House of the Dragon is on the way as the first of the potential Game of Thrones spinoffs to score a series order, and the show has officially added another star to the cast of characters. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the five A Song of Ice and Fire novels so far as well as the Fire & Blood that is the basis of House of the Dragon, revealed that Ser Criston Cole is on the way, played by Fabien Frankel.
George R.R. Martin took to his Not A Blog website to announce the casting of Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole, whose name is one that Fire & Blood readers will recognize. Martin also dropped a description of the character, which is enough to raise a big book question about how the HBO series is bringing Fire & Blood to the small screen. The author posted:
He is the common-born son of the steward to the Lord of Blackhaven. He has no claim to lands or titles, all he has is his honor and his skill with sword and lance. He is a challenger, a champion, cheered by the commons, beloved of the ladies. He is a lover (or is he?), a seducer (or is he?), a betrayer (or is he?), a breaker of hearts and a maker of kings.
Now, a description of somebody who may or may not be a lover and betrayer and maker of kings doesn't sound unfamiliar for any character in the Game of Thrones universe, so it takes a little bit of book background to delve into what the description of Criston Cole could mean in the grand scheme of House of the Dragon's plot.
Spoilers ahead for George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood book. In case you're not familiar with Fire & Blood, the book that George R.R. Martin penned and published ahead of The Winds of Winter (which A Song of Ice and Fire fans are still waiting for) is a fictional history book about the first half of the Targaryen dynasty that ruled for 300 years before the events of Robert Baratheon's Rebellion. Fire & Blood centers on the event that marked the beginning of the end of the Targaryens: the Dance of the Dragons civil war.
The castings for House of the Dragon made it pretty clear that despite the official series description of House of the Dragon picking up 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, the series will actually pick up around 170 years or so ahead of the beginning of Game of Thrones, about 130 years into the Targaryen dynasty of Westeros.
Characters like King Viserys Targaryen (played by Paddy Considine), Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) are characters of the Dance of the Dragons era, not the era of Aegon the Conqueror three centuries before Game of Thrones' first season. The castings also suggested that House of the Dragon will waste no time getting into the Dance of the Dragons, but now the addition of Fabien Frankel with George R.R. Martin's description raises the question of whether the show might pick up earlier in the timeline than expected.
In George R.R. Martin's publications expanding on the pre-Game of Thrones era, Criston Cole has an ambiguous relationship with Princess Rhaenyra, that may or may not have been untoward, but went sour and contributed to the beginning of the Targaryen civil war. The description of him as "a maker of kings" definitely indicates that Cole supporting Rhaenyra's rival for the throne will contribute to the beginning of the Dance of the Dragons, but his status as possible "lover" and "seducer" may mean that House of the Dragon picks up considerably earlier in the timeline.
That would mean good news for fans of Paddy Considine, as King Viserys Targaryen has to die before the Dance can begin, and I for one have been imagining Viserys in the Ned Stark role of a major character who is unceremoniously killed off before the end of the first season. If House of the Dragon with Criston Cole still in champion and seducer mode picks up with a longer build to the civil war than one season, then Viserys could be around for a while still, and the status quo of the Targaryen dynasty could be explored more before being destroyed by civil war between two claimants for the Iron Throne.
That would set it apart from Game of Thrones, which arguably wasted no time in sowing the seeds for the War of the Five Kings (even if not all of those Five Kings would be introduced until future seasons), but a show called House of the Dragon really needs to feature some dragon action, right? The first season received an order for ten episodes, and unlike the A Song of Ice and Fire, the source material for this era is complete, so the House of the Dragon writers and producers can map out the timeline without having to quite literally go off-book.
All of this said, House of the Dragon could well pick up shortly before the Dance of the Dragons and simply use Criston Cole's status as a seducer as part of his backstory, but given George R.R. Martin's description, it might be a shame if the show skips out on showing rather than telling Criston's history with Rhaenyra. After all, there aren't exactly going to be a lot of major character relationships that aren't incestuous in a show based on the Targaryen-centric Fire & Blood!
Seriously, if the show follows the book, there could be quite a lot of Targaryen-on-Targaryen action in ways that have nothing to do with battling for the throne. Fans who stuck around Game of Thrones for the better part of decade of Jaime and Cersei, and kept on watching once it was clear that Jon and Dany were very related, might be ready for some incest, but let's just say that Fire & Blood might illustrate just why generations of inbreeding led to the likes of Mad King Aerys and (arguably) Mad Queen Daenerys. If the show follows the source material, things are already going to be getting crazy with more than a hundred years to go before Game of Thrones!
The book question of when the show will pick up may go unanswered for quite a while, as House of the Dragon isn't scheduled to premiere until 2022. In the meantime, you can rewatch the full run of Game of Thrones with all the Targaryen twists streaming on HBO Max, check out George R.R. Martin's source material, and/or join me in hoping that the author finishes The Winds of Winter sometime in the foreseeable future. For some viewing options sooner rather than later, check out our 2021 spring premiere schedule.