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The scandalous moments of carnal passion in House of the Dragon may be spur of the moment, but the preparation leading up to them is anything but. Appearing on the most recent episode of Entertainment Weekly's West of Westeros podcast, cast member Fabien Frankel discussed the immense amount of forethought that went into the pivotal sex scene between his character, Ser Criston Cole, and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) in the fourth episode of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel.
"It was something we talked about over seven months. It was one of the first things I was very keen to talk about," Frankel explained, while praising the considerate leadership of director Clare Kilner.
"The big thing for me was about it not feeling like another gratuitous, sweat-glistening-off-their-backs sex scene because it's just not like that. Anyone who's ever had sex will tell you that sex ain't that beautiful; it isn't some picturesque amazing thing. It's awkward, especially when you're young. There's uncomfortability that one has to sit in, there's a discovery and understanding of each other's bodies. Not to mention the practical side of the whole thing. I remember just saying to them, 'There's no way this armor comes off without help.' Knights would have squires [who] would take off their armor. For even a well-qualified squire, you've got 10 minutes to get the armor off, let's say five, maybe, at best. There's no way Rhaenyra and Cole are gonna take that armor off in 10 seconds. I was like, 'You have to have that in. It's important that it's a struggle to get the armor off.'"
The goal, he continued, was to subvert the notion of the "archaic sex scenes that have existed for so long in television and film and make it feel real and how it would [in real life]." Going to bed with the princess betrays the oath of celibacy Ser Criston made when he became a member of the Kingsguard. While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, the knight's life-altering decision to break his sacred vows — which "mean everything to him" — comes back to haunt him in this week's episode, where he propositions the princess to run away with him, only to have this idea rejected. His honor besmirched, he owns up to his actions to Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) and nearly commits suicide.
"For me, it was about the struggle in every way," Frankel said of the steamy sex scene subtext. "The struggle to get the armor off, the struggle for him to betray his vows. It's all about his struggle, that's how I wanted to pitch it ... It needs to be incredibly different to the scene we've just seen between Rhaenyra and he uncle. They have to be completely different. She is being led by him completely and obviously, feelings are arising in her that, no doubt, she's never had before as a young woman. And then [she] arrives back into the comfort of her own bedroom and is wanting and is craving to allow those feelings to percolate in her, and Cristen Cole ends up being the subject of that moment."
Episodes 1-5 of House of the Dragon are now available to stream on HBO Max. Next week's episode will once again jump forward in time, bringing in Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke as the fully grown versions of Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower, respectively. Shortly after the series was picked up for a second season last month, it was announced that Miguel Sapochnik would vacate the roles of director and co-showrunner. Luckily, fellow Thrones veteran Alan Taylor will step up as a director and executive producer.
Looking for some fantasy content to tide you over? Click here for our list of the best fantasy films available on Peacock.