(Spoiler warning: This post contains plot details from George R.R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire.”)
The execution of Ned Stark started the War of the Five Kings. As of last week’s episode of “Game of Thrones,” all five kings are dead.
First, Renly Baratheon was killed by Melisandre’s shadow child. After that, a Red Wedding and a Purple Wedding took the lives of Robb Stark and Joffrey Lannister. Stannis Baratheon was killed in battle after his troops abandoned him in disgust for sacrificing his daughter. And now, Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands, has been slain by his brother, Euron.
Euron Greyjoy is a character who had been mentioned offhand (Tyrion refers to Balon’s brothers in season 1) but not seen on the TV show until now, but in the book, he has been around for a while. Euron gained a reputation for being one of the most vicious Ironborn warriors ever to sail the western seas of Westeros. When the Greyjoys attempted to seize Westeros shortly after Robert Baratheon took the Iron Throne, Euron hatched a successful plan to destroy the Lannisters’ immense naval fleet.
His success was short-lived, however. According to George R.R. Martin‘s books, Euron was caught seducing the wife of his brother, Victarion. To prevent bloodshed between his siblings, Balon exiled Euron and ordered him to never return as long as Balon lived.
Greyjoys are known for “paying the iron price,” or claiming the valuables of those they kill in battle as their own. Pirates do that too, so Euron spent his exile as a bloodthirsty privateer. Legends spread that Euron became so insane at sea that his men tied him to a mast during a storm to keep him from going overboard. Euron confirmed this tale to Balon during his debut last week, adding that he is not only not afraid of the storm…he is the storm.
In the books, we are never actually shown a scene where Euron throws Balon off a bridge like he does in the TV show. We are told that Balon fell from a bridge and that Euron returned a day after Balon’s death. Some speculate that Euron did indeed kill his brother, but it is never confirmed as Euron executes anyone who dares question his reign.
So now that Euron is the new King of the Iron Islands, what can we expect from him in the rest of this season? In the books, Euron declares that he has the ability to control dragons, and once he gets his hands on them, he will do what Balon couldn’t and take over Westeros. To that end, he reconciles with Victarion and asks him to sail out to find Daenerys and her dragons and bring them to the Iron Islands. Only time will tell if Euron’s arrival means even more bad news for the Targaryen queen, but it definitely doesn’t bode well for Euron’s niece, Yara. She had been planning to rule House Greyjoy for some time and had Balon’s blessing. But once Euron discovers what Balon’s plans were for the throne, he may start hatching plans to kill another member of his family.
Without spoiling anything, it doesn’t seem likely that Euron’s arc will follow the books too closely here, as there’s not enough time left on the show for the Ironborn to enter the fray as a full new faction in the game of thrones.