We Need To Talk About All The Times Theon Was The Actual Worst On 'GoT'

by S. Atkinson
Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

If you've been nursing sympathy for one of the show's most complex characters, it could be time to check that impulse. The many, many times Theon was the worst on Game Of Thrones should be your reminder that, as one of the most nuanced characters, he's never going to be 100 percent good. While we've come a long way from his Season 1 days of being a total asshole, and he seems much more stable and moral in Season 7, Euron's return has challenged this idea of a slow, steady improvement.

After Yara bragged about her brother being her protector, when Euron took her hostage and asked Theon what he was going to do about it, Theon hurled himself off the ship rather than risk his life to defend his sister. Sure, post traumatic stress disorder is a very real thing, but that still doesn't excuse his lies to the crew who rescues him in the following episode. Yes, he can be sweet and compassionate — but he can also be cowardly and treacherous. Like all of us, Theon Greyjoy contains multitudes. But, unlike all of us, he's done a lot of really terrible things. How many second chances are we going to keep giving him?


When He's Way Too Eager To Kill Direwolf Puppies

In Season 1, they come across some direwolf puppies warming themselves at the corpse of their dead mother. Ned Stark suggests a quick death would be more merciful, presumably since he's not sure whether the pups will survive minus a mother. Theon wastes no time in springing to respond to Ned's words until Robb Stark stops him and Jon Snow talks Ned round. This was small but significant. Who's that eager to kill adorable puppies?


When, In The Same Scene, He Snaps "I Take Orders From Your Father, Not You" To Robb Stark

It's made clear that, despite growing up more or less as part of the Stark family, Theon doesn't really have much affection for what are effectively his brothers or view their relation as familial in the slightest (thus "orders"). This foreshadows his later betrayal of the family who looked after him to try and curry favor with the family who can't stand him, the Greyjoys.


When, In The Same Scene, He Mocks Jon Snow

When they find a sixth puppy, Theon states "Runt of the litter? That one's yours, Snow." He's quick to make fun of those he considers in a weaker position than himself to curry favor with those in a position of power. Unlike Jon Snow, Yara's brother clearly has little integrity.


When He's Misogynistic And Ableist In A Conversation With Tyrion

Sure, everyone is living in a time based on the Middle Ages, so presumably not many people have an enlightened attitude towards sex workers. But referring to the brothel workers as "some Northern arse" before losing his temper and calling Tyrion "imp" shows us Theon's true colors. And Tyrion's right to call him out on his sentimental description of wartime. When Theon refers to the burning of the Lannister fleet as "a pretty sight," Tyrion's quick to set him straight: "There's nothing prettier than watching sailors burn alive." This conversation is Theon in a nutshell: full of prejudice and malice and dangerously naive about the horrors of war.


When Theon Demands Osha Refers To Him As "My Lord"

"In civilised lands, you refer to your betters by their proper title." Theon quite literally lording it over the Wildling and dripping condescension is pretty painful to watch. Just like him, Osha is a prisoner of war, so this stresses two things: one, that he completely lacks compassion. Second, that he has zero objectivity about his own situation and doesn't see the parallels between them. Plus, as Osha points out, if his father is still alive, then he's Lord Greyjoy, not Theon.


When, In The Same Scene, It's Hinted He's Going To Rape Her

"You're an impudent little wench, aren't you?" says Winterfell's creepiest resident, before suggesting she lose her chain. Thankfully, Maester Luwin interrupts in the nick of time.


When He Tries To Seduce His Sister

Yes, he doesn't actually know that Yara is his sister when he slips his hand down her pants. But Yara does attempt to warn him "You don't know what I'm like." Theon then offers to mansplain herself to... her. ("Maybe you don't know what you're like. Maybe you need someone to teach you.") before getting very swaggery ("Do you know who I am?"). All that condescension is pretty awful.


When He Betrays The Starks

This is one of Theon's lowest points. The Starks treated their prisoner of war incredibly kindly — even Robb states at one point that he thinks of Theon as a brother. And he doesn't betray the Starks, lead them away from Winterfell, and then take their castle because he hates them (as we see from his silence when Bran asks him "Did you hate us the whole time?") or because he's power hungry. It's because he's a people pleaser who wants to make his dad proud. Which, in the Game Of Thrones canon is never a good sign; all of the most successful characters are fatherless (Dany, Jon, late-series Tyrion) and happy to be so.


When He Botches Ser Rodrick Cassel's Execution

Executing a man simply because he challenges your authority (and because your first mate tells you that your men will lose all respect for you otherwise) isn't a great move to begin with. But allowing yourself to be baited into carrying out the execution when you're inexperienced in this area is even worse, as this scene proves. Theon has to hack at Ser Rodrick's neck five times to finally behead him.


When He Orders The Murder Of Two Innocent Boys In A Cover Up

When Bran and Rickon escape, Theon tries to recover them — but when they are nowhere to be found, he orders his first mate Dagmer to murder two innocent farmhands instead and burn their bodies to suggest to his captives that you shouldn't mess with a Greyjoy. OK, Theon.


When He Mansplains Military Theory To His (Way More Experienced) Army

Theon genuinely seems to believe that he can give a speech so rousing that Ironborn men who barely know him will sacrifice their lives to Ramsay Bolton's forces (by whom they're vastly outnumbered) for no reason other than honor. Plus, talking military strategy to some dudes who have spent their entire lives fighting in military campaigns? C'mon.


When He Abandons His Sister

Sure, there are a million different arguments to be made in defense of Theon leaping off a ship rather than rescuing Yara from Euron. And, sue, many of those arguments center on the fact that he's suffering from post traumatic stress disorder — and his mental health issues shouldn't be minimized. But, in the context of the plot, it's still a low point for the character, given the fact that Yara previously defied their father's orders in Season 3 and 4 to go and try and rescue him from Ramsay. Plus, the fact he lies about it in the following episode, pretending he did his best to fight off Euron and rescue Yara, could suggest a return of the more deceitful, self-interested character he was in Season 1.

This isn't to say that the character hasn't had his good moments, too. But in focusing too much on the redemptive arc, viewers forget that Theon wasn't always the groovy feminist and ally he appeared to be in Season 6 and (some of) Season 7.