Best ‘Game of Thrones’ character grows into unstable killer

Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO

Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO

Katy Coduto

Season four of “Game of Thrones” premiered on HBO Sunday night, giving the premium cable channel its highest ratings since the finale of “The Sopranos” in 2007. With just under seven million viewers watching, the world of Westeros returned to TV screens, and it took only minutes to be swallowed up in the revenge, sex and murder that makes the show so fun to watch. Seriously.     

However, one plotline stands out among all of the others after this week’s premiere. Arya Stark is on her way to becoming the most viciously entertaining part of the show. If you’re new to Westeros or playing catch up, be careful before continuing reading — spoilers to come.

When we last saw Arya at the end of last season, she had just witnessed the gruesome demise of yet another part of her family. This happens after Arya has already been present for just about every other major death possible, while being taken captive by almost every house in the land at least once, all while simply trying to get back to Winterfell. Did I mention this girl is only 14? She’s been through a lot in a few short seasons.

The result, though, is a curious character development that’s going to make this season especially Arya-centric. Arya doesn’t cry; she doesn’t wallow. Instead, she’s a traveling partner with the Hound (one of Westeros’ resident badasses), and she’s learning to embrace the sweet taste of vengeance. While her sister, Sansa, is miserable and powerless in King’s Landing, married to the lowest of the Lannisters, Arya never stops scheming and never strays away from violent ends.

She’s different from the other older women who populate “Game of Thrones.” She’s among the first to take significant action against those who have done her and her family wrong; more stereotypically powerful counterparts like Cersei Lannister are too busy accepting their fates in their respective pigeonholes. While there’s no doubting that Cersei will remain an important figure and will do something of significance at some point this season, it’s important that we see Arya fighting now as a tiny trailblazer of sorts.

Arya represents the cracks that are ever-present in Westeros. Yes, the Lannisters seem to have everything going their way, but Arya shows why we can’t be comfortable and assume that we’re watching the Lannisters rule once and for all. Arya has no special powers and is driven completely by a sense of vengeance, and that’s all it’s taken for her kill-list to be among the highest in the show.

Which leads to the last point as to why Arya is going to be one of this season’s highlights: We’re watching a young girl grow up into a ruthless killer. The end of the series premiere shows Arya committing a pretty gruesome murder, one which doesn’t even cause her to flinch. It’s rare to see a woman on TV have command of this kind of emotion; it’s rarer still to see a young woman in this particular role. Sure, it may be unsettling to watch it unfold — is it really savory for a 14-year-old to be this way? — but it’s this kind of twist that makes “Game of Thrones” so engaging. 

Contact Katy Coduto at [email protected].