“Swift as a deer. Quiet as a shadow. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Quick as a snake. Calm as still water.”
The above lines come from George R.R. Martin’s inaugural Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Game of Thrones. These are the tenets that Arya Stark abides by under the teaching of Syrio Forel. The Braavosi swordsman takes Arya under his wing early in the series, after Ned Stark discovers Needle, the sword given to her by Jon Snow.
At the end of season 8, episode 3, “The Long Night,” Arya remembers her “waterdancing” doctrines as she plunges her Valyrian steel dagger, Catspaw, into the Night King’s gut, causing the army of the dead to disintegrate into shards of icy nothingness. While this seemed like a curveball, it’s become clear that Arya’s destiny has been premeditated by the showrunners for a long time — to the extent that it seems the youngest Stark sister has a much bigger role to play before the series wraps up.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8 through episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”]
Arya’s personal odyssey is perhaps one of the most affecting of Game of Thrones’ character arcs. While her Faceless Man training at the House of Black and White in Braavos serves as a point of confusion for many viewers, it seems only natural that she would be the one to eradicate the Night King. After all, she does train as an elite assassin serving the God of Death.
In fact, if we consider Arya’s adventures in vivid detail, we can see a substantial amount of foreshadowing supporting the idea that she would be the one to dismantle the Army of the Dead. The dagger she used to stab the Night King was given to her by Bran in the godswood in season 7, and at the beginning of season 8, Jon stands in the exact same spot as where the Night King is positioned in episode 3 and asks Arya, “How did you sneak up on me?” On top of this, the scene in which Jon Snow attempted to Fus-Ro-Dah Viserion has since been revealed to be Jon repeatedly bellowing the word “go,” implying that he was prepared to sacrifice himself in order to provide Arya with a chance to save Bran and kill the Night King. It’s all by design.
However, perhaps the most prominent aspect of foreshadowing comes from the prophetic words Melisandre speaks to Arya in season 3. “I see a darkness in you,” the Red Woman tells her. “And in that darkness, eyes staring at me: Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes — eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
In fact, quite a lot of what transpires during the Battle of Winterfell boils down to prophecy. Beric Dondarrion — a man who enjoyed a brief stint on Arya’s list of names previously in the series — sacrifices his seventh life to save Arya from the encroaching wights before expiring for a final time, having served his purpose. Before doing so he invokes the courage of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane after the latter cowers in fear amidst the fiery destruction consuming Winterfell. Just as The Hound is about to give up, stating that you can’t defeat death, Beric gestures at Arya and utters his famous last words: “Tell her that.”
As the two comrades band together to rescue Arya, they come into contact with Melisandre, who finally meets Arya again just as she said she would. Here, Arya confronts her, astounded. “You said we’d meet again,” she says. “You said I’d shut many eyes forever. You were right about that, too.” Melisandre confirms the eye colors she mentioned back in season 3, before asking Arya the infamous question: “What do we say to the God of Death?”
“Not today,” Arya responds.
After this encounter, Arya leaves and kills the Night King, allowing the living to prevail against the dead. However, what’s significant here is that the Night King is blue-eyed, and Arya was told of other eyes she’d “shut forever.”
While most people have concluded that Walder Frey is the brown-eyed victim and the Night King fits the part of having blue eyes, many fans seem to think that Arya will also be the one to shut Cersei Lannister’s green eyes forever. This is at odds with the valonqar prophecy, which states that Cersei will be killed by the “younger brother” — most people think this refers to Jaime — but it’s important to remember that not all prophecies are entirely accurate, and that Arya has access to a vast array of faces.
Although the rules of the Faceless Men imply that a person must be dead before their face is worn, Jaqen H’ghar — or the man using his face — sported Arya’s visage in the House of Black and White at the end of season 5, despite the fact that she was still alive. Some people think this is because she had become No One, while others suggest that this was merely a hallucination on Arya’s part, brought on by delirium or drugs. However, the more likely scenario is that the Faceless Men’s limits are ambiguous for a reason, and perhaps we don’t understand their rules quite as well as we’d like to.
It’s also important to recognize that Arya is not a Faceless Man. In A Feast for Crows, it’s noted that only a few women have served the Many-Faced God as Faceless Men, and that it’s almost unheard of for a child to be taken in for training. Arya only ever makes it to the rank of novice, and when she leaves Braavos, she denounces her title of No One, stating that she is “Arya Stark of Winterfell.”
On top of this, it’s also suggested that Faceless Men can only kill people they don’t know, and accepting contracts tied to people they shared previous relationships with is forbidden. This means that no one is ever truly No One, as this implies that people must remember acquaintances from their life before the Faceless Men. By the same logic, Arya killing Meryn Trant and Walder Frey is evidently at odds with this doctrine. (Interestingly, this is likely why all the men on the ship to Braavos make sure to tell Arya their full names after they agree to provide her passage across the Narrow Sea.)
All of this is just leading up to Arya’s denouement, though. Most people have traced the Walder Frey and Night King trajectory straight to Cersei, but that’s only half the picture. Meryn Trant also had brown eyes, and while Littlefinger has green eyes in the books, Aidan Gillen has blue eyes, both in reality and in the show. As a result, Arya has killed two brown-eyed people, as well as two blue-eyed people — so what if she were to hypothetically kill two adversaries with green eyes?
This is where things get interesting. Although Daenerys has the traditional violet eyes of the Targaryens in the books, she has green eyes in the show. She’s also evidently been at odds with the Stark sisters since arriving in Winterfell, who don’t trust her and are concerned about her relationship with Jon — a sentiment that is shared by Lord Varys, who confesses that he’s “worried about her state of mind” in episode 4, before directly confronting her, saying: “Do not become what you’ve always struggled to defeat.” Perhaps after the deaths of Viserion, Jorah, Rhaegal, and Missandei, coupled with the revelation that Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne is stronger than hers, Daenerys will turn on her companions, necessitating an intervention by an assassin capable of dispatching the legendary Night King.
As it stands though, Arya is en route to King’s Landing with her old travelling companion, The Hound — who has matters of his own to tend to in the capital. However, before she leaves, Gendry proposes marriage to her after having been legitimized and named Lord of Storm’s End. “I’m not a Lady,” Arya says after rejecting him. “I never have been. That’s not me.” Cleverly, this resembles the line Arya utters to Nymeria when she meets her direwolf on the way back to Winterfell in season 7. After asking her to return home with her, Arya looks at her, smiles, and says: “That’s not you.”
So, after saving Winterfell from the Army of the Dead and reaffirming her priorities in life, Arya sets out with her old companion, The Hound, on a southward odyssey to assassinate Cersei Lannister. Maybe she’ll do it as herself, or perhaps she’ll wear Jaime’s face — maybe she won’t be the one to kill Cersei at all. But one thing is for sure: Arya’s days as an assassin aren’t over yet, and she’s still got green eyes to close forever.