The latest episode of Game of Thrones bought the war to end all wars crashing down on Winterfell, with a surprisingly dramatic conclusion to one of the show’s biggest threats. It’d be exciting, if only had it not brought with it a tide of completely ridiculous fandom nonsense.
If your Game of Thrones experience was the same as mine this week, you would have been treated to unwatchable 720p blotches of black, grey and brown, stretched across a cinema-sized screen. It wasn't cute. So when I was offered the chance to try out Samsung's brand new 8K TV, I knew what I was morally obliged to shove in my eyeballs. What do we say to the God of bad picture quality? Not today.
You probably know by this point that the Night King, infamous leader of the White Walker hordes, perished in “The Long Night”—bringing down said hordes with him. But the Night King fell not at the hands of Jon Snow, or Daenerys Targaryen, or frankly any of the characters most people assumed would be the one to bring him down. The Night King got got by Arya “No One” Stark, master assassin and noted pointy-end-sticker. And that fact has, in the days since the episode aired...let’s say annoyed some people, who don’t think Arya has any right to have been the one to end the greatest threat to Westeros. Or, that somehow, she is incapable of having done it, despite the fact that we clearly saw her do so. Hell, apparently Maisie Williams’ boyfriend doesn’t think she deserved to do it. That’s just bloody rude, my dude!
But the discourse around whether or not Arya should have, or could have, killed the Night King has been weirdly rooted in the idea that, as a young girl, Arya sneaking in to Assassin’s Creed-leap her way right into the Night King’s arms amid a crowd of ice zombies seems fantastical. More fantastical than the existence of ice zombies in the first place. Or that, for pity’s sake, she’s become a “Mary Sue”—a term that some long time ago had analytical weight, but has now become so rooted in misogynistic shrieking that any woman shown with a base level of heroic competency is apparently implausible, rendering it a toothless watchword brought up almost entirely in bad faith. This has lead to the rise of one particular fan theory in the last week, which has started to get traction in online press as the discourse around Arya’s capabilities grows ever dumber.
Here’s the theory, as originally posited by Reddit user u/AppleSoapp: Sure, Arya may have done the actual stabbing, but only thanks to Jon Snow’s...dragon screaming?
[Jon screamed] at the undead dragon to distract it so Arya can run past and kill the Night King. The undead dragon was protecting the entrance to the Godswood.
Watch it again, you can actually hear him scream “GOOOOO - GO - GO”.
10 seconds later the scene you can see the hair of a White Walker flying up when Arya sprints past the group of White Walkers.
Jon once again was ready to sacrifice himself to kill the Night King.
This, in turn, has lead to people believing that we should thank Jon for the Night King’s doom, and not, you know, Arya. The one that actually stabbed him. With the Valyrian steel dagger. In the Godswood.
Remember the move? Where she dropped her dagger from one hand to the other...just like that rad moment she schooled Brienne in a sparring match last season?
Jeez, you guys. I dunno, it’s almost like they set this up or something!
This is the thing that makes the rise of this particular theory so infuriating—whether u/AppleSoapp intended it to or not, it’s become a banner for people who are so baffled at the idea a girl could kill the Night King, and not Jon, that now Jon gets credit for Arya’s hard work. It’s bullshit!
And it was hard work, even if it didn’t necessarily look like it when she flung herself across the battlefield—because it’s the culmination of an arc that Arya has been on in Game of Thrones ever since Ned allowed her to take dueling lessons with Syrio Forel. Seven seasons of the show have given Arya a throughline that involves her going through incredible trials to perfect an art she has been repeatedly shown as being very good at. From training with a water dancer like Syrio, to meeting up with Jaqen H’ghar, to journeying to Braavos and becoming a student at the House of Black and White, to making her way back to Westeros and crossing a few more names off her kill list—you know, that thing she’s had since season two!—in spectacular, stealthy fashion.
Hell, what’s the first thing Arya does with Jon this season? Sneak up on him out of seemingly nowhere. She’s very good at what she does, and what she does isn’t very nice—except for when it helps save the world. Why are people so petrified at the thought that we need a fan theory to explain that her competency is actually down to her brother’s strategic yelling, and not Arya’s own actions?
A girl has no name. But a girl is also just fine stabbing the goddamn Night King of her own volition, too.