For years, fans have wondered about the identity of the Prince That Was Promised, the prophesied hero who would lead armies of men against the forces of darkness to defeat the Night King once and for all. In the third episode of the show's final season, "The Long Night," it was young Arya Stark who unexpectedly struck the killing blow against the villain, single-handedly winning the battle, saving her friends and family (and all of Westeros) from a grim fate. But what does this mean? Is Arya Azor Ahai on Game Of Thrones?
The prime candidates for the role of Westeros' prophesied savior have always been Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen — two obvious choices, given that George R.R. Martin's series is titled A Song Of Ice And Fire. Other theorized contenders for the title have included options as far-ranging as Sandor Clegane, Jaime Lannister, and even the Night King himself, somehow. You know what name rarely (if ever) popped up on a list of Azor Ahai candidates? Arya Stark.
But does Arya fit the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised? In Season 7, Missandei introduced the possibility that a mistranslation of High Valyrian meant that the prophesied hero could be a prince or princess. But there's very little about the rest of the prophecy that fits what we know of the Faceless assassin.
According to the books, the second coming of Azor Ahai, the Prince That Was Promised, would be reborn amidst salt and smoke, under the sign of a bleeding star, and would be descended from the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen (the Mad King and his wife). Readers and viewers alike have theorized for years about what the salt might represent, where the smoke comes into play, and which bleeding star signaled the coming of the hero. You could spend hours or days poring through Martin's text and re-watching old episodes, trying to make these signifiers line up with Arya's story — although you'll never make her the offspring of Aerys and Rhaella.
So does that mean Arya isn't Azor Ahai? And if not, then what was the whole point of that prophecy that fans have been rabidly interpreting for nearly a decade? In my opinion, the fact that the one who ultimately killed the Night King was just a person — a person whose entire life, whose every choice, led her directly to this moment — and not some legendary prophesied hero makes the victory even more poignant. In the end, it didn't take a dragon queen or a resurrected heir to the throne to take down the world's greatest evil; all it took was a girl with no name who followed her brother's advice: "stick 'em with the pointy end."
Game Of Thrones has always been a story about choice: about choosing your family, choosing your identity, choosing vengeance or choosing love, choosing what's right and what's wrong. For the endgame to culminate in a prophecy that strips away a character's agency by saying they were always destined to take a particular action would run contrary to the central themes of the whole saga. Instead, what we have is a story of a young woman who made the choice to pursue vengeance for her family, who made the choice to forsake her humanity and identity in pursuit of that vengeance, who made the choice to reconnect with that humanity and identity when faced with the prospect of death, and who ultimately made the choice to put her life on the line in an attempt to save everyone she loved.
So what was the purpose of the prophecy, then? Other than being a good bit of misdirect, it also served to get Melisandre to where she needed to be in order to play her part in the Great War. She was never very great at interpreting her own prophecies, and it's possible the Lord of Light led her to believe in the Prince That Was Promised so that she would make the choices necessary to be there to encourage Arya in her most critical moment. If you believe that every choice we make leads us to where we're meant to be — as Bran said to Theon in this episode, "Everything you did brought you to where you are now" — then the prophecy ultimately fulfilled its purpose, even if the outcome didn't take the shape fans expected.
Has Arya's ultimate purpose in the story been fulfilled now that she's killed the Night King? Or does she still have a part to play in the Last War against Cersei? It's been a popular theory for years that Arya would kill Cersei while wearing Jaime's face — and that theory has now picked up steam, with some fans certain that the "green eyes" part of Melisandre's prophecy (along with the brown eyes and the Night King's blue eyes) refers to Cersei herself. But to me, it feels less likely now that Arya will be the one to kill Cersei, not more. In a show with a cast this sprawling and this rife with characters who harbors grudges against the Lannister queen, are they really going to give Arya both of the Big Bad villain kills? That seems unlikely to me.
Regardless of what comes next for Arya, she should feel proud of what she's accomplished and how far she's come. And if you're the kind of fan who needs the prophecy to be fulfilled, you can still squint and make the Prince That Was Promised prophecy work. In Season 7, Melisandre "brought ice and fire together." If she hadn't done that, Jon and Daenerys would never have rallied their armies to make a stand together at Winterfell, and the war likely would have been lost before Arya had a chance to shank the Night King. Daenerys even had to sacrifice her great love — her quest for the Iron Throne — to join the fight against the White Walkers instead, just as Azor Ahai had to sacrifice his great love to fulfill his destiny. In the end, it took all these moving pieces — Jon, Daenerys, Melisandre, Arya — to defeat the Night King.
It turns out that the Prince That Was Promised wasn't one lone hero: in the end, Azor Ahai really was the friends we made along the way.