“We do not sow”
Paraphrasing Olenna Tyrell, those are words that strike fear in the heart, because violence is implicit in them. These aren’t farmers who work the fields nor traders who will come to negotiate with you. When the Ironborn arrive to some place, it is to take everything they can by force, and any payment from them won’t be in gold.
They were a force to be reckoned with in the old days, but times have changed and they are now considered to be more of a pest, preying on the weak because they know they stand no chance against the well-defended castles from other noble houses.
And though the Iron Fleet still lives up to its reputation, the Greyjoys are considered to be untrustworthy and as treacherous as the Freys, turning on their former friends as soon as it’s more convenient to do so.
In the books, the Greyjoy family is considerably big. Theon and Asha have many named relatives, but only two of their uncles made it to the show: Euron and Aeron (Michael Feast was Aeron Greyjoy, but his role was really limited, appearing in only two episodes of Season 6). Victarion Greyjoy was cut, and a number of other Ironborn that were axed too in favor of a tighter story without many diversions (with the show being already big as it is).
As is natural with screen adaptations, not all characters can receive the same attention, and therefore the presence of House Greyjoy has been small for the most part -but no less important. As we reach the final season of Game of Thrones, they have made a comeback and their paths are now intertwined with those of the main characters. Our heroes will be fighting for the fate humankind, but the Greyjoys have personal scores to settle.
Will Euron be getting his just desserts? Will Yara escape imprisonment? Is Theon worthy of redemption? I’ll be making educated guesses of what’s in store for the three main Greyjoy characters from the TV show.
Despite being generally cool with the changes (both in terms of appearance and personality) plenty of characters have experienced in the transition from text to screen, I must admit my initial reaction to Pilou Asbæk’s Euron was lukewarm. I found myself missing the book version, a dark, menacing presence with a distinct look (which admittedly would be difficult to nail in a screen adaptation, considering he wears an eye-patch like a pirate and has blue lips).
Euron’s “rock star” looks and his insolent, devil-may-care attitude were a jolt to my system, and it took me a while to get used to it. But discussing the character with other people helped a great deal: I realized that we already had our fair share of “intimidating, serious” villains, such as Tywin Lannister or Roose Bolton, or even psychopaths like Ramsay or Karl Tanner. So Euron brings with him much-needed freshness instead of more of the same.
It was then that I embraced this new version of the character and really started to enjoy Asbæk’s performance. He may be brash, and even a bit clownish, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous.
Some other aspects remain controversial for a lot of fans, such as the way he easily dispatched two of the Sand Snakes or how his fleet seems to magically materialize wherever it’s convenient for it to do so, or the way he seemingly flees upon sight of the wight, when in reality it was a plan to covertly go fetch the Golden Company (even if neither him nor Cersei had any idea of what Dany’s crew would bring with them) – and that’s fair, not everything has to work for everyone. I’m honestly fine with it, considering the story is ramping up its pace as it moves towards the endgame. The intensity compensates for some of the necessary sacrifices of logistics.
With only six episodes left, one wonders how is Euron going to fit in the final stretch of the narrative. There are already two major villains, those being Cersei and the Night King, so the captain of the Silence has to be the one who draws the short straw.
He’ll most likely succeed in bringing the Golden Company from Essos (because why tease it otherwise?) but what then? I see three possible outcomes.
–Euron dies as a result of the war: Maybe the least satisfactory of all the possibilities, and therefore the one I don’t really see happening, but the show is no stranger to delivering underwhelming ends for some of its characters. Osha anyone? I’d add Jojen Reed and The Waif too. I was ok with the way Barristan Selmy and Stannis Baratheon died, but I know some fans are still mad about those.
Euron made short work of Obara and Nymeria Sand, but without Valyrian steel or dragonglass at his disposal, would he be able to deal with an army of wights? He could very well fall victim to the one thing he allegedly fears, and should he become a wight, he would be a rather dangerous one with that big axe of his. “What is dead may never die”, after all.
–Euron is killed by Jaime Lannister: It was all fun and games when they were working in the same side, so to speak, but now that Jaime has jumped ship (and I assume he’ll stay in Dany’s camp), those jokes could come back to bite Euron in the ass.
Sure, Jaime’s fighting ability is compromised by his lack of one hand (perhaps he should’ve gone the Ash Williams route and had his sword adapted in place of his right hand instead of trying to learn how to fight with the left?), but I very much doubt he’d pass on the opportunity to get even with the guy who kept taunting him about sharing a bed with Cersei.
Now to be fair, and judging by his performance with the Dornish guard and the Dothraki rider, Jaime wouldn’t stand a chance in a fair fight. But neither of these hypothetical fighters are opposed to a dirty fight and if Jaime finds a way to put Euron at a disadvantage, he could win. The “Kingslayer” name would be relevant once more, but this time he probably won’t be too bothered by it.
–Euron is killed by Yara Greyjoy: Euron rose to power after slaying his brother and former ruler of the Iron Islands, Balon Greyjoy. So it’s only fair that he gets paid back in the same coin.
Yara is currently his prisoner, as she wasn’t part of the gift he brought for Cersei.
Where he’s keeping her is anyone’s guess, however. She could be trapped inside the Silence or in a dungeon back at Pyke, for all we know. You’d think that in either case Theon would need more than a ragtag band of Ironborn, but as we saw back in Season 4, it didn’t take much for Yara to infiltrate the Dreadfort- and would’ve succeeded had Theon’s “Reek persona” not kicked in at the wrong time.
Whichever the means of her release are, and presuming she’s in good shape despite the time in captivity, a rematch with her uncle could be in order. I think there’s a good chance Euron will get more from his niece than he bargained for -and not a kiss, exactly.
Theon’s problems started the moment he decided to betray Robb Stark.
It’s hard to say what could’ve happened if that didn’t happen. Theon could’ve died at the Twins along with most of Robb’s bannermen during the Red Wedding, or at some other point during the war campaign against the Lannisters. But it’s just as likely that Ramsay would’ve had a harder time trying to take Winterfell (if at all), considering the Ironborn practically delivered the castle on a silver platter.
That Robb himself contributed to Theon’s confusion about his sense of belonging, is also true. He didn’t help matters by telling him things in the line of “Why do you even care? You don’t belong to House Stark anyway”. And sending him to Pyke to treat with his father was a grievous mistake and yet one more example of how he should’ve listened to his mother’s advice.
Theon grew up at Winterfell, and he was treated fairly, but he wasn’t one of the Starks. He was an outsider, like Jon Snow, who had the status of a bastard.
When traveling to Pyke, Theon was at his cockiest self, styling himself as the favorite son who’s coming home at long last. Expecting to be received with much fanfare, he soon finds his hopes utterly dashed when he realizes no one knows him or gives a fig about him. His sister initially toys with him and Balon pretty much burns his self-esteem to the ground.
So he finds himself absolutely alienated: he already knew he didn’t really belong to the North, and then it turns out he’s not a real Ironborn either. His father didn’t miss him, doesn’t love him and doesn’t need him. Yara was firmly in the position he could’ve had in another life, had he not been uprooted by Ned Stark.
The betrayal certainly wasn’t arbitrary, nor did it happen with benefit for the Ironborn in mind. It was an attempt to prove everyone that he wasn’t useless, to get a modicum of respect from his fellow Ironborn and maybe some appreciation from his father. The gamble didn’t pay off as expected, and he not only burned the bridges with his adoptive family, but was also met with scorn from mostly everyone else as a result of his actions, for which he pays dearly after Ramsay Snow takes Winterfell.
Similar to how Jaime undergoes a transformation after losing his hand, Theon becomes someone else after enduring much torment at the hands of the bastard of Bolton. A pathetic, broken creature who, even after managing to escape from his cruel master, is struggling mightily to go back to his former self.
Jon Snow helped to put him back in his feet in the Season 7 finale. With the words “You are a Greyjoy, and you’re a Stark,” he made Theon realize that he doesn’t need to pick a family, and that he’s about to lose the only person who still cares about him. No one will help him, it’s up to him to rescue Yara. And so, with some of his crushing guilt lifted with Jon’s forgiveness, he gathers the courage to put the remaining Ironborn in line and convince them to go rescue their queen. “Not for me. For Yara”.
I’m guessing she’s imprisoned in Euron’s ship, because he’d most certainly want to keep her close, as opposed to relying on underlings and risking something going wrong with him not being around. And clearly the screenwriters still have plans for her, or else she would be already dead instead of being something for Euron to taunt his enemies with.
For Theon and experienced Ironborn, sneaking inside the Silence and taking any guards down shouldn’t be too difficult. Yara’s fleet was previously taken off-guard, since no one was expecting a battle in what should’ve been an uneventful travel to Dorne. This time, they would have the element of surprise.
I’m not expecting things to go so smoothly, though. Surely they’re going to get caught, either during the operation or after rescuing Yara. This could be the way Theon dies, sacrificing his life to ensure his sister’s escape, unless they come up with another distraction (like setting the ship on fire? Because I have a hard time thinking Yara would allow Theon to stay behind).
It’s possible they both will make it, but if this rescue mission is bound to be the end of Theon’s story, I’d be satisfied with it. What better way to go out than saving a loved one?
It’s the kind of death that hits the hardest, because it’s a noble and selfless action. Though Theon may not seem like the kind of person to deserve redemption or forgiveness after all his wrong deeds, I’d say he’s earned at least a brief moment to shine.
As with many other elements from the show, I remember the controversy over the decision to change Asha Greyjoy’s name, so people wouldn’t confuse her with the wildling Osha. And though for many fans it may seem ridiculous, there are countless people who do have problems keeping up with all the character names, so it was indeed the right call to make.
The show character doesn’t exactly follow the storyline from the books, and there are some minor physical differences too (such as Asha having short black hair, whereas actress Gemma Whelan’s is long and brown), but other than that, I think the portrayal is rather faithful in terms of characterization and actions.
One of the changes I appreciated was to make Yara bisexual, as opposed to the heterosexual version from the novels. There’s a scarcity of characters with different sexual orientations not only in Game of Thrones, but in fiction in general. So I’m all for inclusion, which also makes the show’s universe more rich and varied. As Gemma herself says, “get the job done with whatever if fun and interesting”.
During the earlier seasons, Yara’s appearances were brief, and though she did make an impression, it wasn’t until Season 6 that her role got more juicy. Euron snatched the Salt Throne from her, so she decided to join Dany’s crew and offer her fleet, asking only for the dragon queen’s help in return. Of course, things went south rather quickly and Yara has been left to her fate, since there’s no time and no resources to spare. Not when the true enemy is already invading Westeros.
I am of the opinion that Yara will be one of the few characters to have good fortune in the wars to come, and survive to see the end of the story. Since I don’t think Euron will avoid his comeuppance, and Theon is likely to die as well (apart from not being able to produce any new Greyjoy descendants, as Bronn would put it, “Not without a cock, you don’t”), the future of House Greyjoy rests solely in Yara.
In a post-war scenario, she could bring real change to the Iron Islands, as she has already demonstrated being progressive enough to look past the old ways, by promising Dany that there wouldn’t be any more reaving, raiding or raping. By having a strong relation with the Iron Throne, the Ironborn would surely have a bright future to look forward to, instead of remaining isolated and hated by most people.
Some could argue that the Iron Islanders would be giving up their identity and way of life, but traditions based on the abuse and killing of other people should have no place in any civilized world, and Yara understands that the alternative would be the annihilation of her people. A lesson the Great Masters of Meereen learned the hard way.
I can see Yara’s Iron Fleet becoming Dany’s naval force, protecting the realm from any enemy that would attempt an attack similar to the one Stannis tried to do in the Battle of the Blackwater, or (ironically enough) from foreign invaders.
Of course, this being Game of Thrones, I shouldn’t be surprised if Theon ends up finding just the head of Yara. Depressing outcomes are never off the table, but I’m choosing to remain optimistic about the Lady Reaper of Pyke. Hopefully that won’t blow up in my face like it happened with Hodor and Rickon (and poor, poor Shaggydog).
I gave much thought to these predictions, and I’m feeling safe about them, but of course, the screenwriters could have something really different in mind. That’s what makes all the theorizing a lot of fun: I’d be happy if things go more or less the way I imagine, but I also enjoy when Game of Thrones throws us curveballs. Some years ago I wouldn’t have been able to guess how Ser Barristan Selmy would die or that the Night King would end up with an undead dragon mount.
The Greyjoys may be a tad underappreciated in comparison to the obvious fan favorites like the Starks or the Lannisters, but I don’t think they’re underused. We’ve gotten just the necessary dosages to know about them and to be invested in their stories, until the moment came for them to be in the spotlight. And not only are they fascinating in terms of writing, but are also helped by some really good performances by the actors and memorable sequences (I for one never imagined we’d get a naval battle as brutal and well staged as the one we got).
I’m eagerly awaiting more from them in the final season of the series- and who knows, perhaps House Greyjoy will be present in the prequel series, too!