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Is House of the Dragon's Criston Cole the King of F*ckboy Mountain?

The once-dashing knight has soured into a sneering little jerk. But is he the worst Westeros has had to offer?
  • HBO/Primetimer illustration
    HBO/Primetimer illustration

    You think you know a guy. When the House of the Dragon audience first met Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) in the series' first episode, the dashingly handsome young knight was showing off his prowess in the jousting arena, making eyes at the maidens in the crowd, and pretty quickly catching the attention of the princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock). Hundreds of years of Lancelot-and-Guinevere stories told us everything we thought we needed to know about where this was all going: faithful knight Criston, who was not born to the high houses, would be a love match for Rhaenyra, even as the requirements of dynastic marriage wouldn't allow her to be his wife in name.

    Well, that didn't work out super well. As House of the Dragon has sped its plot forward through the years, our expectations for Criston have taken a turn. First he broke his knightly vow and bedded Rhaenyra (that wasn't the surprising part). Then when she reminded him that she wouldn't be able to marry him, he got angry enough about it that he: 1) stormed out on Rhaenyra, 2) beat a man's face into hamburger meat, and 3) aligned himself with Rhaenyra's stepmother/enemy Alicent (first Emily Carey, now Olivia Cooke). Ever since the 10-year time jump that happened between episodes five and six, Criston has undergone a personality makeover that has revealed him to be petty, butthurt, snide, cruel to children, and feeling way too free to use the c-word:

    A lot of words have been thrown around about Criston's behavior ("incel," "cuck," "d*ckhead"), but the one I keep landing on is "f*ckboy." Criston Cole may well be the biggest f*ckboy in the history of televised Westeros. And he's not exactly starving for competition in that arena either.

    Let’s take a second to set up our definition. Ever since it crossed over from AAVE, the term has changed in meaning. The more recent definition of "f*ckboy" — the one preferred by the HBO Max reality dating comedy FBoy Island, for instance — is closer to what we might have once called a "player”: a man who pretends he wants to be in a relationship but is really only out for sex. A quick trip to Urban Dictionary has this definition up top: "A boy who plays with girls [sic] feelings and doesn't really like them and would do say anything a girl wants to hear to have sex with them or to get something they want." That's one way to define it. This alternate definition is one I had more in mind: "A boy, not a man [...] who will mislead you into believing they are 'different' than others. They will put in a lot of time and effort trying to convince people they are a good person, when in reality they are nothing but scum." In 2014, Kara Brown put it far more simply in a Jezebel article: "A f*ckboy is a man who is lame, who sucks, who ain’t sh*t." Ladies and gentlemen, Ser Criston Cole!

    So how does Ser Criston stack up against the long and imprecisely defined history of f*ckboys on both Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon? Is he truly the biggest f*ckboy this franchise has ever seen? Appropriately enough for the good knight, we're going to determine this tournament-style, with a King of the Mountain competition where Cole will go up against a series of Westerosi f*ckboys in order to determine who advances.

    Round 1: Criston Cole vs. Podrick Payne

    Fabien Frankel, Daniel Portman (HBO)

    We're serving up an easy first-round opponent for Ser Criston here. Podrick (Daniel Portman) may have exhibited an unexpected facility in the bedroom that ended up pleasing many women, but he never really took advantage of anyone in a f*ckboy way. His humility and fortitude shone throughout Game of Thrones as he fought alongside Tyrion Lannister. Meanwhile, Criston's confidence on the battlefield at first seemed incredibly attractive (that hair!), but with this new change of attitude it just comes across as arrogant.

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 2: Criston Cole vs. Jaime Lannister

    Fabien Frankel, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (HBO)

    Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was a massive fan favorite, but was he also a f*ckboy? A little bit, yeah! He was a preening jerk to most people. He (intentionally or not) toyed with Brienne of Tarth's heart, showing her his most noble side before ultimately going back to his true love and sister, Cersei. These are f*ckboy tendencies. But ultimately, Jamie was too much of a man of (tortured! conflicted!) substance to live up to his outer f*ckboy. Even the worst thing he ever did — shoving Bran Stark out that window in the Game of Thrones pilot — was done out of dark necessity and actually compares favorably to Criston Cole bullying Rhaenyra's children in the training pits because he was still mad that their mom wouldn't marry him a decade prior.

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 3: Criston Cole vs. Laenor Velaryon

    Fabien Frankel, Theo Nate (HBO)

    Things get personal in Round 4 as Criston faces off against the man who did marry his lady love, thus setting him down this dark and f*ckboyish path. Laenor (John Macmillan) is a very sympathetic character, but he has more f*ckboy in him that most of us want to admit. Obviously we support him living in his truth (albeit secretly) as he carouses with the boys, but Rhaenyra wasn't wrong when she told him he hadn't been showing up for their (sham) family. But he's no match for Criston on the slopes of F*ckboy Mountain. Certainly not after Criston beat Leanor's lover to death because he had his feelings hurt. That kind of emotional immaturity is what will take Criston far in this tournament.

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 4: Criston Cole vs. Daario Naharis

    This is a tough match! Daario (initially Ed Skrein, recast as Michiel Huisman) was essentially King F*ckboy of the Free Cities as he brought his soldiers over to the side of Daenerys Targaryen and pledged his loyalty to her, ultimately becoming her lover. He was honestly just too pretty for Game of Thrones viewers to trust that he wasn't up to no good. The surprise of it all was that Daario might have ended the series as the most loyal to Daenerys, staying in Mereen to manage her territories when she sailed off to Westeros on an ill-fated campaign for the Iron Throne. On House of the Dragon, Criston Cole already betrayed one princess to whom he'd pledged loyalty and eventually ended up in her bed. Do we really expect him to hold down the fort, Daario-style, for Alicent now that he's on her side? We are doubtful!

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 5: Criston Cole vs. Loras Tyrell

    Oh, Loras. The so-called Knight of the Flowers (Finn Jones) may have been the prettiest thing in King's Landing during his stay there. And he operated with the heedless confidence of someone so good-looking, but he was certainly not cunning. He was first unable to keep his lover Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) safe from Melisandre's (Carice Van Houten) shadow-baby assassin cloud. Later, when he was betrothed to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), he had no way to keep himself safe from the various machinations that threatened him, ultimately falling victim to the High Septon and — in an explosion of green fire — Cersei herself. Loras's sad fate is also a testament to his f*ckboy bona fides, ultimately too wrapped up in his glory as a knight to see the danger lurking around him — sort of like how Criston feels confident enough to talk sht about Rhaenyra and bully her children when he knows she's one decrepit old king away from assuming the Iron Throne. Best of luck with that!

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 6: Criston Cole vs. Daemon Targaryen

    Fabien Frankel, Matt Smith (HBO)

    On some level, all Targaryens are f*ckboys, given all the arrogance, flowing hair, and high cheekbones that seem to be omnipresent in their DNA. Daemon (Matt Smith) definitely fits the bill better than most. His brother, King Viserys (Paddy Considine),g kicked him out of King's Landing because all he ever did was put his feet up on the small council's table and sneer. He took his niece to a brothel and then made out with her. He killed his wife basically because he didn't like her vibe. Then, after his second wife, whom he seemed to have cared for as much as an emotionally vacant f*ckboy could, died by suicide, he went and married that same niece. He's a real piece of work, that Daemon. And yet in the "Driftmark" episode, during the big brouhaha where Alicent took a dagger and lunged at Rhaenyra, Daemon was able to subdue Criston with nothing more than an outstretched arm. No, the battles on F*ckboy Mountain are not tests of physical strength, but Criston's ineffectiveness under pressure only enhances his case.

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 7: Criston Cole vs. Euron Greyjoy

    This f*cking guy. On the surface, Euron (Pilou Asbæk) looks to be the absolute opposite of a f*ckboy. He's a cocksure seafarer who is big on bluster, yes, but is also a man of action who somewhat infuriatingly can get the job done. That fleet from the Iron Islands sure took out Daenerys's forces when she least expected it — he nearly won the Iron Throne for Cersei! And yet, therein also lies the f*ckboy nature of Euron, who thought he could swing his big fleet around and make Cersei do what he wanted. Letting your arrogance blind you to the limits of your influence is a sure sign of f*ckboyness. This is also a big part of the case for Criston Cole, as he's currently feeling awfully powerful at the right hand of Alicent. He's maybe only now realizing that her power is fleeting.

    Advancing: Criston Cole

    Round 8: Criston Cole vs. Jon Snow

    The main event. The final boss. The battle atop F*ckboy Mountain comes down to Ser Criston Cole, toxic masculinity's champion, against Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the pouty-faced would-be Prince Who Was Promised. Most of the f*ckboys on this list are heavy on arrogance, which makes them vulnerable to the veneer that Criston exhibited in his early episodes. Jon Snow, however, asserts his f*ckboyness through his maddeningly indecisive courtship style. The chastity imposed on members of the Night's Watch is to be taken seriously, sure, but Jon spent a whole season dithering about whether to break said vow for Ygritte. She ended up getting killed defending him in battle. And then he dithered again in his ill-considered wooing of Daenerys (his aunt, actually), a stop-and-start-and-stop affair that ended with him killing her in front of her dragon for the good of the realm. Way to sucker in these women who end up dead while you go pout in the corner, Jon!

    The question is, can Criston Cole compete with this? Jon's left two dead lovers in his wake, one by his own reluctant hand, while Criston actively killed one man in a fit of displaced rage. Jon then returns to the Night's Watch to do his penance forever, while Criston actually got a promotion from Queen Alicent after killing Ser Joffrey. Jon accepting consequence while Criston brazenly accepts a reward gives Criston the advantage. And that's even before we reflect on the fact that Criston doesn't have an act of heroism like the Battle of the Bastards to redeem him. Jon may be a pouty and indecisive lover, but he threw down for the good of his younger siblings. Criston Cole remains a bully to children and a resentful ex-lover to women.

    King of F*ckboy Mountain: Criston Cole

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: House of the Dragon, HBO, Daniel Portman, Fabien Frankel, Finn Jones, John Macmillan, Kit Harington, Matt Smith, Michiel Huisman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Pilou Asbæk