[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Game of Thrones” Season 8, Episode 5, “The Bells.”]
What is dead may never die, according to the religion of the Drowned God, but on the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones,” Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) makes his final exit, extra salty to the very end. The character entered the show in Season 6 with much fanfare after killing his own brother and besting his own niece to become the king of the Iron Islands. By the end of the series, he’s made an alliance with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) to rule Westeros together and build a dynasty starting with their first child.
The only problem? He never realizes that Cersei was already pregnant by her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and doesn’t even catch on when Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) mentions the pregnancy during the parley before the war for King’s Landing. IndieWire spoke with Asbaek about Euron’s character development and how he could’ve missed the clues about the baby’s true parentage.
“I can tell you the truth because I don’t have to lie about how it’s going to end. When we did that scene, you have to remember Lena and I and The Mountain, everyone was standing 85 meters away from Peter. Peter’s not a guy who likes to shout,” said Asbaek. “I couldn’t hear a word of what he said. So I had no idea that he mentioned the baby. Because if I had or if I had read the script, I would’ve looked at Cersei, like ‘What? Hey, how can he know? What’s going on?’ No one could be that stupid, except an actor who hadn’t read the script, probably. I only read my own lines. I did the Michael Caine method.”
Asbaek acknowledges that this plot just wasn’t a focus for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who had written the episode.
“I wanted to be surprised when I watched it. I wanted to be seduced by it like the rest of the world,” he said. “That said, that that wasn’t a plotline for Dan and David to follow up because they didn’t think that was important.
“It was more important that he had nothing to lose when he met Jaime Lannister on the beach and Jaime had everything to lose because the world is burning and [he] has become a good guy. Euron is just like, ‘I want to see the world burn. I don’t give a shit.’”
In the episode, the two men in Cersei’s life engage in an all-out brawl that includes punching, wrestling, and lots of stabbing. And even though Euron is ultimately left lying on the rocks dying, he knows that he got in enough jabs with his dagger that Jaime also will soon perish. With his triumphant dying breath, he looks into the camera and declares, “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”
“I had no idea I was looking into the camera,” Asbaek admitted. “You’ve been fighting two days on the beach and you’re tired and it’s emotional because you realize it’s the last days on ‘Game of Thrones’ and [Nikolaj] is a fellow Dane. We’re good friends. You’re wearing leather and it’s wet and it’s watery.
“Miguel [Sapochnik], who directed that episode, he was like, just say it and you look up, and you’re like, ‘Ah, what a beautiful day. Ah, life is beautiful.’ Apparently I must have been like, ‘Ah, that’s the camera. I killed Jaime Lannister.’ They must’ve liked it because they wouldn’t have used it.”
Asbaek feels that Euron breaking the fourth wall in that way is in keeping with his rule-breaking ways. “It’s the ultimate ‘fuck you guys’ to the audience because the character is like that,” he said. “He’s a guy who doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything. And the only person that he might have cared a little bit about is a woman who has lied to him about a baby.”
Looking back, Asabaek is grateful to have played Euron, even though he’s aware that some viewers didn’t like the character, especially since it diverged from the mystical madman as depicted in the books. “I know I divided the audience. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I thought it was fun,” said Asbaek. “I’ve done so many heroes in Denmark and in Europe that I just wanted to go old school villain. That’s also how Dan and David wrote it.
“What I would change with Euron? I wish we could’ve seen — not the seducing side, not the ‘I want to fuck the queen’ side — but something different. Maybe something more dark, more mysterious. It would have been fun to see that side because it’s closer to the books.”
As for the big finale, Asbaek was at the table read for the episode so he knows how it’ll end. But unlike some loose-lipped cast members, he hasn’t told anyone the ending.
“God no. Not even my wife,” he said. “[This show] was passion that became professional. It became my job. And I don’t want to discuss my job when I’m at home… It’s boring.”
”Game of Thrones” airs its series finale on Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. on HBO.