Note: Spoilers for “House of the Dragon” Episode 4 follow below.
The “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” harkened back to the flagship series in Episode 4, which at its heart was all about sex. However, in contrast to the gratuitous nature of some of the sex and nudity that was prevalent throughout “Game of Thrones” (and the subject of much criticism), “House of the Dragon” took a uniquely feminine approach to sex in its fourth episode, thanks in part to director Claire Kilner.
The episode finds the young Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) lured outside the castle grounds by her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith), who takes her to a brothel where the two start… coupling. Daemon is fueled by a desire to get back at his brother the king (Paddy Considine), but when Rhaenyra is not only not shocked but interested in hooking up with Daemon, the prince is quite literally stunned.
“He thinks it’s shocking to her but she doesn’t just get shocked, she gets excited by it,” Kilner said in a new featurette on the making of the episode. “And when that happens, he has nothing. And he basically can’t handle not being in charge or in control. I think what it’s saying there is that young women want sex as much as young men.”
Co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik said that when it came to portraying this excursion, they had to balance Rhaenyra’s interest with the fact that she’s part of a gambit enacted by Daemon.
“There was a lot of conversation about Rhaenyra not being innocent, and at the same time she is not the perpetrator of this,” Sapochnik says in the video. “The idea that this is actually abuse felt really important to explore, but we put aside that Daemon is her uncle because that is the Targaryen custom… If the idea that Daemon is using Rhaenyra as a way to get at her father, ultimately his impotence in this scene is a reflection of the fact that he knows deep down what he’s doing isn’t right.”
Kilner admitted she had to consciously unlearn decades of watching sex scenes directed by men in order to ensure that the scenes in Episode 4 were from a distinctly female point of view.
“Directing scenes like that can be really difficult, it’s a big responsibility and it’s important to shoot it from the right point of view,” Kilner said. “Being a female director, I’ve grown up watching how male directors have directed sex scenes and as a woman I have to really think about how to shoot it because my go-to images are ones that I grew up with, which aren’t necessarily from a woman’s point of view. Now we’re at a point where we’re like, ‘No, what is the woman’s point of view here?’ And it was really important for it to be a scene where people were equally enjoying themselves and freeing themselves from the constraints of the world that they’ve been living in.”
As for what it was actually like filming the scenes? According to the 22-year-old Alcock, the vibe on set was actually comedic.
“The brothel days were really funny,” Alcock said in the video. “I never thought I would say that sentence out loud, but here we are. The brothel days were really funny! Because you kind of just get used to everyone being naked and doing it in tempo, the whole room.”
“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays on HBO.