Theon Greyjoy and the Messy Road to Redemption

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We all expected Theon Greyjoy to be dead by now, didn’t we?

After Theon’s Darth Vader moment at the end of season 5 of Game of Thrones, in which he pushed Myranda to her death and rescued Sansa, it seemed a foregone conclusion to many that Theon’s death was imminent. His redemptive arc was complete, after all. What else was there for him to do? Yet, we now stand at the precipice of the final season and Theon “Reek-no-more” Greyjoy is still alive and on his way to concluding one of the most interesting and thorough redemptive arcs in fiction. And, no, I don’t think I’m overstating things.

If Theon’s redemption did, indeed, hinge on Stark forgiveness, then, yes, Theon’s mission to rescue his Greyjoy sister would be an extraneous subplot. However, this line of reasoning betrays a limited understanding of what a true redemptive arc could – and, I’d argue, should – be.

Theon’s misdeeds did not begin with his betrayal of the Starks thus his story shouldn’t end with forgiveness for those particular crimes. There is a lot more to him to excavate. That said, making amends to the Starks needed to be a major component of his journey.

The very topic of redemption, characterized for the purposes of this essay by remorse, forgiveness and making amends, is a messy one. To the show’s great credit, it’s handled this aspect of Theon’s story with appropriate complexity. It’s one thing when a character we all want to see redeemed receives forgiveness, like Jorah Mormont. It’s another matter entirely when the character evokes the sort of wide ranging emotions that Theon Greyjoy does.

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The impossibility of making amends to those whom he has wronged and, consequently, of ever truly finding closure is a significant part of Theon’s post-Reek character. Game of Thrones acknowledges that there’s no way to make up for causing irreparable damage, no way to ask forgiveness from those you’ve killed. Theon internalizes this knowledge appropriately, to a far more satisfying degree than he does in A Song of Ice and Fire, frankly.

“There is blood on my hands,” Theon tells the wildling, Rowan, in A Dance With Dragons. “But not the blood of brothers … and I’ve been punished.” This is intended to be a culminating moment for Theon but it’s always fallen flat for me. Mitigating the severity of his own crimes and claiming that he’s sufficiently paid of them feels cheap and unearned.

By contrast, in “Battle of the Bastards,” Theon tells Tyrion that he didn’t murder Bran and Rickon but admits that what he did do was “just as bad, or worse.” In “Home” he tells Sansa, “I don’t want to be forgiven,” but … of course he does. That much is apparent in the look on his face when Jon pardons him in “The Dragon and the Wolf.” Jon can’t absolve him of all of his crimes, no living person can, but what forgiveness he can offer has to be enough. Theon’s conversation with Jon effectively brings his arc with the Starks to a close yet his closure remains incomplete. It always will be.

Like I said, redemption is messy.

Theon has to move on because his crimes as a turncloak cover only a portion of the deeds for which he’s seeking redemption. Lest we forget, Theon was – in Alfie Allen’s own words – a douche long before he chopped off Rodrik Cassel’s head.

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Theon’s betrayal of the Starks was a culmination of deep-rooted character defects that had been calcifying since he became Ned Starks’ ward. Growing up under complicated circumstances with the Starks, Theon compensated for his unmet need for love by developing an obsession with control and a deeply toxically masculine self-image which manifested, unsurprisingly, in a need to exert sexual control over women.

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In many ways, Theon’s arc follows a chiastic structure, a literary technique that follows a symmetrical pattern that was popular in epic poetry. The latter half of the story is an inverted reflection of the former. “I open at the close,” if you will.

chiastic

Assuming that Theon’s story in season 8 centers around Yara’s rescue without any paradigm shifting, character arc-dismantling twist, the latter half of Theon’s arc is a journey to redress the many, many wrongs he committed, beginning with the most recent and working back to the earliest. Since Theon’s crimes as the Prince of Winterfell were his last deeds before losing himself to Reek, it makes sense that his first act upon regaining some semblance of self was to begin righting those wrongs by rescuing Sansa. Yet, even after he had received Sansa’s unspoken forgiveness, his story was far from finished.

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Over the course of seasons 6 and 7 we saw him confront old character defects and, this time around, master them. At the Kingsmoot, he overcame his need for control when he relinquished his claim to the salt throne, acted with integrity rather than hubris when he endured the laughter of Ironborn men and finally demonstrated a healthy sense of masculinity when he endorsed his sister as Queen of the Iron Islands.

In accordance to the chiastic structure, all that’s left to be resolved is that lingering need that’s been festering at the center of his character arc since he was eight years old: a desire for acceptance and love that he’s only ever truly found, not with a Stark or a sexual partner, but with his sister.

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Yara Greyjoy is the only person who’s ever loved Theon unconditionally. She risked her life to rescue him when doing so offered her no benefit and tried to cure him of PTSD with a pep talk and ale which, given context, was the only thing she knew to do for him. Theon and Yara may have an imperfect track record together, but if true love is sticking by someone when you’ve seen them at their absolute worst, then Yara truly loves her brother.

Thus it’s fitting that the last leg of Theon’s arc focuses on Yara, that a once supremely selfish man endure a near-fatal beating and prepare to confront an uncle who dredges up his worst memories for the sake of someone he loves who loves him back.

Theon Greyjoy is a rare example of a character whose redemption arc serves more to deconstruct his psyche, rather than excuse his misdeeds. Once he’s made amends to those he’s wronged and overcome his flaws as imperfectly but as thoroughly as he can, Theon’s arc boils down to a love story between a brother and sister, two flawed people who are nonetheless prepared to die for each other. When all is said and done, a bond like that is all Theon has ever really wanted.

54 responses

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    1. Excellent and thought-provoking article!

      I have loved Theon’s arc over the past seven seasons and look forward to seeing where he goes in season eight. He is one of the most complex characters in the series and Alfie Allen’s portrayal of him has been magnificent to watch.

      Sadly, I’m in agreement that Yara is the only person who has ever loved Theon unconditionally. I don’t believe that the Starks were ever encouraged to be loving towards the ward Ned may one day be forced to execute should Balon rebel again. And the jealous, antagonistic relationship he and Jon had (with Theon, I think, ultimately jealous that Jon was related to the Starks by blood and Jon jealous that Theon was true-born rather than a bastard) can’t have helped matters much.

      Now you are truly lost – these were the last words of Rodrik Cassel, but I think that slowly but surely, the man Theon Greyjoy was always capable of becoming, can still be found.

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    2. Wonderful essay, Petra! Though I’m not certain that even rescuing Yara/Asha will be the final act in Theon’s redemption arc. I want to see him end with another opportunity to exercise power and leadership, and to use it with wisdom, compassion and restraint, proving that he has truly internalized his hard lessons. Ideally, the captain’s daughter will turn up with his bastard, already learning seamanship skills and ripe for legitimizing as a Greyjoy heir. If he can learn to love and appreciate her and she can learn to forgive him for the douchiness of his youth, all the better.

      But perhaps that’s too much happiness to ask in Westeros. I just want to see some reward for the brilliance of Alfie Allen’s acting, mostly. He has well and truly wrung my heart.

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    3. I admit I’m a bit torn on Theon at this point.

      On the one hand, I’m heavily invested in his arc and want to see how it all ultimately plays out.

      However, on the other hand, the constant “is he changed or is he not changed” back and forth gets kind of old after 7 seasons and I’m ready for Theon’s arc to end one way or the other.

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    4. One of the best character analysis I have read in recent times. Given that’s it’s Petra talking about Theon, that’s no surprise lol.

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    5. What “redemption”? Getting kicked in the balls so he can try to rescue his sister doesn’t “redeem” him for betraying Robb, murdering Roderick, Luwin, and the two farm boys, and ratting out Sansa to Ramsey and getting that poor old woman flayed. Or looking on like a meth-addled idiot and doing nothing while Ramsay raped and brutalized Sansa. Or leaving Bran and Rickon homeless refugees, with their mother and brother going to their graves believing the two boys were probably dead.

      He should have joined the Night’s Watch and volunteered for permanent latrine digging and maintenance duty. That might have been a start. There is no way he can ever really “redeem” himself for what he’s done. He has not even tried. Tossing petite Myranda off a balcony doesn’t count. Too little, too late. (No pun intended.)

      Sorry. I can’t see a “road to redemption”, messy or otherwise.

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    6. a love story between a brother and sister,

      Hmm. Sounds a little too much like Jaime and Cersei. I’d lose the “love story” angle and emphasize sibling bonds.

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    7. PS. Petra: Your article was great. My distaste for the Theon character and belief that he is irredeemable weren’t intended as a criticism of anything you wrote.

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    8. Ten Bears,

      While B&W absolutely drooled over filming Theon’s torture scenes, they didn’t truly show the after effects. Too disturbing is my guess. Plus, don’t want to make the pretty stars less sexy and appealing, right?

      Check out GRR Martin’s text. Theon’s got several broken teeth, fingers and toes amputated, has had other fingers flayed (that’s when the skin is peeled off) to where he bit them off to stop the pain; he’s been starved and made to live on anything he can catch in his darkened cell, until he’s “promoted” to sleeping with the dogs and fighting them for their chow. The mind games teevie Ramsey plays on him are nothing compared to what all Theon endures in the book.

      Moreover, book Ramsey made Theon do all those things to “Arya” before he took his turn. That way, he got to watch, and also watch their humiliation and fear. What was done to Sansa in the show was nowhere near as heinous as the books.

      But the B&W version chose to go with the eunuch joke version. Note that if Theon had any “balls”, those kicks would have felled him.

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    9. Theon is interesting because he is such a thoroughly weak character.

      He’s not like Cersei or Jaime, both of whom display some intelligence, self-awareness and reserves of inner strength. There’s no rock to Theon – he was always built on sand. He’s more akin to Joffrey or Viscerys.

      But of the “thoroughly contemptible bottom-scrapers” club, he’s the one who has actually pulled through (or at the very least, made a spirited attempt at it). It’s satisfying, because whereas Jaime is reclaiming his honour, Theon has no such reference point to motivate or guide him. Unexpectedly in Game of Thrones, this actually suggests that anyone can be redeemed after all.

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    10. Firannion:
      Wonderful essay, Petra! Though I’m not certain that even rescuing Yara/Asha will be the final act in Theon’s redemption arc. I want to see him end with another opportunity to exercise power and leadership, and to use it with wisdom, compassion and restraint, proving that he has truly internalized his hard lessons. Ideally, the captain’s daughter will turn up with his bastard, already learning seamanship skills and ripe for legitimizing as a Greyjoy heir. If he can learn to love and appreciate her and she can learn to forgive him for the douchiness of his youth, all the better.

      But perhaps that’s too much happiness to ask in Westeros. I just want to see some reward for the brilliance of Alfie Allen’s acting, mostly. He has well and truly wrung my heart.

      Hear hear. Brilliant piece, Petra.

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    11. Alba Stark

      I think Theon’s tepid relationship with most of the Stark children is really tragic. In the books, Theon admits to himself that he never really cared for any of them other than Robb and it’s noted that Bran has never warmed to Theon by the beginning of GoT. To be fair, though, Theon didn’t seem like an easy guy to get along with at the time. It makes Theon and Robb’s friendship all the more remarkable and his betrayal that much sadder.

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    12. Petra:

      I think Theon’s tepid relationship with most of the Stark children is really tragic. In the books, Theon admits to himself that he never really cared for any of them other than Robb and it’s noted that Bran has never warmed to Theon by the beginning of GoT. To be fair, though, Theon didn’t seem like an easy guy to get along with at the time. It makes Theon and Robb’s friendship all the more remarkable and his betrayal that much sadder.

      Agree on the betrayal of Robb – I think he was probably the only person in Winterfell Theon counted as a genuine friend. But I would like to know (and I can’t really remember us getting it in the books or the show) how Ned and Catelyn encouraged these six children to think of Theon. Did they give them any guidance at all?

      In the show Sansa tells Theon They were your brothers when she asks about Bran and Rickon. Is that what they were told to do? To think of Theon as a foster brother? Was it made clear to them that Theon would probably be executed by their father if his rebelled again? It is a pre-story dynamic that is really interesting to me and plays into the arc Theon has in the books and show.

      I think the closest we really get to knowing is Catelyn urging Robb not to trust Theon when the prospect of him going to meet with Balon is mooted. That Robb does trust Theon in this instance is, I think, born out of Robb having tuned out Catelyn’s warnings about Jon for his entire life. I think part of him extends this to Theon.

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    13. Ten Bears,

      Haha! I never took your critiques of Theon as personal insults, but thanks for the clarification 😉

      I totally get your point that nothing Theon can do can repair the damage he’s caused (though I don’t hold his failings as Reek against him as he really wasn’t capable of making his own decisions at that point).

      That’s why I like that his forgiveness with Jon, and consequently his closure, remains incomplete.

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    14. Great article, Petra! Thank you for writing this.

      Like rex and Firannion, I too am of the belief that there will more to Theon’s end story than the rescue or attempted rescue of Yara (I’m not sure, Yara survives by the way, sorry.) I expect Theon to return to the Great War where he will have some crucial part to play. Whether Theon makes it through alive when the final episode ends, well, that’s impossible to say but I have a feeling, he might very well be among the survivors.

      For me, what’s left for Theon’s arc has nothing to do with redemption. In my opinion, he redeemed himself the moment he truly regretted his crimes and that was 4-5 seasons ago. To me, Theon’s arc is all about his personal journey; how a person can end up being kind and wise despite bad choices and past crimes early on in life.

      Contrary to what some commenters believe, I find Theon both strong and brave. He expected to die when he held his speech for the ironborn in season 2 (before they turned on him,) and even at his lowest low, when he’s so broken by Ramsay that he’s nearly lost himself from pain and constant fear, he’s able to get back and later on, he is even willing to return to more torture if that will save Sansa. We see him fight brilliantly and bravely in season 7 until his PTSD is triggered shortly. There are no signs of weakness, only of trauma. He will always have flashbacks and obvious physical signs of his captivity but I have never felt that he goes back and forth between Reek and Theon. To me it’s been very clear where Theon was personality wise and I see his arc as a slow but well carried out journey towards becoming what he would always have been, had he actually grown up in a loving, and caring family. He’s a fascinating and realistic character and Alfie Allen has been outstanding throughout the seasons.

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    15. Em,

      “Unexpectedly in Game of Thrones, this actually suggests that anyone can be redeemed after all.”
      —————-

      In my view, the only scenario in which Theon can be redeemed would involve something like strapping bottles of wildfire to himself, jumping on the back of the Night King while he’s riding undead Viseryon, and detonating the wildfire suicide bomb to save Jon, Dany, Aegon, Jr., Arya, and Sandor from imminent death-by-ice-dragon.

      My personal belief is that “redemption” has to be proportionate to and somehow make up for the harm caused to the victim. There’s got to be some volitional self-sacrifice. Neither Theon’s mutilation at the hands of Ramsey, nor his voyages with Yara, have anything to do with remedying what he did to the Starks.

      It’s great that he beat up that Ironborn guy in the goofy raincoat and led a cheer of “For Yara!” But that had nothing to do with the crimes he committed.

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    16. Theon is one of those characters I hated at first but ended up loving because of his very human struggle with himself and his regret over bad decisions made. I hope he triumphs in the end but I’m half expecting a bittersweet conclusion to his redemption story. There will be tears either way.

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    17. We all expected Theon Greyjoy to be dead by now, didn’t we?

      Nope. I actually believe (at least in the books) that he will survive till the very end. 🙂

      Really enjoyed reading your analysis btw Petra (and the interesting structure). You’re like the queen of the Greyjoys!

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    18. Petra,

      Jon will forgive anyone for just about anything. That’s why he’s the Great Conciliator 🕊and the Prince Who Was Promised.

      On the other end of the spectrum there’s Arya: screw with her family, and face retribution. ☠️ Her approach is probably closer to my personal philosophy. 😕

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    19. zandru,

      “While B&W absolutely drooled over filming Theon’s torture scenes, they didn’t truly show the after effects. Too disturbing is my guess. Plus, don’t want to make the pretty stars less sexy and appealing, right?”
      —————-
      I could’ve done with less* torture scenes, and more of the wickedly delightful Charlotte Hope as Myranda.

      * Stannis: “Fewer.”
      Me: “What”?
      Stannis: “Nothing.”

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    20. Firannion,

      Personally, I prefer that Theon not regain power. While getting to see how his experiences inform his decision making would be interesting, I don’t think he’s capable of shouldering that sort of responsibility and, more importantly, I feel that relinquishing control was an important character beat for him and I wouldn’t want the writers to backpaddle on that.

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    21. Petra:
      Firannion,

      Personally, I prefer that Theon not regain power. While getting to see how his experiences inform his decision making would be interesting, I don’t think he’s capable of shouldering that sort of responsibility and, more importantly, I feel that relinquishing control was an important character beat for him and I wouldn’t want the writers to backpaddle on that.

      Funny you should say that, because Alfie Allen (perhaps half-jokingly) said at the Berlin Comic Con this past weekend that he’d like to see Theon end up in a position of power, because he thought the new Theon would be able to handle it much better now.

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    22. Alba Stark:
      In the show Sansa tells Theon They were your brothers when she asks about Bran and Rickon.Is that what they were told to do?To think of Theon as a foster brother?

      In the books, definitely no. You can see that simply in how children think (or rather, don’t think) about him. Arya never once thinks about him after her first chapter in AGOT, in which he physically appears (and doesn’t elicit any thoughts of affection). Sansa mentions him only once, when she relates to Tyrion that he supposedly murdered Bran (ASOS Sansa IV), but she says this without any thoughts or feelings about him, merely as fact. I would expect that he was simply somebody who lived at Winterfell and to whom they were supposed to be polite. But he was not there to be anybody’s foster brother, nor do any of them ever claim him as family or near-family (and there are plenty of occasions where the kids miss people beyond blood relatives, and he’s never one of them).

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    23. Petra:
      Firannion,

      relinquishing control was an important character beat for him and I wouldn’t want the writers to backpaddle on that.

      Fair point. But if I’m reading GRRM’s political philosophy aright, we are meant to take away the moral that leadership does not imply controlling other people. Theon might well have the makings of a good co-regent. He fully understands the costs of impulsive decisionmaking.

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    24. singedbylife,

      I’m with you, I always felt the notion that Theon goes back and forth between Theon and Reek was a misinterpretation of Theon’s state of mind.

      Yes, he was brainwashed but not in the supernatural or sci-fi sense. He isn’t Bucky Barnes who enters a fugue state on command and then snaps out of it, he just survived captivity by giving into conditioning and now has to live with the long term consequences of that experience.

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    25. Brava.
      Fantastic encapsulation of Theon’s muddied redemption arc.
      Theon was never meant to be our hero, but our worst reflection of our damaged self.
      Which is a accurate depiction, I think.

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    26. It’s a nice, neat theory which fits his arc very well but it doesn’t really incorporate the struggle with the dichotomy of his identity and so it fails to link three key moments in his arc.

      His character at Winterfell and interactions with the Stark children are obviously important primers but I think the arc began with Balon’s challenge of whether Theon is Stark or Ironborn. Until this happened it festered in the background for him and didn’t need to be addressed whilst he was surrounded by Starks. The conversation with Jon at Dragonstone, before Theon’s fight on the beach, brings this full circle with his admission of this struggle that has plagued him. A third key moment is Theon’s admission to Ramsey that his real father (Ned Stark) is dead. In that moment he knows he was loved by Ned.

      Jon’s forgiveness is important but the real gift for Theon was the permission to be both Stark and Greyjoy. He can finally stop warring with himself and embrace his full identity. Although he intended to rescue Yara in ep3, events took over and delayed this until ep7 but he was still warring over doing the right thing. i.e. sticking around to help Deanerys and Jon etc or rescuing Yara. Finally he could make the ‘right’ choice without the sense that he would be letting one side down.

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    27. Re: Theon and “redemption”

      I’m reminded of a line in a great movie. I’ll cover the title and what it’s about in case you haven’t seen it. The main character, who killed and maimed several people twenty years earlier but then turned his life around in a small town in the Midwest, returns home to meet with his older brother, who had to deal with the fallout of the character’s violent rampage. Here’s their exchange:

      “Tell me what I gotta do to make things right.”
      A: “You could do something I guess. You could die..”

      “A History of Violence”, about a Philadelphia mob captain’s younger brother, “Crazy Joey”, who disfigures another mobster and kills a bunch of his men, leaving the older brother to clean up his mess at great cost. Joey disappears, transforms himself into a peaceful man, and starts a new life under a different name in a small town in Indiana, where over the next twenty years, he marries a loving wife and raises two children while running the town diner and is well-liked by all. After an incident at the diner, he’s interviewed by the local TV station; the story gets picked up by national news stations, someone recognizes him, his tranquil life is threatened, and he’s forced to return to Philly and meet with his brother. It stars Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt, in case you’re interested

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    28. Ten Bears: I could’ve done with less* torture scenes,

      Same here! After the first viewing of the episode, I’d generally get up and do something else (like pour a cup of wine) until it was over.

      I can’t blame you for being down on Theon. He was just a vaguely irritating smart alec in the very beginning, became a strong ally for Robb, and then took ship to Pyke and turned into a loathesome woman-using Iron Born arse. He gets worse once he reaches Pyke, then becomes truly horrible, in his own weak, confused way, in the conquest of the north. By the time “Reek” (aka Ramsey) takes him under his wing – and starts taking him apart – I was nearly cheering.

      But, as I noted from the details of the torture, it went much further than seemed necessary, causing me to finally take pity on Theon. Your mileage will vary! I didn’t pity Cersei in her walk of shame, but I understand how many others might.

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    29. Ten Bears: “Tell me what I gotta do to make things right.”
      A: “You could do something I guess. You could die..”

      Pretty damn harsh worldview, if you ask me (not that you did).

      No, a person often cannot fully undo the harm that they have done. But trying to counterbalance it by doing good – by seeking to earn redemption – is a noble effort that should be reinforced, not denigrated, when it happens, IMO. People CAN change for the better.

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    30. Firannion,

      I cited that quote from the movie to suggest that an act of ultimate self-sacrifice might constitute “redemption” for a character like Theon who has done what he himself acknowledges are unspeakable things. It’s not necessarily my own worldview.

      Also, I had meant to pull up the scene from S6e2 (I think) in which Theon seems to say he does not want to be absolved for what he has done.

      I guess my problem with calling Theon’s story a “redemption arc” is that it’s got nothing to do with making amends to the family he betrayed or the survivors of his victims. It’s all focused on his sister.

      But you know what? I predict Theon will have a heroic death in S8. I think he will atone for his wrongs by sacrifing himself to save the lives of several members of House Stark.

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    31. Great piece, Petra.
      I very much agree that Theon is possibly the best written character in complexity, probably truest to what trauma does to a human.
      Interesting find of the symmetric structure to Theon’s arc.

      I definitely hope Theon has yet chance to do good, to make right choices. It’s one of those characters that could fit in an ending of doom, with only select few surviving. He wouldn’t feel worthy, but would have all the motivation to use his abilities for a better future.

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    32. Firannion,

      Here’s that excerpt from S6e2 I was referring to, concluding with Theon telling Ssnsa: “I don’t want to be forgiven. I can never make amends to your family for the things I’ve done.”

      Theon and Sansa 6×2

      Sansa: We just have to make it to Castle Black. Once we’re with Jon, Ramsay won’t be able to touch us.

      Theon: Jon will have me killed the moment I step through the gate.

      Sansa: I won’t let him. I’ll tell him the truth about Bran and Rickon.

      Theon: And the truth about the farm boys I killed in their place. And the truth about Ser Rodrik, who I beheaded. And the truth about Robb, who I betrayed.

      Sansa: When you take the black, all your crimes are forgiven.

      Theon: I don’t want to be forgiven. I can never make amends to your family for the things I’ve done.

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    33. Firannion:

      “No, a person often cannot fully undo the harm that they have done. But trying to counterbalance it by doing good – by seeking to earn redemption – is a noble effort that should be reinforced, not denigrated, when it happens, IMO.People CAN change for the better.”

      A cogent description of the redemption arc laid out for Sandor Clegane by Beric Dondarrion in S6e8:

      “You can still help a lot more than you’ve harmed, Clegane. It’s not too late for you.”

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    34. I believe Theon will kill Euron both book and show. Ramsay was his ”training” for dealing Euron in the future. That will be his redemption.

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    35. Petra:
      Firannion,

      Personally, I prefer that Theon not regain power. While getting to see how his experiences inform his decision making would be interesting, I don’t think he’s capable of shouldering that sort of responsibility and, more importantly, I feel that relinquishing control was an important character beat for him and I wouldn’t want the writers to backpaddle on that.

      Amazing article. Phenomenal analysis and trully loved how you showed the inverted structure of Theon’s character arc.

      I understand you prefer not to see him regain power. I prefer this as well both for the reasons you mentiond and because it likely means Yara is dead if he ends up with the Salt Throne.

      But what do you think is more likely? Or how do you interpret that final shot in the throne rome at Dragonstone after his conversation with Jon? The throne was really emphazised behind him.

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    36. zandru,

      I agree about the torture scenes being over the top – but they made me empathize with him. In the book, when I found out what happened to Theon (who is tortured off page) I cheered! Same thing with the walk of shame. Something about seeing what actually happens puts a different more humane view into my head Not only that, but I found that I truely want to see redemption for him. True, nothing he can do will erase the bad (see his conversation with Sansa after they were rescued about not wanting to be forgiven), But I want him to be a hero of some type, one that sacrifices himself for the cause or for someone else. .

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    37. Oh and Petra, another amazing analysis. He is probably the most complex character in the show, and one that I have come to care for. Enjoyed reading that

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    38. My hat’s off to you, Petra. You have the key that has unlocked the enigma of Theon. What a fascinating character and what a performance. I just nominated him for Lead actor along with our other contradictory anti-hero, Jaime). The crime they share is the greatest sin in the moral ethos of GRRM;s universe: harming innocent children. This has been a thought-provoking general discussion of Theon’s redemptive arc, though many of the comments strike me as harsh, Someone who has committed so many crimes probably can never fully forgiven. But unlike Jaime, Theon committed all his crimes out of weakness and circumstances that gave him deeply conflicted sense of self. Jaime committed his act out of arrogance, lust, and indifference to life. At the time, he didn’t even care. Though they’ve both come a long way, Theon has suffered more than any other major character and been continually repenting. When someone sincerely asserts they are beyond forgiveness, IMO it’s an indication that they are not. His real father lost his head in Kings Landing. And when we saw WWJD, J forgave him as much as he could. I think your solution of Theon’s lifelong abnegation of power is a good one. If he survives, Theon has much to contribute to Yara, the Ironborn, and Westeros–but he’ll do it from an eternal self-imposed penance of humility. And by the way, even this former English teacher was gobsmacked with your brilliant ‘chiastic’ approach. Thank you.

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    39. EXCELLENT analysis!

      To be honest, I was always very puzzled by posters who claimed that Theon’s arc began and ended with the Starks. This analysis is so much more in depth and thorough! Yes, he is one of the most complex characters in GoT.

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    40. I agree that Theon wasn’t a good person before sacking Winterfell, but at most he was just a sexist jerk. He was one of the first to bend the knee to Robb, proving he considered the elder Stark to be worth following. Robb trusted him enough to base a strategy on his loyalty, which ultimately backfired tremendously.

      That Theon/Jon scene in the season 7 finale was great, but Jon’s words seem hollow when we look at Theon’s arc. He had to choose. Everyone has to make a hard choice eventually. Maester Aemon had the best take on this, “We all do our duty when there’s no cost to it. Honor comes easy then. Yet, sooner or later, in every man’s life there comes a day when it is not easy. A day when he must choose.” (the old Targaryen maester always had the best advice – Jon was pretty lucky)

      Theon’s choice was beautifully shot in “What Is Dead May Never Die”, during season 2, when he burns the letter he wrote to Robb. Had he sent that letter (which described Balon’s plans to take over the North), much of what followed would’ve changed dramatically. Theon chose poorly.

      Honestly, I don’t like this “Yara rescue” plotline. I do like Yara, though. It’s a shame she didn’t get more screentime, because in the books Asha is one of my favorites. I’ve always thought she’d be a good partner to Jon Snow. She’s quite similar to Ygritte, so they’d probably get along well.

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    41. I truly enjoyed this essay. As I have not read the books, my sense of Theon as a character is as a deeply conflicted person who was, to be honest, a pawn of a war he had no part in making. For Yara, Theon is the only relative she has who is not dead, or like her father and uncle, barking mad. That being said, over his seven season multi-dimensional story arc, Theon as a character that I wish good things for despite that bad patch there in Seasons 2 and 3, is very much the creation of Alfie Allen’s all in approach to playing a character who could easily be hated just on general principles. GOT the series Theon I see as a new archetype of the masculine: an individual who absorbs and expresses the most toxic aspects of the masculine, and then is victimized by those same characteristics as wielded by another man. That Theon survives the shattering he experiences at the hands of Ramsey Bolton argues in favor of the development of a new sense of what it is to be a man, and having balls and a dick have nothing to do with any of those qualities.

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    42. Alfie Allen took me from hating Theon to wanting him to succeed. Very few actors could have done that for me. The amount of relief I felt when he finally kicked the Greyjoy dude’s ass (sorry, can’t remember his name) was astronomical. Enough with the constant beating Theon down – we get it already. Who can forgive him, has, even if he himself cannot and will not. He has a goal and a reason. Nothing changes the past, but the future comes despite it.

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    43. Interesting read but I’m not expecting Theon to successfully rescue Yara, sure he may try but it seems a little far fetched that he’ll succeed. More likely she will die and he will land up ruling the Iron born in my opinion.

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    44. Great analysis, first of all:)
      The idea of symmetric structure of Theon’s arc is genius. I can’t agree just with the interpritation of the last point of it.
      “Theon demonstrates love for another”. You mean Yara here. Here is my point of disagreement. Yara doesn’t neen love. On the contrary, she gives love to Theon who needs it so much to find the purpose to live futher.
      I think Theon will ends in giving his love to somebody who desperately needs it. It may be his bustard child, who will get unconditional love from his father. That love may change (improve) child’s destiny. This sort of love will be Theon’s arc closure. It’s only my opinion. I may be mistaken. But I desperately hope to be right. Because I like Theon and wish him redemption😍

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    45. Wolfish:
      Ten Bears,

      One of my favorite movies!!!

      Then you’ll probably get this inside joke among my family, who’ve all watched “A History of Violence”: Whenever one of us screws up a simple task (something mundane like being asked to pick up hazelnut coffee creamer from the supermarket, but coming back with unflavored creamer), the other one reacts overdramatically…

      (in mock disbelief): “How do you fu*k that up?”
      (demanding): “HOW do you fu*k THAT up???”

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    46. Wolfish,

      OT: Was it you who mentioned something about the artist Turner a while back? If so, I had a reply that got zapped during transmission, but it relates to Natalie Dormer so I’m going to include the gist of it in the Comments to today’s (10/13/17) article about Margaery’s costumes.

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