I really can’t remember the last time I hated a character this much. We’re only two episodes into Game of Thrones’ seventh season, and already Euron Greyjoy is whipping up my ire to the point of distraction. I knew this would happen. He was annoying last season, when he turned up out of nowhere in the black of night on the Iron Islands and threw his brother off a bridge. Balon was a knob, make no mistake about it, but a knob throwing another knob off a bridge does not a lesser knob make.
Before I go any further I should add that none of this (very mature, considered) rant is aimed at the man who portrays Euron. Pilou Asbæk is a damn good actor. He was great in the political TV drama Borgen, as well as in the tense thriller A Hijacking. No, this is not about Pilou. This is about Euron.
Euron and his super stealth flame cannon ships that appear magically—like Ramsay Bolton and his ‘twenty good men’ in the midst of a heavily fortified encampment—next to a fleet of elite ships manned by the most experienced sailors in the world, right next to the target that they are seeking.
Euron and his, we are to assume, magical storm-bringing abilities, which allow his fleet to sneak up like so, and that are alluded to by just two things (in the TV show anyway; I am not a book reader, though I do know of some of the Euron/Victarion stuff):
1) His grand rope-bridge pronouncement of, ‘I am the storm. The first storm and the last,’ to his brother, just before he flings him onto the distant rocks below.
2) The sudden thunder and lightning that appears without warning just as his fleet ambushes Yara’s—who, presumably, sail the seas knowing that Euron is out there somewhere, driven wild by bloodlust, without any scout ships or lookouts. Well, I guess maybe Euron’s ninja ships took out the scouts under cover of magic-storm.
Euron had the best and fastest ships of his fleet stolen by Yara and Theon. Then he built many times more that amount, using resources that we cannot possibly believe that the Iron Islands have. Others have talked about this already. I am far from the first person to point out some of the iffyness behind this hullaballoo, and at the risk of descending into a discussion of which of Scratchy’s ribs Itchy played on the xylophone, here’s Reddit user Roflcopter_Rego:
An ocean going vessel of similar scale to the ones shown would take a European shipyard of the 13th-17th century around 1 year to build. Assuming that they cut corners here and there, and giving some allowances for scale, perhaps a yard could do 2 ships a year. Let’s just double that, because why not, and call it 4 ships per year per yard. Let’s say Euron is bullshitting, and his 1000 ships is only 500 ships. Let’s also say it was a whole year, which is probably a good deal longer than when the order was actually given.
Even being as generous as we can possibly be, the Iron Islands would need to have some 120 shipyards to be able to build a fleet in that time, let alone the lack of resources. That is more shipyards than any pre-industrialised European power has ever had, even in the later Modern Era. Realistically, the Iron islands shouldn’t be able to support more than a dozen shipyards - these things are labour intensive and require specific skills, resources and infrastructure, especially before industrialisation. Just the timber required - not only what they’re made of, but the fuel required to heat and bend the planks, to transport the materials, to get the support, to replace tools, to build storage sheds…
It’s not possible. It would take a decade, at the very least.
Then the manpower - 500 ships is at least 10,000 men, but probably closer to 30,000. This would be around the size of the Lannister or Tyrell forces - the largest in Westeros - at peak size.
Here’s the thing: I am not usually one for nitty gritty in my entertainment. I don’t need everything to be super accurate or tallied properly in a work of fiction lest it tar my enjoyment. That’s an accountant’s truth, and it’s a secondary concern when it comes to stories. They should resonate emotionally, first and foremost, and they should make sense from a dramatic perspective. The rest, the details, is good if it serves the story and the drama; if it doesn’t all exactly tally up at the same time, well, that’s easily forgivable. In other words, they might be a nice addition, but the best parts of ‘The Iliad’ are emphatically not the passages that feature the painstaking recollection of the number of black ships brought to war by each side.
All that is to say: Yes, Euron’s inexplicable ship-building, fleet-locating, sea-sneaking ways are annoying as fuck; but it’s his unearned appearance in the story at all at this crucial juncture that is what jars the most. His methods wouldn’t need to entirely make sense if he made sense. But heading into the final two seasons of the show, where the ultimate showdown between night and day is looming and in which all the players who may or may not ending up having a part to play in this apocalyptic battle are lining up to take sides—if they even believe if it is coming at all, that is—here, the sudden slotting in of an additional antagonist does not work. As TV show viewers we knew basically nothing of Euron before he appeared. And then in no time there he was: A colossal threat and major player on a board he had no business being on. He’s an artificial speed bump thrown into the path of a plot that has no room for him.
And I hate him and his stupid plot-convenient face (again, sorry, Pilou, nowt against you, mate).
Game of Thrones has this power, more than probably any other show. It can make you hate like it’s personal.
But there is a crucial distinction to be made here.
We hated Joffrey. We hated the Red Wedding. We hated Ramsay Bolton. But the crucial thing is that that hate was earned; it arose naturally and (mostly anyway, some of Ramsay’s antics excluded) logically from the characters, their backstories and motivations, and the progression of the story. We hated those characters. The hate I have for Euron is not actually directed at him; it’s ire aimed at the writers. It’s not a cry of, ‘Argh! Joffrey, how could you?! What villainy!’ It’s a side-eye reserved for Benioff and Weiss. Stop padding. You’re taking me out of the story, I can see the gears behind the curtain turning. And no amount of pirate snarling or Queen-seducing chameleonic character behavior is gonna distract me from that.
At least he got rid of some the Sand Snakes I guess.