While there are plenty of kickass leading ladies to get behind in Game of Thrones, the rough and tumble swordsman-cum-assassin Arya Stark might be the best one. You know her, you love her, but sometimes Arya is also the character you love to hate. She is without a doubt the most talented fighter among the women (if not the entire cast) of the show, and one of only a few characters audiences have been able to follow from childhood into adulthood. But as many great moments as Arya has instigated, from giving Brienne of Tarth a run for her money to avenging her family against House Frey with some show-stopping payback, she is also not immune from her own moments of villainy, or at the very least displays of arrogant self-interest.
How can someone not root for Arya blindly for her loss of innocence when she hears as her instructor Syrio Forel is killed by Lannister soldiers during their final swordfighting lesson? How can they not feel sorrow for her when she is present in the crowd as Joffrey Baratheon orders the execution of her father Ned Stark? The years have seen Arya grow and change, but have they also seen her become less sympathetic?
1. When Arya Turned Down Brienne
One could argue that Arya turning down Brienne's promise to protect her was an act of self-preservation. Seeing that Brienne had a Valyrian steel sword and having never met her before, Arya couldn't necessarily trust the female knight to keep her safe. However, Arya's response was icy if not completely frostbitten. Brienne tells Arya of the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark, and the young fighter sides instead with the Hound, proclaiming, "I don't care what you swore." This is an early sign of problematic change for Arya, to whom the goal of reuniting with family used to be paramount. Perhaps it signaled her not just becoming less sentimental, but ambivalent to anything but revenge.
2. When She Deceived The Faceless Men
Nothing speaks to Arya's ambivalence more than her decision to enter the House of Black and White in Braavos. Though she hides her beloved sword Needle for safe keeping, in training with Jaqen as a Faceless Man she must also resign herself to being "no one." Nothing tests her loyalties more than when she is given her first assassination assignment and chooses instead to avenge her late sword instructor. She is later faced with another moral dilemma causing her to thwart the assassination of another target, the actress Lady Crane. At this point, her loyalty to house and family becomes clear again, but at what cost? To serve her self-interest, she deceived the Faceless Men and chose to maintain her identity and her kill list. Can Arya be trusted at this point to not flip-flop again?
3. Her Awkward Meeting With Lannister Soldiers
Ed Sheeran's cameo appearance as on Game of Thrones caused angry grumbles to erupt all over the internet. While his appearance on the season seven premiere of the show was not universally well received, it also wasn't the singularly most cringe-worthy aspect of the scene. Arya's admission that her reason for going to King's Landing was to kill the queen not only showed her hand too plainly, putting her entire plot at risk, but it was also exceedingly uncomfortable to watch.
4. When She Reacts Coldly To Hot Pie
Despite having a history with the baker's apprentice, Arya could not muster up enough enthusiasm to greet her old friend with much more than indifference. She evades his questions and answers in as few syllables as possible, only pausing to show some kindness when he tells her she needn't pay for the food he's given her. Arya's quick change in tone at the end of their time together might indicate that she is on the path to regaining some sense of self. Time will tell.
5. When Arya Threatens Her Sister
Their relationship was stilted early on, but viewers long hoped Sansa and Arya would reconcile when they finally reunited at Winterfell. Soon it seemed that the trials of their shared past had not so much gone away as escalated over the years. When Arya found the letter Littlefinger planted for her to read showing that Sansa had indirectly led their father to his demise years earlier, she added fuel to the fire of their conflict. And upon Sansa's discovery of Arya's faces, she stoked the flames even more by threatening Sansa with a dagger. This might have been a turning point towards villainy for Arya until it was revealed that the Stark sisters combined forces to take out Littlefinger. Still, there is a blip in the timeline that has yet to be explained, and it stands to question how close the two siblings actually are, despite their shared adversaries.
Arya's questionable motives are at the center of many of her darkest and most troubling moments. Sometimes her allegiances become so cloudy that understanding whether she is admirable or terrifying is nearly impossible. One question remains: When she has ticked every name off her hit list, what will be left of her?