Arya Stark is the hero we’ve all been waiting for


Arya Stark more than earned her moment against the Night King. But the fact that Game of Thrones gave it to her is a sign of how far the show has come.

Prior to “The Long Night,” most Game of Thrones viewers likely thought that the Night King would meet his end at the hands of Jon Snow. (Unless you subscribed to the strange theory that Bran and the Night King were somehow the same person and then who knows what you thought would happen.) It felt as though the show was moving relentlessly toward a showdown between the two for years, drawing parallels between the leader of the Undead and the boy in charge of the North and seemingly setting the two on a collision course with one another.

That the show ultimately decided to swerve away from this expected path isn’t that surprising. It’s kind of what Game of Thrones is known for, and has been ever since the first season when it unceremoniously beheaded the character we all thought was the hero of the story. Maybe we all should have known that it would never be Jon that swung the proverbial sword in the end.

But the fact that it is Arya Stark who lands the killing blow is a genius choice, and one fans everywhere should celebrate. Not just from a narrative perspective, but also because of what the twist indicates about the kind of show Game of Thrones has become. (And possibly where it’s going.)

This hasn’t always been a show that treated its female characters well. Over the series’ eight seasons there’s been plenty of gratuitous violence, sexual assault, pointless objectification and oppressive patriarchal norms. But as Game of Thrones has grown more popular and its narrative more complex, its female characters have consistently become the drivers of its story.

The women of Westeros have become as vast and varied as their male counterparts. Whether they’re schemers or warriors, caretakers or leaders, women are finding their voices, seizing their own power and choosing their own futures throughout the story.

In light of all that, of course Arya Stark was going to kill the Night King.

Game of Thrones – “The Long Night”. Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

Every moment of her time on Game of Thrones has led her to this act. And the show itself has steadily been building toward a final act in which women forge their own destinies and take control of the world in which they live.

Once Arya was Winterfell’s resident tomboy, good-naturedly mocked by her family for her love of archery over needlework. By season 8, she’s become one of Westeros’ most elite warriors, an act that no one but she would have ever believed possible.

She learned patience and technique from Braavosi swordsman Syrio Forel, tactics and strategy at the feet of Tywin Lannister, fearlessness and stealth from Jaquen Hagar and the Faceless Men.

Physically, she’s as stealthy as a cat and lithe as a dancer. In the House of Black and White, she learned to fight in any conditions, whether cold, lost or completely blind. Her body has been honed into the purest of weapons.

But – and perhaps more importantly – she has always known that women are just as capable as the men around them – and acted accordingly.

Arya Stark – Season 4. Photo: HBO

Arya has always recognized the strength and capability of women to change and even conquer the world. She’s the one who reminds Tywin Lannister – and thus, the audience – that Aegon Targaryen didn’t just conquer Westeros because he had dragons, but because he had sisters.

Sure, they were dragonriders themselves, but they were also powerful warriors in their own rights who helped shaped the future of their brother’s kingdom without apology.

Visenya Targaryen, in particular, has long been a hero of Arya’s, who admired her ability as a fighter, and her Valyrian steel sword, Dark Sister, in particular.

As a result of her fight against the Night King, Arya is as much a hero of legend as either Targaryen sister ever was. And that says some really interesting things about how the story of Game of Thrones will end.

So much of this show has been focused on the rise of women, exploring the ways in which female characters can triumph despite difficult obstacles and a patriarchal society that doesn’t particularly want to see them succeed.

By giving one of the biggest moments in the series – or in television history, if we’re honest about it – to a fierce girl rather than the designated Chosen Man, Game of Thrones has declared that its female characters are every bit as important as their male counterparts.

And we probably shouldn’t be too shocked to see one emerge triumphant at the end of the story, either.

In Game of Thrones’ most recent seasons, it’s the women who have consistently been featured in its biggest moments, from Cersei Lannister blowing up the Sept of Baelor to Sansa Stark saving the day at the Battle of the Bastards, to Daenerys Targaryen winning battles with dragonfire. Is there any reason we shouldn’t expect one – or several  – of them to emerge triumphant when everything is said and done?

So much of Westeros’ history has been driven by the decisions and actions of men. Isn’t it time to see what the women – warriors, priestesses and leaders all – can do?

Related Story. Game of Thrones season 8: Predictions for the show’s major women. light

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.