MOVIE NEWS – House of Dragons star Fabien Frankel has spoken about how he prepared for one of the central interactions between Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and her character Ser Criston Cole.
Ser Criston and Rhaenyra grew closer in the first half of Season 1 of House of the Dragon. The princess personally selected him as a member of the Royal Guard, a seven-member order sworn to protect the king and the royal family to the best of their ability. However, the Kingsguard must take an oath: like the Night’s Watch, they do not take possessions, do not give birth to heirs, and choose a life of celibacy. However, in House of the Dragon episode 4, Rhaenyra and Ser Criston’s flirtation reaches its peak and they end up having sex, which ends up causing a lot of trouble for everyone.
On Entertainment Weekly’s West of Westeros podcast, Frankel talked about the preparation she went through for the scene, which she had been thinking about for seven months. Frankel said of the scene, “The big thing for me was not to make it feel like another unnecessary, sweaty backside sex scene, because it’s just not like that. Anyone who’s ever had sex will tell you that sex isn’t so beautiful.” He, Alcock and director Clare Kilner chose this ethos when filming the scene.
The scene’s focus, for example, is the removal of Ser Criston’s armour. Not only did this represent Ser Criston breaking his vows, but it added an extra layer of realistic tension to the scene as Rhaenyra helped him remove the cumbersome attire. As Frankel says, “I just remember the texts back and forth, the phone calls back and forth, the meetings back and forth between Clare, myself, Milly, and our intimacy coordinator. But especially me, Clare, and Milly were thinking, ‘How do we do this? make this human?”.
House of the Dragon does not shy away from sexual content, but as the showrunners promised, they tried to move away from “unwarranted” sex and violence scenes. Reactions to the scene were nuanced, and perhaps that’s exactly what the series was aiming for. Arguments about the power imbalance between Ser Criston and Rhaenyra are particularly prominent, with some taking Criston’s reluctance as a sign that he didn’t want to continue. Others say the long, lingering shots show Criston’s conscious decision to go on the date.
The scene was significantly different from the other sex scenes in the episode. Daemon (Matt Smith) and Rhaenyra almost consummate their forbidden affair, but Daemon steps aside when he sees that Rhaenyra is largely initiating. In post-episode interviews, it is made clear that this is because Daemon does not like Rhaenyra’s dominance, although others have interpreted it as Daemon changing his mind about hurting his niece. Alicent (Emily Carey) and Viserys (Paddy Considine) also have an unpleasant encounter, with Alicent clearly unhappy and unsatisfied, the camera lingering on her expression and a clear distinction between her and Rhaenyra. Alicent is horribly unhappy but fits into the role she’s been given, while Rhaenyra wants to escape the expectations placed on her, but finds herself punished by society for doing so.