Warning: If you are not caught up on Game of Thrones, this article will be full of spoilers.
With HBO officially confirming the recent report that Game of Thrones has cast Danish actor Pilou Asbæk to play the plunder-pilfering part of the unhinged Iron Islands heir Euron Greyjoy, things are likely to get even wilder in television’s tumult-plagued Westeros when Season 6 rolls around.
This past June’s Season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” wrapped things up on a major down-note with Jon Snow ending up betrayed by his Night’s Watch brethren and poked full of more holes than the covering of a frozen microwave dinner. However, it also depicted self-appointed King Stannis Baratheon finding out the hard way that burning your own daughter alive doesn’t win wars. After ultimately proving to be the architect of his own cause’s demise, the once-popular claimant to the Iron Throne was (presumably) dealt death by the edge of Captain Phasma’s Brienne’s sword.
With Stannis (again, presumably) out of the picture, it might have seemed at first that Game of Thrones would be going into Season 6 with a devastating deficit, having been deprived of the storyline surrounding the would-be King’s eccentric, witch-wooing, shadow-baby-conceiving, human sacrifice strewn, sellsword-hiring antics, which, since Season 2, had seemingly filled the gap left in the wake of the honorable Ned Stark’s hellacious height adjustment at the end of Season 1. Yet, with the addition of the important character of Euron Greyjoy to the show, we could very well have Stannis’ replacement as the latest peculiar point-of-view character pursuer of the Iron Throne.
However, based on how Euron is depicted in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, we have a rather despicable potential antagonist whose portrayal could prove to be an intriguing challenge, even on this rogue-worshipping show. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at how Euron could be woven into the television mythos.
A Challenger Appears
Pilou Asbæk’s character, Euron Greyjoy, is known as “Crow’s Eye,” due to an eyepatch worn over his left eye, allegedly covering a pitch black eye that’s a heterochromatic mismatch for its bright blue counterpart. The oldest of three younger brothers to Lord Balon Greyjoy (Theon’s father), Euron, despite being a cunning military leader and politician, alienated himself from the family, due to his outlandish behavior; notably the savagely vindictive act of making a cuckold of his stoic younger brother, Victarion, by allegedly raping and impregnating his “salt wife” (an extra wife captured as plunder); something that, even according to the dubious morals of the Ironborn and their “Drowned God” religion, is considered a heinous and dishonorable thing to do to one’s own kin. As a result, Balon banished Euron from the Iron Islands, after which he has spent his days wandering the seas. As the pirate captain of his ship the Silence, he tyrannically runs a crew with unquestioned loyalty and tightly-kept secrets, seeing as the removal of one’s tongue is the rather distasteful (/rimshot) prerequisite for serving aboard.
He is possibly the most callous, morally corrupt, hedonistic character in the Ice and Fire mythos, which is quite an accomplishment for someone in George R.R. Martin’s bleak, optimism-abusing, “good guys finish last” world. Like Stannis with his cause-expedient conversion to the religion of “the Lord of Light” R’hllor, Euron’s behavior and mystical dabbling make him a bit of an apostate at home with the religiously devout Drowned Men priests; an order which includes his own younger brother, Aeron “Damphair” Greyjoy. Consequently, Euron’s years in exile have also shrouded his true motivations in mystery, since his travels have apparently taken him around the known world to mystical places on the continent of Essos like Asshai (home of the Red Witch Melissandre) and the ruins of Valyria. Plus, his penchant for consuming the hallucinogenic, potentially magical, vision-inspiring blue wine known as Shade of the Evening, used by the Warlocks of Qarth, also makes him even more of a loose cannon.
Immediately after Lord Balon met a mysterious death, apparently being windblown off a bridge in the middle of a storm, Euron conveniently resurfaced in the Iron Islands after years of exile, making his claim for leadership and possession of Pyke’s Seastone Chair. Making quite the impression in the King-crowning gathering called the “kingsmoot,” Euron has one of his lackeys utilize an artifact known as a Dragon Binder; a horn, warm to the touch, covered in Valyrian glyphs glowing with magical properties. When blown, it sends people shaking to the core in agony and even leaves the blower bleeding, blistered and incapacitated. However, Euron claims that the demented party favor also has the ability to control dragons; something that could be useful, since tales of the three dragons in the possession of Daenerys Targaryen over in Essos have spread throughout the land. His campaign promise of sorts to use this power to restore the prestige of the Iron Islands and rule all of Westeros rallies the crowd and wins him the crown over the other claimants in his younger brothers and niece.
Late to the Television Party
With Season 5 not only catching up to the storyline in Martin’s Ice and Fire novels, but even passing them in a few instances, one temporary sacrifice was the story of the known Greyjoy family, Theon, Balon and Yara (Pictured above and played by Alfie Allen, Patrick Malahide and Gemma Whelan). The show’s omission of the vicious, political Greyjoy family squabbles over the Seastone Chair, as depicted in the fourth novel A Feast for Crows, has been the largest deviation from the books; one that we will see remedied somewhat in Season 6.
However, with Euron and an altered, allegedly Victarion-less version of the kingsmoot (reportedly seen filming in Ireland) canonized into the television continuity, it will come at a time considerably later than in the novels. In fact, we first learn of the kingsmoot angle through word of mouth in the third novel A Storm of Swords in which a ship captain loyal to Robb Stark escapes after being held at port by the Ironborn for six months and relays to the (still living) King in the North that Lord Balon Greyjoy had died and that his ruthless brother Euron mysteriously resurfaced and claimed his throne. Still dealing with the aftermath of Theon’s betrayal, which saw Winterfell taken and Bran and Rickon Stark presumed dead, Robb was actually preparing a multi-pronged assault to retake Northern territories from the Euron-led Ironborn. Robb counted on aid by forces from Roose Bolton and Walder Frey, who, of course, ended up betraying and murdering Robb.
Indeed, even casual viewers of the television series know that Robb Stark met his demise way back in the penultimate episode of Season 3 in the infamous “Red Wedding.” Thus, with the landscape changed dramatically since the War of the Five Kings raged and Robb Stark still drew breath, the context of Euron’s ascension in Pyke will be quite different in the show. However, the television timeline alteration could prove fortuitous, since the Iron Throne aspirations of Euron would be a welcome addition to the show after having just lost the presence of Stannis, whose ultimate fate (however it might take shape,) has yet to occur in the book continuity.
A Salty Fly In The Westerosi Ointment
In the novels, one of the newly-crowned King Euron’s first acts is an invasion of the Shield Islands, which is a few skipped rocks across from Highgarden, the kingdom ruled by the Tyrell family...who, currently on the show, are in a quickly crumbling alliance with the Lannisters, with (Queen) Margery Tyrell-Baratheon jailed due to Cersei’s manipulative machinations involving the Faith Militant. While, as we all saw in the Season 5 finisher, the feckless plan ultimately backfired on Cersei with naked results, the tensions could be exacerbated in Season 6 by Euron’s invasion and plundering of Tyrell lands with their Lannister cohorts likely unwilling to extend a helping hand. This would be a completely different dynamic than the War of the Five Kings-era incursions in the books.
Additionally, the other part of Euron’s grand plan across continents involving the Dragon Binder could also come into play in Season 6. In the book, Euron sends a fleet of Ironborn led by his betrayal-pondering brother Victarion on a grueling journey to Slaver’s Bay on the shores of Meereen to not only nab the mythical dragons, but bring back Daenerys Targaryen after proposing marriage on Euron’s behalf. However, on the show, after Drogon whisked Daenerys out of Daznak’s Fighting Pit, leadership of Meereen was last seen left under the stewardship of Tyrion Lannister and Varys (As opposed to a still-living Barristan Selmy in the books). With an Ironborn invasion, a hunted and irate Unsullied army, clandestine Sons of the Harpy, and dragons Rhaegal and Viserion still chained up, the ingredients are there for an epic siege on the beaches of Meereen. Such a scenario could even include other previously omitted book elements like the dreadful dysentery-like stomach bug spread amongst the siege army called the “Pale Mare” in which people quite literally “evacuate” themselves to death in a bloody flux.
Lastly, with Gemma Whelan set to reprise her role as Yara Greyjoy (named “Asha” in the books), the enmity for Euron carried by the apparently show-absent brother Victarion could be transferred to the dynamic between Yara and Euron. Plus, with the maimed Theon Greyjoy possibly moving past his “Reek” phase and not left captured by Stannis as it was in the books, Season 6 could instead give us a unique kind of Greyjoy family reunion with Euron (subbing for Stannis’ role) possibly getting a hold of Balon’s butchered, traumatized son and maybe even Sansa Stark, who was last seen with Theon on the show making a gravity-aided escape from the Bolton-occupied Winterfell.
A Problematic Protagonist?
With plenty of book-inspired possibilities for Euron to take Stannis’ place on the show as the questionable claimant to the Iron Throne, it could actually make him a significant force in the Game of Throne television universe despite his late arrival. Plus, if the show adapts the character's mystical connections hinted at in his book depiction, he could also end up playing a role of some kind in the mythos’ ultimate war with the “come at me bro” posing Night’s King and his army of the dead as “winter” steadily approaches.
While Stannis was not without controversy, having been responsible for his brother Renly’s death from his conceived shadow creature and for making human bonfires of dissidents, he was still honorable...for the most part. Euron, another possible kinslayer, has similar ethical issues, though on a different end as a thief, murderer and serial rapist. IF Euron is to become a major point of view character in Season 6 (which is likely), it will be interesting to see how Pilou Asbæk will handle the acting task of making such a despicable character work as a protagonist of sorts.
Have any predictions for Game of Thrones Season 6? Let us know in the comments. While the April 2016 premiere is still in the distance, we might be coming back to a show that’s dramatically different than anything we’ve known.