10:00 am EDT, April 12, 2019

Theon Greyjoy should win the Game of Thrones

Some times you have to look outside the box

It wouldn’t be in Game of Thrones fashion to award the Iron Throne to someone obvious. Theon Greyjoy is the not-so-obvious, obvious choice.

When you think of clever Game of Thrones characters, Theon definitely isn’t at the top of the list. He probably doesn’t even cross your mind at all. In the early days, Theon’s decisions were questionable at best, apart from his initial unwavering loyalty to Robb Stark.

As Theon got older, and the Game of Thrones became more complicated, Theon struggled with his identity and with where his loyalties lay. Greyjoy blood runs through his veins, but he was raised on Stark traditions and values. Fighting with these two sides of himself resulted in poor choices that were worthy of neither a Greyjoy nor a Stark.

Over time, Theon learned to stop fighting the two sides of himself, and instead embrace them. The result is an interesting breed of honor that is unlike any other character on Game of Thrones. He no longer has to think about what decision to make, and who to impress. The experiences Theon has faced have taught him how best to act on instinct.

Theon knows when a fight is futile

It’s easy to label Theon a coward when he’s constantly surrounded by characters who will always pick a fight even when it isn’t the smartest move. And that’s the point: Fighting isn’t always the best choice. An Iron Throne ruled by Theon Greyjoy would not have any unnecessary feuds or fights.

One of Theon’s shining moments is also one of his most controversial moments. In season 7, Theon and Yara’s fleet is ambushed by their uncle, Euron Greyjoy. At some point during the chaos, Euron captures Yara and holds her hostage, daring Theon to make a move to rescue her. Instead of running to Euron in an attempt to strike him down, Theon literally jumps ship.

Some would call Theon’s desertion a cowardly move. In reality, it was the smartest move. Had Theon taken a run at his uncle, Euron probably would have cut Yara’s throat immediately. Moreover, there was no way Theon would be able to win a fight against Euron anyway. By abandoning ship, Theon gave Yara the best chance of survival by being held captive. Sparing his own life also gave him the opportunity to tell his allies what happened, and get proper support to rescue his sister.

Theon knows when a fight is worth dying for

Although Theon has been known to desert a fight he knows he can’t win, he’s also made brave choices on behalf of others. How easily people forget the most difficult decision Theon has made in his entire life: saving Sansa from Ramsay Bolton.

After three seasons of physical and mental torture at the hands of Ramsay, Theon was a broken man. Ramsay wore him down so much that Theon completely lost his identity, becoming the pitiful Reek. It seemed nothing and no one would be able to bring him out of the darkness. But Theon is tougher than he’s given credit for, and eventually he was able to break free. Perhaps even more surprisingly, his eventual act of defiance wasn’t for self-preservation, it was for Sansa.

Sansa went through her own turmoils and traumas at the hands of Ramsay, all of which Theon was privy to. Also like Theon, her many attempts to escape all failed. After endless pleading with Theon Reek to escape together, Sansa made a bid for freedom on her own. Unfortunately, she was caught by Reek and Myranda. Upon hearing Myranda’s threats to punish Sansa, Reek Theon makes the sudden decision to push Myranda over the catwalk, killing her. The two then flee together, as far away from Ramsay as they can get.

It’s true that Theon repeatedly rebuffed Sansa’s pleas to help her escape, but it’s also true that her eventual escape wouldn’t have been possible without him. Though it took him time, Theon was able to break free of Reek, kill his torturer, and defy his other captor, all to help someone in need. A man who is able to do what is right, and what is difficult, at the lowest point of his life, is a man worthy of the Iron Throne.

Theon won’t be distracted by baser instincts

In the first couple of seasons on Game of Thrones, Theon was synonymous with two things: sex and archery. His aspirations were minimal and primal, hardly a man worthy of kingship. But the Game of Thrones isn’t easy on anyone in this series, not even those who don’t seek power. The formerly upbeat, arrogant Greyjoy of simple mind and pleasures was forced to grow up.

Theon spent three seasons being tortured by Ramsay Bolton. Not only was Theon’s spirit broken, but his identity was completely stripped away from him, literally. Ramsay cut off Theon’s penis, as well as some of his fingers. No longer the womanizer or archer he prided himself as, Theon lost himself.

Related: Game of Thrones characters who got what they deserved

Of course, time has passed since these season 3 events, and Theon has learned to adapt to his new circumstances, maturing from a boy to a man, even without his manhood. Unlike other men or women who seek power in Game of Thrones, Theon would not be a leader so easily swayed by human nature’s most basic impulses, like that of Robert Baratheon. He would be a king with focus.

Theon has hit rock bottom, and his life can only get better

The journey of Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones has been wrought with angst and anguish. Beginning as the annoying, arrogant friend of Robb Stark, Theon has grown into one of the most self-reflective, self-aware characters on the show.

The rough and tough exterior Theon tried to exude in his first couple of seasons was never going to last. It isn’t who Theon really was, or is. At his core, Theon was a lost boy who cared about those he loved and just wanted acceptance. Unfortunately, it took reaching rock bottom for that true, softer Theon to surface.

Theon’s arrogance was quite literally beaten out of him. The surface-level amount of confidence and self-assuredness he had disappeared, and for a while it seemed like it would never return. He became a shell of a man. Nothing of Theon Greyjoy remained, just a subservient body for a ruthless tormentor. Life could not be worse for Theon. Death would have been a welcome result.

Yet Theon continued to survive. He hit rock bottom, and kept going. Eventually, with the help of Sansa, Theon was able to find himself again, and thrive. The last we saw of Theon in season 7, he was attempting to rally Yara’s troops to join him in rescuing her. Though Yara’s men don’t at first respect him enough to lead them, Theon wins a brawl against his most vocal opposer. Ironically, Theon’s lack of manhood is a large factor in his victory. He earns the men’s respect back, and after seven seasons we finally see a Theon Greyjoy we can get behind.

No character on Game of Thrones has grown more than Theon Greyjoy. To be sure, most characters have not had to endure as much as Theon has, but many also would not have survived it, and come out relatively intact, either. Theon is a fighter and a survivor, and the ability to persevere is vital to sitting the Iron Throne.

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