Warning: This article contains spoilers from House of the Dragon episode 4.
A lot of thought went into the big sex scene on House of the Dragon episode 4 between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Ser Criston Cole. Fabien Frankel, the actor who plays Rhaenyra's knight in once-shining armor, prepared for the moment over the course of seven months, he tells EW on the West of Westeros podcast.
"It was something we talked about over seven months. It was one of the first things I was very keen to talk about," Frankel says. "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. 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."
Before House of the Dragon gets into the action of the Dance of the Dragons, the bloody Targaryen civil war that is the main focus of this Game of Thrones prequel, episode 4 sends Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) on a night on the town with her uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith).
Disguised in street clothes, he brings his young niece to a brothel to witness all the things she might deprive herself of while chasing the crown. The infamous Targaryen incest we've long heard about in Game of Thrones was on full display as Rhaenyra and Daemon begin kissing, but Daemon stops himself. Returning to her chambers in the castle, Rhaenyra finds her protector, Ser Criston, standing guard by her door. She then welcomes him into her bed.
Frankel remembers Normal People, the Hulu series starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, had already premiered by the time they were shooting this scene for House of the Dragon. He praises the drama 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?'" Frankel recalls.
Ollie Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) seduces Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).
Rhaenyra and Criston's scene had to be different than Rhaenyra and Daemon's moment in the brothel. Frankel's goal was to lean into the internal struggle of Criston in this moment. As a member of the Kingsguard, the common-born Dornish fighter was forced to take a vow of chastity, which is ultimately tainted when he chooses to lie with Rhaenyra. "It was about the struggle in every way: the struggle to get the armor off, the struggle of him to betray his vows... That's how I wanted to pitch it," he says.
"I remember just saying to them, 'There's no way this armor comes off without the help,'" Frankel adds. "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."
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