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Why Arya’s bag of faces on ‘Game of Thrones’ matters

It's not just the faces themselves.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 21, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 7:53 pm CDT

Warning: This episode contains spoilers for the latest Game of Thrones episode, “Beyond the Wall.”

While all hell broke loose north of the Wall, Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones also featured a different kind of disturbing surprise by way of a bag of tricks (and faces).

Arya Stark has been thoroughly creeping her sister, Sansa, out for the better part of the season now that they’re both back in Winterfell. The tension bubbling between them came to a head in “Beyond the Wall” after Sansa discovered Arya’s bag of faces. The House of Black and White displayed all of its faces in a great hall, but Arya is keeping hers at her side in a satchel. 

sansa face
GIF via Game of Thrones/HBO

Sansa, who’s still not quite used to odd behavior of her more supernatural siblings (and cousin), was understandably freaked out by it. Arya silently appeared into the room to play the “Game of Faces”—in which one person is supposed to convincingly lie to the other—and to threaten to add Sansa’s face to her collection. Nobody won, mostly because Sansa refused to play, but she was clearly unnerved when Arya menacingly handed her the Valyrian steel dagger Bran gave her.

The identities Arya’s taken up

We see Sansa examine two faces. One of them could arguably be Walder Frey while the other—a younger man with a bit of facial hair—is more up for debate. According to Arya herself, she got her faces when she was in Braavos, “training to be a Faceless Man.”

sansa face
GIF via Game of Thrones/HBO

Throughout her two seasons in Braavos, Arya killed two people: Ser Meryn Trant, whose unauthorized death led to the punishment of her temporary blindness, and the Waif, whose face she handed over to Jaqen H’ghar before leaving the House of Black and White. Both of their faces were covered in blood around the eyes: Trant’s were that way because Arya stabbed his eyes during a painful, drawn-out murder. We don’t see Arya and the Waif’s final confrontation, but the dried blood around her eyes would suggest that Arya was particularly brutal in killing someone she hated for two seasons.

Given how Jaqen reacted the last time she stole a face for her own personal gain, it seems unlikely that Arya would steal faces—even if she paid a debt to the Many-Faced God with the Waif’s life.

It is possible that she might’ve killed more people off-screen after leaving the House of Black and White. In her line of work since then, she’s killed two Frey sons so she could bake them into pies, a young woman to disguise herself in front of Walder Frey, Walder Frey himself, and most of his family by poison. Arya made a big show of announcing “Winter has come for House Frey” before walking out of the Twins, so the possibility of Arya taking a random Frey’s face from that massacre is also unlikely. Perhaps, if Arya were to employ them in future missions, it might be better that we don’t know who those faces belong to.

It’s also possible that the face is a nod to someone who works on Game of Thrones; in earlier seasons, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ faces were featured in the Hall of Faces.

The bag could gain more faces

The cryptic scene between Arya and Sansa is all about the faces, but Arya, amid contemplation that she could take her own sister’s face, reveals how they’re a perfect disguise.

“The world just doesn’t let girls decide what they’re going to be, but I can now,” Arya said. “With the faces, I can choose. I can become someone else. Speak in their voice. Live in their skin. I can even become you.”

sansa knife
GIF via Game of Thrones/HBO

The growing tension between Sansa and Arya is boiling to a head thanks in part to Littlefinger’s manipulation of the Stark sisters against one another. It’s unclear if Arya knows they’re being played (or if both of them do) or how it’ll play out. We can only hope that Sansa and Arya find a way to reconcile with one another before the end of the season, because with Brienne of Tarth on her way to King’s Landing, they’ll need each other more than ever. If they do make up, Arya could even become the knight she wanted to be. And while it might creep Sansa out, but those faces will likely come in handy before the end of the series.

H/T The Verge

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*First Published: Aug 21, 2017, 12:40 pm CDT