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Screenshot: HBO

[Spoilers for Game Of Thrones season 8 episode 3.]

After seasons spent teasing a showdown between Jon Snow and The Night King—a character who remained frustratingly opaque up until his death, if we’re being honest—Arya swooped down from the clouds last night to jam some Valyrian steel into the armored gut of the ice monster. As our “newbies” critic, Alex McLevy, pointed out, it was an extremely satisfying moment, but it’s also one you could argue doesn’t resonate as anything beyond “badass.”


As Myles McNutt, our “experts” critic put it in his review:

It’s a development that works tremendously as the resolution of Arya’s journey within “The Long Night,” and more or less not at all in terms of the big picture of the show’s story. The Night King dies without any clear motivation beyond Bran’s abstract notion of his vendetta against memory, and there are a lot of unanswered questions beyond the trajectory and timing of Arya’s approach. And what was Bran doing while warged into the raven? It’s a badass moment, but it confirms that the Night King and his army were a fundamentally empty threat, capable of being erased in one fell swoop and without any kind of purpose beyond their existence. I’m not entirely mad that the takeaway from the battle becomes about a character that I like as much as Arya, but when the ice shards settled I just found myself going back and thinking about how the Night King was introduced as a tragedy with his creation and then just wages a war with no stated purpose and dies without doing anything but killing off a few supporting characters whose arcs were always headed toward death to begin with. 

Despite showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss having known for “three years” that Arya would deliver the deathblow, Maisie Williams was as surprised as anyone by the revelation. “I immediately thought that everybody would hate it; that Arya doesn’t deserve it,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “The hardest thing in any series is when you build up a villain that’s so impossible to defeat and then you defeat them. It has to be intelligently done because otherwise people are like, ‘Well, the villain couldn’t have been that bad when some 100-pound girl comes in and stabs him.’ You gotta make it cool. And then I told my boyfriend and he was like, ‘Mmm, should be Jon though really, shouldn’t it?’”

In the end, though, Williams gladly embraced the moment: “It all comes down to this one very moment. It’s also unexpected and that’s what this show does. So then I was like, ‘Fuck you Jon, I get it.’”

The moment was teased earlier in the episode when a returning Melisandre, fresh off burning more children at stakes probably, reunited with Arya for the first time since the third season. Then, she saw glimpses of Arya’s bloodlust: “I see a darkness in you,” Melisandre said at the time. “And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes. Blue eyes. Green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”


In reiterating that line at Winterfell, Melisandre emphasized the “bluebit of her prophecy, setting Arya on her journey to ending the White Walker threat once and for all. But she also mentioned “green” eyes, a detail that Mashable notes could apply to yet another still-living character, one that’s been on Arya’s kill list since the early days. Of course we’re talking about Cersei, the woman who, among many other things, is responsible for the beheading of her father. Guess what color her eyes are?

Photo: Sam Haysom (Mashable)

This could get sticky, however, as all signs point to a climactic showdown between Cersei and her brothers, Tyrion and Jaime, one that’s fueled by a prophecy from the books that claims “the valonqar” (“little brother”) will “wrap his hands about [Cersei’s] pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Of course, that particular bit of prophecy is in the books, not the series, so Arya could very well still hold claim over Cersei’s fate. If so, we politely ask that she bake Euron into a pie first.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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