The "Game of Thrones" Theon storyline in season 3 is pretty rough, for several reasons. Many people say it's not going anywhere, that it's boring and that it's gratuitous. Boring I won't argue with, to each their own, but it is very definitely going somewhere -- and it's very definitely gratuitous on purpose.
I'm going to lay it out for you show watchers, and skeptics who have read the books, so you know what's really going on with Theon -- and why it actually does matter, even if it drags a bit right now.
Here There Be "Game of Thrones" Season 3 Spoilers
As you know, in "Game of Thrones" season 3 Theon Greyjoy has been having a bad time. Fresh off conquering Winterfell for basically no reason, and pretending to kill Prince Bran Stark and Prince Rickon Stark, Theon got his comeuppance offscreen. Roose Bolton, who more recently has been bothering Jaime in Harrenhal, offered to have his bastard son retake the castle for Robb. Robb agreed, on the condition that Theon be taken alive, so that Robb could execute him later. Note those details: they were easy to gloss over at the time, but now they're relevant. The actual Sack of Winterfell happened offscreen, but we're told that it succeeded. Bolton's bastard retook the castle and Theon.
Fast forward to "Game of Thrones" season 3 and the Theon storyline is pretty straightforward: he's being tortured. Over and over again, mentally and physically. As of the latest episode, he's lost half a finger, all his dignity and evidently has now been castrated, all at the hands of a captor who refuses to identify himself or say where Theon is or why he's being held.
But the truth is, if you re-watch that last episode of "Game of Thrones" season 2, you basically know; because exactly what Roose promised happened. Theon's torturer is Ramsay Snow, Roose's bastard. Theon is being held at the Dreadfort, the Bolton castle. He is being held because Robb ordered him to be held alive, since Robb wants and needs to execute him personally. And he's being tortured because Ramsay Snow is a very, very cruel man, and an outright sadist -- worse even than King Joffrey. It's just Theon's bad luck that he happened to be captured by the cruelest of all of Robb's bannermen.
But that's all "Game of Thrones" season 3 has to tell us about Theon Greyjoy. We'll learn officially that his torturer is Ramsay Snow before the end of the season. But I assure you, Theon will not escape that room, nor will much change. So why is this happening? To answer that, we need to bounce ahead to ...
"A Dance With Dragons" Theon Greyjoy Spoilers
Book spoilers ahoy! In the books, we don't see any of the Theon Greyjoy storyline presented in "Game of Thrones" season 3 until the fifth book, "A Dance with Dragons." In this regard, show viewers have an advantage: all readers knew about Theon was from a line in the "A Storm of Swords" genealogical appendix (seriously) that Theon was being tortured in the Dreadfort.
But in "A Dance with Dragons" Theon Greyjoy reappears, although it takes a while to recognize it. That's because he's a completely changed person. What's happening to Theon in "Game of Thrones" season 3 will essentially continue for at least a year -- although with any luck we won't see all of that. The physical torture, the slow flaying, but most of all the psychological attacks.
The Theon torture scenes are establishing this more quickly by driving Theon to the point where he believes virtually anything he experiences is orchestrated by Ramsay. It creates an intense Stockholm Syndrome, and makes Theon completely dependent on Ramsay, to the point that -- for Ramsay's amusement -- Theon takes on an entirely new identity as Reek, Ramsay's sniveling servant. It will be pathetic. It will not even be recognizably Theon.
And that's why the "Game of Thrones" Theon storyline is so unrepentantly repetitive and harsh, and why it has no forward momentum. Because it's not supposed to. It's about breaking Theon and his entire identity until he barely remembers he was ever Theon Greyjoy at all. It may not be fun to watch, but it's necessary.
Bleak, freak, it rhymes with Reek.