Game of Thrones' Final Path: The Journey of Arya Stark

Welcome to Final Path, a regular feature leading up to the final season of HBO's Game. In every Final Path, The Hollywood Reporter's resident Westeros expert Josh Wigler will offer a character-by-character deep dive of their journey through seven seasons, as well as what can be expected in the upcoming eighth and final season. Up next: Arya Stark.

 

"What do we say to the God of Death?" Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has had a lot of time to consider the question over the course of Game of Thrones, dealing death by the dozens along the way. 

 

Few series regulars have killed quite as many foes as Arya, certainly not with the same level of vengeful, personal dedication. She all but sees red and hears sirens in her head, Beatrix Kiddo style, when she considers the men and women who tore her family apart. For Arya, there's no hesitation at all when it comes time to kill anyone and everyone who has wronged House Stark, a willingness she demonstrated on multiple occasions to frightening effect. (Carving up half of House Frey and turning them into meat pies? A fun scene and Easter egg on paper, sure, but a horrifying thing to consider from Arya on a practical level.)

 

As Game of Thrones prepares for its final season, Arya Stark's kill quest is sure to continue. She still has names on her list, and with Needle and a Valyrian steel dagger in each hand, she's sure to make some headway. But in the episodes ahead, will Arya finally meet the God of Death head on, only to find "not today" is no longer an acceptable answer? Our best guess at the answer to that question and much more is here in our look back at Arya's journey thus far, and the road that still lies ahead.

 

Best Kill: Again, the list is long. Is it Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), whom she thoroughly eviscerated in the most disturbing death scene of season five? The Waif (Faye Marsay), face flayed offscreen? Walder and the rest of House Frey, either carved up into pies (in a nice shoutout to a theory from the books) or poisoned to death? Littlefinger, felled in an instant, easily the most significant character to die at Arya's hands? Pick your own poison as you see fit.

 

Worst Wound: Physically, it's the temporary blindness followed by the series of stabbings inflicted by the Waif. But those wounds pale in comparison to the trauma Arya has sustained across Thrones, from watching her own father's beheading, to arriving just in time for the end of the Red Wedding, and beyond. There's a reason why Arya is one of the most lethal characters in the series: tragically, she's grown up knowing nothing else.

 

Critical Moments: Through the seasons, Arya studied at the knees of several masters, such as Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou) and Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Her two-season arc alongside Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) stands out as an obvious fan-favorite, one of the single best character combinations across all of Thrones. The lessons Arya learned from all three of those masters have been crucial to her development, but there is another person she learned from in Braavos who often goes unmentioned: the late Lady Crain (Essie Davis), who may end up playing a crucial role in the Arya Stark endgame.

 

Unresolved Mystery: Is Syrio Forel truly dead? It's the conspiracy that refuses to yield to the God of Death. Because the water dancer's demise is not featured onscreen, there's a vocal contingent of the Thrones fandom that believes Syrio will return from the dead. Others still believe he's been active in the series since his "death," in the form of Jaqen H'ghar; the theory posits the two men are one and the same. If it's true, how will Syrio's return impact Arya's final storyline?

 

Final Predictions: First thing's first: let's kill the unresolved mystery. Syrio Forel is dead. There is way too much business in the final season for his return, and far too many similar twists in George R.R. Martin's source material for it as well. 

 

Really, death is a big theme when it comes to final predictions for Arya Stark. The young wolf has taken many lives along the way, and one imagines there are still some yet to claim. Some White Walkers, for sure. Winter is coming, and in the forecast stands Arya Stark, proud new owner of the Valyrian dagger once intended to kill Bran. She's going to take out at least one of the Night King's cronies. It is known.

 

Beyond the Great War, Arya has other business to attend to, in the form of her kill list. Melisandre and the Mountain are on the list, and while there's reason to believe she will have a role to play in both demises, those theories are better saved for future editions of Final Path. For now, let's focus on the last major kill on the call sheet: Cersei. 

 

There's an interpretation of Cersei's "valonqar" prophecy that allows for Arya, the younger sibling of House Stark, to kill the Lion Queen. But the infinitely more satisfying outcome is the more obvious one: Jaime killing Cersei. If Arya doesn't kill Cersei, then, will the two still meet? I'm thinking yes, they do — and it will all go awry, thanks in no small part to Arya's adventures in Braavos.

 

Enter: Lady Crane. Back in season six, Arya was tasked with assassinating the Braavosi actress, starring as Cersei Lannister in a flagrantly offensive stage play. Against the odds, Arya takes an immediate liking to Lady Crane, the woman charged with bringing notes of empathy to Cersei. At one point, Arya and Crane meet, and Arya gives some notes on Cersei Lannister's psyche: "The queen loves her son more than anything. He was taken from her before she could say goodbye. She wouldn't just cry. She would be angry. She would want to kill the person who did this to her." Projection? Sure. But Arya also cuts right to Cersei's core in those words, an unusual moment of understanding for an enemy.

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