We all knew there were going to be uncomfortable sex scenes in House of the Dragon. Incest, murder and gratuitous gore and sexuality are all part and parcel of the Game of Thrones universe, so when it came time for Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) to consummate, the actors knew it would be meaningful.
In an interview with EW‘s West of Westeros podcast, Frankel revealed he was worried about the scene seven months in advance. He was fearful that it would be gratuitous and unrealistic, but he revealed he was pleasantly surprised at how the scene was handled.
“It was something we talked about over seven months. It was one of the first things I was very keen to talk about. We were incredibly fortunate that episode 4 was directed by Clare Kilner, who I think is one of the great TV directors working today. The big thing for me was about it not feeling like another gratuitous, sweat-glistening-off-their-back sex scene, ’cause it’s just not like that.”
The thing he was chiefly concerned about was that the scene be true to humanity and not just two people getting naked for the sake of it.
“Anyone who’s ever had sex will tell you sex ain’t that beautiful. It isn’t some picturesque, amazing thing. It’s awkward, especially when you are young. There’s an uncomfortability that one has to sit in, and there’s a discovery and understanding of each other’s bodies — not to mention the practical side of the whole thing.”
The way it plays out us that Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) brings his young niece Rhaenyra to a brothel disguised in street clothes. Once there, the two share a kiss but the Prince stops himself before things go too far. Rhaenyra later finds Ser Criston by her door and successfully seduces him.
There are two reasons why Frankel wanted the scene to be poignant, and he said he was proud of the show for “highlighting the realities of sex.”
“I just remember back and forth texts, back and forth phone calls, back and forth meetings between Clare, myself, Milly, and our intimacy coordinator. But particularly me, Clare, and Milly going, ‘How do we make this human?'”
Criston is knight who took a vow of chastity, so the scene has extra depth. There’s also the reality of the amount of time it would take for a knight to remove his armor. Typically, he would have the help of his squires, so Frankel said showrunners made sure to put some of that undressing difficulty in the show.
“Knights would have squires, and squires would take off their armor. For even a world-quality squire, you’ve got 10 minutes to get the armor off. Let’s say five, maybe at best. There’s no way Rhaneyra and Cole are gonna take that armor off in 10 seconds. So I was like, ‘Well, you have to have that in. It’s important that that’s what it is. It’s important that it’s a struggle to get the armor off.’ It’s heavy. How do we get the buckle off? How do we get the boots off? These are all the things I really cared about, ’cause they take away this sort of, to my mind, archaic sexual sex scenes that have existed for so long in television and film, and make it feel real and how it would be.”
House of the Dragon is currently streaming on HBO Max.