By James Hibberd
Updated April 17, 2014 at 02:14 PM EDT

Game of Thrones

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Are you feeling sorry for him yet? Theon Greyjoy — that callous, ambitious, and ultimately murderous former Stark ward — has endured more torment than any surviving Game of Thrones character. After betraying the Stark family, Theon (Alfie Allen) was captured by House Bolton, where he’s been subjected to all sorts of physical and psychological torments at the hands of Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon).

Last year’s Theon scenes were tough for many HBO viewers to witness, and so far this season Theon’s situation doesn’t seem all that much better — he’s out of the dungeon, at least, but now seems utterly subservient and beaten down.

Not too many people compare Thrones to The Lord of the Rings now that the HBO drama has so thoroughly distinguished itself from that other fantasy classic. Yet Theon increasingly brings to mind Tolkien’s most sharply drawn character — Sméagol/Gollum. Like Tolkien’s creation, Theon has even embraced a new name: “Reek.”

We spoke briefly to Allen by phone shortly before the Thrones season premiere:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What kind of comments did you get from fans last season?

ALFIE ALLEN: Really just empathy, although people who were close to me did tend to have a laugh. People did say, “It’s so hard to watch,” and as an actor that’s something you want to hear. I find that a compliment.

What can you tell us about this season?

Allen: It gets dark. I don’t think people will find it as hard to watch this year. It depends what kind of person you are. It’s more of a mental torture than it is physical. It’s daunting as an actor. I have to do more telling of the story with my eyes than with words. I’ve never really done that type before.

So not as much screaming?

Allen: Yeah, not so much this time. Oh, actually, there is some hoarse-throat moments for me, so look forward to that.

Theon’s journey is different, at least more detailed, than in the books.

Allen: I like it, because I don’t know what’s going to happen either, and as an actor that’s a luxury. I stopped reading the books at a certain point because I didn’t want it in my head. It’s good to be surprised. As an audience, I’m basically a fan like them.

In some ways your character is becoming like Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), in that she’s isolated from the rest of the cast in her own separate story.

Allen: That you put me and Emilia together is funny — I’m nowhere near as desirable! But it is cool, yeah. I just want to do it justice by [author George R.R. Martin, showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff] and keep it going. It was weird, because after the second season I didn’t even know if I was going to still be here.

So since you haven’t read the books, it’s fair game to ask: What’s the fate you would want for your character, who’s done evil things yet also suffered so much?

Allen: Whatever Dan and David are willing to give me. In my mind, anything goes. I’ll just wait and see. People who get brought down to earth tend to get humbled, so maybe for us to see more evidence of that would be great.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'

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