The Naval Battle
So we finally get to see sexy pirate Euron Greyjoy in action.
In many ways, I’m convinced that the entire point of this scene, other than killing off the Sand Snakes via shameless fan service, was just to show how scary Euron is. In many ways, Euron’s dramatic and bloody entrance paralleled that of Stannis Baratheon at the Battle of Blackwater. He runs into a terrified swarm of foes and dramatically cuts them down one at a time.
But there are two key differences between the two. One is how even though Euron got beaten up more than Stannis, he triumphed and was established as the new big bad guy that I guess we’re supposed to care about or something. The other is that Euron came face to face with more important characters when Stannis only fought nameless Lannister troops. This is a real bummer because when everything is choreographed to make Euron look tough, the fighting skill of everyone else (read: Yara, Nymeria, and Obara) inexplicably suffers. Like I said in my first reaction to the episode, this looked more like a pro wrestling match than anything else.
You can see that the Sand Snakes actually fought worse than they did in the past because when they fought Bronn, one of our champions, they gave him a serious run for his money. But this time, they charged at Euron one at a time and took turns getting beaten down. For a show that has otherwise kept its characters fairly consistent from battle to battle, it was very disappointing to see them written off in this way.
The fight is fairly brief, once you take out all the shock and confusion of the various characters. Yara and Theon actually begin as commanding presences within the fray. They both maneuver fairly well and take out a number of Euron’s soldiers. Theon makes good use of his parries by immediately capitalizing on his opponents’ lost momentum, and Yara cuts through soldiers nonstop. Some of it makes them look formidable but some of it is a bit much, like when Yara stabs one guy and takes out another who happens to be in the path of her sword when she pulls it out.
But all things considered, the Greyjoys are impressive thus far, and at this point I was optimistic that we would see more of the Yara who effortlessly cut her way through Ramsay Bolton’s personal guard.
Unfortunately, all of this happens against extras, and Euron seems to have the magical ability to make all his opponents forget how to fight. Let’s just quickly go over how Nymeria, Obara, and Yara fare against him. Unfortunately, there’s not much to dissect beyond just pointing out how poorly all three of them approached the fight.
Euron is busy killing Yara’s sailors when Nymeria catches him around the neck with her whip. With every opportunity to make use of her weapon-of-choice’s long effective distance by incapacitating and choking Euron from afar, she instead decides to pull him towards her, effectively helping accelerate the first he aimed at her face. Oops.
Obara then approaches from behind and stabs Euron in the flank. It’s unclear whether Euron was wearing extra thick plot armor or if Obara merely screwed up, but Euron recovers immediately. She dodges her face punch and trips Euron, but then proceeds to stand perfectly still and slowly wave her spear around like a bow staff until Euron grabs it away and — you guessed it — hits her in the face.
But don’t worry! Nymeria comes back to save the day with a master plan. She once more goes for Euron’s neck with her whip but misses. Thankfully he was distracted long enough for Obara to get up and start kicking Euron. But once again she stands perfectly still as Euron grabs her neck, headbutts in the face, and kills her with her spear.
Then Nymeria, who now apparently has a dagger that she forgot to use when Euron was stumbling towards her, actually maneuvers somewhat decently around Euron while whipping and stabbing him. But apparently Euron had that plot armor after all, because he isn’t slowed down at all. Then, get this, Euron blocks one of Nymeria’s attacks, grabs her, and punches her in the face. We then cut to Tyene, who was actually fairly impressive in her battle below deck, get punched in the face as well. This is getting a bit silly.
I don’t know why Obara and Nymeria got so close to Euron when their weapons are more effective from a distance, but I guess that would make them harder to punch and we can’t have that.
Now it’s Yara’s turn. And in a not-so-promising nod towards the shitshow to come, she decides to enter the battle by literally jumping off the top level of her ship and tackling Euron. If she had, you know, pointed her sword downwards, she could have probably ended the war right there. But instead, she rolls away. She actually had another chance, too. Euron taunts her for a bit, and rather than killing him, Yara uses her off hand to — drumroll please — punch Euron in the face. What a mess. Euron retaliates with slow, wound-up attack after slow, wound-up attack, eventually hitting Yara in the face with his axe. Something about a man with a hammer, I guess.
Anyway, it’s at this point that Yara totally shits the bed. First she runs back and forth across the ship to dodge Euron’s attacks, at one point using an extra as a human shield.
She then blocks a couple more of Euron’s blows, somehow deciding that it’s a good idea to try and wrestle against a big man with a big battle axe with her much smaller sword. At long last, she has her triumphant moment: another punch in the face, which Euron quickly returns before pummeling her into submission.
What’s so disappointing about this is that in this very same fight sequence, Yara shows that she’s capable of maneuvering and outpacing her enemies. But as soon as she faces off with her uncle, she decides to run screaming and slow things down to his pace, failing to capitalize at all on the long pauses between each swing of Euron’s axe. There are definitely ways to show that Euron is the big scary bad guy without making him literally impervious to dagger and spear stabbings and turning everything into a mundane boxing match. Remember how we all felt when Jaime killed Jory back in season one or when The Mountain went from beheading his horse to trying to do the same to his brother?
The villains of Game of Thrones have always been human and complex, and Euron’s departure from that trend is an unfortunate decision that makes for some boring fights.
The whole battle is available here, if you want a refresher.
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