“We’ve never made our mark upon the world,” Yara Greyjoy said about the Iron Islands at the Kingsmoot in Season 6. “The great lords of Westeros pay us no mind until our little raids buzz through their kingdoms enough to become a nuisance. Then they swat us down. They conquer us. Humiliate us. And go right back to forgetting we exist.”
That’s true about the characters in Westeros, but it also sums up the feelings of Game of Thrones viewers too. There are no sexy Alt Shift X videos about the Iron Islands. Balon Greyjoy was a member of the War of the Five Kings the way Harrison Barnes was a starter for the 73-9 Warriors.
Not only would viewers prefer to forget Theon and his ilk, but it seems the Game of Thrones showrunners would too. We haven’t seen the free-spirited, headbutting Iron Islands Queen Yara Greyjoy since the season premiere. Based on how quickly the season is winding down, we may never see her again, and that’s a shame considering she is a bona fide badass.
The first time we meet Yara, Theon tries to doink her (imagine that being one of the last acts with his loins). He doesn’t recognize Yara after not seeing her for nine years, but as we (and Theon) quickly learn, Yara is a rugged leader of men in the Iron Islands streets and up for anything in her ship’s sheets. She has rousing speeches. She gives Theon the quit ya whining pep talk he always needed, convinces Dany to grant the Iron Islands their independence, and gives a chest-thumpingly great speech at the Kingsmoot, which she would have won if not for an insurgent populist candidate using deeply sexist rhetoric. Most important of all, she headbutted Theon in his stupid face.
Salladhor Saan is gone, but we don’t need him when we have Yara Greyjoy as our Sex Pirate Queen. Like Theon, we must do anything we can to get her back.
Theon saved Yara from Mac and the gang in the first episode of Season 8, and afterward Yara told Theon she would retake the Iron Islands. Her explanation made her role in the rest of the season seem clear.
“Euron can’t defend the Iron Islands, not if he’s in King’s Landing with all of his men and his ships,” Yara said. “Daenerys will need somewhere to retreat if they can’t hold the North. Somewhere the dead can’t go.”
About that. The good news is Dany and Co. did hold the North. The bad news: Theon died (on second thought, this is also good news). Also, Dany sacked King’s Landing, and thousands of innocent people were burned to death in the ensuing carnage. We know Yara did take back the Iron islands in Dany’s name, as Varys tells the brain trust just that after the Battle of Winterfell (this is also the meeting where he announces “the new prince of Dorne pledges his support” and discusses the Iron Fleet right before Dany forgot about the Iron Fleet).
What we don’t know is whether Yara has learned anything that has happened since we last saw her. She might be waiting for the Night King to lead a bunch of undead wights to cross Ironman’s Bay like fire ants. As we speak, she could be preparing for Dany and Drogon’s arrival by ensuring her queendom has 1,798 cows to feed Drogon on the Iron Islands. (Invasive apex predators take a serious ecological toll.) Maybe the Ironborn will spend the rest of eternity assuming Westeros has been gobbled by zombies. Or perhaps Yara will learn about all of this in a raven she gets off screen, which would be a shame. Characters processing bad news is one of the keys to Thrones being so good. Catelynn and Robb after Ned’s death, Cersei’s telling her father about her incestuous relationship with Jaime, Cersei finding out Myrcella is dead—these are the moments that made Thrones so human. Yara could shed enough tears to flood the Red Waste, and even though it still wouldn’t make up for all the time we spent with Theon over the last eight years, it would remind us that the show is about families.
Of course, that is assuming we ever see Yara again. Plenty of characters who were given a lot of runway never landed their planes. Daario Naharis was left behind in Essos in Season 6. Illyrio, who made Dany’s conquest (and therefore the last seven seasons) possible by giving her those dragon eggs, hasn’t been seen since Season 1 and is almost certainly not coming back. Worst of all is poor Meera Reed, who had dragged Bran around since Season 3 only for him to tell her he doesn’t need her anymore in Season 7. With Theon and Euron dead and a whole lot of plot needing to be resolved in the finale, there might be neither the time nor the desire to bring Yara back into the fold. Even if she does return, she might just be in the background of Dany’s grand coronation.
When Yara pledged herself to Dany, the pirate queen swore off the raiding and marauding lifestyle that Yara called the Ironborn’s way of life. If Dany meets her demise in the finale, or if she stays holding onto power but never checks in on Yara, it would be a fitting reminder that Dany (and the showrunners) failed her pledge to break the wheel. The showrunners may have forgotten about the Iron Islands, but at least we’ll always have that Theon headbutt.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.