You cannot kill off Arya Stark. The new teaser trailer for Game of Thrones’ final season was released this weekend, and I’m sorry, but Arya is untouchable. (Please watch the teaser trailer before you go any further. You can check it out here.)
In the teaser, we see Jon, Sansa and Arya Stark walking through the Stark family crypt. Jon passes the statue of (SPOILERS) his mother Lyanna Stark, whose voice we hear. Sansa passes her mother Catelyn Stark’s statue, and we hear her line about not being able to love a motherless child (Jon), and how it brought horror to her family.
Jon passes his father Ned Stark’s statue who says that Jon may not have the name Stark, but he has the blood. Then we see Arya, who passes no statues, until we see the three of them see their own. A wave of frost begins to carpet the floor and Jon and Arya draw their swords.
Nope. You can kill off anyone else in this show, but not Arya. The teaser might be a standalone, and not a scene from the show. That’s pretty likely. However, the symbolism of seeing their statues and George R.R. Martin’s long-ago comments about ending the series with a series of gravestones in the snow is making me nervous. I think I could deal with any other death, but Arya?
From the beginning, Arya Stark was different. She didn’t conform to what a girl in her land was supposed to be like. She was a better shot with a bow and arrow than her brothers. She hated the stories of princesses and romance that her sister Sansa loved. She battled the late and unlamented Joffrey. She asked for a sword and got it.
When her father found out about her sword Needle, he got her “dance lessons,” which was really sword instruction. Not only did she do well, she flourished as a woman with a weapon. Young girl or not, Arya was not to be trifled with.
After Ned was killed, something that would have destroyed a lesser young woman, she sets off with her uncle and survives peril after peril. She has a list of those she will destroy and she’s taken down a number of them. She’s canny enough to survive being a cupbearer for Tywin Lannister and learned from it.
She traveled on her own, lived through the House of Black and White, and is a hardened warrior. Despite this, she still loves her sister and they work together to take down Little Finger. She could have become an angry, battle-hardened woman who refuses to feel, and yet, she does feel.
She still cares about her family. The look of joy and hope in her eyes when she meet Brienne, another woman with a sword, is breathtaking in its purity, but she is smart enough to know that she has to leave anyway. She loves her direwolf Nymeria enough to let her go and live her own life, though it broke her heart.
We’ve watched this child grow up. We’ve seen her struggles. Narratively, you can’t kill off a character like this before she’s had a chance to succeed. Yes, Martin tends to kill without remorse, but you cannot do that here. Not with her entire story preparing her for the final battle.
Arya is precious to viewers. She means everything to women who felt like her as a child; that we’d rather play with swords than with dolls. She’s defied convention, gender roles, villains set on murdering her, the distrust of her sister, the losses she’s faced… you cannot build up a character like that and then just let her go before she has a chance to win. Brutal though the series may be, that would just be too painful.
Jon has already died once and accomplished so much. Sansa has gotten her revenge and become a powerful woman. Dany has done more in her life than any 100 people. You can kill them off. (I mean, don’t, but you could.) Arya has far too much potential, both as a character and as a narrative device.
She’s been a symbol for those of us who are tired of princess stories. She deserves to live. If… it hurts to write this… if you must kill her off, it better be spectacular. It better be with her list completed and with Needle in Cersei’s heart. It better be worth it.
Sweet summer child, you are not ready! Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its final season on April 14.