A King’s Landing Problem: Ser Criston’s Hero to Villain Story

If you have followed the series all through the eight seasons of Game of Thrones into the new House of the Dragon (HOTD), there’s almost a common theme in King’s Landing—everyone is looking to find alliances for personal, selfish, and moral gains. It doesn’t matter how endearing or loathed the character is; everyone seeks new alliances and makes changes every once in a while.

Most viewers never anticipated the rapid grace to grass story of the beloved Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Although he isn’t a main character in the series, he was greatly loved for his charming looks and his modest rise to being chosen to be part of the King’s guard. We watched as a common-born from House Cole defeated Prince Daemon Targaryen and caught the admiration of Princess Rhaenyra.

But how could a loyal king’s guard go from being so loved and admired to being pitied and possibly hated?

A love affair that never was

Ser Criston

credit: HBO

Unless you’re an avid reader of George R. R. Martin, much of the House of the Dragon series is entirely new for you. And so, at the end of King of the Narrow Sea (Episode 4), viewers were left with high expectations of what could be a forbidden love affair between Princess Rhaenyra and a commoner, Ser Criston Cole.

The one-night affair between them probably may not have come as a complete surprise to HOTD fans. We had all watched and seen Princess Rhaenyra give side glances at Ser Criston. So, it makes sense that she would choose him to douse the sexual fire lit by her uncle Prince Daemon (a story for another day!).

However, what seemed like a one-night stand or a start to a romantic fling for Princess Rhaenyra, was the beginning of a happy ending story for Ser Criston.

In We Light the Day (Episode 5), a new bold Ser Criston openly declares his love for Princess Rhaenyra. The Princess’s smile transitions from confusion to pity as Ser Criston reveals his well-thought-out plans for their future. At some point, it became seemingly hard to tell if Ser Criston was romantically naïve or over-ambitious.

The princess had sought his advice on how she’ll be accepted to rule over the seven kingdoms as a Queen. He knew how much she wanted to stay heir to the throne. Yet, he believed a night’s uncontrollable passion would cause the princess to abandon her claim to the throne, name, and wealth. Then, sail with him across the Narrow Sea to start life somewhere in Essos.

Indeed, it became apparent it was a love affair that wasn’t meant to be. But, unfortunately, the princess would only realize too late that it’s unbecoming of an heir to shit where she eats.

A scorned Ser Criston

Ser Criston

credit: HBO

When William Congreve wrote the line “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” for his 1697 The Mourning Bride, he had not met Ser Criston’s character. Not only would Ser Criston be expected to stay loyal to the Princess, but he was also going to have to watch her get married to another.

As far as Ser Criston is concerned, he has lost everything. He had broken his knight’s celibacy vow with a lady who wanted a marital future with him. He had failed as a knight and as a “husband.” Fans first saw how much of a problem he would be when he openly confessed to Queen Alicent about his affair with Princess Rhaenyra. A shocking and unnecessary revelation to both HOTD fans and Queen Alicent as the question asked was about a possible affair between the princess and Prince Daemon.

The end of a friendship

Alicent and Rhaenyra

credit: HBO

The ripple effect of Ser Criston’s scorn and confession makes the Queen angry at her only friend (Princess Rhaenyra) and her husband, King Viserys. Queen Alicent’s unrelenting trust in her friend had made her lose her only family in King’s Landing—her father (Ser Otto Hightower), the former Hand to the King.

Oblivious of Ser Criston’s actions, Princess Rhaenyra was caught up in the excitement of her wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, if the intentional lateness of the Queen weren’t enough giveaway, fans would have to wait to see how this blossoming friendship journeys to its end.

The start of a new alliance

Queen and Ser Criston

credit: HBO

Even for Ser Criston, confessing to breaking his knightly celibacy vow was equivalent to death. But either by sheer luck or the Queen’s mercy, Ser Criston was surprised to see he still had his head on his shoulders.

Then, he was taunted by Ser Laenor’s lover (Ser Joffrey Monmouth) for being a fellow side piece for the heirs. In total disregard for the King, Queen, Princess, and guests, Ser Criston believed it was best to channel his anger onto the face of Ser Joffrey.

After killing Ser Joffrey, Ser Criston believed it was best to kill himself “honorably.” However, he is stopped and saved again by Queen Alicent. Fans can only wait to see how this new alliance would unfold.

Do you think Ser Criston Cole was over-ambitious?

 

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