Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Everything to Know” series. Starting with Game of Thrones, THR’s Westeros guru Josh Wigler will offer an in-depth guide about, well, everything there is to know about one particular topic within the complex universe.
The Starks have suffered in myriad ways. Four of the family members have lost their lives — violently — since the start of Game of Thrones, three butchered via a pair of House Bolton betrayals, two of them beheaded. The ones who are still alive — and that includes Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who was briefly dead, and Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), who is only kind of dead — have all weathered their own personal tragedies, losing loved ones and their innocence in equal measure.
With all that said, few Starks have unleashed the suffering quite like Arya (Maisie Williams), the face-changing, noble-born assassin who stands today as the subject of our latest Game of Thrones: Everything to Know video. The youngest Stark sister isn’t exactly drawn to the spotlight, so much so that she was once known simply as “No One.” But Arya is certainly a someone within the world of Westeros, and the greater fan community at large — a group that includes your friendly neighborhood Hollywood Reporter writer, who ranked Arya as the best character on Game of Thrones.
What makes Arya such a great character? There would be no end to this article if we tried counting all the ways, so let’s instead focus on some of the highlights:
• From her very first appearance, Arya wants nothing more than to attack life with all the ferocity of a direwolf. Incidentally, with the exception of her half-brother Jon, Arya is the only Stark sibling whose direwolf is still alive. Granted, we haven’t seen Nymeria since the second episode of the series, but the wolf’s still out there …
• Arya’s interest in swordplay introduced us to Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), one of the show’s best single-season characters, someone whose final fate is still debated within the Thrones community. (For what it’s worth, Syrio is definitely dead. It is known.)
• Indeed, Arya is often at the heart of the show’s most compelling duos, including her season two scenes with Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), her road trip with the Hound (Rory McCann) across seasons three and four, and her work as an assassin alongside Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) in seasons five and six.
• Speaking of that training, Arya now knows the ancient arts of the Faceless Men, a group of assassins who operate out of the House of Black and White in Braavos — which means Arya has and will continue to change her face in order to get the drop on an enemy. Look no further than the deaths of Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) and Walder Frey (David Bradley) to see just how dangerous Arya has become in six seasons of Thrones.
With season seven on the way, Arya is finally poised to reunite with her brothers and sister. But when they all converge upon Winterfell, will the siblings recognize one another? How will they reconcile Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) new powers, for example? It’s the same question with Arya, but heightened even further by the fact that she’s survived on her own without a true loved one in the world, pretty much since the very first season.
Here’s how Maisie Williams described the current state of Arya, in a 2016 interview with THR: “I have to justify her decisions, and it gets hard to do, because at a certain point, she’s not thinking rationally. She’s gone through too much, and has experienced so much pain and heartache and violence, and hasn’t really had a hug in a long time. When was the last time she was touched by someone and cared for? … She’s had companions, but it’s not the sort of support a child needs. For me, justifying these decisions, I’ve had to take that into account. She doesn’t feel like a normal girl. She’s been very alone.”
In solidarity with Williams’ take, here’s our latest and greatest prediction for Game of Thrones season seven: Arya gets a hug — a few hugs, in fact — and then it’s straight back to the Lannister-slaying business.
Check in with THR.com/GameOfThrones for everything else you need to know about the show, and keep the conversation going with me on Twitter @roundhoward. We’ll return in two weeks with a closer look at another corner of the world of ice and fire. In the meantime, check out our previous “Everything to Know” Game of Thrones coverage:
1. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: A Guide for New Viewers
2. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: An Overview of Westeros
3. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: An Overview of Jon Snow
4. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: The Rise of Daenerys Targaryen
5. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: The Life and Times of Tyrion Lannister
6. ‘Game of Thrones’ Everything to Know: On Bran Stark and Time Travel