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Kingsmoot 101: Game of Thrones Star Explains What's Next for the Iron Islands

Everything you need to know about what's to come

Sadie Gennis

Game of Thrones' most recent episode ended with a huge Jon Snow twist, but for non-book readers, there was another major question left hanging: WTF is a kingsmoot and why should I care?

Over on the Iron Islands, Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara's (Gemma Whelan) father, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), was murdered by his newly-returned brother, Euron (Pilou Asbaek). Yara didn't hesitate to swear vengeance against the (as of now) unknown killer, and assumed that she'd be taking her father's place on the Seastone Chair (the Ironborn's version of the Iron Throne). However, in order to succeed Balon, Yara will have to participate in a kingsmoot.

So what is a kingsmoot? TVGuide.com spoke with Gemma Whelan about what fans can expect of the Ironborn tradition, Euron's motives and everything else you need to know about the Greyjoys this season.

Gemma Whelan, Game of Thrones Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

What is a kingsmoot? Despite being one of the crudest cultures in Westeros, actively promoting rape and pillaging, the Ironborn are the only society with a democratic system in place. Rather than automatically cede power to the king's heir, ship captains are able to nominate themselves and collectively vote on their next leader.

"It's not just a reign of tyranny. It actually has got some structure to it," Whelan explains. "It's a nice juxtaposition for the Ironborn."

Much like our own democratic system, a kingsmoot is a fairly drawn-out process where each nominee has to give their version of stump speeches. "People would have to campaign, make their statements and say their manifesto of what they're going to do. Then the Ironborn vote according to what they've heard."

Why isn't Yara a lock-in to win? Whelan is quick to point out that in addition to being Balon's daughter, Yara would also be a great queen in her own right. "She knows the Ironborn inside out. She's spent her life on the scene and she has good morals, a good understanding of the way things should be run. And she's learned from her father's mistakes," the actress says.

But as the drowned priest pointed out, the Ironborn have never been ruled by a woman. Yet according to Whelan, Yara's gender won't be the deciding factor in whether or not she garners enough votes. "I think it's almost not an issue anymore," Whelan says. "I think it's just women kick a--. So do men. So what, you know?"

What might be a major influencer, however, is Yara's call for peace. In "Home," Yara and Balon butted heads over his refusal to quit the War of the Five Kings even though he's the last usurper standing. And since they're a culture all about "paying the Iron price," Euron's "kill first, ask questions later" approach will likely appeal to many of the Ironborn.

Game of Thrones: Jon Snow is alive - so what's next?

What does Euron Greyjoy want? Short answer: Power! When Yara's mysterious uncle returned to Pyke after years of pillaging he didn't waste any time before offing Balon. And while this show has seen its fair share of narcissistic wannabe kings, Euron might have taken the cake when he declared that he wasn't mocking the Drowned God, he is the Drowned God, because whenever men see his ships' sails they pray. Basically, in this kingsmoot election, Yara = Hillary and Euron = Trump.

"He certainly puts the cat amongst the pigeons," Whelan says. "The little we've seen of him so far, he ain't messing around, is he? He's a law unto himself, as he is in the books. So it's quite true to the characterization."

It also doesn't take a highly trained sleuth to be suspicious of Euron's well-timed arrival, so it's likely Yara will begin questioning the role her uncle played in Balon's death. However, Whelan hints that little good will come of any potential suspicions: "I can't always say that justice is always done in Game of Thrones. It is not."

What will Theon's role be? When Theon first returned home to Pyke in Season 2, he and Yara began a heated rivalry, but Whelan hopes Theon's second homecoming will signal a new chapter in their relationship.

"It's a good relationship even though it's volatile," she says. "I do know that Yara is very morally correct and family-oriented. She wants the right things to happen, the right course of action. So we'll see if her morals stand up when Theon returns."

If Theon and Yara are able to work past their differences, it's possible we'll see the pair team up in the kingsmoot. Whether or not Yara throws her weight behind Theon or vice versa, two Greyjoy heirs would stand a far better chance at beating Euron than one.

What will the Ironborn do next? No matter who wins the kingsmoot, the new ruler will most definitely take the Ironborn in an exciting new direction after seasons of Balon's blustering attempts to storm the mainland on his own. And since the sixth season premiere saw all of Daenerys' (Emilia Clarke) ships burnt by the Sons of the Harpy, does that mean there's a Greyjoy-Targaryen alliance on the way? "That would be nice, wouldn't it?" Whelan teases. "Maybe one day. Who knows?"

The Ironborn sailing to Mereen does have a basis in George R.R. Martin's books. However, Whelan says that while there will be "some recognizable parts" to the Greyjoy storyline this season "there are some surprises as well."

Who do you want to win the Kingsmoot?

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.