This post will be talking about my favorite little murder-angel, Arya Stark. This post will also be spoilery if you’re not up-to-date with Game of Thrones on HBO.
Arya in the Lost and Found
I almost entitled this post Losing Arya because her story is all about relentless loss. Usually she’s losing something or someone close to her.
Or people are losing her.
- On the road to King’s Landing, Arya is forced to abandon her direwolf Nymeria, to save the direwolf’s life. Essentially losing this protector that may well have been assigned to her by the Old Gods.
- She loses her “dancing” instructor when the Lannisters spring their trap.
- She loses her father at Baelor’s square.
- The Lannisters would love to get their murderous hands on Arya, but they lose her to Yoren from the Night’s Watch, who finds her in the crowd and takes her with his party of recruits, heading to the Wall.
- Yoren loses her to the Lannisters. (It’s not really his fault. He lost his life right before that.) The Lannister goons don’t know that they have the girl that their colleagues are looking for in the capital.
- Arya also loses her little rapier, Needle, at this time. 😦
- The Lannisters lose Arya without even realizing it when she coerces Jaqen H’ghar into helping her escape Harrenhal. But their loss is the Brotherhood without Banners‘ gain. They plan on ransoming her off at Riverrun.
- The Brotherhood loses her to Sandor Clegane, who was more up to date on the local social events, and the Hound takes Arya to the Twins, to ransom her directly to Catelyn Stark.
- Arya loses her brother and mother at the Twins. F***ing Freys.
- At least she finds Needle again. And finds Polliver’s throat with it.
- Brienne of Tarth is searching for Sansa Stark, but runs across Arya by chance. Brienne wins a fight with the Hound, but loses Arya who had no reason to trust Brienne and her Lannister-golden sword.
- Without no one in control of her destiny, Arya takes a ship to Braavos, to enter the House of Black and White, hoping to learn the ways of the Faceless Men assassins. But they have a requirement. She has to give up her identity and become No One. She has to essentially lose herself.
- Oh, she also loses her sight. Whoa!
She once was lost, but now she’s found. Blind, but will she see?
Arya has spent the bulk of her time on the show dragged around like a football by various players. But occasionally Arya has the freedom to make a choice. Usually someone ends up badly for it.
- She chooses to shiv that one loud-mouthed Frey taxidermist, not caring if the Hound takes care of the rest of the Freys or not. (He does.)
- She chooses to force the Hound into an encounter with the Lannister peacekeepers once she sees Polliver.
- She chooses not to trust Brienne, but hides while the Maid of Tarth beats the hell out of the Hound. (Gravity helped Brienne.)
- Arya gets to sit in judgment over the injured Hound, as he begs her to show mercy and kill him quick. (She chooses not to.)
(Hmmm, the Hound really ended up being involved in all of Arya’s decision processes. I guess she was in charge of him, and not the other way around.)
But in Season 5 Braavos, Arya was sitting in judgment of herself when the House of Black and White laid things out for her.
Can she choose to let Arya Stark die (I’m being overly dramatic, I’m talking about her identity as Arya Stark) so she can continue to progress in the ranks of the Faceless Men?
Or will she stubbornly cling to her past as Arya, and in particular the Arya Stark List of A**holes Who Need Killing?
She didn’t seem to be fully committed to becoming No One, since she couldn’t abandon Needle.
But now that she’s blind, she might not have a choice but to double down on the death-dealing disciples.
I think it’s safe to assume that Arya’s story isn’t going to end with her sitting against a wall, begging for coppers in Braavos until she starves to death, so there seem to be three types of paths (two of which are relatively similar.)
- She regains her sight or …
- She’s blind, but goes all Rutger Hauer Blind Fury and compensates with her other senses. Quasi-unbelievably so. Or …
- She’s blind, but the Stark connection to the Old Gods kicks in and grants her some kind of second sight. Very Paul Muad’dib Dune Messiah.
I’m fine with anything that keeps Arya up and moving and dangerous. But she’s going to be pressured by the House of Black and White to make a decision on how she’s going to proceed with them.
I’m worried about Arya, since either path might be very bad.
Arya Stark Shouldn’t Be Our Favorite Character
Last year before Season 4 started up, Maise Williams gave an interview where she stated (I’m paraphrasing) that Arya Stark wasn’t there to be anyone’s favorite character. The context was largely surrounding Arya’s journey into darkness and revenge, but that’s not what I want to talk about.
I’m talking about a meta-context, about favorite characters and what the show sometimes does to them. It’s wrong to say that George RR Martin kills off all of the fan favorites. But he did kill off Ned Stark. That kind of set the tone of the show, that anyone could be killed.
In general, although he has killed off major characters here and there, I don’t believe that he’s gone overboard, he hasn’t been throwing all the fan favorites into the literary meat-grinder. But he’s certainly not easy on those characters.
Tyrion strangled Shae. Jaime lost his sword hand. Cersei watched her precious son die. Sansa was forced (by the showrunners, not by Littlefinger) to marry Ramsay Snow. There’s a lot of despair going around.
And when the character in question is liked by the fans, it’s all the more emotional for us.
I don’t think Arya’s story will be lethally cut short and I don’t think she’ll fall prey to some abuse. But I’m worried instead that Arya will be maneuvered into killing off someone that the audience is rooting for. So we’ll be rooting against her.
Arya the Faceless
If Arya dives in with her full will into being a Faceless assassin, she might get a job to take out someone we like.
A Man: A girl is ready?
A Girl: No One is ready.
A Man: There is a mother who has lost her son. There is a daughter who has lost her father. The mother and daughter are the same. A man might say that she has lost a brother as well, since the brother killed both her father and son.
A Girl: Why would the brother kill his sister’s son and their father?
A Man: A man does not ask these questions. The mother who is also the daughter has asked for her brother to be given a gift. Will a girl give the brother a gift?
A Girl: No One can give him the gift. How will No One know him?
A Man: He is shorter than No One. With golden hair. A girl will be told where the brother is.
Cersei might not be the only one who’d wish to hire the Faceless Men. Littlefinger has resources and might want to consolidate things. Depending on how he neatly he wants loose ends tied up, in regards to possible claimants to the Throne, he might have some targets that Arya might not want to kill, but No One couldn’t care less about.
Arya the Vengeful
But Arya might not stick with the Faceless Men. It wouldn’t be the first time she set out on her own. With her list. The problem with that is this: things are currently very complicated over in Westeros. It might not be in the Seven Kingdoms’ interest for Arya to show and start killing people.
Certainly, there are people who probably deserve to die on her list. But maybe some that could be allies to the Starks.
And one person on her list that might be very important (if a certain someone is only mostly dead.) Allegedly, Arya and Melisandre will meet again.
The show in the past has maneuvered situations where two sides are in competition, and neither possible outcome is ideal.
I’d hate to see a situation where some fragile alliance among unpleasant people is required for the day to be literally saved. And have vengeance-fueled Arya blunder in, ripping things apart with her short term goals.
But it’s a likely, likely scenario.
Hopefully I’m wrong, and the assassin skills that Arya is learning will be useful for bringing about a satisfying conclusion, instead of being a complication.
George can give us this much, right?
(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.
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© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved