Fans Breathe Fire as 'House of the Dragon' Buries Its Gays

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday September 22, 2022

Theo Nate and Solly McLeod in "House of the Dragon"
Theo Nate and Solly McLeod in "House of the Dragon"  (Source:HBO)

Fans and critics alike called out "Game of Thrones" spinoff "House of the Dragon" for introducing a gay character just so he could be murdered in a scene driven by straight male rage.

As Newsweek recounted, "The premise of the most recent episode saw King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) arrange a politically strategic marriage between his daughter and heir, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Laenor."

The rub: While Rhaenyra has been getting it on with her bodyguard, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) — despite his vow of chastity — Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate), a Black dragon rider, is in a covert same-sex relationship with Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod).

Criston, Newsweek detailed, "seethes at the prospect of her marrying someone else and tries to encourage her to run away with him, but becomes enraged when she does not agree."

"Later, at the welcoming dinner for Rhaenyra and Laenor's wedding festival, Joffrey works out that Criston is the princess' lover," Newsweek went on to say.

"He approaches him with a proposal, saying they could work together to protect their loved ones during their marriage and that way ensure they would always be near them."

It sounds like a sensible plan, and perhaps the best available option given the circumstances, but in a fit of "gay panic"-like overkill, Criston literally smashes Joffrey's face in, killing him. Despite the murder being carried out in full view of the entire gathering, Criston faces no consequences for his violent outburst, and the sham wedding goes on as planned.

Viewers were unimpressed with the weary trope, especially since "Game of Thrones" had done pretty much the same thing to another gay couple, Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones).

Critics were just as exasperated.

"Laenor's queerness presumably isn't going anywhere, so his characterization has plenty of room to breathe," Jack King wrote in GQ. "But it nevertheless feels outdated to embrace the tropes of the past, not least in a media era where renewed focus has been placed on robust explorations of queerness."

Philip Ellis, wrote in Men's Health that "queer characters very rarely even show up in this franchise (even a lot of the queer subtext seems to be unintentional), and with the exception of the sex worker Olyvar in 'Game of Thrones' and some unnamed background extras, they have all met ugly deaths." The article discussed examples of the "'Bury Your Gays' trope, a pernicious trend in pop culture where LGBTQ+ characters, already underrepresented in media, are disproportionately killed off, frequently in ways which can be perceived as 'punishment' for their queerness."

The series' use of violence directed at women and LGBTQ+ people has been defended as "accurate" in the sense that the shows and the books they are based on roughly reflect life in Europe during the dark ages, but, David Opie lamented at Digital Spy, "It's worth pointing out here that claims of historical accuracy don't really fly in this regard when there are actual dragons flying around too."

Wrote Opie: "You'd think that 'House of the Dragon' would have learned more from the mistakes that 'Game of Thrones' once made, yet here we are still having the same old conversation again in 2022."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.