The Sisters in Geek love it when theories abound around our favorite things. One of our favorite things is Arya Stark. We had feelings about this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode, but have been soothed by internet theorizing about *ahem* what may actually be going on (because you know how in the Game, nothing is ever as it seems!). Our good friend Jesse Brake was one of the most coherent theorizers we’ve encountered this week, and he’s been kind enough to write us the following guest post, which we are thrilled about and know you will be too! Read on…
Warning: The following article is filled with spoilers throughout the entire run of HBO’s Game of Thrones and assumes you have seen S06E07 “The Broken Man.”
“I see a darkness in you- and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes…eyes that you will shut forever. We will meet again.” – Melisandre, to Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, S03E06, “The Climb”
With those words, the Red Priestess foreshadowed my hype for Arya Stark. She has already shut the brown eyes of Ser Meryn Trant back in S05E10 “Mother’s Mercy,” which leaves us with blue and green. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Last week’s episode, “The Broken Man”, left Arya fans in a state of shock following a vicious attack by stick enthusiast The Waif. We immediately went through 4 out of 5 stages of nerd grief, watching Arya stumble through the streets of Braavos after having experienced the literal manifestation of Napalm Death’s contribution to the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, “Twist The Knife Slowly.”
Denial: “Arya did NOT let The Waif sneak up on her like that!”
Anger: “Why did Arya forget all her Faceless Man training?”
Bargaining: “OK, maybe this is a trap set by Arya — a stupid, stabby Haversack Ruse.”
Depression: “Oh God, the writers have completely forgotten how to write Arya.”
Well, Sisters in Geek have asked me to write this guest spot to explain why Arya might have actually retained her level in badass, how previous events have foreshadowed why she will come out on top, and — most importantly — why she probably isn’t the person who was stabbed.
WHY THE VICTIM IN “THE BROKEN MAN” ISN’T ARYA
Strike #1: Arya is without Needle.
When we last saw Arya in S06E06, she was retrieving the aptly-named rapier Needle from its hiding spot to presumably hunker down and prepare for retribution from The Faceless Men for refusing to kill Lady Crane.
Why is it then in the very next episode, Arya does not have Needle? Are we to believe she sold something of such sentimental value for the gold to pay for passage back home? That’s extremely doubtful, given her character’s sentimental nature and her reinvigorated sense of self after witnessing the play performed by Lady Crane and crew the last two episodes. Selling her sword at this point would be like if Dany decided to clip her dragon’s wings, or if Dorne started being interesting.
Strike #2: Arya Stark is left handed in the TV show and novel, yet does everything with her right hand in “The Broken Man”
It has been a sticking point (sorry not sorry) since season one that Arya Stark is left handed. It’s pointed out in her training with Syrio, her practicing in front of The Hound, her choice of lead hand with her stick when blind, and even touched on in a number of interviews by Maisie “Destroyer of Sexist Headlines” Williams herself. We’d link the interview, but oh man the ads are obnoxious on the page.
Yet in “The Broken Man,” Arya tosses and retrieves the sack of gold to and from the ship’s captain with her right hand and applies pressure to her stab wound with her right as well. Given the fact Maisie is naturally right handed and has spent the last 5 years learning how to do everything left handed for this role, I reckon she’d point out this continuity error. I’d hope the writers would notice too, but hey, Gendry has been rowing for four years so what do I know?
Strike #3: The rest of her mannerisms are all wrong.
Alright, let’s just believe for a second the writers and Maisie both forgot about the whole left hand dominance thing. Did they also suddenly forget everything else about Arya Stark?
Arya throws a sack of gold at the ship’s captain requesting a cabin… but in S04E10 “The Children,” after leaving The Hound for dead, Arya informs the ship’s captain providing her passage to Braavos that, quote, “I wouldn’t need a cabin.”
Why the insistence on a cabin now?
Also, let’s talk about something a little less subtle: her walk in “The Broken Man.”
In S06E01, “The Red Woman,” Varys comments about Tyrion’s walking style, how it betrays the fact he comes from wealth. It’s a mindset, Varys explains, and it’s driven home by the fact Bran walks exactly the same when he’s just imagining himself walking — as demonstrated in this gif.
Arya is a Stark as well, but has always abjured the aspects of status for nobility, lest we forget her friendship with Mycah AKA the butcher’s boy.
The writers have been about as subtle as a GRRM nipple description when it comes to the Gait of Thrones©, so it’s worth mentioning it could also be foreshadowing one of the most tinfoil theories out there (read below).
IF IT ISN’T ARYA, WHO IS IT?
I’m going to skip over some of the ridiculous theories (i.e. It is Bianca wearing a Faceless Mask of Arya trying to escape Braavos after it’s revealed she tried to have Lady Crane poisoned) because I refuse to think the writers have screwed up their own continuity so badly that they forget Jaqen’s warning that to someone, “…faces are as good as poison.” (S05E10 “Mother’s Mercy”)
Instead, we’re focusing on the one I think is the most plausible: Arya in S06E08 is in fact Jaqen H’ghar.
Jaqen has two main reasons to be out and about in Braavos acting all not-Arya and getting murdered:
- Arya never unnamed Jaqen back in S02E08, “The Prince of Winterfell”
Let’s have a back in the day buffet with Sexy Jesus H’ghar. When Arya gives him his own name for refusing to help her and her friends escape, Jaqen throws her a degree of shade normally reserved for a jump cut in Rupaul’s Drag Race. According to the homicidal Faceless Men scout’s honor, a name given is a life that must be taken.
Despite escaping from Harrenhal, Jaqen is never unnamed officially on screen. Jaqen also never asks to be unnamed for reasons that I will speculate based on the character’s motivations:
- Jaqen is near fanatical in his devotion to The Many-Faced God. Jaqen is awaiting Arya after their escape, presumably to be unnamed. Upon seeing Jaqen, she immediately questions how was he able to find her again and kill so easily. Jaqen’s response is, “Of all the things you have seen, this is your question?” At first viewing, I thought this was an attempt at humor by the character. After multiple viewings though, it seems the humor was meant for the fourth wall and his question was genuine curiosity. This noble girl wasn’t dismissing Jaqen as a servant or tool, which many highborn would do. Jaqen also knew of her list, making her a potential servant of The Many-Faced God (“You could offer up all of their names, one by one.”) Jaqen has experience with pissed off women as well, since The Waif said during the Game of Faces (S05E03 “High Sparrow”) that she is a former noble from Westeros.
With this is mind, Jaqen is prepared to one day give his life to The Many Faced God, provided it furthers their cause (as a trained Arya Stark would do). Arya’s list is filled with people who are causing suffering to others, all of whom Jaqen says deserve the “gift” of death.
Devil’s advocate compels me to remind you Jaqen said The Faceless Men are supposed to be detached from their targets, which Arya is obviously not. I would say one thing to this: given the character arcs of religious folk in GoT — namely The High Sparrow, Melisandre, Thoros of Myr, and especially the same-episode portrayal of Septum Ray by Ian McShane — Jaqen is more concerned with devotion to the physical entity of The Many-Faced God than to the organization of The Faceless Men.
- And number two: Jaqen is actually testing The Waif, not Arya. In S05E03, Jaqen has a Jonestown Tea Time discussion of how The Faceless Men believe that death is merciful end to suffering. The Waif however, has no mercy, no detachment from her abuse of Arya. She hates her for reasons left to the viewer’s armchair psychiatry evaluation. Based on their beliefs, Jaqen wants for The Waif to make Arya’s — or his own — death quick and painless. Of course, we know this doesn’t occur.
In fact, in the previous episode S0606 “Blood of My Blood,” when The Waif reports Arya’s failure to kill Lady Crane, she says, “As I expected…you promised me.”
Something tells me that possessive pronouns are not supposed to be part of the vocabulary of “no one.” Jaqen then remarks, “Shame. A girl had many gifts.” As a viewer, it would seem Jaqen is referring to Arya, but since he stated this after The Waif said ‘I’ and ‘me,’ I am speculating he is actually talking about The Waif.
If this is the case, The Waif has failed horribly. The brutal murder of Jaqen sounds like a perfect motivation for Arya to take the fight to her, which Melisandre has already foreshadowed given The Waif’s stark blue eyes:
ALL RIGHT BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS ARTICLE’S TITLE?
Here is where we bust out the Reynolds Wrap. It’s not a new theory that Jaqen is possibly fan favorite and GoT’s Boba Fett, Syrio Forel, the first sword of Braavos. We never saw Syrio die, Syrio is from Braavos, and Syrio states there is only one god: the god of death AKA The Many-faced God. Jaqen goes on about how a girl is no one, only an agent of death, while Syrio states, “Boy…girl…you are a sword, that is all.” (S01E03 “Lord Snow”). Finally, we know Syrio is a master Water Dancer (GoT’s version of fencers), and we’ve never actually seen Jaqen physically kill someone before, so we don’t know if he fights in the same style.
Since we never saw Benjen Stark die and now he is back as Coldhands, it’s no longer too farfetched. However, it would be a little lazy for the same totally-not-dead surprise to occur again next episode.
So why bring up this damn near decade old theory now? It’s because of a single teaser image for this Sunday’s episode, “No One.”
Check it out:
Honestly, yes, Syrio coming back seems like fan service from D&D for the HBO crowd, rather than some secret from the books revealed by GRRM like ‘hold the door!’ On top of what is sure to be a precursor for Cleganebowl (as we see both Sandor and Zombie Mountain going to Murdertown, population: growing, in the sneak peek), then the Bolton/Stark war, we got ourselves two action packed episodes coming up before the season finale.
In closing, I believe we will see the “death” of Jaqen H’Ghar this Sunday. However, the question of whether or not this is Syrio, and if so, was Jaqen always Syrio or is it Syrio just showing up out of the blue is one… I’m not sure on. Maybe The Waif is Arya’s Tyler Durden (don’t front, that would be hot fire). Anything is possible in a world with dragons, resurrection, ice zombies, and television writers willing to give us nipple armor.
Personally, I love the idea of Syrio being Jaqen because it means we can finally put a face (pun intended) to Arya’s plot armor. Once he presumably dies in this forthcoming episode, it might mean the plot armor is finally removed for one of the major characters in the GoT universe.
Well, at least until that third set of eyes are shut… green, like the Lannisters are known for.
A special thanks to Reddit user /u/rolldownthewindow for gathering a majority of the episode numbers for this theory.
Jesse is a former trivia writer and current owner of Breaking BINGO. He has a wife and two dogs that occupy all of his time outside work, gaming, and TV. We adore him for many reasons but mostly because we asked for “something sort of coherent and it doesn’t have to be fancy at all” and he gave us this instead. Thanks, Jesse!