Warning: Game of Thrones Season 7 spoilers ahead.
The Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere “Dragonstone” delivered fantastic moments all around but saved the best for Arya Stark. After spending most of Seasons 5 and 6 locked in a storyline that frustrated many fans, Arya finally gets the scenes she deserve that convey both her cunning nature and her humanity.
That Awkward Moment When You Didn’t Kill All The Starks
Ever since the Red Wedding the Freys have patted themselves on the back for murdering and betraying the Starks. Their triumph made them more careless than ever as they lost Riverrun to the Blackfish and needed Jaime and the Lannister army to reclaim the castle in Season 6. Even after re-seizing Riverrun, the carelessness continued as Arya used her skills gained in Braavos to enact revenge against Walder Frey in the Season 6 finale.
Season 7 opens perfectly with Arya fulfilling her revenge against all the Freys. David Bradley brilliantly balances a Walder Frey convincing enough for his kin but with enough subtle differences that the audience knows it’s Arya wearing his face. Her words drive home just how messed up it is that the Freys continue to congratulate themselves because they “butchered a woman pregnant with her babe” and “cut the throat of a mother of five” and “slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home.” Just like when she’s killed others on her list such as Polliver, Meryn Trant, and Walder Frey, Arya makes sure all the Freys know why they’re dying and who is killing them. In their final moments the Freys come face to face with the height of their heinous crimes and the fatal price of their careless arrogance.
The smirk on Arya’s face as she strolls past the array of lethally poisoned Freys is reminiscent of Sansa’s smirk after leaving Ramsay to his starving hounds, reminding audiences again of why Sansa and Arya need to reunite. Arya’s revenge is not only just but she also has enough humanity to spare Walder Frey’s latest wife and the serving women. She recognizes the futility of killing women who took no part in executing the Red Wedding, especially when the wife is a victim of the very people she hates. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ll spread the word about what happens when you mess with the Starks.
There’s Still Humanity In Westeros
Arya continued to steal the show beyond her epic Red Wedding revenge in a later scene where she encounters a small group of Lannister soldiers featuring a cameo from Ed Sheeran. While the opening scene displayed her cunning nature with a dash of humanity, this scene swapped the roles of those defining characteristics. Encountering a group of enemy soldiers near the Twins is not an unfamiliar situation for Arya. The very same thing happened in the Season 3 finale, only it was a small group of Frey soldiers shortly after the Red Wedding. Arya killed her first man back then and needed the Hound to finish off the rest. Coming off her single-handed mass poisoning of all important Freys, killing this group of Lannister soldiers didn’t seem like too difficult a feat.
What happens in this scene is way better than another bout of vengeful of murder, though. Arya’s humanity surfaces as the soldiers show their humanity. They offer her food and personally brewed drink and even give her the first bite since she’s their guest. One soldier shares his mother’s advice about being kind to strangers and expresses concern for his father while another smiles while talking about his wife having a baby. It’s a far cry from the Frey soldiers mocking the way Catelyn Stark sounded as she died.
Game of Thrones reminds us that while highborn individuals fight for the Iron Throne and the Army of the Dead looms closer, there are still plenty of everyday people in Westeros. Most of these individuals aren’t like the self-serving, sadistic schemers we’re used to seeing. They’re just normal folk with common fears and desires who happen to serve in an army that’s been considered the enemy since Season 1.
Maisie Williams carries the scene, her eyes expressing just a hint of surprise that these Lannister soldiers are such compassionate and normal people. She can’t help but smile and laugh, connecting with these soldiers and their everyday worries and desires. They unknowingly bring forth her humanity at a time when she needs it most, a time in which she can become completely consumed by her vengeance, no matter how justified it may be. With Arya’s life in recent years mostly revolving around Jaqen H’ghar and the Waif beating her into becoming “No One” and crossing enemies off her list, this scene is the first positive human interaction Arya has had in a long time. She even allays the soldiers’ mild suspicions with the unbelievable truth and more laughter.
What’s Next For Arya?
It seems like Arya is headed south to kill Cersei and the Mountain, thereby completing her list. This taking precedence over reuniting with her siblings at Winterfell is a bit disappointing. Nevertheless, the road to King’s Landing and the enemies that await her there will certainly prove fascinating. Arya traveling to King’s Landing with the same group of Lannister soldiers she met in this episode would be particularly fascinating. They could grow fond and protective of Arya, unaware of her identity. Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen as those soldiers were sent to the Riverlands in the first place to keep the peace in the wake of Arya’s violent actions at the Twins. More importantly it’s unlikely Ed Sheeran is going to transcend a cameo role and become a recurring character. Poised for a direwolf reunion in the preview for next week’s episode and her most formidable enemies yet awaiting in King’s Landing, Arya’s story will continue to be a highlight of Season 7.
What predictions do you have for Arya as Season 7 continues?
Image Credit: HBO