A is for Arya, B is for Brienne

Posted: January 13, 2015 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , ,

This post will be talking about two outstanding characters on Game of Thrones. Therefore there will be spoilers if you are not up to date on the show (or have not read the books, but mostly this will be related to the show.)

Fair warning.

Arya_Brienne

The final episode of Season Four of HBO’s Game of Thrones included a dramatic meeting between the youngest daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and the Beauty of the Sapphire Isles.

(Look, I did say this would be spoilery if you weren’t caught up on the show.)

I’m happy to hear the opinion of people who felt otherwise, but this intersection of storylines for Arya and Brienne was electric.

Circumstances had brought their two small parties together at the boundary between the Riverlands and the Vale. Brienne was on a quest to find Arya and Sansa; Arya had been bounced from captor to captor. Arya’s current companion, Sandor “the Hound” Clegane, had apparently run out of Starks or Tullys to take her to for a reward. (Or ransom. It’s a somewhat confusing relationship between Arya and the Hound.)

Briefly, these two had a pleasant moment to regard one another, a little girl with a rapier and a strong, tall armored woman. They took the time to talk about fathers and daughters. It was kind of sweet.

But despite her actual positive motivation in regards to Arya, Brienne might as well have been carrying a banner that said “Team Lannister.”

BrienneS4

Her golden sword. That exquisite and expensive armor.

The Hound, a former Lannister bannerman, had an eye for Casterly Rock craftsmanship. It’s no wonder Brienne was eyed with suspicion and Arya could not trust her.

The die was cast, Brienne and the Hound had a brutal fight, and in the end Brienne was left without Arya and the Hound was left without mercy by Arya.

We were so close to having Arya travel with Brienne.

The Possibilities

Seven Hells! It seems obvious that this would be a great pairing. Arya was looking to become more proficient with her sword, and Brienne was an exemplary role model that a woman didn’t have to be a subservient domestic goddess to have value.

Arya would have blossomed under Brienne’s tutelage, right?

And from a story-telling perspective, we would have started getting even more intersections of storylines. We know Arya had been considering heading to the Wall to seek out her favorite relation, Jon Snow. Brienne and super-squire Podrick Payne had considered Castle Black as a likely destination for the fugitive Sansa Stark. It would be highly likely that they’d escort Arya to the far north.

arya-and-jon

❤ ❤ ❤

The prospect of an Arya and Jon Snow reunion is very compelling.

But even better: Stannis was at the Wall. With Melisandre.

Arya and Brienne have something very specific in common, revenge. Arya has a long (and non-static) list of names of people she’s planning on killing. Melisandre is on that list.

Brienne made it very clear to Catelyn Stark that although the Maid of Tarth would gladly serve Lady Catelyn, no one should ever hinder her effort to seek vengeance on Stannis Baratheon, whom she correctly blames for the death of her beloved liege, Renly.

MissyAndArya

Melisandre is SO going to regret giving Arya Duck-Face.

The prospect of an Arya-Melisandre reunion is also compelling. Lord of Light, yes!

Brienne might not be allowed close enough to get revenge on Stannis, but Arya would be the last person they’d expect to try something like regicide. A plan so crazy, it might just have worked.

But, Arya is off on her own, and Brienne is wandering the Riverlands. And that’s probably for the best. Because I think there would have been zero chance of Brienne getting Arya up to the Wall.

Abstract:

Had Arya gone off to travel with Brienne, there would have been two likely outcomes:

  1. It would have been awesome
  2. It would have been awful (for at least one of them.)

Because this is Game of Thrones, I’m inclined to think #2 is more likely.

Now, when I say it would be awful, I don’t mean badly written, or incoherent, or lame. I just feel that something terrible would happen. Would be predisposed to happen.

Let’s discuss.

Wee Arya

On paper, it seems like a great idea for Brienna and Arya to be traveling together. Brienne’s good and decent and owes Lady Catelyn an oath of loyalty, an oath that would have survived Catelyn’s failure to survive the Red Wedding. There was a natural commonality between the two: they were both more interested in swordplay than sewing and they have a metaphorical axe to grind on some people that’s done them wrong.

But there they diverge.

Brienne had adapted to compete head-on in the martial world of men. She was physically suited for it. The Hound certainly had this lesson drummed into his head.

Arya had learned twice, when challenging the amazing Thoros of Myr and later by angrily striking the armored Clegane, that she has to rely on different skills to compete.

Thoros

You Don’t Believe I’m That Badass? Ser Jaime, Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan, and Jory Cassel All Own Thoros of Myr Trading Cards. Because I’m Awesome.

These are tools that Brienne lacks, because she doesn’t have to rely on tricks or deception. What does Brienne have to offer Arya? How to wear heavy armor and swing a big sword? Syrio Forel would probably not approve.

Arya is also not the most trusting of types, which is probably a decent survival trait in Westeros. But unless Brienne was going to abduct her and force to to come along, the only way Arya would willingly go with Brienne would require trust.

Arya would have had to put her trust in someone who wasn’t a northerner, who inexplicably claimed to have sworn service to her dead, betrayed mother, and someone who had accepted gifts from a Lannister. There’s not a lot of foundation for trust.

Arya – the Big Eyed Waif of Doom

Besides, there’s not a good track record for Arya’s past companions.

  • Mycah the Butcher’s Boy: Boy was he butchered by the Hound
  • Syrio Forel: Missing, presumably Meryn Trant’d.
  • Yoren: Crossbowed and speared.
  • Lommy Greenhands: Tracheotomied by Polliver and Needle
  • Gendry: Leeched and nearly sacrificed by Melisandre. Presumably still rowing that boat.
  • Sandor Clegane: Dying and left for dead, yo.
  • Hot Pie: HOT PIE LIVES! He managed to not be killed by the Arya Stark curse.
Arya-Stark-arya-stark-23881737-1920-1080

I See A Darkness In Those Eyes

  • Who got to the town square just in time to see Ned Stark die? Arya.
  • Who got to the Twins just in time to see Grey Wolf die? Arya.
  • To see a dead Robb paraded about? Arya.
  • Who got to the Bloody Gate, the approach to the Eyrie, and heard her aunt was dead? Arya.

Look, I’m just saying that if you get word that Arya’s planning on visiting you, get your affairs in order. Stat. She’s the adorable angel of death.

It’s quite possible that cruel fate wouldn’t have to line up some kind of doom for Brienne. Arya might arrange it herself.

Brienne would probably be less tolerant of Arya’s bloodlust or penchant for getting into danger than the Hound was. Brienne owed her allegiance to Catelyn, not to Arya, and so would be likely to try and restrain Arya’s vengeful urges. Keep her in protective custody.

This wouldn’t have sat well for Arya, who would have quickly regarded Brienne as just another captor. Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion ended up on her list. I would have hated for Arya to come to a point where she was muttering “Brienne of Tarth” at night.

Brienne and Bad Luck

At Joffrey’s wedding, Cersei cattily made some reference to Brienne flitting about, serving this person and that person. The implication was that Brienne’s loyalty was fleeting and unreliable.

brienne

Lady Catelyn, I’ll serve you loyally until I’m dead. You’ll have to take my word for that, because you’ll be long dead before me.

 

Of course, that’s totally unfair and wrong. Brienne is extremely loyal. It’s just that the people she chooses to serve keep dropping dead.

Like Arya’s associations, bad things happen to those being served by Brienne.

  • Brienne swore an oath to serve Renly Baratheon, and was one of his kingsguard. Boom. Renly’s dead.
  • Brienne swore to serve Catelyn Stark, and accepted the task to safely escort Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing as a hostage exchange. Boom. Cat’s dead.
  • Jaime got his hand chopped off while under Brienne’s protection. It was a relief when Brienne told the Hound that she didn’t serve the Lannisters, because I’d expect Jaime to have died from some mysterious circumstances the very next moment.

If Arya had been put into Brienne’s care, I’d soon expect a very, very angry Brienne vowing vengeance for the young Stark. (Unless Arya killed her, of course.)

Arya Underfoot No Longer

Given that Arya had been chafing at being everyone’s football, carried towards this goal and then towards that goal (with a lot of clashes and delay-of-games happening) it is probably best that she’s acting with her own agency and charting her own course.

AryaOnnaBoat

Presumably to Braavos. (Not every show-watcher was sure about that.)

Brienne, Footloose and Fancy Free

The advantage of Brienne not having Arya around (other than the advantage of not being killed by Arya, and the advantage of no general Bad Luck Buffet happening) is that Brienne, should she see the opportunity to obtain a measure of bloody payback on Stannis, won’t be held back by trying to keep Arya safe.

Protecting Arya kind of implies not putting her in danger or taking undue risks that would leave Arya without a protector. Avenging Renly would do both, until Arya was securely located in a place of safety, and as the Hound pointed out, “nowhere is safe.”

So it’s just as well Arya isn’t holding Brienne back.

Am I crazy in thinking this? Tell me what you think!


(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones, obviously.

I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. Daniel says:

    Definitely two great characters. Their meeting was interesting, but I’m glad Arya’s leaving (for book related spoiler reasons). And I’m oh so interested to see what Brienne’s going to do now.

    Like

  2. haley says:

    Part of me wishes that there had been this great swashbuckling adventure with my two favorite gals… but you are so right. One of them would’ve found themselves without a head, or some such. Regardless, I liked that the show gave this peek at what could be. Their little interaction gave me chills! Where is Brienne going to be this season, I wonder? Her book plotline may have been partially deleted….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! I’d love a Brienne and Arya series of adventures! Growing up, I read the usual sword and sorcery stories, Conan, Elric, and especially Fritz Lieber’s Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser. Brienna and Arya would so complement those stories. And be extra awesome.

      I’m glad you found their brief meeting so moving, I completely agree.

      I’m curious too what they’ll be doing with Brienne. We’ll find out (I guess) in three months.

      Thank you so much for the feedback!

      Like

  3. KG says:

    ROFL 🙂 Amazing and Amusing post.
    I was a little peeved when they met. Because she was supposed to go to Braavos and Brienne was supposed to be here and wait for Jaime. I was totally confused as to what other games these TV series people were playing by bringing them together. But atleast now they both know each other in person.
    And I want them in their own places doing their own thing and not be together. I like Arya Stark too much to jinx her life in the company of Brienne,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was Very Worried when Brienne came across Arya, but I found their interaction so compelling. I think eventually the TV show will sync up with the books, but Season 5 will provide some challenges to our book-reader expectations.

      Hey, thank you for your kind words about my post. It’s a joy to write them (blunting the pain of waiting for season 5) and It’s very gratifying that people enjoy them.

      Best, best regards to you…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, there is still one important factor you forgot to mention, a very crucial and unpredictable bloodthirsty maniacal factor: George R. R. Martin.

    😉

    Like

  5. krisweinrich says:

    There are a lot of instances like this on GOT. They would have become best buds had it not been for her new swag screaming “Team Lannister”.

    I had a similar feeling when Tyrion and Sansa were bonding over their lots in life and how to get back at the two lords who laughed at Tyrion……then came the news of the Red Wedding which soured everything between them. It’s a shame because Tyrion *hated* the Red Wedding because it was a violation of the Sacred Law of Hospitality for which he is certain there will be major blowback down the line. I do give Sansa credit however, for being supportive of him at the purple wedding; trying to give Tyrion a clear shot at leaving on the pretense of Sansa not feeling well. As pissed as she was at the whole Lannister clan, she hated watching Tyrion be abused and degraded by Joffrey.

    I was listening The Black Guy Who Tips podcast where they talked about the season 4 finale. One of their guests pointed out that Brienne and Podrick are like a buddy cop movie: Brienne is the seasoned vet and Pod is the bumbling rookie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up great examples of where Tyrion + Sansa really worked, in solidarity against the great uniter, Joffrey.

      Since we’re touching on nice moments where Tyrion and a person from House Stark got along… I sometimes think of Tyrion and Jon Snow’s brief time as travelers and their farewell on top of the Wall. They’ve been separated for nearly the entire show, but I’m glad they were so positively inclined to one another in their parting.

      Okay, you’ve got me waxing nostalgic…

      Like

      • krisweinrich says:

        Yes! Jon and Tyrion both live on that weird intersection of being both privileged and underprivileged at the same time. While Tyrion is fortunate to be a “trueborn” to the richest house in Westeros, Jon is not a dwarf whose mother died during childbirth in a superstitious medieval society.

        Yet another potentially great friendship ruined by the War of the Five Kings.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thanks for mentioning that podcast, I like to look out for podcast recommendations.

      I really endorse the A Cast of Kings podcast with Dave Chen and Joanna Robinson.

      Like

  6. sb2711 says:

    You should post more. Fans will be delighted to have something to live on till GRRM brings out the next or the show premieres 😀 Have we not thought of these ABs being angel of doom? We have! But you wrote it and wrote it well. Thanks! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jennnanigans says:

    Lost it at “HOT PIE LIVES!!”

    I loved that they did this in the show, but it just made me wish it had happened in the books. I wanted the Hound vs. Brienne fight SO. BADLY I could taste it!

    Another bang-up write-up! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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