A Deviant Art: The Captain & The Spider
Welcome to Thrones week! In anticipation of the Season 7 finale on Sunday, explore the weirdness of Westeros with one piece (almost) every day! Spoilers through the episode "Beyond the Wall".
George R.R. Martin is many things. He's a prolific world-builder and intricate writer. He's exceptional at growing a beard. He's quite rich. He could be lying about what the R's in his name stand for (supposedly Raymond and Richard). No one, however, would mistake him for fast. He's written five full novels and three novellas in twenty years, a pace that mirrors Daniel Day-Lewis (five films since 1998). He hasn't released a full novel since 2011, and probably won't release the next one until mid-2018 at the earliest – and that's if he doesn't eat himself to death first.
In the interim, Game of Thrones – the adaptation of his (eventual) seven-part epic A Song of Ice and Fire – has trudged onward. Well, 'trudged' may be the wrong word, but having to put out a full season every summer for the last seven years has left the show little choice. For the last 2+ seasons, the Thrones writers have had to write instead of adapt, two very disparate tasks. When we last saw them in the books, Jon Snow had just been stabbed by Bowen Marsh and company (end of Season 5 in the show). Bran met the Three-Eyed Raven (end of Season 4). Tyrion was on his way to join Daenerys (mid-Season 5). Arya was still in training at the House of Black and White (Season 6-ish). Dany was abandoned by Drogon (end of Season 5). Jaime just negotiated the surrender of Riverrun (mid-Season 6). Sansa was frolicking about in the Vale with Littlefinger (end of Season 4). Cersei finished her walk of shame (end of Season 4).
The sheer enormity of Martin's world required the show to split its attention among several main characters. Due to the constraints of screentime and the complexities involved with character development, showrunners Benioff and Weiss chose to cut the roster down to seven mains – keeping an active storyline for each of the (surviving) Starks, Dany, and Cersei. Yet the nuance that the show's late-season success is predicated on shines in the supporting cast, namely two. These characters are notable deviances from the books, among the few that have worked admirably.
Without enough minutes to go around, the show has carefully refrained from introducing new characters past the halfway point – the notable exceptions being Euron Greyjoy, Oberyn Martell and the High Sparrow, and the notable omissions being Quentyn Martell, Lady Stoneheart, and Aegon Targaryen. The choice to include Euron was an excellent one because of one thing: his potential. Among the omissions, Quentyn was doomed from the start, Stoneheart is a cheap Stark re-tread, and Aegon's only shiny because of name recognition. Among the other additions, the Sparrow and Oberyn met early ends, while Euron was brought along a little more slowly, a little more carefully.
The Song's Euron is incredibly terrifying, having raped his brother Victarion's wife and then bragged to him about it, also kidnapping his other brother Aeron and tying him to the mast of his ship. His crew is entirely made up of men with their tongues cut out, who for their trouble get to divvy up any treasure they come across – Euron apparently doesn't care about the sparkly stuff, considering he has Valyrian steel armor to go with his eyepatch and cool "Crow's Eye" nickname. He also has a funny side, inviting Victarion into his chambers while he's naked, and conducting a feast while having the conquered lord sit next to him gagged. In the Westeros mock draft, you're picking that guy second overall, and that's only because someone else has dragons.
Thrones emphasizes the inherent dickishness (sometimes quite literally with dick jokes), occasionally leaning on his showboat-y style (no pun intended) to round out the character. He's fascinating because he has no endgame in sight – he's a little too powerful to be your grass-fed Thrones baddie in the mold of Joffrey or Ramsay, but too late an addition to seem like he has a truly important role to play. And that's where the most interesting characters lie, right in the middle of power and relevance.
The other crucial character in this paradigm is likely jealous of Euron's quick ascension to superstardom. Lord Varys spent years wasting away on the small council, spending time giving homeless children sweets, sending letters to his Pentoshi pen pal Illyrio, and keeping track of everything in King's Landing except for his own balls. For a character whose only apparent (and admitted) motivation is to serve the realm – a marked lean to the side of power – his choices seem to always pull him towards relevance instead. Sacrificing what political capital he had left in King's Landing to save Tyrion, thanklessly brokering an alliance with the Martells and the Tyrells (probably giggling to himself behind a curtain in preparation to deliver a cool line), andthen openly showing frustrating with his chosen side are all out of character for Varys, but keep him firmly in the "intriguing" classification.
Yet this is a departure from the Song portrayal, where the willingly fills the role of 'eunuch' that people expect of him. He changes his demeanor when he's in rooms of pomp vs rooms of power, appears to have a clear partisan goal to back Aegon, actually gets his own hands dirty via the murders of Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle, and appears to willfully guide Tyrion to kill Tywin.He made it all the way to the end in a position of influence, despite the fact that we never got his innermost thoughts (as a POV character), or maybe because of it.
Either way, he is easily the most effective survivor (with the possible exception of Hot Pie), considering that Jon has died, Cersei and Dany were held prisoner, Arya lost her sight, and Sansa was married off a few times. Yet at times he seems to be a bit powerless, especially in his encounters with red priests that leave him in a state best described as "shook". Unlike his once-archnemesis Littlefinger, he seems to still have some moves left in his pocket, though few of those moves seem to be readily available without the help of others, something he's never needed in the past. All of these traits combine to make him in a macro-level player of the game of thrones, which makes it equally as likely that he's left standing alone among the ashes or as a part of the ashes himself.