WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for House of the Dragon season 1, episode 5!Criston Cole takes a major turn in House of the Dragon episode 5, with his guilt and anger culminating in murder, thoughts of suicide, and a devastating betrayal. While Criston had just been expressing his gratitude to Rhaenyra for granting him a place in the Kingsguard in House of the Dragon episode 3, their relationship takes a massive twist when they sleep together at the end of episode 4. After breaking his Kingsguard vows, Criston tries to find a solution for both his guilt and jealousy by running off to Essos with Rhaenyra, but the Princess tells him she can’t forsake her duties to the realm (a.k.a fulfilling Aegon’s prophecy).
Despite not being able to marry Criston, Rhaenyra attempts to keep him close to her side by taking him as her paramour, as she and Laenor worked out a deal to “dine” how they each choose. However, Criston takes this proposal as Rhaenyra simply deeming him her “whore,” suggesting this would in no way rid him of his guilt of sleeping with her in the first place. As Rhaenyra prepares for her wedding in House of the Dragon episode 5, Criston grows more disillusioned with her, and finds an unexpected confidant in Queen Alicent Hightower. After confessing his sins to her, Alicent reveals she’s not going to expose Criston for forsaking his vows, though House of the Dragon episode 5’s ending proves this isn’t enough to ease his shame.
While the hostility had already been building, Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding takes a lethal turn when Criston Cole beats the life out of Joffrey Lonmouth, the groom’s paramour. It isn’t revealed exactly what Joffrey said to Criston to make him do such a thing, but it’s hinted that he continued to bring up Criston’s affair with Rhaenyra. Following this event, Criston goes to the godswood, lays down his white cloak, pulls out his dagger, and prepares to plunge the blade into his own heart before being stopped by Alicent Hightower. After killing a man and nearly taking his own life, Criston finds his savior in the Queen, which sets them up as Rhaenyra’s major foes in House of the Dragon’s impending war.
Why Ser Criston Cole Killed Joffrey Lonmouth
Although Criston is typically of even temperament, dealing with the aftermath of his affair with Rhaenyra brought out a level of emotion that had yet to be depicted in House of the Dragon. It was clear when Joffrey came up to Criston and mentioned that he knew that he was sleeping with Rhaenyra that Criston couldn’t bear to have it mentioned anymore. Not only did Criston think of himself as Rhaenyra’s “whore,” but others in the realm did, too. The memory of sleeping with Rhaenyra was now a reminder of breaking his sacred vows, so having Joffrey throw it in his face made him the easiest target for Criston’s anger.
Joffrey bringing up the affair to Criston also implied that Rhaenyra had told Laenor about their night together (though she didn’t), which may have led Criston to believe that others would come to know the truth as well. Ser Criston Cole likely also saw killing Joffrey as a way to keep the affair from coming to light, but was truly a more immediate way for him to not be reminded of it. At that moment, Criston wasn’t focusing on killing Joffrey per se, but was displacing his anger and shame toward himself. With the news of Criston breaking his Kingsguard vows already being known by others, he likely didn’t think killing a man in House of the Dragon episode 5’s wedding would make his punishment any worse.
Why Criston Was Going To Take His Own Life
After killing Joffrey, Criston retreats to the godswood where he prepares to take his own life. The symbolism of why he’s doing this is clear, as he sets down his white cloak before going to his knees. Criston becoming a member of the Kingsguard was seen as the most important thing he had ever done in his life, and was the highest station anyone in his family had ever achieved. Criston quickly soiled his white cloak by sleeping with Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon episode 4 and killing an innocent man in episode 5, so he felt that he no longer deserved to wear the cloak – not to mention live knowing he lost it. While Alicent wasn’t going to expose his sins and have him tortured, Criston couldn’t live every day plagued by the guilt of forsaking his vows.
What Criston & Alicent Teaming Up Really Means
Considering Alicent chose not to punish Criston for breaking his vows and later stopped him from taking his own life, the latter House of the Dragon character undoubtedly now sees her as his savior. Since he already feels betrayed by Rhaenyra for refusing to run away with him, Criston has certainly found a new ruler to whom he’ll be utterly devoted. Perhaps not in a sexual manner, but Criston is now set to be Alicent’s sworn protector as they share a common goal against Rhaenyra’s reign. Both feel used by Rhaenyra and understand that she could have them killed in an instant should she ascend the Iron Throne; Alicent because her children stand in the way of Rhaenyra’s claim, and Criston because he broke his vows of chastity. After Otto advised Alicent to ensure that Aegon becomes Viserys’ heir in House of the Dragon episode 5, Criston is certain to help her achieve this goal. More than any other House of the Dragon team-up so far, Alicent and Criston present the most danger to Aegon’s prophecy and seeing Rhaenyra Targaryen become Queen of Westeros.
New episodes of House of the Dragon release Sundays on HBO/HBO Max.