The character of the Night King doesn’t even exist in the Song of Ice and Fire novels. Who knows where Theon Greyjoy’s story is going in the novels, but in the show… It most CERTAINLY should have been killing the Night King. This mistake by the show’s writers is unforgivable … and incredibly stupid.
Theon’s story in both the show and the novels has been all about him belonging somewhere. He started on the same plane as Jon Snow; worse, actually. He wasn’t a bastard, he was a hostage. Even worse, when he was finally reunited with the Greyjoys, they rejected him.
Theon’s story should have been about him being a Stark all along. The Starks were his true family. It started that way (though only physically, not spiritually), and it would end that way, in every way. Now, let me explain something about the Starks that even most fans of the show don’t know.
The Starks are the guardians of the realm. The Starks’ history was directly tied to The Long Night, when the White Walkers were defeated thousands of years previous. Brandon the Builder was a Stark, and he’s the one who built the wall to fend off the White Walkers (called ‘the Others’ in the novels). Brandon the Builder is also the one who built Winterfell. Clearly, the Starks as a family were always meant to be the ones who protected the realm from the White Walkers. They have a saying: “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” Maybe after thousands of years, they don’t know why they say that anymore, or even their official motto, “Winter is coming,” but these phrases nonetheless relate directly to the Starks’ role in the realm. The name ‘Winterfell’ is probably where the White Walkers were first defeated thousands of years ago, as in winter … fell. The castle was likely meant to be specifically built to fend off the Dead if they ever come south again.
Keep this in mind as I talk about Theon again. Theon grows up feeling he doesn’t belong with the Starks, then he grows up and is rejected by his birth family, then he betrays the Starks, then he’s betrayed by the Ironborn shortly after, then he’s tortured by Ramsay for a very long time… Then, in the show, he escapes Ramsay and saves Sansa Stark (from Ramsay). In fact, he does nothing thereafter except try to earn his redemption. In the show, he’s accepted by his sister, but his experiences make him too cowardly to save his sister from their uncle Euron. But Theon rescues her, and then returns to Winterfell in time for the greatest battle of their lives.
I appreciate that the showrunners decided to have Theon defend Bran. Remember thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder built Winterfell and the Wall itself. Now, this Bran is the primary target by the White Walkers. It’s poetic to have Bran be their main target, and to have Theon defend him. It’s poetic to have Theon die defending him. But here’s where the show fucked up the enormous potential it had…
Theon should have stood right beside Bran as the Night King slowly approached, instead of charging. Theon strikes when the Night King is close, but the Night King effortlessly takes the spear and drives it into Theon. Then, Arya uses her seasons-long training to sneak up on the Night King, only for him to grab her by the throat and dagger-hand. Since he’s, you know, the Night King and all, his touch starts to freeze Arya’s throat and hands. She physically cannot do the trick she did in the show. But she still drops the dagger…
Theon, using the last of his strength, catches the dagger, STANDS UP, drives the dagger into the Night King’s chest, and the blade’s magical properties disintegrate the Night King instantly. Theon still dies of his wound, unfortunately.
What’s the point of Theon doing it instead of Arya? First of all, it makes more sense. The Night King injured Bran 2 seasons ago by simply touching him through a vision, so why wouldn’t his real-life touch be deadly to Arya? Also, what other reason would there be to have the Theon character in the story at all, if not for meeting this kind of demise?
Second of all, this should have happened instead because it would have been testament and proof that a Stark defended the realm from the White Walkers. It just wasn’t the Stark anyone expected. It was someone who wasn’t even born a Stark, but he belonged to the family nonetheless.
Battles need to have meaning. When big villains are defeated, it shouldn’t be superior fighting skills that undoes them. That’s not how it happened in Harry Potter, or The Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars (in Return of the Jedi), or in any other popular story. We don’t watch or read these stories just to see how the big baddie is destroyed in combat, we consume these stories to see WHY he/she was defeated. It was love that killed the Emperor in Star Wars, it was compassion that destroyed the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings.
The Night King was the embodiment of death itself! All we saw of Theon Greyjoy for most of the show and the novels is his cowardice. He’s afraid of pain, he’s afraid of rejection, and he’s afraid of death. He spent so long trying to belong somewhere, he spent so long pretending to be brave and strong when he wasn’t, and he spent so long being beaten down emotionally and physically.
Theon should have stood up because it would show he can take a hit now. He should have had a reason to keep going even after being stabbed because he wanted to fight for his family. And he should have been the one to kill the Night King to symbolize he would not submit to his fears any longer. If Theon were the one to kill the Night King, it would have been a multitude of parallels and a mountain of symbolism all wrapped in one.
Theon was a Stark, and if he had done it, it still would have been a Stark who killed the Night King.