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Was Arya always doomed to fail in Braavos?

A girl does not have a name, but does she also not have a purpose?


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on Jun 3, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 4:18 pm CDT

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire.

Fans have, for the most part, fully embraced the hype and insanity that comes with Game of Thrones this season. From the backstory behind the White Walkers and “Hold the door” to the return of Benjen Stark, the rise of TarthBane, and Daenerys Targaryen burning down all of the Dothraki khals, but not all has been well across the Narrow Sea.

Arya Stark has always been a fan favorite on Game of Thrones. She starts off as a lovable tomboy with a penchant for fighting, but the sheer amount of death and vengeance in her life transforms her into a sociopathic assassin in the making. Her kill list grew with each strike against her and shrank with each death she was able to mark. Her buddy-adventure with the Hound make us care about them both, and it even gave him a reprieve from her list.

For the past season and a half, Arya has tried to join the ranks of the Faceless Men of Braavos under the tutelage of Jaqen H’ghar (taking over the Kindly Man role in the books) with mixed results—and her story is one of the more polarizing and frustrating for fans.

She picked Arya back up to brutally murder Ser Meryn Trant, an act for which Jaqen blinded her. She spent three episodes fighting the Waif with a wooden staff—much of that having her ass handed to her—and was then tasked with killing Lady Crane.

“A girl has been given a second chance,” Jaqen told her. “There will not be a third.”

She’s been given a test—one that she fails when she sympathizes with Lady Crane too much to kill her. If that didn’t seal the deal, grabbing Needle out of its hiding place sure did.

It’s a thread that’s still dangling in A Song of Ice and Fire. We last see her in a sample chapter of The Winds of Winter, she kills Raff the Sweetling while she’s disguised as Mercy, a member of a Braavosi theater troupe. Now that Arya will likely have the Waif on her tail in the next episode or two and there’s a greater likelihood of her returning to Westeros, it’s leading some fans to wonder why Arya spent all that time in Braavos learning to become No One if she could never truly rid herself of Arya Stark.

“Eyes you’ll shut forever”

Back in season 3, Arya met Melisandre (likely a stand-in for the Ghost of High Heart) after she takes Gendry away, and Melisandre has a cryptic message for her.

“I see a darkness in you,” Melisandre said. “And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me—brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever.”

With the progression of Arya’s plot over the past few seasons, fans are starting to realize that she’s accomplishing just that. It’s not that much of a surprise that Arya’s become something of a cold-blooded murder since that encounter, but in that time she’s killed Polliver and Trant, who both have brown eyes. Cersei Lannister, a longtime member of her kill list, has green eyes. Multiple candidates have blue eyes, but the Waif could be a prime candidate now that Arya no longer has any loyalty to the House of Black and White.

Fans have long figured Arya would return to Westeros as a Faceless Assassin tasked to kill a major character, but in the show she might come on her own after embracing Arya again.

“We’ll meet again,” Melisandre ended their conversation. She seems certain of it.

Two sides of the same coin, or the Tyler Durden of Braavos

The Waif does not like Arya at all. She fights and beats Arya under the orders of Jaqen, berates her, always knows when she lies, and points out all of her insecurities. And sometimes, the Waif’s emotions get in the way.

But, as one theory edging on tinfoil points out, we only see the Waif ever interact with Arya and Jaqen. Even when she and Arya fight in the streets of Braavos with other beggars nearby, nobody is ever seen watching or turning around to listen. Could that be because Arya is the Waif, and their struggles for the past season and a half have been internal? The Waif is No One while Arya still holds onto her old life. The Waif is made to wait outside while Arya is faced with her missions.

“You promised me,” the Waif said after relaying of Arya’s latest failure.

The ensuing fight between Arya and the Waif is the final test. If the Waif wins, Arya will truly become No One. If she loses, Arya keeps hold of herself.

A girl still has another test

Jaqen had to have known that Arya would fail in her assignment to kill Lady Crane. So why did he even send her in the first place?

The test might not be over. We’re led to believe that the Waif is tasked to kill Arya, but what if it’s to show her mercy instead? This would test Arya as well as the Waif, who has enough of a grudge against her that her emotions have gotten in the way, and a victory from Arya might give her the final tools she needs before embarking back to Westeros.

Arya, like many of the other characters in Game of Thrones, seems to be destined for greater things—even if they do result in a premature death. We’ll have to wait to see if Arya’s venture to Braavos was worth it, but what do we know? A girl will have a fight—and this time she has her name and her sword to help her.

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*First Published: Jun 3, 2016, 2:37 pm CDT