The cast of HBO’s House of the Dragon just added another member to its ranks. Announced by Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin on April 15, the upcoming Thrones prequel series has officially cast actor Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole.
Based on Martin’s Fire & Blood novel, House of the Dragon takes place 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones and is expected to depict (among other things) the infamous Targaryen civil war known as The Dance of the Dragons. Ser Criston Cole is one of the key figures in that conflict, which makes his casting today particularly exciting.
For those unfamiliar with Cole’s backstory and role in The Dance of the Dragons, here’s a brief summary of everything you need to know about the character.
Who is Ser Criston Cole in House of the Dragon?
Ser Criston Cole is the common-born son of a steward, who rose to prominence for his skill as a warrior. He became the sworn sword of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (who will be played by Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon) and later the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
Criston and Rhaenyra remained close for many years, and it’s heavily suggested that they had an affair. However, the two eventually experienced a major falling out. Some say that Rhaenyra spurned Criston, while others say that it was he who spurned her. Either way, their relationship (and the disintegration of it) is one of the biggest reasons why The Dance of the Dragons eventually takes place.
It goes like this: Rhaenyra’s father, King Viserys I Targaryen (played by Paddy Considine in House of the Dragon), planned on having her take the Iron Throne after he died. However, when Viserys did pass, Cole and Viserys’ second wife, Alicent Hightower (played by Olivia Cooke in House of the Dragon), assembled a meeting of Viserys’ small council and called for Rhaenyra’s half-brother, Aegon II Targaryen, to be crowned instead of Rhaenyra.
The conspirators follow through on those plans, with Cole himself placing the crown upon Aegon II’s head. This leads to Rhaenyra crowning herself the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and war breaking out between the two sides. For his actions, Cole became known as “Criston the Kingmaker” and was named Aegon II’s Hand of the King.
Of course, as is often the case for the characters in Martin’s world, things don’t end particularly well for Cole.
The Inverse Analysis — In the casting announcement, Martin describes Cole as “a breaker of hearts and a maker of kings,” who has nothing more than “his honor and his skill with sword and lance.” Those descriptions will no doubt sound accurate to anyone familiar with Cole’s character as he is described in A Song of Ice and Fire and Fire & Blood.
What will be the most fun, though, is seeing how House of the Dragon adds further layers to Cole’s character and corrects some of the historical inaccuracies and misconceptions about him. Is he really like the recorded histories of Westeros say? Or is there more going on with him than even readers know? We’ll just have to wait to find out.
House of the Dragon is expected to premiere on HBO in 2022.