While talking with friends about the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, one of my friends mentioned he was really excited to see Arya Stark continuing to grow as a character. I decided to rain on his parade by giving him my theory regarding how she’ll turn out. Instead of being disappointed, he really liked it. Below is an elaborate explanation of how Arya Stark will turn out based on the other members of her family as evidence. A spoiler-free attempt will be made but they will be noted when warranted (and assume the reader has watched up to season 3 and/or read Storm of Swords).
To understand this theory, it’s important to realize just who and what House Stark is in relation to the universe it inhabits. In a world inhabited by morally questionable people, House Stark has more in common with traditional fantasy protagonists. They have a code of honor similar to the ideal medieval knights and the practice of chivalry. A majority of people relate to them because they’re a family that cares for each other despite their differing personalities. They’re placed as central protagonists of the first book/season and because of that, people expect them to succeed.
Except that expectation ends up being subverted. The audience expects Ned Stark to prevail in Game of Thrones. He might be exiled to the wall but he can always meet up with his bastard son and either redeem himself fighting the walkers. He could also escape his captors and return to Winterfell and rally the north against Joffrey’s illegitimate rule. We expect Joffrey, as a child king who’s at the mercy of his queen regent mother, to show Ned mercy (and especially so after he “confesses”). Instead, Joffrey orders Ned beheaded for treason.
Sons are often expected to follow in the footsteps of their father and Robb Stark is no exception. With Ned dead, the audience expects Robb to avenge his father and it looks like it might actually happen. We see Robb as a boy king who’s pretty wise beyond his years in military matters. He’s someone who gives Tywin Lannister fits with his cunning strategies. Even when he screws up and marries someone he loves instead of someone he’s betrothed to, the audience still wants him to prevail. That expectation is once again subverted when Robb dies at the Red Wedding and House Stark is dealt a serious blow from which it may never recover.
Robb’s death leaves the audience wondering who to root for now. If they don’t switch allegiances to a different house (who all have their positives and negatives…some more positive than others), they’re left with Ned’s surviving children: Jon Snow, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon. Rickon is too young and also has no character whatsoever. As the rightful heir of Wintefell, Bran’s a possibility but it’ll be a few seasons before he masters his powers. He also has to deal with all the crazy shit going on up north (House Bolton now Lord Protector of the North, Mance Rayder’s wildlings, other wildings, White Walkers, Night’s Watch…). Jon Snow seems to have the put the politics of Westeros behind him after getting a pep talk from the old Targaryen in season 1.
That leaves Sansa and Arya. Sansa’s been following Ned and Robb’s example of subverting audience expectations. In season 1, she’s a Disney Princess who’s betrothed to her Prince Charming…only to find out Prince Charming is really Prince Psychopath. When she escapes that engagement, she ends up being married to Tyrion. Tyrion’s essentially an inverted Joffrey (ugly on the outside but a lot nicer on the inside) but she doesn’t love him or even attempt to try. Granted, Tyrion being a part of the house that killed her dad and brother would complicate things. Even if we go with the Tyrell plot in the TV show and she marries Loras, that marriage would have fizzled out too. She’d have found out he’s gay or spent the rest of her life why this handsome guy just doesn’t seem that interested to her, a far cry from the genuine love Ned and Catelyn had for each other.
Given what happened to the rest of her family, the forecast for Arya Stark isn’t too promising. Yeah, she has the coin from Jaqen Hagar and there’s hints of her being a master assassin (Melisandre absolutely freaks when she sees Arya) but we’ve seen moments of promise from the other Stark children before they endured further trauma. Also, like Bran, Arya will need a couple of seasons to develop into a master assassin.
Because of what’s happened to the other Stark children as well as factoring in the time it’ll take for Arya to train, I think by the time she’s ready to exact revenge she won’t be able to…because all the people she recites by name every night will be dead. Although it would really suck, it would also be most applicable. The audience expects Arya to become an action hero, one who uses that coin Jaqen gave her and becomes the feared killer Melisandre sees. While I won’t dispute Melisandre’s statement that Arya will shut many eyes forever, I do think that the people Arya’s targeting will have already been killed by various other people. She’ll either find out when she’s set to enact her revenge or cope with that denial by becoming a feared, cold-hearted killer who takes any job so long as it pays.
Addendum: I kinda want Bran to take control of a giant eagle and pick Cersei and Jaime up before dropping them hundreds of feet in front of him. Given how the Stark children have fared, I’m not holding out hope for this to happen…but it would be awesome!