House of the Dragon: Rhaenyra and Criston Cole’s relationship, explained

Criston Cole in House of the DragonHBO

House of the Dragon Episode 4 puts Rhaenyra and Ser Criston Cole at a bit of a crossroads, so let’s dig into what happened and what it means for their relationship going forward.

While Game of Thrones followed multiple houses across Westeros and their claims to the throne, such as the Lannisters, Baratheons, and Greyjoys, House of the Dragon is focused on one family: the Targaryens.

The first few episodes have set the stage for the Dance of the Dragons, with quarrels between almost everybody, whether it’s King Viserys (Paddy Considine), his brother Daemon (Matt Smith), or his daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock, soon to be replaced by Emma D’Arcy after a time jump).

However, there are other characters floating around – of varying importance, of course. Last week, we met two new Lannisters for the first time, and Episode 4 marks a turning point for Criston Cole.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 4 to follow, as well as potential spoilers for future episodes…

House of the Dragon Episode 4: What happens between Rhaenyra and Criston Cole?

Rhaenyra returns to the Red Keep after a night gallivanting in King’s Landing with Daemon – by that, we mean she drank wine and nearly had sex with her uncle. When in Westeros, eh?

Criston Cole and Rhaenyra in House of the DragonHBO
Rhaenyra and Criston Cole started off as friends.

However, Daemon stops himself before he takes it too far, and evidently leaves Rhaenyra all hot and bothered. As soon as she gets back to her chambers, she asks Criston – the Kingsguard she chose in Episode 2 – to come in, where she plays with his helmet (stop that) and eventually seduces him.

The next day, she’s called to meet with Viserys, who quickly learned about her and Daemon from Otto (Rhys Ifans). It’s unclear if Criston has heard the rumors floating around the Keep at this point, but he does seem rather guarded when he comes to fetch Rhaenyra.

House of the Dragon: Who is Criston Cole?

Criston was picked by Rhaenyra as a new member of the Kingsguard after she was chosen as Viserys’ heir. In Episode 1, he competes in the tourney, even beating Daemon in a joust.

HBO’s official description of the character reads: “Of Dornish descent, Ser Criston is the common-born son of the steward to the Lord of Blackhaven. He has no claim to land or titles; all he has to his name is his honor and his preternatural skill with a sword.”

In George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, Criston was born to a steward of Lord Dondarrion at Blackhaven, in the Dornish Marches. Just like in the show, he beat Daemon at the tourney, and Viserys named Criston as the personal sword of Rhaenyra.

House of the Dragon: How will Rhaenyra and Criston Cole’s relationship change?

In the book, a wedge is driven between them when he learns about Daemon giving Rhaenyra sexual lessons in how to seduce and please a man, and he rejects her first advance.

The show is a bit different, as they’ve already slept together – but as previously noted, he didn’t seem all that happy when he entered Rhaenyra’s room in the morning, so this could just be a slight deviation from the source material.

If House of the Dragon continues to follow the book, Criston will later be named the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and his relationship with Rhaenyra will only suffer further strain when she tries to seduce him again, with the pair becoming adversaries after being close friends.

To make matters worse for Rhaenyra, he’ll likely later become a close companion of Allicent, especially since we’ve seen the pair together in trailers once the latter character is played by Olivia Cooke. Depending on how you view the show, there’s scope for him to be seen as a villain as it progresses in future seasons, with some fans online already branding him an “incel.”

House of the Dragon Episode 5 will be available to watch on September 18 in the US and September 19 in the UK.

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