During the innocent, sweet summer dawn of Game of Thrones, Arya Stark was an almost immediate fan favorite. Raised a lady but dying to be a soldier, Arya was one of the first to stand up to human garbage Joffrey Baratheon (the other being another fave, his uncle Tyrion) and to reject the obnoxious patriarchy of Westeros.
The years drew on and while Arya remained a hero to rabid Thrones fans, her storylines rarely lived up to her potential. Now that she’s back in Winterfell, that dry spell may be over.
One of the early draws of Arya as a popular character was her interest in battle, from archery to sword fighting — dancing, as she and master Syrio Forel called it. She was quickly parted from her dance teacher and set on a winding, often tedious journey away from King’s Landing. Highlights included meeting Jaqen H’gar and the Brotherhood without Banners in between verbal sparring with Gendry and baking bread or whatever with Hot Pie.
At the end of Season 4, Arya sailed for Braavos, and fans cheered to see her embark on her destiny of becoming a lethal assassin…which was all find and well until she spent all her time scrubbing dirty floors and dead bodies and calling herself “no one” for “no reason.” We watched her suffer at the hands of the Waif; punched, kicked, bloodied, stabbed — blinded by Jaqen for disobeying the arbitrary rules of the Faceless Men. A girl went through some shit, and even when we were rooting for her, it was hard to watch.
With Season 7 has come salvation. Arya’s training is complete. Even though her Season 7 opening felt pretty out-of-place, her arrival in Winterfell brought with it a resurgence of her fire and confidence. She sassed the castle guards rather than stabbing them through the throats, which shows growth! She greeted Sansa like a sister — something neither of them would have entertained the last time they lived together in this castle.
Together, they deal with their pontificating pothead brother Bran, from whom Arya acquires a handy Valyrian steel dagger that can destroy White Walkers, and also Little Finger (just a thought). Arya gets back to training with a sword for fun rather than urgent murder missions, and both Sansa and Brienne balk to see the formidable force before them.
She may not have fought in the Loot Train Attack (are we sure about that name?) and she’s no Bronn of the Blackwater, but Arya Stark is back and better than ever, and she’s this week’s Game of Thrones MVP.
MVP for “The Spoils of War”: Arya Stark
Finest Moment: Battling Brienne in the yard.
Brienne: “Who taught you to fight like that?”
Arya: “No one.”