assure Rhaenyra that Viserys wanted Aegon to succeed, Alicent tells Rhaenyra her late husband’s dying words. Rhaenyra immediately recognizes that Alicent misinterpreted a reference to Aegon the Conqueror’s prophetic dream of the Song of Ice and Fire. Now that Alicent has learned of her grave error, how will she proceed?

“Alicent getting this new information is a very important moment that she will process in episodes to come,” Patel said. “In the moment, she stands by her argument and holds fast to it. I think it’s quite human in that way. Sometimes, someone tells us we’re wrong, and in the moment, you think, ‘no I’m not.’ Then a day later, you realize, ‘I was wrong.’ This is one of those human moments where the writers did a really great job of allowing it to have this nuance that we all understand.”

As for Rhaenyra, the knowledge that Alicent won’t budge galvanizes her in the war effort going forward. “When Rhaenyra came [to King’s Landing], she wanted Alicent to make a deal with her. The problem is that she didn’t offer Alicent anything. There was no collaboration, nothing that they did to work together,” Patel said. “So coming out of that scene, Rhaenyra is thinking, ‘I have no choice. I must go to war with you.'”

To quote Aegon II: “To war, then.”

New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max.

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