Happy weddings don’t happen in Westeros.
Game of Thrones fans were prepared for the nuptials in House of the Dragon’s fifth episode to turn gruesome, having witnessed several vicious Westerosi weddings on screen. No blushing bride or grinning groom was safe on Thrones, and House of the Dragon hasn’t changed that rule.
Spoilers for Episode 5, and potentially future episodes, ahead!
Following the gruesome aftermath of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Laenor Velaryon’s (Theo Nate) reception, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) runs off from the banquet he ruined after murdering Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod). Consumed by shame and envy, Criston kneels by the divine Weirwood tree in the Red Keep and contemplates suicide. Just as he’s about to go through with it, Queen Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) stops him in his tracks to close Episode 5.
Why does she do that? The most probable explanation is that Alicent sees Criston as a victim of the Targaryen princess’s deceit. George R.R. Martin’s prequel novellas provide evidence that while Alicent and Criston become partners, they do so out of mutual hatred, not love.
Do Ser Criston Cole and Queen Alicent Hightower become lovers?
Rhaenyra’s lies in Episode 4 lead to Alicent’s father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), being booted from court, even after the queen begged her husband to show mercy. When Alicent learns that Rhaenyra did in fact lose her virginity, she wages social warfare against her former friend by wearing House Hightower green to the wedding reception.
Moreover, Rhaenyra’s willingness to lie to everyone about the true nature of her marriage with Laenor Velaryon, and keep Criston as her sidepiece instead of running off with him to Essos, is what pushes him over the edge. As a knight of the Kingsguard, Criston took his vow to remain chaste seriously, and Joffrey’s teasing of Criston about the pact between Laenor and Rhaenyra to secretly bed who they want makes Criston lash out and beat the Knight of the Kisses to a pulp in front of their respective lovers.
Both Alicent and Criston see Rhaenyra as the primary cause of their woes. Is that shared disdain enough for Alicent and Criston to bond over?
Platonically, yes. In the prequel texts, Alicent and Criston remain thick as thieves, constantly scheming to topple Rhaenyra and her direct descendants from the Iron Throne. Neither expresses a desire to get intimate, and both share distorted beliefs about virtue and morality, which doesn’t let them break their vows but does let them bend the law. Both are obsessed with bringing justice to a perceived evil and threat to the traditions of King’s Landing in Rhaenyra, and both are obsessed with getting away with doing bad for the greater good.
Do Ser Criston Cole and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen get back together?
House of the Dragon isn’t a fairy-tale romance. It is a family drama rife with graphic ferocity and political intrigue, with the occasional dragon thrown in for good measure. There’s little time for intimacy when you’re so busy plotting the downfall of your enemies. If House of the Dragon continues to generally follow its source material, the end of Episode 5 marks the end of Rhaenyra and Criston’s love story, as well as the end of anything romantic that could have transpired between Alicent and Rhaenyra, or Alicent and Criston.
Criston’s hostility toward Rhaenyra after she rejects his proposal to ditch the crown and be his runaway bride never ceases in the prequel texts. In fact, it only poisons his heart further. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra’s frustrations with Criston grow after he murders her husband’s boyfriend, immediately souring the already undesirable circumstances between Rhaenyra and Laenor.
From here on out, the only flirting done by House of the Dragon’s protagonists will be flirting with power.
House of the Dragon Episode 6 airs on HBO on Sunday, Sept. 25.