(GoT – Spoilers)
Arya was introduced as the plucky tomboy. The little girl that adores her brothers, doesn’t get along very well with her sister, and wants to live her life the way the boys live theirs, with action, adventure and fighting. It’s not a particularly original character archetype but Maisie Williams made the character very likeable and I viewed Arya favorably.
Arya’s life takes a very dark turn and she sees her father executed in front of her, has to flee King’s Landing, then ends up having her oldest brother and her mother murdered as well. This is understandably a traumatic situation for her, but Arya is a fighter and she responds with a raging desire for vengeance. She turns her list of names – those that have wronged her family – into a mantra.
This is Game of Thrones, so we have no idea at the beginning if Arya will be successful in her quest. She manages to make it out of Westeros alive, though, and trains to become an assassin, where we see her confronted with a choice: to leave her past and her humanity behind in order to truly master the assassin’s craft, or return to Westeros.
Arya chooses her humanity, her family and her homeland. She’s still driven by a desire for revenge, though, and she’s quite successful at it – avenging her brother Robb and her mother, Catelyn in a manner reminiscent of the plays of ancient Greece. It’s quite satisfying and we look forward to seeing her go after her other targets, whether or not she is ultimately successful.
Arya’s quest for vengeance has to be set aside to join Jon, Dany, Tyrion, Sansa and the rest of those that have chosen to defend Westeros from the Night King and his vast undead army. We see her training as an assassin culminate in dispatching the Night King, saving her brother and all of those left in Westeros in the process, and then…
…and then the show moves on. The Night King was never Arya’s personal target. She didn’t even know he existed when she went to train as an assassin. He wasn’t on her list. She didn’t realize she’d be in a position to kill him until Milesandre reminds her of a prophecy that Arya will close many eyes, brown, green and blue. Still, this is an INCREDIBLE feat of heroism for a little girl in a world where Arya had to struggle just to be allowed to learn to use a sword in the first place.
Everyone, including Arya, just moves on. She shifts back to her original goal: vengeance against the remaining person on her list, Cersei. In episode 5, she and the Hound travel to King’s Landing, where at the last minute the Hound convinces Arya to just… give up what’s been motivating her for years, lest she end up old and scarred and still seeking vengeance, like him. This one speech from the Hound is enough to convince Arya to set aside half a life spent in pursuit of vengeance for her family, and she leaves.
Outside in King’s Landing, Arya has to run around a lot, in danger of being killed by Dany’s rampage through the skies. She survives, though, and inexplicably finds a white, blood-spattered horse calmly waiting in the street, which she approaches and then uses to leave the city. Viewers were left speculating that it was a reference to the pale horse that Death rides, and think perhaps Arya will be the one to assassinate Dany, now that she’s witnessed Dany’s abuse of power first hand.
However, when episode 6 opens, the horse is nowhere to be seen. Arya is wandering around on foot again. She doesn’t do anything but have some lines of dialogue with Jon Snow. This master assassin that killed the Night King does… nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. When the episode closes, Arya has declared her intention to leave her family forever and explore west of Westeros, where the maps stop.
Where are we ever introduced to Arya the wannabe explorer? When has she ever talked about her dream of leaving Westeros for lands unknown? How has she transitioned from Arya, intently training to be an assassin so she can get the vengeance that consumes her existence, vengeance for her beloved family, to Arya, the explorer, happily leaving what remains of that same family behind, during a transitional period sure to be fraught with all sorts of power plays and lethal intrigues?
Arya’s story line just fizzles out. She was in the right place at the right time to kill the Night King, and now that it’s done – this goal she didn’t even have – she’s going to reinvent herself far from home and hearth as if none of it ever happened.
WHAT WAS THE POINT? Was Arya just a McGuffin all along?