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I Really Wish Arya Stark Had Just Fucking Died In That Episode

Please let us never return to Braavos.

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I was briefly really excited about Arya dying in that episode.

dreamofspring.tumblr.com / HBO

This feels like a weird thing to say, but I just really wish that child had actually been murdered by that other, slightly older child that was borrowing an old woman’s face.

I like Arya. Or at least, I used to like Arya. She was once the most compelling character on a show full of them. For the first four seasons, culminating in that brilliant laugh when The Hound got told Lysa Arryn was dead, she was incredible to watch. A teenage girl with an literal kill list in a show where the killing is mostly done by angry men. She was driven by a fire that showed up her brothers obvious weaknesses - Jon's moping broodiness and Robb's indecisiveness ("I'm fighting a war," Robb says to Talisa, "and I don't know whether I should march south or north." Thanks, King in the North!)

At the end of the fourth season though, she left The Hound to die on a rock and went to Braavos. That was in 2014, two goddamn years ago now.

HBO

Arya went to Braavos because, um, there was a boat going that way. She was trying to go the Wall, found a cool coin in her pocket and decided on a whim to go to Braavos instead. Because there, she could train as an assassin and be better at taking care of her list.

Except the whole thing has been broken from the very beginning! Arya wanted to become an assassin to kill the remainder of her list. Except that to do that, she had to give up her previous name, life and motivations - such as the list.

HBO

And then she didn’t! She buried Needle under some fucking rocks. So we’ve been watching two years of Arya not becoming a Faceless Man, knowing that she could never, would never become a Faceless Man, and knowing that she didn’t even want to become a Faceless Man. It’s only now that she’s trying to leave that we’re seeing just how pointless it really was.

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What's most aggravating about this is that Arya was fucking shit at being a Faceless Man.

HBO

She couldn't follow basic instructions, couldn't commit to the religion, didn't have any interest in the bit of being an assassin that involves, y'know, KILLING PEOPLE. She also couldn't seem to learn how to dodge a stick for some reason.

It's been two seasons of the worst storyline. Two years of watching Maisie Williams do the best she can do when her entire characterisation has been reduced to "get hit with a stick."

mashable.com / HBO

Two years of psuedo-mystical bullshit that gets less and less mystical with each repetition, two years of pretending any of this is remotely interesting in any way, of sighing in exasperation as a lively storyline in another part of the world suddenly cuts to some wandering around the nothingness of Braavos.

Even Bran got his story left out for a season when there was no material for it. Cutting Arya's might have made the whole thing less frustrating, and the idea of an Arya who's been through some sort of traumatic cult experience is slightly interesting, but that doesn't seem to be what we're getting. We're just getting Arya, but older. Also a bit stabbed.

If on the other hand, she’d been killed, at least then there would have been at least a purpose.

She'd have been playing with a force too powerful for her, struggling to bend religion to her own ends and having it lash back against her. The unmanagable threat of religion would become the over-arching theme of the season; "Arya discovers the gravest danger of religion, as Cersei struggles to control the Faith Militant in King's Landing, while Jon lives only on a whim of the Lord of Light."

On a baser level, imagine the sad tragedy of the missing Stark child.

HBO

Jon rides back into Winterfell on the back of a giant, Sansa close behind, they meet up with Rickon, before Bran magically possesses a table or something. “What happened to Arya?” someone asks. And they never find out, because her body is rotting anonymously in a Braavosi backstreet. No joy, no resolution, just the banal misery of war and Westeros.

Instead, Arya is alive, and she’ll stay alive, obviously, despite getting stabbed in the gut with a long-ass knife, twice, which was then twiiisted, before she leapt into a grody river that we can only assume is full of human effluent.

But of course, she will survive, partly because she’s in the preview for next week, but mainly because this show has lost it’s ability to surprise any more.

HBO

Everything that's happened this season has been fulfilling fan theories or retreading old ground. R + L =J has all but been confirmed. Jon came back. Benjen is Coldhands. The Hound came back. Dany emerged from fire and roused the Dothraki to her cause (oh hey, Season 1, didn't see you there.)

The exception to this is "Hold the Door," but aside from that incredible piece of drama, this season has been remarkably predictable, and an aborted moment like this now seems like a wasted opportunity, a failure to remind us all that, yeah, this place fucking sucks to try and live in.

But it also points to a bigger problem with late-stage Game of Thrones, now that we're closing in on an end to a set of stories started a quarter of a century ago.

The entire saga is predicated on George R. R. Martin's response to classic fantasy, and both his refusal to adhere to, and desire to undermine, the fantasy tropes that he felt were limiting fantasy writing. So the son doesn't avenge his father; he's betrayed and murdered. The maiden doesn't get a noble prince; she gets betrothed to psychopaths and murderers. But now the stories have got to a place where that no longer works.

Either this whole thing ends well, in which case some characters are going to have to follow some pretty cliche tropes, or it's going to end badly, in which case it probably won't be that satisfying. And either way round, the characters are being pushed towards a big finale of some description - so the really major characters are going to have to survive.

Meanwhile, the story isn't unfolding any more, it's wrapping up to a denouement. All forms of narrative experience this, but rarely for so long - three seasons of television, two huge books, and rarely with such a colossal group of characters that have to be dealt with. Arya dying would have been proof of so many things - that there are still surprises, that people will die, that this is wrapping up to a full Game of Thrones style end - death, chaos, struggle, confusion. What we've been used to for so long.

But mostly it’s a wasted opportunity to get out of this dead end of a storyline in Braavos. I like Arya, but at this point I would rather have her dead, than ever see a single second of Braavos again.

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