The man who made the biggest waves (pun absolutely intended) in Game of Thrones season 7 episode 1 wasn’t Jon Snow, Littlefinger, or even The Hound but someone we’d almost forgotten about: Euron Greyjoy. The bonkers boatman turned Westerosi fashion icon has certainly turned a corner since we last saw him, so much so that he’s gone from a pretender to Game of Thrones season 7’s very own Negan (from The Walking Dead) in one fell swoop.
To fully appreciate the transformation, we have to go back to Euron’s genesis. Theon and Yara’s uncle popped back up on the Iron Islands after for some time away and, if you’re not a book lover, you’d be forgiven for thinking who the hell is he and why should I care? For the most part, season 6 did little to calm those burning questions, especially as geographically the Greyjoy’s ancestral home is so far away from the action, but now Euron’s in the big time, and he’s not going away quietly.
With Joffrey and Ramsay shuffling off their mortal coils and the White Walkers still a little abstract for my tastes in terms of character, it’s left to Euron to carry the big villainous ball (it probably comes with skull and crossbones) and run with it. Where Joffrey was all scheming and pantomimery, and Ramsay was as mad as a box of frogs, you get the distinct impression that Euron is the evolution of the Thrones villain that Westeros has moulded. The world has no place for hot-headedness or immature grudges; Euron is cool and calculated, and he knows exactly how to get what he wants. You can’t exactly imagine Ramsay waltzing in to King’s Landing or, for that matter, Joffrey bending the knee to his demands. It’s a brave new world, and Euron is the perfect guy to navigate its stormy waters.
He’s the villain that, unlike the Lannisters or Littlefinger, you’re secretly cheering on from the side-lines. That makes him a rare breed among the remaining Thrones players: a genuine baddie in the style of theatrical archetypes, who you show up to boo light-heartedly from the crowd. It really is startling how the showrunners took this long to mould Euron… but mould him they have. He stole the show in the premiere, his makeover making the floors of King’s Landing look like Euron’s own personal catwalk. The catalyst for the Iron Islands insurrection may not own much yet, but he’s certainly grabbing the attention in all the right way.
While many others are, as shown by the opening episode, methodically moving towards their next big set-piece, Euron has no set path to go down. He’s a wildcard, as shown by his complete disrespect of Cersei in her own throne room, and it’s unclear just what he’ll do next and where he’s going. He’s even been given a narrative spark by promising Cersei a ‘gift’ which is a much more tantalising, urgent prospect than Jon Snow and Sansa side-eyeing each other for a whole scene. I want to see more of Euron precisely because he’s no so unpredictable and propelled onto the political grand stage of the Seven Kingdoms like never before. Sure, he broadly wants to murder his niece and nephew, but the glint in his eye and newfound swagger upon entering King’s Landing hints at something more; something – and someone – with his eyes on the prize: the Iron Throne.
What could come next for Euron? This being Thrones, he could find his head mounted firmly on a pike by next week, but the gift gives him some storyline shielding for the time being. Because he’s now too intimately intermingled with the branching storylines – plus, let’s not forget, his own fleet – Euron has the most possibilities of any major character. We know Arya is heading to King’s Landing and that Cersei is on a collision course with Dany and Jon, but what of Euron? The untold possibilities make him terrifyingly exciting, and that’s where the Negan comparisons come in. Apart from carrying the sickliest smirk under the sun, Euron could show up anywhere at any time and cause mayhem.
The joy of Game of Thrones is not knowing what’s around the corner but Euron is looking to provide a constant terror that will run through the penultimate season and, whisper it, possibly into the show’s endgame. His emergence as the next Big Bad, so suddenly, was one of the highlights of the premiere and his continued presence will undoubtedly be one of the reasons to re-watch this season of Thrones over and over again. He’s not Jon, he’s not Jaime and he’s not The Hound – and that’s what makes him so great. There’s no fallen hero with a moral compass here (the show’s been there and done that), we’ve just got Pilou Asbaek malevolently charming it up, and having a terrific time whilst doing so. I can’t wait to see what he does next.