Last night's episode of Game of Thrones was chock-full of hair-raising moments, and although we're only going to focus on one specific plot point in this post, you may want to stop reading any further to avoid spoilers.
This week's episode saw the return of Hot Pie, one of Arya's friends from the past — Season 1, to be exact — back when her life was filled with less murder and dread.
Hot Pie and Arya reunited, but the union was bittersweet because it was blatantly clear that Arya was no longer the same spirited and adorable girl we met when the show began.
And Hot Pie noticed it too, because as he talks to Arya about "the big lady," (Brienne of Tarth) it's a sobering look at how much time has passed since the two have been around one another. Arya has become a murderer, hell-bent on exacting vengeance on those who have wronged her, and it's visibly hardened her a lot.
The conversation changes once Hot Pie discloses a huge revelation to Arya: The Boltons are dead, no longer in control of Winterfell, and Jon Snow is now King in the North.
At first Arya is shocked, probably because she assumed any vestiges of her former life no longer existed.
After hearing her old friend's news, Arya sets off in a different direction than she'd been heading, presumably to Winterfell.
Arya's decision to take a detour to her birthplace is clear when, as she leaves the pub she met Hot Pie in, a group of men a few feet in front of her announce the distance to King's Landing — where she was originally headed on a mission to kill Cersei. But she goes in the opposite direction: home.
On the way back home, Arya ran into another blast from the past: her direwolf Nymeria, who like Hot Pie, we hadn't seen since Season 1. Tear-inducing reunions aside, the news of Arya returning to Winterfell is huge because it may have been foreshadowed in the previous season.
Like Arya, Nymeria has changed too — and they both feel the difference in one another upon their first meeting in years. Arya has been changed by the series of unfortunate events that fell upon her since watch her father get beheaded so long ago and Nymeria has become a wild wolf, taking refuge in forests, no longer in need of domesticated life.
Both have been sculpted in different ways by their environment, and it was most noticeable when they locked eyes for a moment as Arya called Nymeria's name. Nymeria dropped her defenses and walked away from her former owner, parting ways for a second time. It was only different in this instance because the direwolf made the choice to leave and go back to the life she'd created for herself and her pack, because even she knows things won't and can't go back to the way they were before.
In the Season 6 episode "No One," Jaqen H'ghar of the Faceless Men told Arya, "Finally, a girl is no one," after she'd succeeded in killing the Waif.
Arya responded to Jaqen by proclaiming her birthright.
So basically, Arya Stark and "No one" are one and the same. She may still feel like the same person from Winterfell on the inside, but the combat tactics she learned in Braavos have become even more ingrained in her being, thus becoming a natural part of her, normal to her.
In that season's follow-up episode, "Battle of the Bastards," there's a scene where Jon Snow attempts to comfort Sansa, letting her know he wouldn't let Ramsay Bolton harm her again — to which she said, "No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone."
This could've been Sansa casting doubt on Jon's promise to shield her from the insane Ramsay, because she knew how bad things could be with him. Or it could've also been Sansa unknowingly invoking her younger sister's alternative moniker, "No one."
Last night's teaser showed Jon and Daenerys Targaryen finally coming face to face, a moment fans have been anticipating forever.
Which means that Sansa, who is in charge of Winterfell in Jon's absence, will be all alone and probably more vulnerable to Littlefinger's games, despite being roughed up by Jon in last night's episode.
But perhaps Sansa will be just fine, because as she told Jon before, "No one protect me. No one can protect anyone."
Michael Blackmon is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Michael Blackmon at email@example.com.
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