Curtain Call: Pilou Asbæk

Photo courtesy of HBO.

The King of the Iron Islands is no more, succumbing to injuries after a brutal knock-down fight with Ser Jaime Lannister.

Danish actor Pilou Asbæk brought a certain swaggering confidence to his performance of Euron Greyjoy. Arrogant and with a constant provocative attitude, it underscored Euron’s deadly nature. Someone so obnoxious would have to be able to back up the attitude with dangerous ability.

According to a recent interview with Kim Renfro of Insider, Asbæk came to be on Game of Thrones in the sixth season as a fan. He forced himself to stop watching for professional reasons, but the presentation of the existing ironborn characters must have influenced his choices for Euron. Alfie Allen’s Theon Greyjoy was similarly arrogant (before Ramsay) and Asbæk played a type of devil-may-care rake that Theon seemed to be romanticizing in the early seasons.

Asbæk, formerly known for playing spin-doctor Kasper Juul in the political drama Borgen, enjoyed a hands-on approach to Iron Island politics by tossing his royal brother off a rope bridge at the castle of Pyke, and then stole, like a pirate, his niece Yara’s near-certain election victory as Ironborn monarch.

With the Iron Islands under his control and a rapidly replenished Iron Fleet, Euron went on to provide Cersei Lannister with much needed strategic victories against the scrappy newcomer Daenerys Targaryen. His successes in the seventh season took a turn downwards in the eighth. After joining the Night King in having dragonslaying boasting rights, the Iron Fleet was ill-prepared to defeat the fast-moving and destructive Drogon during a rematch.

Encountering Jaime Lannister in a popular smuggling landing after escaping from his exploding vessel Silence, Asbæk played Euron as a man totalling enjoying a private joke and not a man who’d just lost his armada. He was delighted in running across something he could kill, his queen’s former lover.

When Euron and Jaime first met, when the pirate swaggered into an audience with Cersei to negotiate arms for favors, Euron and Jaime reminisced about the defeat of the Ironborn at Pyke. Asbæk’s interactions with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau seemed to indicate a touch of hero worship for Jaime’s efficient combat abilities – masked by insufferable negging. This reminiscence no doubt set up the final doomed encounter wit Ser Jaime. As Jory Cassell and Alton Lannister can attest, sharing stories with Jaime eventually ends with him killing you.

EuronDying

These two men, connected by their romantic attraction to Cersei, both kinslayers and kingslayers, dealt each other mortal wounds. Or so it seemed to Euron Greyjoy as evidenced by his final words.

“But I got you. I got you! I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”

Jaime managed to stagger away gamely after skewering Euron, to meet up with first his sister and then his demise minutes later, buried in the collapsing Red Keep. But the Ironborn king didn’t seem to be the type of person to let facts get in the way of some good bragging.

Blackwater Bay wasn’t the sea, but at least Euron died close to the tides, as an Ironborn should.

As reported in the Insider interview, the deadly duel between the pirate king and the not-so-shining knight took place on the last day of filming for Coster-Waldau (who, incidentally, coined the term “Danebowl” for this climactic fight between the two danish actors.) When their battle was done, so too was Ser Jaime.

Maybe Euron wasn’t just idly boasting when he said “I got you!”

29 responses

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    1. Maybe the character was not so great in the show and should have had more to it. I say Pilou asbaek played him excellent, wonderful actor in my opinion. How he can be a dick one moment, and a comedian the next is astonishing. I was glad to see Euron gone, but Pilou did an amazing job.

      His scene with Jaime last season remain amazing. Hope some good roles are in store for Pilou asbaek.

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    2. Unfortunately, I found his Euron to be the least convincing or enjoyable portrayal of the Greyjoy characters (Theon, Yara, Balon). Still, thanks for giving it a try, Pilou.

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    3. My problem with Euron on the show is that he’s more a one dimensional plot device to power Cercei up and to give Theon something to do than a real character.

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    4. The Euron of the show was weird, wacky, and different, and that’s all thanks to Pilou. What a late-game gem. He will truly be missed.

      Thanks for sending him off, Pat!

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    5. Euron was a BSC, arrogant asshole and Pilou played him perfectly. He always looked like he was having a blast. I wanted it to be Theon or Yara who sent him to the Drowned God but Jamie was the one in place.
      Best wishes to PA in the future!

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    6. A very good actor who deserved far better than the material he was given. It didn’t even have to be book Euron either, but he deserved better than cartoon Jack Sparrow.

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    7. Show!Euron was a bit one-dimensional (he’s a lot scarier in the books) but I liked what Pilou did with what he was given.

      Fun fact: I read somewhere a few years ago that NCW hired Pilou as a nanny for his two kids when Pilou was a struggling young actor. 🙂

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    8. I really dislike Euron in the books, so although the show character portrayal wasn’t, ahem, universally liked, at least the over the top swaggering made him entertaining and one you could love to hate. Pilou is great in Danish shows such as Borgen and 1864 so tak skal du have Pilou and I look forward to seeing you in more Nordic drama!

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    9. I enjoyed Pilou’s performance as Euron and wish he had more screen time, but am glad the dangerous Euron is no longer a threat to the other characters and creatures in GOT. Euron was unpredictable and extreme – cruel, strategic, arrogant, and able to find a weakness and exploit it. He could be quiet, observant, and sometimes funny in a twisted way.

      One thing GOT has given American audiences is an introduction to excellent actors from other parts of the world. If not for GOT, I doubt I would have ever seen Pilou and I am grateful for that. Good riddance to Euron but good luck in the future to Pilou!

      Somewhere, maybe this site, I saw a Copenhagen promo video hosted by Pilou. So nice to see him as a regular, pleasant, happy person!

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    10. MotherofWolves: I wanted it to be Theon or Yara who sent him to the Drowned God but Jamie was the one in place.
      Best wishes to PA in the future!

      Yeah it should have been Yara … and could have been arranged in ep 5.

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    11. I know I’m in the minority but I love the Greyjoys from the books and ALL the nuncles. I wish Victarion would have been in the series because their Viking lifestyle and history was way more interesting than Dorne or Essos . Pilou did a fine job. I enjoyed his cringy swag, not so much the dialogue he was given. There will be a celebration in the Drowned God’s hall when he arrives and Theon will be waiting for him.

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    12. orange:
      A very good actor who deserved far better than the material he was given. It didn’t even have to be book Euron either, but he deserved better than cartoon Jack Sparrow.

      I am not sure about deserved, but he did well enough with the material given and played the part written for him with the dick swagger it called for. Same could be said for any of the actors in this series. We have had some amazing performances with the mediocre writing. A testiment to how great this cast really is.

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    13. Still haven’t read the books, so can’t compare. But I found Euron of the series to be despicable. And that’s what you wanted portrayed so he did his job and will be remembered for it.

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    14. As other said, i loved his first scene with Balon. That scene was perfection. After that, i couldn’t stand him. His cringey dialogue (always about his big cock), cringey acting (always smiling, trying too hard to look crazy). And his character per se, has to be the worst from the series. I actually screamed when i tought that he was the one to kill Jaime, one of the best characters on the show (how the f**k did he even survive beeing torched by Drogon, without even a scrath, and just casually land next to Jaime). I’m sorry to say all of this, as Pilou seems like a wonderful person, and actually a really good actor, as he let it see on some scenes. But his character, ruined every scene he was in, even for other characters.

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    15. Well done, he certainly imprinted himself on the role as it was given to him quite well and made for a memorable performance.

      The scene where they crush Yara and Theons fleet was memorable, as was the very first scene where he kills Balon Greyjoy on the Bridge

      It’s a bit tricky though, because ultimately his character as written was radically different then the creepy, off-putting and strategic Euron of the books

      I actually think Pilou would have been fantastically cast – as Victarion – he could have done an excellent job of the Shield islands as we saw with the aforementioned scene and would have been a good antagonist to a book oriented Euron

      I could have seen him be the type who as the referred to “Uncle/s” in Season 2 to have taken Moat Cailin and his swagger would have been consistent with the act Season 1 and 2 Theon Greyjoy was attempting to put on

      And of course leading the Iron Fleet into Slavers Bay

      As for it being Jaimie to have killed him, perhaps they were going for Yara before Gemma Whelans pregnancy resulted in practical issues? Either way it kind of worked I guess they set him up as an antagonist to Jaimie (for Cersei) and Jaimie stabbed this King in the belly instead of the back (as per the Ned Stark S1 discussion)

      Well done to Pilou, best of luck in future roles

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    16. Ivan,

      It’s astounding how people still don’t get how curtain calls work, if you don’t have anything good to say about the character or the actor then don’t say anything at all, you have plenty of other places to whine about stuff, don’t ruin the positive articles as well !

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    17. Having in mind what Euron is and how he looked in the books, this was, by far, Nina Gold’s most problematic choice. Worse, they advertised him as “worse than Ramsay”. I don’t think Mr Abaek is untalented individual, I don’t hate (or at least simply don’t care) about writing for Euron, but this never clicked for me.

      Simply, he had nothing of Euron. It was a washed up version but I do hope it opened doors for Mr Asbaek. He did his job good, but he was simply the wrong man for the job.

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    18. I don’t know if any actor enjoyed himself more on Game of Thrones than Pilou Asbaek did playing Euron Greyjoy. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I assure you it’s a sincere one. He was clearly a fan, and his enthusiasm for both the role and the show was obvious. That enthusiasm spilled over into his performance in a way that I found quite effective, especially once Pilou channeled it through Euron’s unique perspective. Life may have been “boring” for the Greatest Captain on the Fourteen Seas, but Pilou was never boring to watch.

      Euron entered the Great Game in strong fashion with that scene in “Home” when he throws Balon off a rope bridge to his death. He was appropriately sinister, delivering several killer lines with aplomb (“I am the storm, brother. The first storm and the last.”) It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing – I will admit that I didn’t really love Euron’s portrayal during the Kingsmoot, and I wasn’t keen on seeing more of that specific iteration of the character. But that momentary dip was part of what made his reintroduction in Season 7 so dynamic and exciting. For me, Euron presenting himself to Cersei in the Red Keep throne room is Pilou’s best scene on the show. He was still the same man, but he had a new swagger and devil-may-care attitude that made him instantly more compelling. “So here I am, with a thousand ships … and two good hands,” is an all-time classic burn, perfectly delivered by Pilou with a savage smile.

      Euron’s best scene as a character, however, came in “Stormborn”, when he attacks and destroys his niece Yara’s fleet. I vividly remember that image of the Silence emerging from the darkness, towering over Yara and Theon … and then the corvus coming crashing down onto the deck, with Euron screaming like a bloodthirsty madman and wielding his giant axe with deadly force and precision. That scene was so critically important because it definitively established that Euron’s bravado wasn’t empty … he was legitimately dangerous, a skilled fighter with a ruthlessness tempered in insanity. That laugh Pilou unleashed when Theon jumped overboard … it was bone-chilling. As the showrunners said afterward, it really was the character’s encapsulation. We never quite saw that full-throated madness again, but I never forgot it. It still gets me every time I rewatch that scene, and it carried through to the end of his time on the show.

      I was ready for Euron to meet his end (Jaime impaling him against a rock was quite satisfying), but it’s a testament to Pilou’s performance that I was so eager to see him get his comeuppance. I kind of love that Euron died both with a smile on his face and a questionably true boast on his blood-stained lips. He was true to his nature to the very last.

      Whether his next role takes him to Oldtown or Qarth, I look forward to seeing what Pilou does next!

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    19. Pilou was great. I absolutely HATED Euron, but Pilou really made me ENJOY hating him. He may not have been in the show as long as some others, but he sure made an impression with the time he had. As evil as Euron was, something about his cockiness and how much he was enjoying what he did, really drew me to him. He was like an evil version of Jack Sparrow.

      That said, he could also be genuinely menacing when he needed to be – especially in his first scene, confronting his brother Balon on the rope bridge at Pyke. From his sinister laugh, to the fact that he didn’t even need to hold on when the bridge was blown by the wind, to his delivery of lines like “I AM the storm, brother”, genuinely unsettled me.

      Pilou’s perfromance was a highlight of season 7 for me. His swaggering cockiness and bragging in front of Cersei was SO much fun, and when he attacked Yara’s fleet, he was honestly kind of terrifying. His performance in that scene reminded me of Steven Ogg from Grand Theft Auto 5 and Walking Dead – some of the finest “crazy” acting I’ve ever seen.

      While I didn’t expect Jaime to be the one to kill him, it is somewhat fitting, and Euron’s attitude to death is exactly what I would expect from someone like him – smiling fearlessly at the inevitability. Rest in pain, Euron. And thank you, Pilou, for your pitch-perfect performance of this unforgetable character.

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    20. Thank you Patrick for this curtain call!

      Arrogant and with a constant provocative attitude, it underscored Euron’s deadly nature. Someone so obnoxious would have to be able to back up the attitude with dangerous ability.

      I immediately thought of one of my favourite Euron moments from the battle at sea against Yara and Theon in Stormborn. Not many liked the chaos of that battle but I loved it because of the chaos. From his battle cry as the corvis crashes onto Yara’s ship, to his laugh right before raising his axe and slashing it to that first ironborn soldier- I loved it all!

      Here’s the feauturette that talks about that battle and featuring lovely things said about Pilou.

      https://youtu.be/U9j1ljA5gfU

      What is dead may never die! Thank you Pilou! #WeDoNotSow

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    21. Jared,

      Thank you, Jared, for writing a decent curtain call for Pilou Asbaek.
      He is a worthy actor and it was certainly not his fault that Euron was written as a mix of Evil Jack Sparrow and Sid Vicious. This dude was so OBNOXIOUS, so insufferable, that even dear Pat was, I think, unable to give PA a proper send-off.
      I guess Euron, fan-wise, was the equivalent of the Sand Snakes.
      So, although I was happy to see him leave (and, tbh, I didn’t think he -Euron- even deserved to have such a big dying scene, I would be ok if he’d just burn or drown), but I do want to thank PA for giving us one more character we loved to hate.

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    22. Sou:
      Jared,

      Thank you, Jared, for writing a decent curtain call for Pilou Asbaek.
      He is a worthy actor and it was certainly not his fault that Euron was written as a mix of Evil Jack Sparrow and Sid Vicious. This dude was so OBNOXIOUS, so insufferable, that even dear Pat was, I think, unable to give PA a proper send-off.
      I guess Euron, fan-wise, was the equivalent of the Sand Snakes.
      So, although I was happy to see him leave (and, tbh, I didn’t think he -Euron- even deserved to have such a big dying scene, I would be ok if he’d just burn or drown), but I do want to thank PA for giving us one more character we loved to hate.

      Hahah, thanks Sou! I also appreciate Jared bringing his appreciation for Pilou to the comments section. These curtain calls are for all of us.

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    23. Sayonara Euron. You were great to hate and I will miss booing at the TV now that your gone. May Pilou’s next role be a Danish Mr Rogers. He’d probably like that.

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    24. The way Pilou Asbaek delivered his last line as Euron (“I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister!”) put me in mind of the way David McAvoy delivered his last line in Atomic Blonde (“I fucking love Berlin!”) – right before Charlize Thereon went bang bang and put him out of his misery.

      What a scene stealer! Ridiculously fun to watch.

      He does very nice work. I thought his role in “Ghost in the Shell” immensely entertaining.

      He’s a serious actor. I’m hoping he gets to grow in front of us over the years.

      Maybe some Ibsen and/or Strindberg roles in London before taking the role to Broadway.

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    25. The first scene had a lot of promise. When Euron said ‘I needed silence’ that was one of my favourite bits of dialogue, almost true to the book yet was created by the show. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there.
      The build up to the Night King being the greatest threat to humanity ever was a let down for many, they could have ‘subverted our expectations’ and had Euron as the main villain as he is in the books. Such wasted potential. A Twyin/Roose love child who grew up to be a black magic dabbling, a hallucinogenic drug taking, lovecraftian Viking with potential Bran like abilities would have been a better villain than the quiet Night King.
      The Kingsmoot is one of the best chapters in the book series and the show writers really messed that up. They didn’t even bother with banners from other Ironborn houses, beside that they completely missed the point of the Kingsmoot chapter and turned it into a Hillary vs Trump debate.
      Euron became a mary sue (or is it gary stew?) who was only there to give Cersei a fighting chance – add that to the whole “you don’t want to be queen of the ashes” bollocks just points to lazy lazy writing. Book Euron has a lot going for him, but it is the way he maneuvers around obstacles that makes him even more intriguing. For example, Aeron forcing a Kingsmoot to prevent Euron from taking the throne, or the Ironborn insisting on raiding Westeros when Euron has far bigger plans.

      That said, Pilou is a good actor, his choice of making Euron a sort of Jack Sparrow/football hooligan wasn’t very good. He was also not helped at all by the terrible writing we have been used to now since bits of s5.

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    26. I absolutely adore Pilou, and appreciated his candor recently when discussing how he had wished his character brought the darkness and supernatural aspects of the book Euron. My favourite scenes, on the bridge with Balon, and crashing down out of nowhere to begin the fantastic ship battle with the Greyjoys and dispatch the Snark Snakes. I actually liked his warped humour, and liked that he refused to close his eyes and die as he was directed by Miguel (lol), and instead look up to the sky and seem darn near pleased about the whole state of affairs.

      Pilou is an absolute blast on social media, extremely self-deprecating and funny, and always gives props to his co-stars. He and Nikolaj have known each other for ages.

      Thanks for your 2 good hands, Euron, even if they did take down my favourite dragon!!!

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    27. Really not keen on the character, one of my least favourite from show and books. Wish Pilou well with his next project however as it’s nit his fault.

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