The Ironborn, the Iron Islands & Game of Thrones Season 5

By Irene Enlow on Nov 13, 2014 to Game of Thrones

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Winter is coming, but the Ironborn storyline may not be—at least anytime soon. As the long wait between Game of Thrones seasons stretches into the cold months before Spring, fans find solace wherever they can— reading the series that inspired it all, re-watching past episodes, or dissecting on-set photos that give viewers an amuse-boucheof what is to come.

In the past few weeks, those who have indulged in the spoiler-rich feast of leaked pictures have seen that Season 5 seems to have a heavy focus on Dorne and Mereen. Already, changes from the book series can be seen in the upcoming season, from Tyrion’s rendezvous with Daenerys to Jaime’s unexpected visit to Dorne. With a season filled with new countries to explore and opportunities for fan-favorites to interact, noticeably absent from the exciting onslaught of news is the Ironborn. It has become apparent that the majority of the Greyjoys may be excluded from Season Five altogether, and this was confirmed when Entertainment Weekly announced that the Iron Islands plot had been cut from the season. While many who watch the show believe the Greyjoys to be minor characters, those familiar with the fourth and fifth books of A Song of Ice and Fire are aware that the house has a compelling storyline that introduces unique elements to the plot which have hence been unexplored.

[Warning possible spoilers ahead!]

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While the show has focused on Theon Greyjoy’s trials and tribulations, it has so far paid little attention to the plotlines taking place at Pyke. In the books, after Theon’s capture by the Bastard of Bolton, his sister does not go to save her brother as she does in the show. Instead, Asha (or Yara) becomes caught up in the aftermath of her father’s death, in which she and a multitude of other Ironborn compete for rule of the Iron Islands. While many may have an idea how the “game of thrones,” is played in Westeros, the Ironborn do not play by the rules of Kings Landing.

The quest for power between Asha, her bloodthirsty uncle Euron, and her less cunning uncle, Victarion, culminates in a spectacular Ironborn tradition known as a kingsmoot. In a ceremony held amongst the ribs of one of the last greatest sea dragons, candidates vie for favor by offering gifts and rousing speeches, hoping in the end to secure a majority vote and gain the title of Iron King. Without giving too much away, readers of A Song of Ice and Fire often agree that the kingsmoot is one of the highlights of A Feast for Crows—not only is it a spectacular tradition, but the outcome of this particular kingsmoot is one that will act as a catalyst for major events in the following books—from an unexpected reunion to a major battle.

Introduced to the Ironborn as we are in the Season Two—through Theon’s eyes as he returns home– the Iron Islands and its people might seem very grim indeed. Most of our exposure to Pyke is negative, Balon has few qualities to admire, and we hardly get enough time with Yara to learn to love her confidence and glib charm. The Greyjoy bannermen seem cold and distant, and, we learn in the end, not entirely loyal. Ultimately, Pyke and its people are the influences that lead Theon to his betrayal of Robb Stark, and thus we view them with resentment.

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As the show moves on, most viewers are happy to also move away from the cold grey islands to warmer weather and more sympathetic characters. However, those who read the books get a much more realistic view of the Ironborn as the series continues. Like all the characters of Game of Thrones, most of the Greyjoys and the Ironborn who follow them are morally grey characters, but they have a fascinating culture, which in turn breeds fascinating characters. Those who do not know the full plot of the Ironborn are sorely missing out.

Season five of Game of Thrones purports to be following along the same time-line as Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons. This being the case, the choice of the show’s writers to exclude major plotlines that happen within these books is puzzling. Although multiple Greyjoys have point-of-view chapters and exciting plotlines in the books, the show seems hardly interested in the Ironborn or their adventures.  It is difficult to tell if David Benioff and D.B. Weiss plan to push the Ironborn storyline into future seasons, or simply abandon it altogether, but those who watch the show will miss out greatly if they never witness the kingsmoot, Euron’s conquests, or Asha’s battle with Stannis at Deepwood Motte. Fans of Westeros and its people will be in for a treat, when and if the Ironborn plotline is ever given the spotlight it deserves. As things are looking now, though, it seems the Greyjoys’ words are more “We Do Not Show” than “We Do Not Sow.”

We’ll find out for sure what happens in Game of Thrones season 5 when it airs in spring of next year.

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<<>> <<>> <<>> The Greyjoys can’t be removed completely — they can be postponed until Book/Season 6, maybe, but two or three plotlines exist which will prove crucial to the family. (a) Half-mad sorcerous Euron, who has ventured across the exotic seas and sampled men and magicks from half a hundred civilizations, brings the dragon-charming horn into the plot, and a heavy hint that he has greenseer-dreams rather like Bran’s, and may be the “anti-Bran” setting up for the final battle. I always envision Euron Greyjoy like Top Dollar from The Crow — full of swagger and degeneracy, but clearly… Read more »
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