'Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams Deserves an Emmy Nomination & Here's Why

The season four finale of Game of Thrones was striking for being the first of the show's last episodes to be, well, a finale; characters were killed, decisions were made, plotlines ended in nerve-wracking cliffhangers. Yet the most memorable moment of the episode didn't involve any action at all, simply the look on a young girl's face as she watched a man — a monster, a friend — die in front of her eyes. As Arya kneeled on that hillside, quiet and steady, she gave away nothing; was she happy The Hound was dying? Mournful at the loss of yet another person in her life? Contemplative of her next move? Whatever it was, it was endlessly compelling, and it was all because of Maisie Williams.

Williams has long been one of the most interesting actors on Game of Thrones. She began the series as a 14-year-old newcomer, given the difficult task of portraying one of the most loved characters in George R.R. Martin's books. Back then, Arya was curious and bold and impatient, and she still is, but in the seasons that have passed, she's undergone an enormous transformation. In her performance, Williams was required to show this change clearly but subtly; viewers needed to see Arya's maturity as a process, not a decision. And she did this beautifully, her huge, expressive eyes transmitting every change in Arya's personality and outlook on life. Williams became Arya, growing into the character just as she grew into a natural, talented actress.

This past season, as Arya journeyed through Westeros with the Hound, Williams gave the best performances of her Thrones career so far. In everything she did, from fighting him with Needle to laughing at the Eyrie to watching his slow, painful death, her character's wavering, complicated feelings about her captor felt extraordinarily real. The finale, in particular, showcased a performance by Williams that was tremendous in its quiet power; as Arya sat with the Hound and, later, boarded that ship to Braavos, her face was a poignant mix of fearful and brave, plus a thousand other emotions that registered in seconds in Williams' marvelously expressive eyes. That final image, of Arya running down the ship to get a last look at the world she was leaving behind, Williams' expression — nervous, hopeful, and resolute — was perhaps one of the most powerful moments of Thrones' entire fourth season.

If all was fair, the actress would get more recognition for her performance than just the words of a few TV critics, but that's unlikely to happen anytime soon. Williams is a teenager, and awards show, especially the Emmys, hardly ever nominate underage actors, regardless of the quality of their performances. Still, you never know; Game of Thrones was a bigger phenomenon than ever this past season, and it'd be hard for any TV watcher to ignore Williams' take on Arya Stark, especially when that image of her boarding that ship is still sealed in our memories, all these days later.

Image: HBO