A Tribute To Graham McTavish's Ser Harrold Westerling, The One Decent Guy On House Of The Dragon

This post contains spoilers for "House of the Dragon" episode nine.

If I didn't know any better, I might think "House of the Dragon" is suggesting monarchies are bad.

But seriously, folks, the shoe finally dropped in the ninth and penultimate episode of the show's first season. The body of the late King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) is still piping hot when the Green Council meets to discuss the matter of his successor. And by "discuss," I mean confirm most of them have been plotting to usurp Viserys' named heir, Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy), this whole time. But it's okay, they assure a pearl-clutching Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke), for it turns out this was actually Viserys' dying wish (or so Alicent has convinced herself). They remind me of Calvin telling Susie in the "Calvin and Hobbes" comics it doesn't really matter he threw a snowball at her. "Besides, I missed, didn't I?" he argues.

Each of the group's non-schemers reacts in their own way. While Alicent sits in a state of shock, Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson) lashes out verbally at the council's conspirators and is swiftly murdered by Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), a fellow who cannot abide by those who believe in gross stuff like, ugh, a consistent code of honor. When Alicent's father Otto (Rhys Ifans) then orders Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) to lead the Kingsguard to Dragonstone and kill Rhaenyra and her family, the Lord Commander yanks off his white cloak and states it plainly: Until further notice, his watch is over.

While it's a moving gesture, it probably means Ser Harrold isn't long for this world. (Just ask how acting honorably worked out for Ned Stark.) So, while he's still alive, let's take a moment to salute the one decent bloke in the Red Keep.

Ser Harrold, we hardly knew ye

From his first scene, it's clear Ser Harrold is the rare upstanding person in a show full of terrible people. Unlike the rest of her family, he worries about the young Rhaenyra getting maimed or worse while riding her dragon Syrax in the "House of the Dragon" premiere. He also candidly admits his concerns are partly motivated by a sense of self-preservation, as he's well aware he would suffer, should Rhaenyra get hurt. Even so, he goes above and beyond his duties in the episodes that follow, advising Rhaenyra on what little he knows of Ser Criston and always taking steps to protect Viserys from those who pose a threat, not least of all his brother Daemon (Matt Smith).

It's only a shame "House of the Dragon" couldn't find more to do with Ser Harrold than having him serve as the rock in the middle of the tempest that is House Targaryen. McTavish is a great actor who brings a tough but tender vibe to so many of his roles, be they on shows like "Outlander" and "Preacher," Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" films, or "House of the Dragon." Even so, it's a testament to his ability to make a mountain out of a molehill that Ser Harrold's resignation from the Kingsguard packs the punch it does. If McTavish hadn't already gotten us to believe the character is as principled as Ser Criston fancies himself to be, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as meaningful.

As for the future, who can say what awaits Ser Harrold. Ideally, he would get to live out the rest of his days quietly retired, but we know better than to expect that kind of happy ending in Westeros.

The "House of the Dragon" season one finale airs October 23, 2022.