WTF Is This Guy’s Problem?

All these years later, medieval incel Criston Cole can’t get over a teenage girl not wanting to run away with him. And now everyone in Westeros is paying the price!

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WTF Is This Guy’s Problem?

There’s one thing men in a medieval fantasy world and men on particular subreddits have in common: They don’t handle rejection well! Early in House of the Dragon Season 1, Rhaenyra Targaryen rejected her then-lover-slash-bodyguard Ser Criston Cole’s proposal that they run away together. Instead, she offered her own proposal that they remain lovers during her arranged marriage with Laenor Velaryon, to which Criston incredulously asked her, “You want me to be your whore?” Yet, all these years later, as the Dance of the Dragons begins in earnest, here he is, quite literally the royal whore: In fact, when last week’s assassins hunt and behead Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen in his cradle, Criston—Lord Commander of the Kingsguard—is in the other room having sex with Jaeherys’ grandmother (and Rhaenyra’s childhood best friend), Alicent Hightower.

Sunday’s episode picks up after the shock killing of the child prince, which everyone appears to be processing in their own ways. Otto Hightower—Alicent’s father and the King’s Hand—sees the development as a PR slam-dunk to blame and demonize Rhaenyra before the realm; King Aegon is predictably bloodthirsty; Prince Aemond is sad-horny for his much-older mommy-lover; and Criston Cole is determined to deflect the blame onto anyone but himself. That seems to be the motivating factor for the simultaneously gut-wrenching and undeniably silly plan he sets in motion, when he commands the Kingsguard knight Prince Arryk to go to Dragonstone, pretend to be his twin Erryk (who defected from the Greens and serves Rhaenyra), and assassinate Rhaenyra, who Criston disdainfully refers to as the “Bitch Queen.” Later in the episode, Otto derisively refers to this little scheme—which he did not sign off on, by the way!—as a “prank,” and, to be honest, LOL.

There is a lot to unpack about this! Criston obviously holds a decent amount if not most-slash-all of the blame for Jaehaerys’ death. He is, I repeat, fucking Jaehaerys’ grandma while the prince is being beheaded down the hall. (And by the episode’s end, as the twins brutally hash it out, Criston is having some pretty twisted sex with Alicent yet again.) So Criston projects a lot of that onto Arryk, managing to blame Arryk for what happened because Arryk’s twin brother defected to Team Black. Guilt, shame, and fear of being exposed probably account for one reason he’s so determined to send Arryk off on a potential suicide mission, which ultimately leads to both Arryk and Erryk’s gruesome deaths. (Sidebar: Can we meet their parents and ask why they’d give their identical twin sons identical names???) But the other reason is transparent: Criston still violently hates Rhaenyra for spurning him. 

After all, within days of Rhaenyra rejecting him last season, Criston shows up to her wedding and quite literally kills someone (specifically, the gay lover of Rhaenyra’s new husband). And his disgust with her proposal that they remain lovers clearly wasn’t really about honor and religious faith, either—look at what he’s doing, now, with the Queen Mother.

Criston’s entire positioning with the Hightowers, tracing back to Season 1 when Alicent stops him from killing himself at Rhaenyra’s wedding, is largely about punishing Rhaenyra for rejecting him nearly two decades later. For all Criston’s preaching to Arryk about the importance of honoring their vows (including, ahem, celibacy) and duties as knights of the Kingsguard, you can only really laugh at the hypocrisy of the spectacle. He is, in fact, not only a raging hypocrite, but very bad at his job—case in point: baby-prince slaughtered on his watch, and by two bumbling oafs no less. And arguably worst of all, he’s a very bad person, not even in an interesting way, a la “Rogue Prince” Daemon Targaryen, but in a very boring way, actually. All these years later, like any dime-a-dozen internet incel, he still just hates his ex, and his entire identity remains pathetically premised around that.

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