The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8.
In the history of Game of Thrones, only two people are known to have pulled off the near-impossible task of killing a dragon.
One was an icy blue manifestation of death itself, set on ending the world and any record of it ever existing. The other is a dingy pirate cosplayer who doesn’t realize that his shirt has top buttons and whose entire modus operandi is to bang the queen.
Yes, in Game of Thrones season 8, episode 4 “The Last of the Starks,” Euron Greyjoy kills a freaking dragon. Euron Greyjoy. Winner of the Kingsmoot on Pyke. Theon’s uncle. Dumb Jack Sparrow. That guy. He takes down Rhaegal with a handful of scorpion bolts.
The killing of one of Dany’s precious children is a notable villainous achievement that should be doled out to only the most cunning and powerful of Westeros’s baddies. But here we stand with Euron Greyjoy: Dragonkiller. Sure, it’s not unlike Game of Thrones to subvert our expectations. It did so just last week with Arya unexpectedly being the one to take down the Night King. There’s a problem with Euron Greyjoy being the one to take down Rhaegal. And that problem is that Euron Greyjoy really sucks.
It’s certainly not actor Pilou Asbæk’s fault. In fact, his was a fairly ingenious bit of casting. Asbæk’s shocking resemblance to Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) is downright spooky. It’s arguably not even the writers’ fault for producing a character so dull as Euron is one of the clearest casualties of the show surpassing the books in plot.
Euron Greyjoy is introduced in season 6 just shortly after where he’s introduced in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, book four: A Feast for Crows. Euron is introduced in a similarly intriguing fashion to his book counterpart. While it’s implied that Euron has returned from the East to kill his brother, Balon, and take his crown, that fact is made explicit in the show. The storytelling possibilities that Euron presents are endless. He is a mysterious figure who is now suddenly in charge of the Ironborn, a well known and intriguing faction in the story’s universe.
But then, Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff simply ran out of time. The story and the world was already too vast to incorporate another major character. When season 7 rolls around, Euron undergoes a makeover. No longer a mysterious Eastern presence, he’s a character that better fits into the final seasons’ Cersei-centric plot…and a far more boring character.
This Euron is little more than a self-promoting pirate. As he states, over and over and over again, he’s really just in this for the booty: the queen’s booty. Becoming Cersei’s king is certainly an ambitious goal but in practice all it really makes him is a common sellsword. He has some ships, Cersei needs some ships, so they strike a deal. He’s a solution to a problem more than he is a character.
The frustrating thing is that Euron Greyjoy needn’t have been the answer to that problem at all. If it’s ships and men that Cersei needed, she could have found it just as easily with the Golden Company of the Free Cities. In fact, she did just that. Cersei hired the services of Harry Strickland and the Golden Company in season 8’s first episode…and then they’ve never appeared onscreen again. The role of “lead sellsword” is filled in a de facto capacity by Euron. And it’s a waste for a character who received such an intriguing introduction and who bears a surname that has been very important to the story.
It’s a particular shame too because the Euron Greyjoy of the book series may just be the story’s most compelling villain. That’s right. The A Song of Ice and Fire series features villains like Joffrey Baratheon, Cersei Lannister, The Mountain, and Ramsay Bolton but it’s Euron “Crow’s Eye” Greyjoy who may be the worst of them all. There is something supernaturally evil about the books’ Euron. He was exiled to Essos for raping his brother’s wife. And in his eastern travels he embraced all manner of dark magic.
The Euron Greyjoy who returns to the Iron Islands following Balon’s death displays a much more refined level of cruelty and evil than the already violent bully who left it. Characters like Joffrey, Ramsay, and The Mountain are depressingly human in their evil. They are selfish, cruel creatures because they are unerringly human and selfish. Euron seems to view evil as almost a higher celestial calling.
Euron’s crimes against humanity are otherworldly in their brutality and calculated cruelty. He has killed no fewer than three of his brothers. It’s implied that he sexually assaulted another of his brothers in their youth, to assert his dominance. He drinks the hallucinatory shade of the evening to see prophecies of the future. He consorts with warlocks and witches of many Eastern religions. He uses the Ironborn he leads as pawns towards a greater goal of conquering the world. And not for nothing: he also wears an eye patch.
In fact, Euron Greyjoy might have more in common with The Night King than any of his human villain counterparts. His goals seem deeper than the game of thrones the nobles play. He seems to fancy himself as something more than human. As he tells his Drowned Priest brother, Aeron: “Godless? Why, Aeron, I am the godliest man ever to raise sail! You serve one god, Damphair, but I have served ten thousand. From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray.”
Though he might object to the concept’s very existence, George R.R. Martin is excellent at depicting evil in its many forms. Euron Greyjoy is a terrifying, special kind of evil. And it’s a terrifying, special kind of evil that the show flat out ran out of time, budget, and energy to depict. The Euron Greyjoy we got was far different from the Euron Greyjoy the story deserves. This Euron can kill all the dragons he wants, he’s still no “Crow’s Eye.”