westeros gone wild

How a gay sex party in Berlin inspired that memorable brothel scene in ‘House Of The Dragon’

Despite its massive popularity and devoted fandom, HBO’s fantasy epic Game Of Thrones had its fair share of critics (and not just because of that “meh” finale).

Since the beginning, the drama was widely criticized for its depiction of sexual violence. Though it featured an ensemble brimming with strong female characters, the show frequently used assault as a plot point—something these women had to overcome in order to be self-actualized.

Related: The “Game of Thrones” finale failed its two gender nonconforming characters

So, in returning to the land of Westeros for prequel series House Of The Dragon, the network set out to tell a more equitable story, with an emphasis on diversity in front of and behind the camera. How the show built “TV’s strongest (and queer) female gaze” is detailed in a new eye-opening feature from Variety—and, it turns out, a gay sex party plays a key role.

Two women in fantasy period piece dresses look at each other in the middle of a candle-lit palace hall.
Image Credit: HBO

The main thrust of House Of The Dragon is the war of succession within the once-powerful House Targaryen, and the growing feud between the dead king’s wife, Alicent Hightower, and his daughter, Rhaenyra Targaryen, the heir apparent. The former childhood friends—and lovers?—are played by Olivia Cooke and nonbinary actor Emma D’Arcy, who (even if you didn’t watch the show) you will know as the much-meme’d “Negroni Sbagliato” duo.

In an early episode, Rhaenyra (played by Milly Alcock at a younger age) goes to a brothel and has her first sexual experience with her uncle, Daemon (Matt Smith)—proving, just because it foregrounds the female perspective, that doesn’t mean the series shies away from the darker sides of sex and power.

Related: Kit Harington shows off his best assets in Game of Thrones’ most-watched episode ever. Coincidence?

In the Variety piece, episode director Claire Kilner said that, having seen how sex scenes were shot on Game Of Thrones, she knew she “didn’t want to do that.” In particular, Kilner revealed that her directorial approach to the brothel scenes was inspired by, of all things, a visit to a gay Berlin nightclub in her twenties:

“The first thing I said to Miguel [Sapochnik, co-showrunner of House Of The Dragon] when I got the brothel scene was, ‘This reminds me of an experience I had when I was about 22 and working as a stage manager in theater and another stage manager—he was gay—took me to a dance club in Berlin.'”

“Basically people were having sex left, right and center. And I never forgot that,” Kilner continued. “I remembered the air was thick with sex. Ryan and Miguel really let me run with that. So I was just doing my job, but when I received all of these comments from women and men–but to be honest, mainly women–about how this thing had landed for them, it just made me so happy.”

Two people walk side by side, covered in tattered clothing, surrounded by people on the street.
Image Credit: HBO

Elsewhere in the piece, the stars reflect on what makes House Of The Dragon so very hot.

“I can definitely understand that it’s hot watching complex female characters who have agency and who are trying to navigate the world and understand themselves,” says D’arcy, who has been the subject of intense internet adoration since their casting was first announced. “Like, that is hot, and is very different from, I suppose, more two-dimensional portrayals of female sexuality.”

Their “stunnin’” co-star Cooke agrees: “I guess what’s alluring, and quite scintillating, is that they all live in quite close proximity to each other—stealing these loaded looks with someone that you fancy and that’s forbidden, that’s hot. It’s all hot.”Amen!

It’s great to see House Of The Dragon course-correct and fix some of the issues that plagued Game Of Thrones. Now we just have one more request: Stop killing off your gay characters!

Related: Bury Your Gays: 109 Dead Gay and Bisexual Male TV Characters, And How They Died

Don't forget to share: