‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: Ser Criston Cole Is Still the Worst (2024)

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ROYAL HEEL

This week, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Criston Cole proved once again that hot men will always fail upward.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: Ser Criston Cole Is Still the Worst (3)

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images and HBO

Warning: This post contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 2.

Whenever Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) appears on my screen in HBO’s House of the Dragon, I am gripped by a familiar, tortuous inner conflict. On one hand, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard is objectively the absolute worst—he’s impetuous, makes horrible decisions left and right, and, perhaps worst of all, is still insufferably self-righteous. But, ah, here’s the rub: He’s also ridiculously good-looking, which perhaps explains how he’s able to break his vow of celibacy left and right.

In the world of Game of Thrones, it’s frankly unusual for a villain to be this hot. We’ve had our share of smoldering antiheroes, like Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau’s incestuous Jaime Lannister, but most of the time, characters coded as outright villains are also pasty and unappealing. In that sense, Ser Criston breaks the mold; at this point, he’s pretty irredeemable, but have you seen those doe eyes? What’s a girl to do?!

Ser Criston already made a mess of things in Season 1, when he had an affair with the young princess Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and, in the wake of their break-up, allowed his rage to turn him into his pettiest self. Not for nothing, he also killed multiple people simply because he could not control his temper. Only two episodes into this season, he’s already expanded on that miserable track record. First, as we saw during the premiere, he failed to protect King Aegon II’s (Tom Glynn-Carney) heir because he was—[checks notes]in bed boffing the king’s mother, Alicent (Olivia Cooke), and in Episode 2, he managed to warp his sense of guilt into defiance against a fellow member of the Kingsguard, sending him on a fool’s mission to certain death. And yet, somehow, he’s been promoted! Typical, isn’t it? Even in Westeros, good-looking men always fail upward.

‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: Ser Criston Cole Is Still the Worst (4)

HBO

We opened this week on Aegon descending into a fit of grief-fueled rage. Last week, the hilariously nicknamed assassins Blood and Cheese infiltrated the Red Keep and murdered Jaehaerys—the pint-sized heir to the throne—before his mother’s eyes. Alicent thinks the gods are punishing her, and Aegon is ready to declare war against Rhaenyra, whom he believes to be the culprit, even though she had nothing to do with the assassination; it was really her uncle, Daemon (Matt Smith).

While Alicent seems nervous that her affair could be exposed, Criston mostly seems guilty. It doesn’t take long, however, for Criston to sublimate that guilt into derision for a fellow member of the Kingsguard, Ser Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor). First, Criston chastised Arryk for daring to wear a sullied cloak, and then, he sent him on a mission to Dragonstone to kill Rhaenyra alone. How will he get in? By pretending to be his twin brother, of course! What could go wrong? Spoiler alert: When Rhaenyra frees the spy Mysaria, the White Worm, she returns the favor by spotting Ser Arryk on his way into the keep. Although he almost manages to slay Rhaenyra, his brother kills him first. So much for that, I guess!

‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: Ser Criston Cole Is Still the Worst (5)

HBO

Unfortunately, Aegon doesn’t know any of this will happen when he hears Criston’s plan, and being that he’s mostly interested in revenge, it strikes him as a great one. And so, he fires his grandfather Otto Hightower, whose constant scolding he clearly does not love, and names Criston his new Hand to the King. As Otto hints on his way out, this is obviously a big mistake. Huge! But try telling that to the impetuous man-child in mourning.

    As one might imagine, Aegon is not at his most strategic right now, so he makes a few awful decisions. First, he had all the rat catchers in the castle killed after Blood confessed that his co-conspirator was one of them. As Otto tells him before he’s fired, hanging the dead bodies of all the dead rat catchers in the street is actually a terrible mistake, because while only one of the men is guilty, all of them have families who will now presumably hate the Crown.

    Sadly, logic is just not going to prevail this week. If you need proof, just look at that ending, when Alicent and Criston just can’t help but repeat the very same mistake that got us all into this mess in the first place. Because, yup—when extreme anxiety meets soul-rotting guilt, there’s little left to do but have some good, old-fashioned grief sex. Good luck, babes!

    Senior Entertainment Reporter

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    ‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: Ser Criston Cole Is Still the Worst (2024)
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