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Warning: major spoilers lie ahead for Episode 3 of Game of Thrones Season 7, "The Queen's Justice."
The main players of Game of Thrones over the seven seasons so far have been largely occupied by who sits on the Iron Throne. At any given time, there are schemers and plotters and usurpers ready to make their move, and rulers need to be willing to cross just about any line if they want to live long enough to be remembered. Fans have had years to theorize about who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne, and the odds in recent seasons have been pretty good that the actions of Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen or Tyrion Lannister would decide who would be ruler of Westeros. "The Queen's Justice" confirmed that the real key to holding the Iron Throne may be somebody else entirely: Euron Greyjoy.
Euron Greyjoy entered the game of thrones in Season 7 firmly on the side of Cersei Lannister, but nobody took him especially seriously when he turned up to pitch his services to the new queen. The naval battle in last week's "Stormborn" proved that Euron had an invaluable role to play at sea, managing to destroy almost all of Yara's fleet and taking the Dornish down with her. After putting down Yara and removing the Ironborn threat against his claim as ruler, it was entirely possible that Euron would fade out of prominence and only return to make lewd comments to Jaime about Cersei. "The Queen's Justice" proved that this was very much not the case.
While Euron did some lewd comments to drop in King's Landing, he also had a much grander purpose. His fleet set sail yet again to devastate another of Dany's forces in a move that few could have seen coming. When the Unsullied managed to take Casterly Rock, they seemed to win the day for Daenerys... up until Grey Worm realized that not nearly enough soldiers had been manning the walls at the Rock. He looked back at the sea and saw Dany's fleet burning courtesy of hundreds of warships, all flying the kraken sigil of House Greyjoy. Euron has stranded Dany's master fighting force, leaving them no choice but to starve at Casterly Rock or march across the Seven Kingdoms, with escape via sea no longer an option. The war for the Iron Throne that we've been watching fought on land for six years may be ultimately decided by what happens at sea.
Who would have guessed that the ironborn could actually be key to deciding the state of the Iron Throne? Of all the houses of Westeros, House Greyjoy has always seemed like something of a joke. The majority of their victories came because bigger and stronger houses were preoccupied with fighting bigger and stronger armies elsewhere. Jaime had the right of it in the Season 7 premiere when he said that the ironborn were mostly known for stealing and reaving rather than working to earn and grow for themselves.
At times, the members of House Greyjoy were the only ones who took their house seriously. Yara has been a badass warrior (aside from her defeat in "Stormborn," anyway), but Theon has always been too weak-willed to become a strong leader, and Balon lacked foresight. The ironborn way of life simply wasn't sustainable by any of what we'd seen from them before. Well, that is very much changed with Euron, who has managed in the span of only a few episodes to become the potential key to the Iron Throne. Whoever holds the seas may hold the Iron Throne, and Euron has dominion over the seas. Dany might not even be able to use her dragons with enough speed and precision to remove him as a threat.
We'll have to wait and see. You can catch new episodes of Game of Thrones on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.