Warning! Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon episode 7 and George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood.House of the Dragon star Olivia Cooke has revealed insight into Alicent’s relationship with the dashing but spiteful knight of the Queensguard, Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel). Set roughly 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, the prequel series stars Cooke as the adult version of Queen Alicent, wife to the ailing King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). With just three remaining episodes in its inaugural season, House of the Dragon has teed up the launch of a familial civil war in House Targaryen known as the Dance of the Dragons.
On assignment from the Kingsguard, Ser Criston was designated to protect the teenaged Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), and the two became intimate in episode 4, “King of the Narrow Sea.” Ser Criston poses fleeing King’s Landing together, and Rhaenyra breaks his heart with a swift rejection. Ser Criston contemplates suicide but is stopped by Alicent (Emily Carey). A decade later, Ser Criston is duty-bound to Alicent as her sworn defender, and the two conspire to prevent Rhaenyra from ascending to the Iron Throne out of contempt and distrust. Ser Criston’s loyalty to Alicent is one of the more observable bonds in the series, as he readily moved to gouge out Rhaenyra’s son’s eye at Alicent’s direction in House of the Dragon episode 7, “Driftmark.”
House of the Dragon features all the backward alliances, betrayals, and longstanding grudges that viewers loved the original series for, and Alicent and Ser Criston’s relationship certainly qualifies. Cooke spoke on her character’s relationship with Ser Criston while appearing on The Official Game of Thrones Podcast: House of the Dragon. Read her full quote below:
It’s like when you’re on set, or you’re at work, and there’s someone that, over time, just really gets your goat. Or does all these horrible things to you, and then you find out that another coworker also feels the same way about this person. And then you’re, like, bonded for life in this mutual hatred. So many friendships can flourish on that one piece of commonality. And Rhaenyra is that to them, and from that point of just such pure hatred and mutual hurt and heartbreak, things do flourish.
Ser Criston’s Role in the Dance of the Dragons
Rhaenyra has a direct enemy in Aegon (Ty Tennant), her half-brother who many in Westeros believe should take the Iron Throne ahead of her. But Aegon, a misbehaved teenager, has made no moves against Rhaenyra and has shown little ability to think for himself. The dirty work has been left to his mother and her allies. Ser Criston, unlike Queen Alicent’s other conspirator Larys (Matthew Needham), has been personally slighted by Rhaenyra and is more motivated to prevent her rule. It makes sense that he and Alicent have bonded over this. As Cooke suggests, it’s practically a cornerstone of their relationship.
In the House of the Dragon source material, George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood, it’s Ser Criston who nudges Aegon to claim the throne after King Viserys’ death, and he becomes known as Criston the Kingmaker. He accumulates more operational power by rising to Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and later becomes Hand of the King. The show has deviated from the books in other respects, and it’s possible that Ser Criston’s history is rewritten for the series. In the trailer for House of the Dragon episode 8, Ser Criston and Alicent were not shown together, but their schemes against Rhaenyra might not require them to share the screen. Either way, their relationship is likely to be a major factor in the rest of the season.