Why Theon Will Die on 'Game of Thrones' During the Battle of Winterfell

For many seasons now, the Starks on Game of Thrones have talked about how “winter is coming.” Now that the Great Battle of Winterfell is upon us in Season 8, it’s about time they started saying “death is coming” instead. Whether we like it or not, several — or many — characters will die in the next episode, and we think Theon Greyjoy will be one of the first major characters to go.

Throughout the series, Theon has had a character arc so tumultuous you couldn’t even call it an “arc” in any traditional sense. Whereas Jaime Lannister began as a wicked villain who eventually evolved into one of the show’s most unexpectedly likable heroes, Theon went from meek Stark ally to wavering turncoat, to the subhuman persona “Reek,” all the way back to reasserting his identity as Theon Greyjoy, an Ironborn that happened to be raised as a Stark.

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Theon only recently reconciled this dual identity at the very end of Season 7, honoring it by rescuing his sister, Yara, in the Season 8 premiere and by returning to Winterfell to fight beside Jon Snow rather than retreat to the safety of the Iron Islands.

If all this feels like the end of Theon’s journey, that’s because he’s totally about to die. 

His emotional reunion with Sansa in Season 8, Episode 2 reminded us that Theon has been redeemed and gave us a reason to care about him as a character. Most viewers probably still hate him a little bit, but we respect and adore Sansa enough to mirror her feelings. Altogether, this creates the perfect storm of emotional energy to ensure that Theon’s death in Episode 3 will be properly devastating.

Game of Thrones Season 8 sansa and theon
Theon's emotional reunion with Sansa Stark gave us a reason to care about him again.

Jon Snow’s entire plan involves using Bran Stark, aka the Three-Eyed Raven, as bait in the godswood, luring the Night King to a place where they can ambush and kill him. Theon volunteered as Bran’s personal guard. “I took this castle from you,” Theon says to Bran at the war table. “Let me defend you now.”

Bran is easily the most vulnerable and exposed person at the Great Battle of Winterfell, and Theon is tasked with being his first line of defense. Unless the Night King skips this battle, he’ll probably ride the ice dragon, Viserion, right into the godswood with the hope of killing the Three-Eyed Raven. Theon and his fellow Ironborn won’t stand a chance, but if the Night King instead sends a White Walker with a squad of wights, then we might see a more even matchup.

Before any of that happens, we’re bound to see a tense encounter between Theon and Bran in the godswood. Theon will probably try to apologize to Bran just like Jaime Lannister did in Episode 2, but the Three-Eyed Raven won’t care much.

In the full Season 8 trailer, Bran delivers a line of voiceover dialogue we haven’t heard yet.

“Everything you did brought you to where you are now,” he says, “where you belong: home.”

We previously speculated that when Bran talks about an “old friend” he’s waiting for in Episode 1, it’s actually Theon, not Jaime Lannister.

Game of Thrones Season 8 bran godswood
Bran, aka the Three-Eyed Raven, in the godswood at Winterfell.

Bran and Theon were pretty much raised as brothers, yet when Theon betrayed the Starks in Season 2 and took Winterfell, beheading Ser Rodrik Cassel and faking the deaths of Bran and Rickon, he became one of the series’ most despicable characters. He paid the price, getting tortured and maimed by Ramsay Snow, and continues repenting for his past crimes.

In a crude sense, because he cannot sire any children, there’s not much hope of him marrying into some kind of political alliance. And while Episode 2 showcased a special bond between Theon and Sansa, that probably had more to do with the two of them looking for solace in the quiet calm before the storm. Theon saved Sansa’s life before, marking a real turning point in his story for the better. But does he really have a future in Westeros? Probably not.

Theon sacrificing himself in a big moment to help the good guys achieve victory could bring a satisfying amount of closure to his story on Game of Thrones. The only question is, will he be able to save Bran or will his death be in vain?

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Media via HBO