The final season of Game of Thrones has been a big one for both Maisie Williams and her character, Arya Stark. If her sex scene in episode 2 caused a stir, though, it was nothing compared to what came to pass in episode 3’s Battle of Winterfell, which was just as eventful as fans expected. (Spoilers, of course, ahead.)
As predicted, the battle is a bloodbath, and one that grows more desperate by the second. (For those who are still alive, anyway.) But just when it seems like the end is nigh, the Night King suddenly meets his downfall. But it isn’t Kit Harington, aka Jon Snow, the valorous hero warrior all throw the series who strikes the lethal blow with a blade of Valyrian steel. In a turn of events that shocked even the cast, it’s none other than Arya.
And no one, it seems, was more surprised than Williams. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the actress recalled how she had yet to read the script of episode 3 when she arrived to its table read, wanting to take in the show’s final season as performed live by the cast. She was in for quite the surprise, then, when they all reached the moment that, according to Harington, “got a huge fucking cheer.”
“It was so unbelievably exciting,” Williams said. “But I immediately thought that everybody would hate it; that Arya doesn’t deserve it. The hardest thing is in any series is when you build up a villain that’s so impossible to defeat and then you defeat them. It has to be intelligently done because otherwise people are like, ‘Well, [the villain] couldn’t have been that bad when some 100-pound girl comes in and stabs him.’ You gotta make it cool. And then I told my boyfriend and he was like, ‘Mmm, should be Jon though really, shouldn’t it?'”
Williams, of course, did make it cool, but it wasn’t thanks to her boyfriend. (To quote Britney Spears’s iconic t-shirt of the early aughts: Dump him.) All she needed was a bit of a boost from an on-screen pep talk, in which Melisandre reminds Arya of the prophecy that it’s her destiny to kill the Night King. “When we did the whole bit with Melisandre, I realized the whole scene with [the Red Woman] brings it back to everything I’ve been working for over these past six seasons—four if you think about it since [Arya] got to the House of Black and White. It all comes down to this one very moment.” (As for why she was so self-deprecating before: “I’ve never been in a battle before. Arya’s never in it. Episode nine, I skip every year, which is bizarre since Arya’s the one that’s been training the most.”)
From then on out, Williams’s outlook changed: “Then I was like, ‘Fuck you Jon, I get it.'” Harington didn’t deny that the turn of events also left him a bit shocked: “I thought it was gonna be me!” he said, adding that he isn’t (or at least says he isn’t) bitter. “But I like it. It gives Arya’s training a purpose to have an end goal. It’s much better how she does it the way she does it. I think it will frustrate some in the audience that Jon’s hunting the Night King and you’re expecting this epic fight and it never happens—that’s kind of Thrones. But it’s the right thing for the characters. There’s also something about it not being the person you expect. The young lady sticks it to the man.”
Of course, that came at a cost—though if anything could soften the loss of the series’s beloved “little Lady,” Lyanna Mormont, it’s definitely Arya’s victory.