I’m finally writing a post about Game of Thrones. I haven’t read the books, and to be completely honest, I was a casual viewer of the show all through season 5. I mean, I watched all the episodes, but I was a little lukewarm about it all. Then season 6 happened, and I started realizing I had to prepare myself for a lot of yelling, because I wasn’t going to make it through an episode without it. Well done, guys. I’m on board.
But one of the few characters I always felt strongly about and who kept me watching was Arya. The little unladylike lady turned delightful murderess. To me, she’s the most relatable character (especially in the beginning, though many of her strongest moments are more recent. I’m writing this 2 episodes into season 7). So if I’m gonna make a Game of Thrones list (again it’s my list, so I can choose 11 moments if I feel like it), it’s gonna be about her. She’s the best.
11. Arya Reveals Her True Identity to Gendry
Part of the reason I wanted to include this is I think it could turn out to be important. Sure, we haven’t seen Gendry for a good long while, but it seems he may return. When they last saw each other, Arya asked Gendry to be her family, and he said he couldn’t be, since he’s a bastard (even though he’s Robert Baratheon’s son, and maybe the rightful king?), but basically there was a thing there, and it’s Maisie Williams’ ship, so it’s correct.
But the scene that best encapsulates their relationship is when Arya admits to Gendry who she is. She’s been disguised as a boy, but Gendry’s already figured out that she’s not and calls her on it.
Finally, she comes clean, admitting not only that she’s a girl, but also a Stark. He’s immediately embarrassed (“I’ve been pissing in front of you and everything”), but after a moment, they’re dynamic falls back into it’s friendly bickering with Gendry taunting Arya, calling her milady, until she shoves him back once and then again down to the floor. But he just laughs as she stomps away.
10. Dancing Lessons
One of the fun things about Arya is how many of the things she does are the things a lady would learn to do, but with a twist. For instance, her father agrees to let her begin combat training, but her “dancing master” refers to the training as “dancing lessons.” And, indeed, the training she receives is about the movement. A block, a strike, it’s all like a carefully choreographed dance.
Arya’s a better fighter for being taught this. The dancing lessons also deserves a spot on the list because Arya’s relationship with her dancing master is so delightful. (And we didn’t see him die onscreen, so I get to chose to believe he’s still alive and just try and stop me!)
9. Jon Snow presents Arya with Needle
This whole scene is excellent. Nymeria helping Arya clean up, then Nymeria failing to demonstrate her training to Jon, Arya complaining about folding her clothes, the hug (Jon may not be Arya’s biological brother, but they have a lovely sibling relationship, nonetheless).
Jon gifting Arya with a sword just the right size for her demonstrates an understanding they have for each other that the other members of the family might not always get. And Arya naming the sword Needle, as a contrast to Sansa’s sewing needles is perfectly on brand.
8. Arya Names Jaqen H’ghar
Ice. Cold. After her father is killed and her family is ripped apart, Arya’s never really in a position to push people around. She’s small and often has to lie about her identity. She doesn’t want to be too noticeable, while she absolutely hates being disrespected or underestimated. And she can be very stubborn. It’s a blessing and a curse. After meeting Jaqen H’ghar and his promise to kill any 3 people she names, she comes up with another way to get his help. By naming him.
He asks…well, more demands…that she unname him. She says she will on the condition that he help her and some others escape. Her plan works. But not before Jaqen H’ghar says “please.”
Arya had a lot of great little moments in the first episode. I always giggle at that moment when she flicks her spoonful of food at Sansa. Direct hit! But it’s the second direct hit of the episode that makes the list. Ned, Robb, and Jon are training Bran, practicing archery.
Just as Bran is about to release his arrow, another arrow whizzing inches away from his face, sticking into the target. A perfect bull’s-eye. He whips his head around to see Arya, twice as far away, holding a bow, a big grin on her face. She gives him a taunting courtesy and runs off as Bran chases her. Aww, simpler times.
6. Killing Ser Meryn Trant
‘Cause Ser Meryn Trant is a fucking monster, so Arya slays him. I was annoyed by Arya’s punishment for this, because in the moment, it was so satisfying. He was molesting young girls. He deserves every shit thing that happens to him. This was one of the first times the show made me a cheer for an onscreen death.
Still, it was before the face wearing thing had been used much, so it was more unexpected. And even her punishment (blindness) made way for something else even higher up on the list (but I really hated the blind Arya storyline).
5. Taking Down Joffrey
Before Joffrey had the audacity to have Ned Stark killed, he was just a bratty spoiled child. When he interrupts a pleasant game by being himself, things get a little rough between him and Arya. Okay, maybe she starts the physical part of the fight, but he takes it way too far, drawing his sword and holding it to her throat.
When Nymeria comes in to protect Arya, Joffrey shrinks back into the sniveling coward he truly is. And Arya gets the opportunity to point the sword at him.
Of course, it all goes dreadfully wrong after that, but seeing her put Joffrey in his place made me feel all warm inside.
4. “That’s Not Me”
Since the beginning, Arya’s destiny was far from being a proper lady. She always wanted to be a warrior. But that wasn’t what her family wanted. I’m sure they thought they were doing what was best, raising her by the customs of the time. It just wasn’t what she wanted for herself.
When she asks her father, “Can I be lord of the holdfast?” He replies, “You will marry a high lord and rule this castle. And your sons shall be knights and princes and lords.” But she’s upset by this, though also not convinced that’s what’s in store for her saying “no. That’s not me.” This was me as a kid, reading all the stories and seeing all the films with the male heroes. I’m so excited to see more female characters in those sorts of roles now, but Arya represented a very real part of me in this scene. It’s not enough the be the beautiful lady the hero fights for when you want to be the hero.
3. “Lady Arryn Died”
This is just my flat out favorite moment of hers. Maybe of the whole show. After dragging Arya from place to place, trying to find some surviving Stark family who can pawn Arya off on (partially because he’ll be rewarded, but maybe also slightly because he wants her to be safe?), the Hound arrives at Lady Arryn’s. She’s, like, Arya’s aunt or something. And she’s kind of awful, but as any viewer was aware, as of the previous episode, she was also very dead (this is why you don’t install a skylight in the floor. And then invite Littlefinger over).
After the Hound explains to the guard who they are, the guard tells them the news. He’s somber, expecting they’ll be upset. The Hound’s definitely upset. Arya’s completely stone-faced. Then the sheer ridiculousness of every person she’s gone to stay with dying just as she arrives washes over her.
She’s laughing at the situation, at the Hound’s continued failure, because she’s just too tired to do anything else. And she can’t stop. Anyone who’s had that how-is-my-life-so-shit-my-god-it’s-so-bad-it’s-funny moment and found themselves laughing knows just what Arya’s experiencing.
2. The Chase/”A Girl Is Arya Stark of Winterfell…”
The week before “Battle of the Bastards,” the show gave our vocal chords a warm up. If you were disappointed by this sequence, you need to watch it again.
The sequence is 8 minutes from Arya discovering she’s been found to her final words to the Faceless Man and follows the waif chasing a badly injured Arya through the streets of Braavos. I screamed at my television for the full 8 minutes. They’re jumping out of windows, off walls, falling into carts, tumbling down steps, and all the while Arya’s leading the waif to her death, leaving a trail with her own blood. How badass is that?
Then they get to the place where Arya has hidden Needle. The waif has her cornered. And here’s the thing, the waif always beats Arya when they fight. Arya can’t win this. She just can’t. Unless she can give herself an advantage. Remember that stupid storyline where Arya went blind and had to train to fight without being able to see? That shit finally pays off. The room they’re in is lit by a single candle. With the swipe of her sword, she slices the candle in half, plunging them both into darkness. She learned to fight without her eyes.
Everyone complaining that we didn’t get to see the fight is out of their mind and/or missed the entire point of sitting through a season of blind Arya. The fight was in the dark, you wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway, and it’s the only way Arya could win.
And then when we and the Faceless Man discover Arya has defeated the waif, and the Faceless Man tells Arya that finally “a girl is no one” (like she kept claiming she wanted), she turns him down with possibly my favorite line of the series, “A Girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell. And I’m going home.” And she marches out of that awful place to join her family in the fight for the Seven Kingdoms. SO MUCH YES.
1. Killing Walder Frey/”Winter Came for House Frey”
I’m counting her final scene from season 6 and her first scene from season 7 as one item on the list, because it kind of all goes together, and they both need to be mentioned, and they both probably top the list on their own merit anyway, and it’s my list.
The Red Wedding is, and always will be, the most notorious event in Game of Thrones. It was the lowest moment for the Starks, killing off a number of lead characters (including Arya’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and unborn nephew) and an army of their followers. Walder Frey soon became one of the most hated characters in the series. But he was just chillin’ in his castle. Everyone was so busy fighting everyone else, no one came for Walder Frey. Or at least someone who until recently was “no one.”
After baking Frey’s sons into a pie that she serves him, Arya reveals herself and slits Walder Frey’s throat, ending season 6 with a nice slice of vengeance.
Then season 7 starts with Walder Frey hosting a feast. So right away you know something’s up. The show doesn’t do a lot of flashbacks or time jumps (unless they’re happening in Bran’s head). I don’t think anyone was really surprised when all the soldiers at the feast drank a toast and keeled over dead, while Walder Frey took his face off and was actually Arya. She then turns to the girl sitting beside her, who she kept from drinking the poison and utters the warning for the Frey allies: “Winter came for House Frey.”