Euron Greyjoy is Game of Thrones' new Night King
I admit I grossly underestimated Euron Greyjoy. Ever since he appeared literally out of nowhere to off Yara and Theon's crotchety father by throwing him over a bridge in season six, I had the too-evil-to-be-true pirate king pegged as either a McGuffin or cannon fodder. Surely he had only been introduced to the plot to give one of the heroes a noble kill — Theon perhaps? But here we are, two episodes away from the end of Game of Thrones, and some fans are playing devil's advocate by suggesting he should be king of Westeros.
While I respect the urge for the Chaos Outcome, I am less impressed by Euron's arrogant and vulgar antics, if only because I think he is the thinnest character on the show since the Night King turned out to be totally inconsequential. Like that speechless and pointless epitome of a vague approaching evil, Euron has no depth. He does at least give a motivation for his misdeeds, though: to sleep with a queen and rule the Seven Kingdoms. Yawn?
Part of what is so frustrating is that many earlier Game of Thrones villains were, by contrast, so complicated you nearly wanted to root for them. Joffrey was spoiled, pampered, and pitiful, a product of his mother's obsessive helicopter parenting; Theon was hopelessly trying to impress his unloving father; the High Sparrow's honeyed words were intoxicatingly powerful; and Stannis Baratheon fell into desperate occultism, becoming his own worst enemy. Tywin Lannister, whose cruel devotion to family legacy was inherited by his daughter, might have been the best former Thrones villain of all.
Thrones' most boring villains are the ones who are bad just for the sake of being bad: The sadistic Ramsay Bolton, the never-explained Night King, the humorless Septa Unella, and yes, Euron, who functions in plot as a kind of less-fun Jack Sparrow. Actor Pilou Asbæk described his character to EW as "100 percent evil" and a "f--king idiot douchebag," but come on — there's nothing to get invested in with any of that (I admit I've been perhaps unfairly down on Asbæk's interpretation of his character since someone suggested Ian McShane as alternate casting).
What we know of Euron in the extremely brief time the show has spent fleshing him out is that he is a mad social climber with a chip on his shoulder because, as he puts it, "I wasn't born to be king" (never mind his noble name, or that all it takes is killing his brother to earn the respect of the Iron Born). He postures to the citizens of the Iron Islands as a fellow everyman who hates the lords of Westeros and words like "galavanting." He has the magical ability to build 1,000 ships in, as far as I can tell, a few months. He knows "the way around a woman's body" (too much information, Cersei). He goes back and forth on if he wants to kill his niece or not. He apparently can't count to nine. None of these characteristics is really much to hold on to when it comes to one of the final villains left standing in a show full of villains. So why Euron?
Well, frankly, there aren't that many options left. Cersei needs someone to be bouncing her thoughts off of in the Red Keep as a way of letting the audience in, and the Mountain isn't much of a conversationalist. While Jaime Lannister had been a perfect complement during her descent into tyranny, conflicted as he was, he is currently busy reaching the end of an eight-season-long redemption arc that had to divorce itself from Cersei's to show there was always another way she could have gone. The mad scientist Qyburn is a great and longstanding character and should have done the job, but he's too old to pair up with Cersei and Game of Thrones seems intent on giving everyone romantic partners ahead of dramatic denouements. As cobbled together as he is on the show, Euron serves a boring but apparently necessary purpose: Giving Cersei a sexy partner in crime.
I just want more from his character, the same way I so badly wanted more from the Night King. There was plenty of source material for him to have turned out differently, too; in the novels, while still uncompromisingly evil, he has a richer backstory, possessing black magic and, allegedly, a dragon-slaying horn. In the haste to wrap up the show, though, deep character writing has gone out the window. It's particularly a shame because, based on where things have been headed, Euron is clearly supposed to be someone television audiences are intimidated and impressed by.
Instead, my reaction to his placement and importance in the series' final two episodes is much the same as when Cersei at last relented to him trying to get into her bedroom: Really? Him?