Game of Thrones season 7 was a roller coaster ride for Theon Grejoy, and by extension, for star Alfie Allen. Theon began the year in the service of his sister Yara, but found himself adrift after Crazy Uncle Euron captured Yara in “Stormborn,” the second episode of the season. Theon eventually found his courage in the finale, where he rallies Yara’s remaining Ironborn followers to go rescue their queen, although not until after he’s taken an epic beating from one of them.
Towards the end of that scene, Theon collapses on the shoreline and throws water on his face, a powerful moment. Thanks to director Jeremy Podeswa, who lent his insights to one of the commentary tracks for the episode on the season 7 home boxset, we now know that Allen had more to do with that moment than first assumed.
This was one of those happy accidents. We didn’t really…I didn’t know what Alfie was going to do when he got to the shoreline. I just asked him to walk out there at the end of this.
Director of photography Greg Middleton went on:
And we just chased him out. I think I was on that close-up camera. I just chased him out there to try and get him putting water on his face.
Whether he intended it or not, Allen’s choice to splash seawater on his wounds in “The Dragon and the Wolf” mirrored Theon’s original Ironborn baptism back in season 2’s “What is Dead May Never Die.”
At that time, Theon was a vain and selfish prince looking to prove himself to both his father Balon and sister Yara. It was a transformative moment, marking the point where he decided to be a Greyjoy rather than a Stark. Theon’s beating was also a transformative moment, and with this new baptism, Theon is embracing a future where, as Jon Snow told him moments before, “[y]ou don’t have to choose. You’re a Greyjoy and you’re a Stark.” And by taking the initiative to rescue Yara, he’s showing that he’s finally left Reek behind too.
Allen’s acting choices here imply a deep understanding of the character he’s played for the past seven seasons…or he just wanted to cool off. Either way, the moment worked very well.