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Winter Has Arrived

arya as walder

By: Colin Chiles, who you can send all your theories to on Twitter here: @ColinC27

Estimated read time: 10 minutes

We’re two weeks into the second to last Game of Thrones season and my anxiety is already setting in that it’s going to be over before I’m ready. We need to savor every second that we have and the best way to do that is obviously a Dive 35 recap.

I’m going to play with the format some as we go along, but as best I can figure, it makes the most sense to tackle one character and thus one storyline at a time. And since I’m incapable of keeping things short, we’ll be splitting this into two parts. In this article, we’ll be reviewing the Starks that are still alive (Arya, Jon, Sansa and Bran)

I’ll provide a brief summary, some context placing each character within the larger story and some occasional insight from the books (which I love even more than the show).

I’m also extremely open to answering any questions you may have. I’m no Jason Concepion or Mallory Rubin from the Ringer, but I know my fair bit of thrones.

 

Let’s begin with Arya, a personal favorite character of mine.

Arya has returned to Westeros! Coming home is always a heartwarming, nostalgic endeavor, and I don’t know about you, but when I come home I always make it a point to murder 50 or so of my enemies in the same room while wearing the face of their father. In the rare Thrones cold open, we see what appears to be Walder Frey addressing “every Frey who means a damn thing” and congratulating them on their successes that include the now infamous red wedding. “Walder” goes on to say that their one mistake was leaving any Starks alive at all. “You should have ripped them all out, root and stem. Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe”.

Walder here is actually Arya, of course, and she was showcasing off her new murdering skills learned in Bravos. But this scene raises a lot of questions. How exactly is Arya able to conjure Walder’s voice? How does she manage differences in height and weight? Where did she learn to concoct poison on such a large scale? And most importantly, was Filch from Harry Potter actually Arya the whole time?

My answer? It’s magic. That might not be enough for some people but honestly, I’m not going to worry about too many of the details of HOW she does things when the basic concept of magic is pretty unexplainable. If you worry yourself with the details, I just think that in this case you’re looking too close. Arya has access to some sort of dark magic that she learned in Bravos that extends further than just taking someone’s face. Let’s leave it at that.

The larger implication for Arya though is that she is enacting her vengeance on a large and really dark scale. It’s one thing to chant the names of people you’d like to kill someday. To actually murder a 50 ish people at once is something else entirely. Arya is no longer the young girl chasing cats in Kings Landing, and that’s sort of sad.

Her character arc was always going to curve towards a point where she ended up a badass fighter/assassin but one of the larger questions for her now that she’s there is whether she’ll be able to put the thirst for vengeance aside and actually find love and happiness again.

Her next few scenes in both episode 1 and 2 seem to address that struggle. When she meets Ed Sheeran, it seems like this is an obvious case for her to murder more Lannister soliders, and you can tell it’s on her mind. She’s wary of their intentions and trying to decide whether to slice them up, but Ed and his crew are just too damn nice. She can’t do it, and that’s a good sign.

In the second episode we see her reunion with Hot Pie, who when you first meet him back in season 2, is telling a story about killing someone by kicking them to pieces, as if they could just explode into a bunch of 2Reese’s Pieces or something. This remains one of my favorite scenes in all of the show. Here Arya is clearly disinterested in what was an old friend. She’s focused and likely thinking about slitting Cersei’s throat. Then Hot Pie mentions that Jon Snow is the King in the North at Winterfell.

If you recall, Jon and Arya were quite close and when they last saw one another, Jon gifted her the one object she has kept with her all this time, her sword Needle. Needle represents basically everything that Arya is. It represents her family but also her more murderous intentions. It’s easily underestimated and probably more dangerous because of that. It’s her one link to the past, present and probably future. In both the books and show, it was the one possession she couldn’t give up at the House of White and Black in Braavos.

She is faced with a decision. Vengance or family? South or North? She chooses north. Maybe she isn’t completely lost in her spite after all. Maybe there are still positive things to live for. I’m glad she chose north.

As she does choose north, she runs into her former direwolf, Nymeria. It’s worth noting that in the books (especially book 3) there are occasional conversations you hear about some gigantic “she-wolf” leading a pack that is wreaking havoc in the Riverlands. It’s a big enough problem that when someone states they had problem with wolves, the follow up question is “The ones on two legs or four?”. The show leaves these out and I wasn’t entirely sure we’d see Nymeria again.

But we did. And holy shit-balls was she gigantic. I don’t fully know what to make of that scene. I think the show wants you to think that Nymeria is leaving Arya alone because Arya sent her off, very early in season 1. I’m not so easily fooled. Arya is traveling north on her own. She’s a badass but at some point she’s going to run into trouble that she can’t take on by herself.

When that happens, she’ll be saved by a vicious pack of wolves, which I expect to follow her north, ensuring her safety.

So I just spent a ton of time on Arya. I’ll try and make the next characters more succinct.

 

Let’s move on to the other Starks in the north, Jon, Sansa and Bran.

Jon is now King in the North and is probably the only character in the show driven by what will is the real threat to all life in Westeros and beyond. In some ways that makes him smart but in others it makes him blind. As was evidenced by his murder by the nights watch, it can be hard for him to see the danger right in front of him. Currently, I don’t think he’s seeing the potential threat that Littlefinger poses to him. Not directly, of course, because nothing Littlefinger ever does is direct but he is basically the GOAT of manipulating the pieces to move around him while he seemingly stands still. Sansa sees him exactly for what he is but even if she’s woke, he’s been scheming since well before she was born.

Jon and Sansa see things differently. Jon can’t focus on anything but the Night King. Sansa is more about general self-preservation in the mold of Cersei. This flows from their respective live experiences.

Jon’s is obvious. He’s seen the other side and what’s coming for all of the living, and once you’ve seen that, what else could matter? The intensity of Sansa’s experience, however, could be over-looked. Basically from the start of this show until now, she was in the most immediate, most consistent danger out of anyone. She lived in Kings Landing under Cersei for two and a half seasons. She was on stage with her dad at his beheading. She was betrothed to Joff. She was forced to marry Tyrion. She unwittingly participated in Joff’s poisoning and then took the blame for it as Littlefinger shuffled her out of town.

And all of that was packed into three seasons. From there she had to deal with Lysa and then by far the worst of all, was forced to marry and endure Ramsey “kibble food” Bolton.

Only now is Sansa some level of safe, but you could forgive her for seeing danger at every corner and wanting to exact a little revenge or at the very least, punishment for those who betrayed her and her family. This is the disagreement her and Jon have in the public forum of Winterfell over whether houses that sided with Ramsay should lose them and also whether or not Jon should leave to go treat with Dany.

Jon sees strength in tradition and wants the north as strong as possible, so he chooses to not break the castle lineage. With Dany, Jon sees an opportunity. Dragons and the dragonglass that sits underneath Dragonstone are literally THE answer to the Night King.

For Sansa though, any house that sided with Ramsay deserves to be punished, and those that supported her and Jon against awful odds should be rewarded. In the case of Jon leaving to meet some dragons, Jon is another layer of safety she has for herself and the North. Starks are finally in control of Winterfell again – why would he leave now?

They both have good points and in a weird way they are both right and both wrong. The truth is that these are complicated problems with no simple solutions.

Two questions arise from me from these storylines we’ve covered and one of them seeps into what will be part two of this article, but we’ll dip our toes in anyway.

The less important question first: is Arya going to meet up with Jon as he comes south? Or is she going to get to Sansa? Either way I figure she’s in for a reunion with one of the Starks. My heart wants it to be Jon because then she might go south with him to meet Dany and that would just be fun. My brain says Sansa though, and I have a little half baked theory. We’ve heard Sansa in multiple season 7 previews speak the line “when the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives”. Arya by definition is the lone wolf. Could this be Sansa holding a dying Arya? I don’t know the route of her death or any other details…just a little pet theory I have.

 

My second questions regards a little of what happened to Dany. Her entire battle plan constructed by Tyrion went to hell when Euron rather predictably attacked Theon and Yara (it is so hard for me to call her Yara. She is named Asha in the books and while we’re here, the book has her and Theon are both with Stannis in the north, who I believe to still be alive…in the books).

The impulse for Dany will be to attack Kings Landing head on, despite Tyrion’s likely discouragement from that course (I will talk tomorrow over what Dany should do). I’ve thought for a little while that season 7 must be Dany taking the iron throne so that the final season can be Dany V Night King.

BUT what if, like Stannis, Dany goes north with Jon first? She could certainly win over a lot of people by taking out an army of dead, before attempting to take Kings Landing. It doesn’t totally match up in my mind because I think the final boss has to be the Night King, but it’s an interesting thought.

 

This has been my Stark family update – check in tomorrow (hopefully) for the remainder of the main storylines.

Oh and it looks like, much like the show, I forgot about Bran. One quick thing though. Bran showed up to Castle Black with Meera in episode 1. Why wouldn’t they IMMEDIATELY send a raven to Jon? This makes no sense to me. I guess that could happen in episode 3 with Sansa getting the raven, but logically, there is no reason to wait on sending that letter.

WILL WE GET TO SEE THIS REUNION? OR NAH?

starks

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