Theon Greyjoy has always been one of the most divisive characters on Game of Thrones, and he spends the first few seasons of the series doing everything he can to further sully his reputation. Theon sacks Winterfell, kills two innocent children in lieu of Bran and Rickon Stark, and executes his former friends—but that’s just Act I in a two-act journey to his ultimate redemption.
In the third episode of Game of Thrones’ final season, Theon meets his end at the hand of the Night King—but he does so in his former home of Winterfell, protecting his former family. Theon dies as a redeemed character, but it wasn’t just his brave last stand that earned him that title: he’s done plenty in the interim to win back the trust of fans and his fellow characters alike.
“My Real Father Lost His Head At King’s Landing”
When: Season 3, episode 4, “And Now His Watch Is Ended”
Theon Greyjoy’s path to redemption begins with a realization: after spending his entire childhood and adolescence at Winterfell, he identifies more as a Stark than a Greyjoy. Furthermore, he recognizes that Ned Stark—not Balon Greyjoy—was the real father figure in his life, and that he erred when he chose his Ironborn loyalties over his Northern ones.
My real father lost his head at King's Landing. I made a choice... and I chose wrong.
Unfortunately, Theon makes this revelation when he thinks he’s about to reunite with the Ironborn, but he’s actually just being toyed with by Ramsay Bolton, and on his way to another round of gruesome torture. Soon, he’ll have forgotten either of his identities and will only recognize himself as Reek.
Theon Is Shaken By The News Of Robb Stark’s Death
When: Season 4, episode 2, “The Lion and the Rose”
The first hint that the old Theon might be emerging from within the “Reek” persona he’s been tortured into adopting comes at one of his lowest moments. In a powerful demonstration of control, Ramsay Bolton has Theon shave him with a straight razor—knowing full well that Theon is far too broken to act on his urge to slit Ramsay’s throat.
Ramsay chooses this moment to inform Theon of the Red Wedding, taking particular joy in detailing how it was his own father, Roose, who stabbed Robb Stark through the heart. Though Theon continues shaving Ramsay without incident, there is a brief glimmer of emotion on his face when he hears the news—and a brief remembrance of the man he once was, and the brother he has now lost.
He Tries To Protect Sansa When She Arrives At Winterfell—In His Own Cowardly Way
When: Season 5, episode 5, “Kill the Boy”
When Sansa Stark first arrives in Winterfell as the bride/captive of Ramsay Bolton, Theon really doesn’t come off as a hero—but given the context of his tortured mind, his minor efforts to protect her are still commendable.
He first does his level best to keep Sansa away, trying to scare her away when she visits him in the kennels. Afterward, he tries—and fails—to keep the secret of her visit from Ramsay, knowing full well it might lead to further punitive torture.
Reek Has A Brief Flash Of Anger When Ramsay Assaults Sansa—And Theon Begins To Re-Emerge
When: Season 5, episode 6, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Theon is chosen to accompany Sansa Stark down the aisle during her wedding to Ramsay Bolton—a gesture that might seem sweet on the surface, but is meant as a cruel jest by Ramsay. The ceremony is an awkward and stilted one—but the horrors of the evening are just beginning.
Ramsay then orders Theon to stick around in the bedchamber for his first night with Sansa, a night in which he viciously assaults and rapes her. The man now known as Reek obeys and watches her be brutalized tearfully—but there’s also a flash of anger on his face through the tears, and a brief resurfacing of the old Theon Greyjoy.