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Analysis

The Ironboors are made of Salt and Snores

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There’s nothing more fandomental around here than the continuing dissection of Game of Thrones, the Emmy-winning masterpiece that has graced our screens for six years. And once again, Kylie and Julia have fused into Julie for their *fourth* plotline-specific retrospective about the most recent season.

Here’s the thing about Julie. Sometimes she forms out of mutual excitement, sometimes she forms out of a love of snark. But today, she’s formed out of duty. What happens when showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) try to adapt the plotline from A Song of Ice and Fire that she was already the least enthused about?

Well, let’s just say, salt runs in her veins.

So come along with us and jump into the story that ranges from boring at best, to horrifyingly offensive.

The Players

As always, our nicknames can all be found in the Book Snob Glossary, along with an explanation of our terms. But here’s the down-and-dirty on who you’ll need to know for this retrospective:

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Home is Where the Plot Is

From what we can tell, the ironboor plotline of Season 6 starts in the second episode, “Home”. It opens with Theon, our maybe-protagonist of it (to be clear: we’re still unsure), very helpfully making a fire in the woods, while Brienne the Brute and Sansa discuss Winterhell stuff. We can’t wait to get there!

Theon, however, hears the call of plot-things, and decides to randomly stand up and wander away from the fire. When Sansa (wait, we just remembered that she’s “Fansa” at this point) catches up with him to be all, “the fuck’s your problem?”, Theon warns her that they shouldn’t light fires because of Ramsay. This is actually…reasonable advice. Fansa assures him it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to the Wall and they’ll be safe, but Theon read the script and knows he wants to stay as far away from that plotline as possible.

He then goes on to say that he’s so awful for betraying the Starks, and is therefore going to ditch Fansa in the middle of the woods, but not before saying, and we QUOTE, “I would have taken you all the way to the Wall.”

Theon…you still can, buddy. The Wall is *right* there.

oh whoops, wrong footage?

oh whoops, wrong footage?

But no, he’s instead decided that he’s going to go “home”, because clearly the point of his Season 2 plotline was to prove to us how thoroughly ironboor he is, and not at all that maybe his place is more with the Starks and that’s the meaningful family in his life. That definitely, definitely played no part in his Season 5 plotline either. We love how characterization and development never gets randomly flushed down the toilet on this show.

So he fucks off with one of the horses, but no money as far as we know, and is all “Pyke here I come!” Maybe Brienne told him the way around Moat Cailin.

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Speaking of Pyke, we’re treated to a scene of Balon and Yara screaming at each other, after what we think must have been a very refreshing season-long nap. They’re only now realizing that all of their conquests in the North have disappeared, so that seems the most logical explanation. Balon isn’t too perturbed, especially since he won the War of the Five Kings. Yara tells him that he hasn’t won jack-shit, since they couldn’t hold on to anything. It’s the pirate’s life for her!

Now, we should point out that it’s very tempting to project Asha Greyjoy onto Yara in this scene and assume she is arguing about the futility of the reaving lifestyle, what with her mentions of pine cones (a fun callback for people who read the kingsmoot chapter). She’s not. She loves reaving. She is only throwing pine cones in her father’s face because his castles fell. She doesn’t want to settle the North at all, or do anything but be a swashbuckling lesibian. Maybe it’s because she still hasn’t gotten over her cynophobia, and dogs tend not to like ships.

On the bright side, Gemma Whelan’s voice gives us mild ASMR. She should do audiobooks. Or be given Asha’s lines.

Balon is very bad at debates, and can only manage a lame, “I might have more kids so that you’re not my heir anymore,” even though he’s 100. Mark this down though: Yara the Heir. Then he peaces out so that he can cross a slippery bridge in the middle of a storm. Where is he going?

To be fair, that’s just stupidly macho enough for the real ironborn to do.

But oh no! There’s a hooded figure on the bridge! Does it have a crow on its shoulder!? …No. It’s just some pleasant looking Danish fellow. He calls Balon “brother” despite clearly being half a century younger, so we guess this makes him “Euron.”

Then Euron and Balon stand on the bridge together, vomiting mangled book dialogue, not even attempting to follow conversational pragmatics.

Euron: What is dead may never die. [silence] Has the custom changed since I’ve been gone? Aren’t you supposed to repeat the words?

Balon: You can mock our god without my help.

Euron: I don’t mock the Drowned God. I am the Drowned God. From Oldtown to Qarth, when men see my sails, they pray. You’re old, brother. You’ve had your time. Now let another rule.

Balon: I heard you lost your mind during a storm on the Jade Sea.

If you can’t tell from this well-crafted exchange, the gist is that Euron is scared of storms, but also wants Balon dead. And he’s all the gods! Balon thinks this is stupid, so he pulls out a knife and gives Euron a little scratchy. We’re sure that will be important later.

Then Euron dumps him over the side of the bridge. This is why you don’t fight someone half your age! We’re sad that Balon didn’t get more time to celebrate his victory in the War of the Five Kings.

The ironboors are sad too, or at least Yara is when we cut to Balon’s funeral. Ramin Djawadi sounds sad too.

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🙁

However, this rando Priesty McBeardFace is rather bemused by her promises to find the man responsible for Balon’s death and feed him to the sharks. This could be because there’s no sharks by the Iron Islands, or maybe it’s because (from what we can tell) this dude is just the bartender at the local tavern in Northern Ireland where these scenes were filmed. Perhaps it’s unfair of us to expect excellent acting from everyone, but this guy is just… Priesty McBeardFace.

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Can we help you?

He tells Yara that “the law is clear” and she can’t be queen, even though two scenes ago the KING was saying she was his heir.

Priesty McBeardFace: The Salt Throne is not yours to swear upon, not unless the kingsmoot chooses you.

Yara: My father would have wanted me to rule.

Priesty McBeardFace: Your father does not get to choose. The law is clear.

Wait, does that mean everyone calling Theon the heir in the past few seasons were being idiots too?

Also, the “Salt Throne”. We just have to put that out there.

Yara’s Moot Appeal

Theon’s on a boat! Don’t even bother asking for the details of where he found this boat, how he paid for the trip, and why anyone is traveling to the Iron Islands in the first place. And if he did have money to secure a passage, how did he not swing a bath?

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We’re just saying…

Yara is less pleased at his amazing feat of teleportation (but he can show them all the way around Moat Cailin now!), and instead begins screaming at him for not going with her back in Season 4. Theon, however, outs himself as a Canadian, and keeps apologizing over and over and over. He also points out how he was tortured and broken into “bits”, to which Yara is all, “yeah I know we were sent a piece, but still, fuck you.”

Awww, that sisterly compassion is really warming our hearts.

She then pivots to pin Balon’s death on him because the timing is one hell of a coincidence (Theon is playing book!Euron now?), and we’re not sure if this is why she was yelling at him from the start, or if she really does blame him for his own victimization and her fear of dogs. He continues to sob and apologize, and she continues to scream in his face for daring to show emotion. This is comfortable. We love when abuse survivors are treated this way.

Finally, he spits out that he really wants to help Yara rule. Uh…why? No really, what is this screaming asshole to him? Wouldn’t it be more in-line with the past FIVE seasons of development for him to say, go north with Fansa and support her claim to the North? Like, we’ve given up on his book plot at this point, but at least have something somewhat coherent here.

Yara thinks this is dandy. They hug, and we’re overwhelmed with this strong sibling bond.

Just as much impact as his hug with Sansa, sure...

Just as much impact as his hug with Sansa, sure…

Which then takes us to…the saltmoot! The ancient ironboor ritual which was totally the law the whole time.

Apparently, it consists of twenty randos standing on a cliff-face together, looking kind of cold. Priesty McBeardFace is all, “who’s gonna claim the Salt Throne” and we scream for our names to be put in. We swear, salt is in our veins.

So majestic.

So majestic.

No one in this paltry gathering feels like tossing their hat in, and we can’t believe D&D managed this, but we now actually miss Erik Ironmaker.

Finally Yara, totes cas’, is like, “yeah I’ll be your queen. I never read The World of Ice and Fire, so I’m pretty sure we ironboor have done jack-all in history. I’ll fix that by building a very large fleet. Capisce?”

But oh, a Rugged Pirate makes himself heard with some forceful dialogue (very good part), and complains that Yara shouldn’t be making a claim, when Balon’s “own male heir” is standing right there. Okay, so…what’s the law then? Is there the salic law of succession, or is it a damn saltmoot? Will you make up your minds!

There’s a dramatic moment where the camera pans to Theon (with his very nice, new haircut), and we think it’s trying to trick us into thinking that he might claim the Salt Throne for himself. But fear not, he’s a very good feminist, and channels Baatar Jr., demanding that everyone swear loyalty to Yara because she’s the “rightful ruler” and ironboor to the core. Her qualifications include sailing.

This makes the crowd suddenly support her, and we’re so happy that she needed a man to make her case. Oh empowerment.

But it wouldn’t be a real saltmoot if she was running unopposed, so low and behold, a kindly Danish gentleman POPS UP in the middle of the crowd. No seriously, we jump from Yara and Theon exchange touched looks with one another to this:

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His name is Euron the Pooh, and he claims the Salt Throne! His qualifications are that, unlike Yara or Theon, he has a penis. And in case we as the audience, or the twenty dudes, missed the fact that Theon was castrated, he hammers on that point. Twice.

To the show’s credit, we think this is supposed to be commentary on how stupid this patriarchy is, especially when Euron just goes, “oh she won’t build that really nice fleet. I will. It will be tremendous. You won’t believe how good.” But then at the same time he also spends half this scene mocking Theon for using the word “gallivant”.

Theon tries to dispute the things that Euron is saying, but Yara just stands there with this confused look on her face, unable to come up with a single counter-point. Maybe she shouldn’t be queen. Though she does manage to piece two and two together when she’s all, “oh wait, you’re the dude that killed my dad.”

And Euron denies it, saying that he and his crew were off-shore at the time, and that she can ask them herself. She snarks back how they’re all mutes so a lot of good it will do.

JUST KIDDING. Who’d want that? Instead, this Euron shrugs, says “yeah I killed him,” and the dudes standing around the cliff don’t even blink. No really, no reaction to the whole “this is the dude that murdered their king” thing.

Meh.

Euron somehow spins this into part of his platform, because he payed the “iron price” for the throne. We’re quite sure that’s not how the law works, but who knows, since it’s shifting every five minutes. Priesty McBeardFace seems on-board.

Actually everyone does, because suddenly we’re in a montage of the crowd cheering for Euron and Yara and Theon high-tailing it out of there and stealing a large number of ships. We’re glad the loss of toes hasn’t affected Theon’s running speed.

Meanwhile, Priesty McBeardFace drowns Euron, because Euron is a godly man and Priesty loves him, while vomiting out Aeron’s internal monologue from “The Prophet” in what we guess is a coronation blessing.

“May Euron, your servant, be born again from the sea as you were. Bless him with salt. Bless him with stone. Bless him with steel. Listen to the waves. Listen to the god. He is speaking to us and he says we shall have no king but Euron Greyjoy. Let the sea wash your follies and your vanities away. Let the old Euron drown. Let his lungs fill with seawater. Let the fish eat the scales off his eyes. What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.”

Then the ironboors fish Euron out of the water after he sucked in a fair amount, and lay him on the ground, where they all just stare at his body with rapt attention. We have to ask, if this is the procedure for each coronation, how many kings actually survive to rule?

It goes on longer than this…

HE HAS SALTWATER IN HIS LUNGS. SOMEONE DO SOMETHING.

They don’t, but it’s okay, since Euron is magically able to perform CPR on himself. He spits the saltwater up, and as he’s burbling on the ground from his almost-death, Priesty McBeardFace places a crown that looks like popsicle sticks glued together on his head. Dignified.

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And then, Euron says the best line in the history of this Emmy-winning show:

“Where are my niece and nephew? Let’s go murder them.”

This was a really badly organized saltmoot. No one was even keeping an eye on them? But it doesn’t matter, the ironboor are really into this murder idea, so Euron leads them on a MARCH as they go to find them.

Priesty McBeardFace especially loves kinslaying. And might actually be participating in that? We sort of forgot to mention, but every source outside of the show credits this doofus as “Aeron Greyjoy”, you know, the YOUNGEST living brother. We don’t see how this is in evidence in the slightest though, so we’re more than happy to ignore the possibility that this 150 year-old Euron-stan somehow being Damphair.

Oh no, Yara and Theon are already out to sea! There goes their afternoon plans. Euron has something else ready though: he orders the ironboor to “chop down every tree” to build a really good fleet. (No! A wizard should know better!)

So…there’s trees on the Iron Islands now?

Oh Great, We Get to Talk About This

Okay, let’s just get right to it. If you’ve watched “The Broken Man”, you know what we’re crying about.

So, Theon and Yara’s fleet have managed to circumnavigate Weisseroff, since they’re already in Volantis. It’s a hop, skip, and a jump, right?

Yara decides that even though her brother has been sexually assaulted and mutilated, that it’s a good idea to bring him into a Volantine slave-brothel, so he can watch all the rape. Alfie Allen kills it showing Theon being triggered but still trying to hold it together, but we’re too distracted by the fact that he totally could just have stayed on the ships and it would have been fine.

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Yara, paying the gold price (so much for her blood being iron), is enjoying the services of a sex slave on her lap, because why would she have any understanding of positive consent?

Okay, pink elephant in the room: Yara is into chicks on the show. She doesn’t seem to give two levels of shit about their sexual autonomy, since she’s raping a slave, but the point is, at some moment in the writers’ room, the conscious decision was made for Yara to be wlw. Asha, by contrast, is only presented to us as being interested in men.

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We’ve try to steer away from discussing the source material too much, especially this season. But when it’s a clear change like this, and a change that’s not exactly plot-crucial (well, probably not), then it sort of has to justify itself in some way. Of course, queer women don’t need a “reason” to exist, but there must have been a reason why the decision to diverge from the established character of the source material was made.

If the justification is merely, “we should have more representation”, then okay. That’s something we’re actually fans of, generally speaking. We would typically prefer wlw characters to not be rapists, but you know…those exist too. And to be perfectly fair, if there was a character in this super consistent setting of Weisseroff who would have the sexual autonomy to be pursuing same sex relationships, it may very well be a character like Yara, who as Balon’s daughter (and sorta-heir) is in a rather unique social position.

However. There are a few things about this that make us rather uncomfortable. For one, despite the fact that purchasing and using a sex slave is, in fact, rape, the narrative never acknowledges this. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t used to it, but it does deserve attention each time it comes up.

For another, this plays into the pattern of how LGBT characters on Game of Thrones fall into certain stereotypical portrayals. Oberyn and Ellaria, both bisexual, lived in a brothel during their stay in the capital, and came across as hypersexual hedonists. Loras jumped into bed with Olyvar without bothering to mourn Renly, and loved to talk about pretty clothes with Sansa. Alex Graves, director extraordinaire, even called Brienne a “lesbian” because…she has short hair? Or a sword?

So of course the character who eschews femininity in the manner Yara does would be the character who is wlw, while say a character like Nymeria Sand, who in A Song of Ice and Fire is more or less the only confirmed lesbian, was completely ignored in this department. Though frankly, maybe ignoring Nymeria is okay.

Oh Jessica Henwick. How can we help you out of this?

And then there’s the whole voyeuristic aspect of this. Like…what does Yara liking women do at all? Why did she need a sex slave with a nice ass on her lap to have this conversation with Theon? We suppose it’s *possible* that there will be a payoff in terms of the sexual tension between her and Deadpan. (Whoops. Spoiler.) But you know what? After 6 years of this shit, including some of the most egregious queerbaiting we’ve ever seen, we’re not exactly holding our breaths.

And especially, especially after Loras’s entire plotline, we’d like D&D to keep their grubby hands off the representation of marginalized/vulnerable individuals.

This also includes people suffering from PTSD. Which we’re about to explain.

As Yara sucks face with her hired slave, Theon finally gets up the courage to ask if they could, you know, go somewhere else. “Some of us still like it,” she snaps back. He was TORTURED, you shithead!

However, she can see that Theon’s PTSD isn’t just magically disappearing like Sansa’s (maybe she should try onion soup), so she sighs, sends her slave away, and then turns her attention to her bro so she can deal with this annoying inconvenience.

We don’t even know how to be funny here. She tries to joke about his castration, but then says she’s sorry for doing it. “I’ll never hurt you, little brother.” Then she commands him to drink—to chug, really. If he hesitates, she yells him. This seems like classic abuser tactics to us.

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As he is forced to consume alcohol, she says to him, “I know you’ve had some bad years.” Theon tries to protest that, you know, this may be a bit of an understatement, but she tells him that she’s just sick of his shit. His shit that from what we can tell, hasn’t had any negative effect on her other than gaining her support as queen, unless she’s still holding that stupid Dreadfort mission against him. That was your fuck-up. Or maybe she’s just that pissed off that he’s not a party boy.

Then she says the worst line ever:

“I need you. The real Theon Greyjoy, not this rat shit pretender.”

Oh. The PTSD Theon is so fake! Processing trauma makes you not the same person, and if only we could Gateway GoBack so that it doesn’t exist!

She promises justice for him (REVENGE), and then says, “Listen to me. If you’re so broken that there’s no coming back, take a knife and cut your wrists. End it. But if you’re staying, Theon, I need you.”

She tells him about her Deadpan plan, and asks if he’s with her. He looks up from his cup and makes Significant Eye-contact, so we suppose that’s a yes. Then Yara claps him on the back and says that she has a sex slave to rape.

Now, pause. To D&D’s credit (what.), they did tell us in the Outside the Episode interview that an ironboor is unlikely to have a solid understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy. So it’s not as though Yara would have the tools at her disposal to talk through his PTSD in a constructive way. But, like everything else with this goddamn show, there’s a couple of issues.

The first is that this works. Yelling at him and telling him to kill himself was an effective tool to get rid of Theon’s PTSD. We say “get rid of,” not because we feel that anxiety resulting from trauma is something to be swatted away, but because it seems to be how both Yara and D&D feel. To quote David Benioff from that interview:

“It’s a very tough love. Yara’s not a therapist in our sense of the word. She’s not there to tell him to ‘buck up’ and everything’s going to be okay. It’s a pretty brutal kind of therapy, but that’s who they are; they’re essentially a Viking people. There’s not a lot of room for sort of soft and gentle psychology. I think it’s the kind of tough love that Theon needed, at this point, and when he finally raises his eyes and looks into her eyes, we finally see a glimpse of the old Theon that had been lost for so long.”

There’s so much awful here to unpack. Again, they acknowledge that the tactic is “brutal”, but then they go on to praise it as what was “needed”, while also playing into the idea that PTSD makes you different, and you need to go back to the “old” version of yourself.

Someone get these goofs The Legend of Korra, please.

Why was this conversation even needed? Because Theon doesn’t like brothels? The dude just stood up at the saltmoot, declared himself the son of Balon Greyjoy, and made a passionate speech for Yara. What is her fucking problem?

And do we really need to explain how damaging it is for people to watch a show with the message that “tough love” works? It’s okay to tell your traumatized loved ones to commit suicide? We’d say no one listens to shows, but it’s also a little irresponsible to ignore that the guy headed to The White House has said disturbingly similar things about veterans with PTSD.

The other major issue we have with Yara screaming away PTSD, is that it kind of flushes everything Theon went through the past 4 years down the toilet. He’s all better. It’s finished. Now he can commit himself to the ironboor cause (why) and we won’t have to deal with any lasting effect of the Ramsay plotline.

We are not pleased. Especially given that this is the same show that gave us a hug between Theon and Sansa in the season’s opener, and like…that actually meant something? It made us feel things, despite every issue we had with the plot leading up to it. Because sometimes bothering to explore the things that happened to characters and the way they relate to each other as a result, actually leads to investment in said characters. Shocking, we know.

The best that can be said is that Alfie Allen seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the resolution of the scene.

He deserves an Emmy. Seriously.

Alliance of Assholes

It’s what we’ve been waiting for: the big payoff! The ironboor swoop into Simplified Bay with their ships and play a crucial part in turning the tide towards Deadpan as they repel the slavers.

Or that’s what would have happened if D&D understood anything about story-telling.

What actually happened is that we get jarringly dumped into Deadpan’s audience chamber some indeterminate amount of time after the battle. There’s not even a frame of reference so that we can guess. And oh hai, the Greyjoys are there! Yara and Theon are just standing. Boom. No guards or anything to be seen. Grey Worm must have gotten that day off. (He deserves a vacation, damn it!)

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We’ve mentioned this before, we know, but it doesn’t get more organic

And who are they greeted by but Saint Tyrion, who takes this opportunity to lambaste Theon for having made fun of him the last time they met, which was totally in evidence.

This was already an uncomfortable scene for us to sit through back when we were watching the Meereenese plotline straight through, but coming off of the scene in Volantis, our stomachs are roiling. And it also strikes us as strange that this is the moment D&D chose to remind us of what a jerkface Season 1 Theon totally had been, when in Volantis, we were told he had to be his “old” self again, and that this was a really good thing.

We guess this is another example of everything being relative to Saint Tyrion.

Theon just…stands there. And absorbs it. And only offers a vague “this happened a long time ago” as a defense.

The only good news about this is that Deadpan gets sick of hearing Tyrion twist the knife, and is finally like “so about those ships.” No seriously, she cuts him off with a non sequitur because that’s how boring this was getting.

Tyrion: It was complicated for you [Theon], I’m sure, growing up at Winterfell. Never quite knowing who you were. But then, we all live complicated lives, don’t we?

Deadpan: You’ve brought us 100 ships from the Iron Fleet with men to sail them. In return, I expect you want me to support your claim to the throne of the Iron Islands?

Because Theon is as awesome feminist, he immediately points out that it’s Yara’s claim they want Deadpan to support. Tyrion makes fun of him even more for this. And Yara further proves that she never read The World of Ice and Fire by talking about how she’d be the first female ruler of the Iron Islands, just like Deadpan would be for Weisseroff!

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The documentary crew is getting their money’s worth with her!

Actually, to be fair, in The World of Weisseroff there may well have not been a queen regnant. Can you *imagine* someone asserting their sexual agency like that?

Yara and Deadpan bond over their shitty fathers, until D&D decide it’d be really fun to queerbait the audience.

If there is actually a payoff with this, Kylie is going to eat all of her bi-pride flags.

Maybe we’re being unfair. We have already talked about the unfortunate implications inherent with the choice to make Yara wlw. But is it unfair to assume queerbaiting in this scene? To that, we can only say that based on D&D’s pattern of how they’ve written female sexual agency, and how all scenes of female intimacy so far have been tailored to the male gaze (play with her ass!), we would be really, really, really, really surprised if they chose to have Deadpan hook up with a woman. Especially since they scrapped more than one canonical scene of that nature involving Daenerys herself.

We will see. Though we hope you don’t begrudge us being cynical and unmoved by this set-up anyway, especially given how both of these characters are unbelievable assholes.

Deadpan, moved by Yara’s flirtations, thinks it’s a nifty idea to support her claim, even when Tyrion points out that this might be setting a slippery precedent. We’re unsure whether we’re supposed to think highly of Deadpan’s decision in this moment, but we’re also hoping this means there might be Pornish independence on the table. All hail Princess Faullaria!

We’re also unsure whether we’re supposed to think this is a good deal for Yara, since Deadpan tells her that she has to support her claim too, and also “respect the integrity of the Seven Kingdoms.”

Apparently part of what this entails is for the ironboors to give up “raping and reaving.” Yara is gutted. She was very attached to that lifestyle, you see. She’d never want to bring any sort of reform to the Iron Islands unless it was forced on her, and her dad was so dumb for trying to get them land in the North.

What we’re saying is that Yara is Victarion. Including mental fortitude and propensity to rape.

But, she agrees, since she wants to murder her uncle, and then, once Theon tells her it’s okay, the scene ends.

Oh, and they also exist on the ships as Deadpan sails west.

Concluding Thoughts

We have no idea, officially none, what the scene with Deadpan was meant to be in the context of Theon and Yara’s arcs. For Theon, we see him apologize for things he didn’t do (peak Canadian), and take even more of a beating from characters who really should not throw stones in glass houses.

We also see absolutely no effect from the Volantis scene. Why did we need it on our screens at all? We already saw him being assertive and very pro-Yara at the saltmoot, and we *think* that was supposed to be a triumphant moment for him. Or at least a moment of reclaiming his name.

No seriously, we’re getting the sneaking suspicion that the Volantis scene only existed so that we could see Yara make out with another woman, and so that when D&D don’t feel like incorporating Theon’s PTSD into their scripts for Season 7, they have a nifty excuse. Though they didn’t bother even coming up with one for Sansa…

This, of course, has the effect of making his arc a complete mess. Is the crowning moment supposed to be when he supports Yara’s claim, or when she looks into his eyes and sees the “real” Theon again? Or maybe it’s his Male Nod of Approval. The music certainly agrees that these were all significant.

The only thread we can even recognize here is Theon learning to love Yara. Which…why did this need to happen?

First of all, let’s talk about another elephant in the room: his plotline opens with him protecting his other sister, and even bonding with her over shared trauma. So to go from that to the scene where he says “I would have gone all the way with you” (you still can), to his trip to the Iron Islands, of all places, so that he can bond with his blood-sister… It’s just taking a big shit all over everything Theon had been given up to this point. Is the point supposed to be that “blood is thicker than five seasons worth of material”? That’s charming.

And then there’s the weird fact that Theon didn’t actually change his viewpoint on Yara (or anything) at all. He arrives at Pyke and tells her he supports her claim. Then he supports her claim at the saltmoot. Then he supports her claim in front of Deadpan and Saint Tyrion. Each time he says something to the effect of “she should be queen”, the music and direction treats it as something significant. It’s not. Maybe the first time it sort of is, but there’s sharp, sharp diminishing returns.

Also speaking of taking a dump on Sansa, do we have to remind you of that time that she had a plotline centered around no one realizing she had a claim to the North? If only she had a Theon at her side. She could even continued to yell away his PTSD, like she started to in Season 5.

Though to be fair, she’s yelling for a very different reason.

So…Theon’s Season 6 tale is the story of a guy who decided a place he has no connection to is his home, and a sister he barely knows and who likes to scream at him and blame him for being abused is the bee’s knees. Great.

As for Yara’s arc, what the hot fuck is it? Like we’ve been saying, she is not in any way a reformer for the Iron Islands. She wants to keep raping and reaving, and her platform was literally just “I’m going to build ships.” We’re sure they were going to be the best ships, and she was even going to get Weisseroff to pay for them. But, at the same time, her platform was identical to Euron’s in every way.

That might be to a point: the ironboors will only support a dude because sexism, even when there is no tangible difference between the two, minus that whole kinslaying thing that no one cared about. But we are supposed to strongly prefer Yara, right? Is it just due to the fact that she wasn’t making castrated-Theon jokes at the moot? Because she kinda threw that in his face in the scene beforehand.

And yeah, we’re making not-subtle Trump references, but it is important to note that the fandom at large only ascribes these qualities to Euron, not Yara. Yara, who actually threatened to jail kill her opponent. Far be it from us to cry “sexism”, but there is a bit of “Closer to Earth” nonsense going on here, right? They literally made the same points! It’s just that Euron didn’t like the word “gallivant”!

So what does this make Yara’s arc? Well, for something new and different, her plotline is about REVENGE. Her dad died, she came to realize it was Euron, and she then ran to form an alliance that could help her kill him. There’s also the whole “usurping” element, but frankly, he won that stupid thing fair and square. If she’s going to blame anyone, it should be Priesty McBeardFace for saying “THE LAW IS CLEAR” about a law never in evidence before.

Priesty McBeardFace ruins everything.

yara-aeron-what-law

Then there’s Euron.

To be perfectly honest, we find him hardly worthy of any sort of consideration. However, the one question we do need to answer is: are D&D trying to make him seem like an idiot, or to seem badass and threatening? We honestly can’t tell.

If they wanted him to be threatening, we suppose we could kind of understand their approach in the bridge scene, because they had him at least talk a good game. The mast story was…something. But his delivery of “I needed silence” was, you know, slightly chilling we suppose.

However, we’re also left with the scene of him spluttering on the ground following his immaculate CPR, and looking remarkably undignified, or the entirety of the saltmoot, where it was clear how lacking in substance he was. He patted Theon on the cheek, so it’s fair to find him annoying. But to be scared of this guy? The dude who didn’t even notice Yara and Theon running off? It’s an incredibly odd way to go about portraying that.

Menacing.

There’s one last thing we need to talk about, and it’s a question we raised with Sam this year as well. Why did this plotline exist?

No really. When Season 5 rolled around and we learned that it’d only be Porne getting airtime, even the most purist of book snobs sort of understood why skipping the Greyjoys made sense in terms of parsimony of scope. To put it in a more cringe-worthy way: it seemed as though that ship had sailed.

But low and behold, Season 6 rolled around and D&D were desperate to stuff this back into the mix.

The question is: why? What did this add? Their fleet didn’t even help Deadpan, and though we’re sure there will be some use coming up, we fail to think that there aren’t enough pieces on the board to make for compelling battles in Seasons 7 and 8 without them.

We really just needed another revenge-driven plotline? There had to be second “bad” in Weisseroff in case Queen Cheryl wasn’t enough? Did they really have no way of using Theon in Sansa’s plotline, where he had a ton of buy-in and personal stake?

A man happy with his life's decisions.

Who’d want this though?

The thing is, since we’re asking this multiple times, and we’re unlikely to stop asking it (looking at you, Riverblands), we need to call it for what it is: D&D did everything they could to pad this season. Even with their best attempts, we had multiple episodes that were 53 minutes or less, and a ton of wheel spinning and repetition in every plotline. Theon champions Yara three times? Oh well that’s as new and different as every one of the High Sparrow’s speeches.

There’s worse things writers can do (and worse things D&D have done) than create a thin, boring season. But it still is something that deserves attention each time, especially when from a character perspective, there’s practically no story. Sure, we got revenge, but even here it was half-assed. And coupled with heaps of ableism.

Let’s just blame Priesty McBeardFace. If not for him, Yara and Theon could have spent the season happily drinking mead off-screen, while she sat the Salt Throne.


If you enjoyed Julie’s thoughts on this plotline, then be sure to check out the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire podcast starring Julia and Kylie, Unabashed Book Snobbery! You can subscribe/listen on iTunes, subscribe to our RSS feed, search for “Unabashed Book Snobbery” in any podcast app, or find a complete list of UBS episodes on Kylie’s personal blog. The Ironboor episode is available here.

Images courtesy of HBO

Julia
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Julia is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals with far too many hobbies and complex emotions. She may or may not be an actual Martell.

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