Why Theon Greyjoy will become King of the Iron Islands in Game of Thrones Season 7

Throughout his history on Game of Thrones, Theon Greyjoy's character has gone through multiple evolutions: from Ned Stark's ward to the betrayer of House Stark, from cold-blooded murderer to unlikely savior, from arrogant and cocky son of a lordly house to the broken and timid slave of Ramsay Snow. Season six saw Theon assisting Sansa with her escape from Ramsay's clutches, and while he could have chosen to stay with her, Theon decided it was time for him to go home to the Iron Islands. His sister Yara has managed to put some steel back into his backbone as her right-hand man, but I don't think he'll stay in that position long.

Simply put, I think Theon will end up as the King of the Iron Islands, probably in Season 7. Let's take a look at the clues that I think point towards this unlikely result—but watch out: below the cut, this article contains spoilers from the entire Game of Thrones TV series as well as the A Song of Ice and Fire books. You've been warned!

Isn't it ironic?

When you take a close look at the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, it becomes quickly evident that George R.R. Martin has a fine sense of irony when it comes to his characters' motivations and their storylines. He enjoys subverting common tropes with his storytelling, and seems to do so at every opportunity. Jaime Lannister—the finest swordsman in the realm—loses his sword hand. Tyrion—who wants nothing more than to be valued, loved, and accepted—ends up murdering both his lover and his father. Sansa—the girl who wanted to marry a prince—ends up married twice against her wishes, as well as used, beaten, or brutalized by most of the men in her life. Jon Snow—who joined the Night's Watch to find brotherhood and honor—finds himself murdered by those self-same brothers. What could be more ironic than the despicable Theon Greyjoy eventually redeeming himself and becoming King? Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at Theon's history, and where his arc could be pointing in the future.

The lost son

As a child, Theon was taken as a ward by Eddard Stark following the rebellion of Balon Greyjoy. Unlike the friendly and voluntary wards often exchanged between noble houses, Theon was essentially a hostage to keep House Greyjoy on its best behavior. Balon's other sons died during the rebellion, and with Theon taken to be raised far away in the North, Balon essentially wrote off his youngest son as a lost cause. This left only Yara, who Balon reluctantly groomed to take his place as ruler in the future.

In the North, Theon was treated kindly by Eddard and he made a close friend in Robb—but he always knew he was an outsider. When the opportunity first came to reclaim his heritage, Theon did so with alacrity—even betraying Robb in order to do so. Theon was so eager for his father's affection and approval that he jumped at the chance to impress him—leaping right into a foolhardy scheme destined to fail. Unfortunately, Theon didn't have the leadership skills or sense to understand that taking Winterfell was nothing but folly. Instead of earning his father's approval, Theon had to murder people he had known most of his life, and ended up getting his entire crew of Ironborn killed by the Boltons. His father left him swinging in the wind yet again—revealing Yara as the only family member who cared enough to help the wayward Greyjoy. I find the idea of the lost scion of House Greyjoy becoming King of the Ironborn to be extremely poetic, especially after how his father essentially disowned him.

Breaking Theon

Theon's time as Reek was very important to his character development. His arc as a person mirrors that of Jaime Lannister: both have done some very deplorable things in the name of love and family. Both were captured by enemies, and lost something they felt defined them as a person. Jaime lost his sword hand, and Theon was castrated. I know it seems silly and cliché—a man being defined by his dangly bits—but at the time, Theon was very much defined by his virility and his perceived prowess with women. Don't forget, at one point Theon even (unknowingly) attempted to seduce his sister—which definitely echoes Jaime Lannister.

Since then, both Jaime and Theon have faced trials that completely changed them. Jaime lost his father and brother, his children have all died, and his sister is a madwoman. Theon was castrated, tortured, emotionally and psychologically abused—stripping away nearly everything of his identity. At some point, each have been given a chance at redemption by a female figure: Jaime through Brienne, and Theon by Sansa and Yara.

Before Ramsay got his hands on him, Theon tried to emulate the cunning and merciless personality of his father, Balon. Ironically, following his imprisonment as Reek, Theon now most closely emulates Ned Stark—who served as his father figure for many years. We can thank Ramsay Snow for "stripping back" the character of Theon—allowing him to discover what truly lay at his core.

Theon's redemption

Theon notably told Sansa during their season six escape that he didn't want redemption—that he didn't deserve it after all he has done—but Theon may be well on the way towards the redemption he doesn't want. He's gone from a hated, despised and pitiable character to an honorable one—a man who is now motivated by doing what is right.

He risked his life to rescue Sansa, and proved that he still had some backbone when he picked up a sword and killed a Bolton armsman to save Podrick. He returned to the Iron Islands to help his sister claim the Seastone Chair, because he believes she is the right person to lead the Ironborn. He defied his terrifying uncle to continue helping Yara—speaking on her behalf at the Kingsmoot and later stealing Euron's fleet with her before brokering a deal with Daenerys. Since the moment he and Sansa escaped Winterfell, Theon has done the honorable thing in every situation he has faced. He is truly a changed man.

Euron's revenge

The last we saw Euron Greyjoy, he was eager to preemptively murder his niece and nephew, even before he learned they had stolen half of his fleet. His remarked that it wouldn't be enough to save them, and many fans wondered what he meant by that. Theon and Yara have spent several weeks or even months traveling to Essos, meeting with Daenerys, and then sailing back towards Westeros. This has surely been plenty of time for Euron to build up the part of his fleet that was stolen and go in search of his own allies. It's very unlikely that he would turn to the North and Jon Snow, which leaves really only one major player to consider—Cersei Lannister.

I think it's probable that early in season seven, we will see Euron offering an alliance to Queen Cersei. He'll inform her of his niece and nephew's intentions and of the impending arrival of Daenerys—who is crossing the Narrow Sea with her fleet, her Unsullied, and her dragons. While the Lannisters and the Iron Throne do have a fleet, it doesn't approach the numbers boasted by the Ironborn. Cersei will be in a position of vulnerability, and Euron will use that to his advantage—perhaps even attempting to seduce the Mad Queen—in order to broker the deal he wants.

Set rumors

We recently got some tantalizing set rumors and spoilers that center on the Greyjoys and a pitched battle at sea. The spoilers indicate that recent filming focused on a clash between Euron's fleet and Daenerys' at sea, and that Euron ends up taking either Theon or Yara prisoner. It's also reported that Euron will kill one of the Sand Snakes. Given that Theon has already been a prisoner of Ramsay, it seems more likely that Yara will be the Greyjoy sibling captured by their uncle Euron.

This rumor is backed up by other evidence, such as fan sightings of Alfie Allen (Theon), Gemma Whelan (Yara), Pilou Asbæk (Euron), and Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand) during the first two weeks of September. Additionally, Gemma Whelan was apparently injured while filming recently, hurting her back and requiring a trip to the local hospital. If Whelan was performing stunts during a battle scene, this could be the cause of her back injury.

Yara's importance

Yara is a born leader who inspires confidence in her followers and makes smart decisions. She is the epitome of what a good queen should be—which is precisely why I don't believe George R.R. Martin will let her survive to rule. Yara and Robb display much of the same qualities in their personalities, although Yara appears to be much more savvy when it comes to betrayal. She managed to anticipate her uncle's actions at the Kingsmoot and escape him, for now. Like Robb, she's negotiated deals she didn't really like, and that may end up hurting her in the long run. We all know how Robb's treaty worked out for him, and I don't think Yara's will end any better. One crucial thing I noticed is how casually she negotiated away the Ironborn way of living, through raiding and reaving. The Iron Islands are primarily rock, and the Greyjoy words "We Do Not Sow" should be taken literally—there really isn't anywhere for the Ironborn to cultivate much food. This means that Yara has sentenced the Ironborn to a life of struggling to survive on fishing, shipping cargo, and other related trades.

For now, Yara is Queen of the Iron Islands—as soon as Daenerys assumes the Iron Throne—but ultimately, I think her role is to be a sacrifice along the way for Theon's final trial. As an audience, we haven't really seen enough of Yara over the last six seasons to really care much about her or become invested in her success. To me, this is another indicator of her impending demise.

If Yara is the one captured by Euron, as seems likely, I don't think she will survive long. Theon will be motivated to rescue her, but I think he will be unsuccessful. The most likely scenario is that Euron pulls a Mad King and sets up a situation where it's impossible for Theon to save her—much like what happened to Brandon and Rickard Stark—and Theon ends up witnessing her die before his eyes. This final blow—the death of the one family member who never abandoned him—will be the ultimate trial for Theon. Will he crawl back into his hole of self-loathing and give up? Or will he rise again, harder and stronger, to get vengeance on his uncle and take back control of the Ironborn?

The reluctant King

As we've already discussed, Theon doesn't want redemption. He doesn't want to be a leader, because of how poorly it turned out for him last time. He knows he was a horrible leader, and believes he would be an even worse ruler. And if we're talking about the old Theon Greyjoy, he's absolutely right. But his experience as a captive of Ramsay Snow was transformative—the old Theon died, and he lived only as Reek. Now, Theon has been reborn, and this Theon understands a lot of things he previously didn't.

I think that if forced into a leadership role, the new Theon would actually do pretty well for himself. He will do the right thing for his family—and for the Ironborn—by destroying his insane uncle and taking up the role of King of the Iron Islands. He will honor the pact made with Daenerys, but after defeating Euron, Theon might renegotiate the deal Yara made, perhaps getting the Ironborn some arable land along the coastline of Westeros. Like George VI, another reluctant King (of England), Theon would come to power in a time of turmoil and war. And like George VI, I believe that Theon will do well—restoring legitimacy and respect to the Seastone Chair and stabilizing his realm.

Theon doesn't want to be King, and to me, that is precisely why he is most deserving of the title.