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Game of Thrones: In Defense of Theon's "Cowardly" Decision

Fight Euron? No thank you!

Tim Surette

A lot of you out there were understandably upset at Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) in this week's episode of Game of Thrones, as the young squid opted to jump ship rather than engage in battle with his uncle Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), who held Theon's sister Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) hostage as his fleet utterly destroyed Yara's armada in an ambush on the seas.

When Theon let his sword drop to the ground instead of raise it and dove off the boat into the waters, Euron laughed, but he may as well have made clucking chicken noises. Theon did all this after being named Yara's protector, and frankly, it wasn't at all surprising given what we know about Theon. This was his chance at redemption, and it appeared that he blew it. Again. Theon sucks.

But you know what? It was the right decision! And yes, I'm about to do something I never thought I'd do -- defend Theon Greyjoy. I'm in full support of Theon chickening out and taking the easy road. Here's why.

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From an outside perspective, Theon's act was one of cowardice, and that's something we're used to seeing from him ever since Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) took Theon's manhood away from him, both physically (ouch) and metaphorically. Theon's chest-thumping days of barbecuing farm boys and betraying his surrogate family are long gone, and where he once set his eyes on the Iron Throne he now sets them about a meter in front of his feet in total subservience to whoever holds him captive, or more accurately, as a spineless wimp, he seeks safety at all costs. He didn't choose to not fight, he chose to save his skin.

But in George R.R. Martin's world, heroic acts are reserved for the heroes. Jaime Lannister! Jon Snow! That one Sparrow who thought it was a good idea to take on Zombie Mountain but instead got his head ripped off! Those are the characters who should raise the blade.

That's one of the things that makes Game of Thrones great -- Martin doesn't just write solutions to problems through physical prowess like other mindless entertainment; each character uses their personal attributes to move further through the story (until they die, that is). Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) uses his smarts, Cersei (Lena Headey) uses her ruthlessness, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) uses his cunning. Theon's no hero. Theon's a cockroach. Theon's skill is surviving, and that's what he did here.

Pilou Asbæk, Gemme Whelan; Game of Thrones

Pilou Asbæk, Gemme Whelan; Game of Thrones

Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Let me put this another way. Let's say Theon did take his sword against Euron. You know what would have happened? Euron would have kicked his butt. Euron is a legit warrior. Did you see him slice and dice on board Yara's ship and have fun doing it? Remember that time Theon tried to rally his troops back at Winterfell and then was knocked out with a simple blow? Yeah. If Theon tried to fight Euron, he would have died, and there's a decent chance that Yara would have died in the confrontation, too. That's the opposite of being a protector.

And yes, Theon would have died in that fight. Euron wants Theon dead because as Ironborn royal blood, he's a threat. There would have been no mercy. Fighting Euron would have been a death sentence, end of story. (I'm still trying to figure out what the purpose of holding Yara hostage is as well.)

Instead, Theon lived to see another day. Ed Sheeran won't sing songs about Theon's act in Westeros, but it was the right thing to do given the circumstances. To defeat Euron, Theon (and Yara) will have to face him on terms that don't favor Euron. A scrap on a burning boat in the middle of the ocean happens to be right in Euron's wheelhouse.

Now Theon gets a chance to still protect Yara... it's a longshot, but it's a much better chance than he had on that boat.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on HBO.