"Be careful who you surround yourself with" is the kind of grating advice that's meant to save teenagers from messy relationships. But when the teenager in question happens to be the heir to the Iron Throne and future ruler of seven conflict-prone kingdoms, suddenly that advice holds a lot more weight. In "House of the Dragon," Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock and Emma D'Arcy) is surrounded by power-hungry sycophants, ambitious social climbers, a homicidal uncle, a backstabbing BFF who marries her father and a horrendous ex-boyfriend with anger issues and an incel-esque mindset. So in a lot of ways, she's not so different from you or me!

Seriously though, Rhaenyra learns the hard way to be very careful about the people in her inner circle and the person most crucial to that learning curve is none other than Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), the so-called honorable Dornish knight who goes from her sworn protector to one of her most dangerous enemies.

When first introduced, Ser Cole seemed like an extra handsome cross between Oberyn Martell and Loras Tyrell: he's a Dornish charmer with excellent swordsmanship who has a good shot at a steamy relationship with the princess. He becomes her closest confidant and dedicated protector, sticking by her side, smirking at her wit, and even making jokes (which seemed cute, at the time) about committing murder for her. But that becomes considerably less charming when he loses his temper at her wedding and punches a man to death. As it turns out, Criston Cole is exactly the kind of person who Rhaenyra definitely shouldn't keep around. But by then, it's too late — thanks to her own mistakes, Ser Cole has become one of the most important players in this prequel's game of thrones.

Oops, Rhaenyra Hired A Psychopath

If not for Rhaenyra, Criston Cole would have no part to play in the wars to come. But upon seeing his skills on the battlefield, she decides to name him the newest member of the Kingsguard. This is no small move, as showrunner Ryan Condal points out in an excerpt from the officially licensed making-of book, "House of the Dragon: Inside the Creation of a Targaryen Dynasty."

In the excerpt exclusively attained by EW, Condal explains that Rhaenyra's choice was so loaded that it will continue to ripple across the series — which neither Rhaenyra nor her father, King Viserys (Paddy Considine), seemed to realize at the time. "It's a story of small choices that lead to big things," Condal explained. This grand moment comes in the second episode. When one of the seven royal knights dies, another is promoted. This leaves an opening that King Viserys decides to let Rhaenyra fill — solely so he can get her out of the room of a big meeting. But choosing a member of the Kingsguard is no small errand, especially with war waiting just around the corner. Condal goes on to say:

"Choosing your Kingsguard, your bodyguard, is very important, but it's indicative of this time period — where they haven't seen a war in over half a century — that Viserys just fobs off this really important choice to his daughter to try to give her something to do to make her feel like she has weight and significance. It's a story of small choices that lead to big things. She picks Criston Cole, who later becomes the reason she nearly gets disinherited, and becomes one of her worst enemies."

The Significance Of Ser Criston Cole

In his defense, Viserys had no way of knowing that his daughter would have to fight her way through a war. Unless you count the transparent ambitions of Otto Hightower or the general misogyny of Westeros or all the anger and distrust swirling around the extended Targaryen family tree … But other than that, no one could've seen any of it coming!

After years of peace, Viserys didn't think twice about appointing a new member of the Kinsguard but ironically, Rhaenyra gave it plenty of thought. She chose Criston Cole because he was battle-tested, whereas the highborn knights were not. Little did she know that the skilled warrior would later fight to crown walking dumpster fire, Aegon Targaryen

Gina McIntyre's making-of book also reveals that we were originally meant to see more of Criston Cole rising above his lowborn rank, in a deleted scene that saw him inducted into the royal Kinsguard. The induction ceremony was set in the Red Keep throne room, where (per EW), "Viserys officiates the ceremony as Ser Criston, surrounded by his soon-to-be brethren, vows to hold no titles, nor lands, nor father any children. Rhaenyra is also present, looking on proudly."

As Frankel puts it, "That's the moment really when Cole is initiated into the Targaryen family." Seeing him accept the grandeur of serving royalty sounds emotional, but even bigger would be having him take his vows. That adds serious weight to Ser Criston's future breakdown, when he feels so wracked with guilt about sullying his white cloak that he tries to get Rhaenyra to run away with him.

A Missing Ceremony

Ultimately, Condal felt that the induction ceremony too drastically altered the flow of the episode. The scene was originally shot as part of "The Rogue Prince," the second episode in the season, which sees Rhaenyra frustrated with her lack of agency as heir — until she takes off on Syrax to confront her uncle about a stolen dragon egg."It felt tonally wrong to include a 'win' for Rhaenyra before Dragonstone," Condal explained.

Along with being a turning point in Ser Cole's story, the ceremony doubled as an emotional "father-daughter bonding moment" for Rhaenyra and Viserys. So removing the scene from the episode makes tonal sense: Dragonstone is supposed to be what sparks Rhaenyra's reconciliation with her father (which he later ruins by, uh, marrying her teenage best friend). So to have her celebrate a win so early in the episode would dampen the joy of successfully solving the Daemon problem and finally talking through their problems. And though the end result did rob us of a meaningful moment for Ser Criston Cole, I get the feeling that we'll see plenty more of the murderous knight in season 2 of "House of the Dragon."

Expect more behind-the-scenes insights when "House of the Dragon: Inside the Creation of a Targaryen Dynasty" hits shelves on January 31, 2023. The book, published by Insight Editions and distributed by Simon & Schuster, is already available for pre-order at $60.

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The post A Deleted House Of The Dragon Scene Emphasized The Importance Of Criston Cole's Rise To The Kingsguard appeared first on /Film.