The king is dead in Episode 8 of the first episode of Game of Thrones. Cersei Lannister makes a push for Westeros now that Robert Baratheon is dead, ordering her guardsmen to take control of King’s Landing and put down any dissenters so that her son Joffrey can take the Iron Throne without opposition. Ned Stark’s daughter Arya is among those targeted, and she is busy practicing with her sword-fighting coach Syrio when the purge begins. Syrio, who is willing to offer his life to save Arya, asks her a simple question: “What do we say to the God of Death?” Arya’s reaction is equally straightforward: “Not today.”
Arya’s motto would be that two-word sentence. Maybe not as well-known as her kill list (“Joffrey, Cersei, Walder Frey, Meryn Trant…”), but it was still an important part of her character enough that the show would revisit it seven seasons later, right already when Arya drives her Valyrian steel sword into the Night King’s chest, defeating the White Walker army. Between those two points, a lot happened to Ned Stark’s youngest daughter. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, led by George R. R. Martin’s books, took Arya (played so attractively by Maisie Williams) on a traumatic trip that transformed her from an innocent child to a cunning assassin throughout the length of the show’s run. Every stop along the way was worthwhile. Every important moment provided to Arya felt earned, both those meant to enrich her character and those meant to provide her with a bit of crowd-pleasing valor.
And it’s for this reason that, now that we’ve seen the full series, Arya feels like an aberration. People are still talking about how Game of Thrones ended its eight-season run two years ago, as you probably know. To say that the final episodes didn’t quite live up to everyone’s expectations would be underselling the late-game storytelling hiccups that transformed the fantasy novel from a based on culture monstrosity into a past-its-prime fantasy story that may not be able to maintain the slew of spinoffs HBO has planned in its wake. Jaime Lannister’s fans were furious. Fans of Game of Throne character, Daenerys Targaryen were not pleased. And those biting on their fingernails while they nervously awaited the outcome of the royal election may have questioned why they bothered once Bran Stark was crowned king. Arya’s path, however, remained unblemished, save for a few minor quibbles here and there.
There may have been some minor objections about her final beat at the time. In the show’s final scenes, Arya loses her identity once more as she trades her assassin’s blade for an explorer’s ship and sails west toward uncharted places, leaving Westeros behind. It wasn’t the joyful ending that some of her followers had envisioned, but it was a great finale for a character who has not been satisfied with being told everything she could and couldn’t accomplish in the world and who always wanted to forge her own path.
With some time passing since the Game of Throne series end, I’m sure some fans have began to explore reviewing the entire series, but are wary of suffering through some of the show’s more egregious blunders. What is my recommendation? Keep an eye out for Arya. Pay special attention to the one character who survives from beginning to end and embarks on a hero’s journey that is both unusual and fully fulfilling. Anything else that happens to hold up is just icing on the cake. We just can wait something new for the Game of Throne’s spinoff on 123Movies site, right?