In an unusual display of longevity and survival and against all expectations, we were shocked, amazed, and delighted to find that Balon Greyjoy managed to survive season 4 of “Game of Thrones“! Quite a few others were not so lucky (looking at you, Tywin… Joffrey… Oberyn… Jojen… Grenn… Pyp… Shae… Lysa… Ser Dontos… oh forget it, I can’t remember them all), making his feat even more surprising.
True, he had no scenes (which was rather disappointing), but he at least had a couple of name checks from devoted son
Reek Theon, as well as sworn enemies Roose Bolton and Stannis Baratheon. Stannis is even in Balon’s neck of the woods right now, so to speak, since he’s come to the north. Maybe he’ll drop by Pyke for a visit. Come to think of it, Roose is in the north too, hmmm. That could cause some etiquette difficulties if they both decide to visit at once. And Balon had a cameo at Joffrey’s wedding as a kraken-riding dwarf, just to make sure no one forgot him.
Admin: Oh, Joffrey’s jousting show. That boy knew how to entertain….not! But, I reckon that Little Balon came out best of the kings who weren’t named Joffrey. He certainly had the best ride. You can read all about it here.
RF: So before the next season starts and to give Benioff and Weiss some hints, here’s what we’d like to see for Balon in season 5. Be forewarned that there are spoilers ahead for upcoming plot points, if you haven’t read the books. We’ve also incorporated some mash-ups for illustrative purposes. 😉
What Should Balon Do Next?
RF: Let him live until season 6! Benioff and Weiss have proven they’re willing to bend George R.R. Martin’s narrative in interesting and unexpected ways; let Balon live until season 6 and give him some more scenes to establish Greyjoy politicking before [SPOILER!] the Kingsmoot. It would be particularly good if we had a scene or two establishing brotherly relations (or lack thereof) between Balon, Victarion, and Euron, assuming they’re going to be included. Hmm… didn’t someone mention something somewhere about how Ray Stevenson and Kevin McKidd might be perfect for this?
Admin: Absolutely. I have no real objection to book-to-series deviations, especially if they mean things work out better for Balon.
More Scenes with YarAsha
RF: Give him another scene with YarAsha! Balon has mentioned that he considers YarAsha his heir, but this could use reinforcing since it happened a while ago in television time. Nor, I think, did his statement have the impact it deserved. Balon is actually being startlingly progressive, especially in Ironborn terms, by declaring a female heir. Mind you, he’s kind of running out of children at this point. I think we can definitively say that
Theon’s Reek’s a lost cause by now.
Admin: I think we absolutely need a scene were Balon definitively stresses that Yara is his intended heir. I love that dichotomy in his personality. He is old-fashioned and trenched in tradition to a fault, but his attitude toward his daughter and her place in the Iron Islands is completely out-of-step with that.
RF: It would be nice to see where Balon’s confidence in YarAsha’s abilities comes from. Obviously he’s had very good reasons to change his mind about tradition in her case, besides his lack of sons. Is it simply because she proved herself or were there other circumstances involved? Martin presents it as a fait accompli but it would be great to know the backstory. It might also enhance our understanding of [SPOILER!] YarAsha’s approach to the Kingsmoot.
Admin: True. We are pretty much left to divine that she has proven herself in battle or something like that. In the books there is a bit of a to do made about her prowess with axes, but we haven’t seen much of that in the show aside from her botched attempt at rescuing Reek. If I recall correctly, she put an axe in the head of one of Ramsay’s men.
Remorse for Theon
Admin: I’d also like to have a scene where he shows a bit of acknowledged remorse for Theon. I know he’ll never be able to rescue his son, and he’s made it clear he has no plans to, but I’d like to see something that proves he feels awful about the boy’s fate. We saw that brief look of immense guilt when Theon (who had just been slapped) pointed out it was Balon who allowed him to be sent to the Starks, but then Balon just shrugged the pain off and went back to being salt and iron.
RF: Oh, excellent point! Yes, it would be very interesting to learn more about Balon’s thoughts concerning Theon’s capture. He’s not exactly a demonstrative father – well, aside from being angry when he slapped Theon. We see more non-verbal paternal emotion from him in “Mhysa“, when YarAsha first opens Ramsay’s box and reveals the extent of Theon’s mutilation. Balon expresses rage and sorrow without uttering a sound, then proceeds to deliberately write Theon off. But it would be tremendous to actually get a scene about this.
Admin: They could always combine these ideas somehow. Maybe have Yara admit that dad was right and Theon (now Reek) was lost to them forever. Balon could then at least give her credit for standing up for a family she believed in, even if she did fail miserably, and fully declare her his heir while showing some remorse over Theon.
RF: That would work well and would be a nice bit of character development, too. While he’s at it, Balon might also make a point of declaring YarAsha his heir in front of witnesses and/or writing it down somewhere, just in case. It could come in handy at the Kingsmoot.
Out of Pyke and Into the Action
RF: Get him out of Pyke! It’s wonderful to see that gorgeous kraken fireplace, but it would be even better to get Balon out of his Sulking Chair and let him see some action outside. Is he doing nothing but twiddling his thumbs at home while the Ironborn are spread out all over the north? How is he directing battles? He should be on a ship somewhere or on horseback, not hanging back behind the lines. A face-to-face confrontation with Stannis would be especially good.
Admin: Not to sound too smutty, but I’d also like to see if there are any salt wives kicking around. Surely Balon would want someone to talk to where he can maybe let go a little bit and show some feelings. It isn’t like Game of Thrones hasn’t done that with stern, hard characters before. Tywin Lannister had some great scenes where he got to share his more human side with his cup bearer Arya Stark. But, anyway, I agree: Get him out of that Sulking Chair for a bit!
RF: The salt wives have been a rather neglected aspect of Ironborn culture in the series. You’re right, you’d think there’d be one or two traipsing around Pyke, waiting for Balon to notice them again. It would be intriguing to see if Balon has a… dare I say it… softer side when he’s interacting with them. And while we’re on the topic, it would be especially interesting to hear what Alannys Harlaw thinks of all this… though I don’t believe we have a realistic hope of her appearing in the series at this stage.
Admin: No, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Alannys either. I’m not even sure if she is supposed to be alive in the series. Yara had that line: “We both loved our mother. We both endured our father.” But at no point do they specify, as far as I can remember, what happened to Alannys in the tv series, so it does kind of seem like she might be tv dead. So bring on the salt wives. 😀
RF: Tangential note: We’ve just discovered that Balon’s eldest son was named Rodrik Greyjoy, which is too delightful of a coincidence to be ignored. Too bad there couldn’t have been a mention of “Rodrik, the Handsome Kraken” (credit to Admin for that nickname) in previous episodes.
Okay, Big Spoiler:
RF: If Balon must die – and it seems pretty certain that he will, it’s just a question of when and how (*sniff sniff*!) – then at least give him a good onscreen death. Let him survive the first couple of assassination attempts to establish that someone really wants him dead and that he’s still more than wily enough to evade any ham-handed attempts. He’s lived this long, after all. And keep the exact means/cause of Balon’s death ambiguous, as in Martin’s novels. It’s rather anticlimactic for a feared pirate lord to die of something so mundane as a slip from a wet bridge. Couldn’t he at least go down fighting? Or maybe there’s the possibility that the body they find isn’t Balon’s but his assassin’s? Martin describes the situation vaguely enough that it’s plausible, but Benioff and Weiss have a disappointing tendency to explain things a little too thoroughly. I’d prefer the ambiguity.
Admin: That’s right. In the book we are told that Balon’s body was found with his eyes eaten out by crabs. Ewwww! Yuck! But, it is all second hand information. Therefore it is possible that it was someone else that they found, such as a failed assassin. I would just love it if it turns out he survives. It would be a nice spanner in the works for stupid Stannis. 😉
RF: I don’t think we ever find out why it is that Stannis hates Balon so much, except that he tried to rebel and resisted Robert Baratheon’s rule – although it’s not like Stannis got along with Robert very well, either. Stannis actually has lots of other, more immediate problems in the scheme of things, but it’s Balon that he chooses to curse along with Joffrey and Robb Stark. Well, two outta three ain’t bad. Maybe R’hllor’s magic will miss this time.
Admin: I know. Stannis is such a dummy. He should have used one of his leeches to wish away Daenerys Targaryen instead. Fingers crossed R’hllor decides to spare him.
RF: So there you have it. Plenty of ideas for what could be done with Balon. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of our favourite Invader of the North in the next season. He’s just too fascinating and has too much potential to be left gathering seaweed on Pyke. 🙂