Spoilers ahead for game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”.
Meetings have been an important feature of the final season of game of Thronesas the main characters gather for an epic battle against the undead. But a meeting in the episode “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is exceptionally emotional: the one between Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy. “I want to fight for Winterfell, Lady Sansa.” If you have me, “Theon says. Sansa visibly breaks down as she rushes to hug Theon. In the past two seasons, we’ve seen Sansa reunited with her long-lost brothers Arya, Jon, and Bran, but she didn’t cry for either of them.Her reunion with Theon has a more dramatic impact due to their shared past.
To understand Sansa’s feelings, it is necessary to remember that her relationship with Theon was quite horrible in the past. Theon first betrayed Sansa’s brother, Robb, in season 2, taking advantage of Winterfell under their father’s influence. He then spent parts of season 4, 5 and 6 under the name “Reek”, being tortured and brutalized by Ramsay Bolton. Like Reek, he was a broken man, meek and passive, unable or unable to do anything when Ramsay raped Sansa right in front of him. Sansa worked to remind her of her original identity as Theon Greyjoy, and recruited him to help her escape the Boltons for good.
During these dark times, Sansa was resourceful and resilient, not giving up in a seemingly hopeless situation. She forgave Theon for pretending to kill her two younger brothers in the past, and for informing Ramsay of her plans and failing to rescue her as events unfolded. Her willingness to forgive him might have come from a place of despair, as he was the closest thing to a family ally when she was married to Ramsay. But Theon rewarded his kindness by finding his courage at the end of season 5, pushing a possible attacker to his death and fleeing with Sansa.
The last time they saw each other before their fateful season 8 reunion was during season 6, when Sansa tried to convince Theon to go to Castle Black with her, to find Jon Snow and Ramsay’s protection. At this point in their conversation, it became clear that Sansa forgave Theon for his past crimes and was grateful for the way he had saved her from Ramsay. Theon has made horrible mistakes, including killing two peasants and burning their corpses to convince people that Sansa’s brothers Rickon and Bran Stark were dead. But Sansa was willing to look beyond that. Theon’s remorseful remorse may have helped: He told Sansa in season 6, “I can never make it up to your family for the things I’ve done.”
Theon’s return to Winterfell in season 8 is the last step in finding the courage of his convictions after Ramsay’s tortures tore him apart. Meeting Sansa shows his renewed loyalty to the Starks, but it also shows that he tries to value himself as a person, which Sansa has to find moving after seeing him so shattered, and after taking the same emotional journey to avoid abuse. He could have easily stayed with his sister Yara as they sailed to claim the Iron Islands, but he chooses to find Sansa and fight, and his emotional response, which breaks his stoic resolve frequently, is an acknowledgment of what they have been through together. .
Theon’s return to Winterfell, where he spent his childhood as a hostage, suggests that he considers the home of House Stark to be his true home, not the Iron Islands, where his family hails from. Sansa probably feared for his life too, and suspected that Ramsay might capture him again, or murder him by his own people. Their reunion was so powerful due to his relief to see that like her, he is still surviving and recovering from his shared trauma. Given the war against the undead they face, their courage and dedication to Sansa cannot be taken lightly.