The love triangle between Rhaenyra, Daemon and Criston Cole, explained
It’s a particular pleasure to dissect the dynamics of a love triangle, and “House of the Dragon” gave us one of the most interesting of recent times. With his reassuring words and his supporting presence, Ser Criston Cole charmed us as much as he did. Rhaenyra. Devil is intriguing and brings that promise of excitement while making sure you can rely on it. One needs Rhaenyra, and she needs the other, all in a mish-mash of emotions that tie the three together. However, there is no sugar coating that in this battle of wills, Rhaenyra emerges victorious.
Let’s start by taking a look at his relationship with Daemon. She always had a soft spot for her uncle. The reason for this is probably that he was living the life she constantly dreamed of, wild and untamed. Rhaenyra, too, desired freedom above all else. She wanted to live her life on her own terms, and right in front of her was a man who was doing just that. Of course, she was fascinated by him. And he was probably the only man who didn’t treat her with leather gloves. Everyone in her life was obsessed with telling her how to live her life as a wife and, later, as an heiress. It was only Daemon who seemed to see through it and recognize the person below. Rhaenyra told everyone she knew she didn’t want the traditional life, but she told Daemon it was because of the fate she saw her mother suffer.
The gifts Daemon bought her from around the world were dear to Rhaenyra. In fact, she was wearing the necklace he brought her when she left to choose a suitor in “House of the Dragon”. Episode 4. The necklace was not only a pretty ornament, but a source of comfort for Rhaenyra. Imagine that no one understood you all your life. And there’s a person out there who you think could give you what you’ve always dreamed of – acceptance. Rhaenyra probably knew this would never turn into reality, but she was never ashamed of the thought, nor did she fight it. Come to think of it, Rhaenyra had suitors who came for her hand from all over the Seven Kingdoms. All could not be old men and children. Yet she didn’t love anyone. And when it came to her uncle, she was not unaware of his desire for the throne. However, she did not prevent herself from being carried away by him. She felt something for him, beyond politics and the duties of the world. And he felt it too.
Daemon is a complicated man. He was known for his “good nature, but, to some, the blackest of all villains”. He wanted the throne because he thought he was the most deserving. Although he was married, he never cared about his marital obligations or tried to hide how much he despised his wife. It was a trait he shared with his niece, who was also not a diplomat. He probably always saw Rhaenyra as a possible political pawn. But maybe he was also aware of his own affection? Let’s not forget that when he took Rhaenyra to the brothel, he could have gone all the way with her. She didn’t feel like he loved her and she was aware of the consequences of his actions. He had his permission to do whatever he wanted, but he chose not to. He wanted his reputation to suffer from his ambition. But he couldn’t break her heart, because he loved and respected her. And that’s why he left her.
When Daemon left Rhaenyra in the pleasure house, she probably understood the reason for her actions. Or maybe she didn’t. But there’s not much hope for reconciliation after leaving a woman, let alone a princess, half-dressed and vulnerable in a public place. Her pride and dignity were hurt, leading her into the arms of Ser Criston Cole. Rhaenyra had always loved him. She recognized his abilities and assigned him to be part of the King’s Guard against Otto Hightower’s advice. He had a gentle manner with him and had mastered the fine art of letting a woman feel comfortable enough in front of him to speak her mind. We don’t know if Rhaenyra liked him, but she certainly counted him among her friends. Ser Criston Cole, meanwhile, was probably in love with Rhaenyra. He mentioned that he owed her everything he had. And let us remember that she was a beautiful woman unlike any he had ever seen. Maybe it wasn’t love, but there had to be a hint of attraction. That night, after being abandoned by Daemon, when she returns to her chambers, Rhaenyra is furious. However, when she opens the door to stop Criston from going to get someone, she has a rather mischievous look on her face. Something clicked in his brain during those few seconds. She had probably realized that the best way to reach Daemon was right outside his door. There had always been some dislike between the men, exacerbated by the fact that Daemon had been defeated in the jousting match by a mere knight. Being with Criston would be a good way to show Daemon that she didn’t need him. As for Criston, the princess’s advances were encouraging enough for him to act on what he had felt for so long.
In Episode 5 from “House of the Dragon,” we realize exactly how seriously Ser Criston Cole took things. He might have exceeded his ethical limits and, for once, deviated from the strict code of conduct, but he was still a noble man. He had surrendered to the princess, and it gnawed at him, though he found comfort in the fact that the feelings they had for each other were pure and unadulterated. He expresses his desire to Rhaenyra and tells her that he wouldn’t mind leaving everything behind and going somewhere far away. He sounded like a hopeless romantic who is head over heels. He was willing to risk his reputation, his integrity and, for once, prioritize something or someone above his strong sense of duty. Ser Criston Cole dreamed of them having a future together. The noble knight was unaware of the intricacies and eccentricities of which Rhaenyra was made. But the heir to the Iron Throne believed in ruthless pragmatism. She had ignited the spirit of a warrior within her from an early age. She believed she could rule the kingdom, along with her male counterparts. She didn’t want to run away with Criston Cole. She enjoyed everything she had with the knight but didn’t want to settle down with him. Rhaenyra has always been drawn to nonconforming behavior, which is why she always had a soft spot for her uncle, Daemon Targaryen. She loved Criston Cole and being with him gave her an adrenaline rush. She also spoke to Laenor Velaryon and made her an offer. She knew that a knight named Joffrey Lonmouth was Laenor Velaryon’s lover. She told Laenor that although they could not deny their fathers’ wishes, after marriage they could continue with their respective affairs. But Criston Cole wanted more. He didn’t want his relationship with Rhaenyra to be reduced to a mere inconsequential affair. Also, after learning that Rhaenyra had a very different outlook on things compared to him, he began to feel guilty. He felt he had violated his code of conduct for no apparent reason.
On the other hand, Daemon knew Rhaenyra and her motives much better. When she marries Laenor Valeryon, he tells her that the heir to the Driftmark was far too noble for her. He knew she liked a little rebellion and that only he could give it to her. Rhaenyra bluntly tells him that she would gladly go with him if he had the courage to kill her father’s royal guard and take her away in front of everyone. Rhaenyra is clearly tired of all the “needing a man in her life” farce and is going to do whatever she wants, no matter what feelings she might have. Kudos to her for that. Daemon would certainly try to find a way to be with her, as he knew they understood each other’s quirks all too well. Criston Cole, meanwhile, has sworn allegiance to Queen Alicent Hightower, with both feeling betrayed by the actions of Rhaenyra Targaryen. The feelings get messier and the stakes higher. It will be a treat for fans because, now that the collective consciousness has taken a step back, personal interests and agendas will drive the narrative forward.