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Are the Ironborn the Wildcard of ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2?

The Iron Fleet stands ready For the right price.

Season One of House of the Dragon has set the stage: War has all but arrived in the spin-off’s first finale, and the battle lines between the Great Houses of Westeros are being drawn. Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) is dispatching calls for support from the seat of Dragonstone, while her brother Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) is surely doing the same to shore up his own forces for the coming war that will ultimately become the Dance of the Dragons. After losing her son Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) in a bid to enlist the aid of Lord Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans), Rhaenyra’s hope that her son Jacaerys/Jace (Harry Collett) can secure the support of Houses Arryn and Stark is even more crucial to the success of her Black faction.

As the monarch squared away safely in the Crownlands, Aegon II will likely attempt to rally the soldiers of the Reach and the Westerlands to his side. This is especially true for the Reach, who count House Hightower as one of their most powerful houses, and Aegon possesses Hightower blood by way of his mother Dowager Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and his grandfather, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). House Lannister, ever angling for a way to improve their prestige, may likely line up behind the young king along with the bannermen of the Westerlands.

If you’ve noticed there’s a particular omission here, that’s very much for a reason. While Dorne is still a few decades out from bending the knee before the Targaryen dynasty, the oft-forgotten Iron Islands and House Greyjoy may prove to be a massive wildcard in HBO’s second season. Believe me, I get it, the Ironborn kind of fell by the wayside in Game of Thrones at a time, and by the time the Reavers of the Iron Islands returned to the forefront, the near-cartoonish adaptation of Iron King Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) was more eye-rolling than thrilling. Criticisms of Game of Thrones’ later seasons aside, the Ironborn are far from a joke, and they should feature prominently in the coming Dance of the Dragons.

Who Is the Red Kraken and Where Is House Greyjoy Leading Up to the Dance?
Sure, fans likely didn’t think that the Ironborn amounted to much during Game of Thrones’ War of Five Kings past the occupation of Winterfell by Prince Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). However, if House of the Dragon continues to stick to George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood as its source material, the sailors and raiders of the Iron Islands should be much more impactful during the course of the Dance. During the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), House Greyjoy remained the Lords Paramount of the Iron Islands,

but there’s a huge difference between the aging Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) of Game of Thrones and House Greyjoy’s leader during the reign of Viserys and the Dance of the Dragons: Dalton Greyjoy, also known as the “Red Kraken.” Considered one of the greatest heroes of the Ironborn, Dalton is a ruthless and highly unpredictable warrior and leader. To put it plainly, any fans of Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryen should see more than a few similarities with Dalton Greyjoy, at least as far as the battlefield is concerned, but probably beyond it as well.

At the tender age of five, Dalton was already rowing longships in raiding parties sailing as far as the Basilisk Isles. He paid the Iron Price and obtained a Valyrian Steel sword he named “Nightfall”, which was employed in battle after battle during Dalton’s young career as a reaver. By the time he was 15, Dalton was battling pirates and corsairs in the Stepstones, and this conflict would earn him his nickname when one of his uncles was slain in battle. Dalton flew into a rage of vengeance, slaughtering his uncle’s killers by the scores.

When he returned from the fight covered in blood and wounds, he earned the Red Kraken moniker from there on as well as the devotion of his fighters, sailors, deckhands, and fellow captains. Dalton’s father would die the same year, and he ascended to the Seastone Chair of Pyke and became the head of House Greyjoy and the Iron Islands. To further empower the strength of the Ironborn and prepare for any threats, Lord Dalton Greyjoy immediately began the construction of numerous ships and weapons, believing a storm was coming according to The World of Ice & Fire.

The young Lord Reaper of Pyke was more correct than he likely even knew, as the death of King Viserys has set the stage for one of the most deadly conflicts in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. The Dance of the Dragons is a storm of titanic size, but the Red Kraken is well-prepared to steer his people through it while killing and plundering for the glory of the Iron Islands.

The Iron Islands Are an X-Factor in the Dance
Naval combat will undoubtedly be one of the most significant aspects of the Dance of the Dragons if HBO sticks to Martin’s source material. While the Velaryon fleet composes most of the naval power of the Black faction and is awe-inspiring, the royal fleet of the Greens (supporters of King Aegon II) is no less intimidating thanks to its bolstering by House Redwyne of the Reach, who are well-known for their mastery at sea.

With both major factions of the Dance having access to dragons, having numbers and experience at sea is one of the most vital aspects of the realm-wide conflict. With the lords of Westeros largely distracted on the mainland, an opportunity arises for the Iron Islands to strike the coastlands and cause wanton mayhem for the eminence of the Drowned God. If the vicious and unpredictable raiders of the Iron Islands lend their ships and blades to either cause in the Dance, it would be seen as a massive advantage. While the opposing navies of the Iron Throne and House Velaryon engage in the Narrow Sea, House Greyjoy and their banners are free to force unsuspecting houses to pay the Iron Price for their carelessness.

But will House Greyjoy be willing to assist either side of the war, or are they more concerned on doing as they please? In Fire & Blood, the Iron Islands did indeed pick a side, but on the condition that they would be able to kill and plunder on their own terms, albeit by targeting specific targets. However, with House of the Dragon’s first season just recently wrapping up, HBO and the showrunners have been mum on what they have planned for the spin-off’s next season.

The on-screen adaptation may differ from Martin’s canon, but it’s just as likely that it stays the course, especially due to his more personal involvement in the series compared to when he had to step away during Game of Thrones’s later tenure. No matter what the ultimate decision may be by the writers, it’s difficult not to look forward to the return of House Greyjoy and the battle-hardened Ironborn after three years.

The Dance is one of the most brutal clashes in the annals of Westeros, and both belligerents will need all the help they can get. With powerful dragons on opposite sides, fire will scorch the skies while the warriors of the realm fight and die on land and at sea. House Greyjoy and the Iron Islands may just be capable of tipping the scales in one side’s favor, but with the Ironborn, there’s always a price.

The paramount house of the islands’ words are “We Do Not Sow” for a reason, and they won’t take kindly to being ordered by some king or queen from the green lands. However, if either faction makes a particularly sweet deal for the Ironborn, they may just be willing to direct their havoc toward one side or the other. The Red Kraken and his men are prepared for bloodshed, and any lord or sailor who pledges fealty to the wrong side will dread the sight of the Iron Fleet on the horizon.

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