Curtain Call: Faye Marsay

waif

She may never have made it onto Arya’s hit list, but in this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, the Waif met her demise at the pointy end of Needle.  It was a long-awaited confrontation for a character that has been plaguing the young Stark since Season Five.

The Waif was a mysterious character.  Was she really, as she once claimed to Arya, the daughter of a widowed lord from Westeros who was almost poisoned by a jealous step-mother?  She certainly seemed to have a personal beef with the House of Black and White’s other notable female employee, that seemingly went beyond what would normally be appropriate for a Faceless (wo)Man.  But whatever her motives, the Waif provided an excellent foil and antagonist for the Braavosi story-line of seasons five and six.

Faye Marsay‘s interpretation of the character was very different from the Waif we meet in the novels, instead acting as an aggressive rival-cum-sparring partner for Arya as she trains to become an assassin.  Despite her impressive skill with the staff and her assertion that ‘Lady Stark’ will never let go of herself enough to become a Faceless Man, the Waif often made her personal dislike of Arya very clear, enjoying her distress over Jaqen’s collapse at the end of season five and gleefully taunting her whilst blind in season six.  Marsay made the Waif an enjoyably malicious presence on-screen and her sparring scenes with Maisie Williams had both spiteful chemistry and some excellent choreography.

Sadly, knifing-in-the-gut is one skill not on the Waif’s resume and as Jon Snow once said, ‘Starks are hard to kill.’  Cue a thrilling chase through the streets of Braavos  and uh…numerous Terminator comparisons.

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Finally though, the Waif learned the hard way what happens to those who annoy Arya, you get stuck with the pointy end, all be it off-screen in this case.  The darkened room was a lovely call-back to Arya’s earlier Chekov’s Blindness along with a gory shot of the Waif’s face dripping on the wall.  She may not have been the most likeable character, but the Waif certainly played an instrumental role on Arya’s journey through No-One and back again.  Faye Marsay did an excellent job of bringing one of the novel’s smaller roles to spiky, belligerent life on the small screen, and her presence will be missed.

Faye3Outside of Thrones, Marsay is well known for the film Pride, as well as for numerous theatrical roles and for appearing in a number of TV shows, including Fresh Meat, Doctor Who and The White Queen.  She is currently starring in the BBC comedy-drama Love, Nina alongside Helena Bonham-Carter and will next appear in the film Fish Without Bicycles with David Tennant and Peter Davison.  Although, given that her face is hanging up in the Hall of Faces, perhaps a return to Thrones isn’t entirely off the cards.  Maybe if Jaqen fancies a new look next season.  A Geoffery can dream.

 

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    1. She was truly great in the role ! Discovered her in the Doctor Who special from last year and she made quite the impression on me there in a completely different role (kinda goofy), so watching her take on an ice-cold Waif was quite impressive to me !

      Btw guys, I hope we’ll get a Curtain Call for Essie Davis. I’d even be tempted to try and write one myself but I am not really familiar with her carreer, so dunno… but in my eyes she deserves one !

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    2. Excellent Job, Faye, in portraying a thoroughly unlikable character! And I mean that sincerely – I think we are meant to despise her. 🙂

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    3. The Waif was the weirdest character ever; no idea who she was, what she wanted, why all this hatred… Ok, she was no one, but why would no one be so hostile towards Arya.
      So, to me, this was more cartoon villain than anything. Manga maybe. Not that I did not like the Waif as a plot element. It is just that to me even Daenerys’ dragons seem more realistic than this strange person.
      Having said that, Faye was great. Such a small girl, and still she gave me the kreeps. It will be nice to see her again; possibly her face could be used by a character who, this time, would save Arya or something.

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    4. Well done, not an easy task to portray such a unique antagonist. Was Faye Anne Neville in “The White Queen?” She was one of the few lights in a dreadful series.

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    5. QueenofThrones,

      Agreed. Faye looks like a pleasant enough person in real life, but I hated the Waif almost as much as Ollie, so great job! Excellent work! Braavo! (see how clever I am everybody?)

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    6. She’s a very lovely woman in real life, she grew up in the same town as me, I didn’t know her well but we met once at a party and she was a real laugh and very kind/friendly!

      I also loved Faye in e4’s Glue, she played a character with a mysterious past in that too!
      She had a great screen presence, I’ll certainly miss the Waif! And best of luck to Faye with her future career! 🙂

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    7. I loved her interpretation of the Waif. She was the character I never cared about in the books, but was totally brought to life on TV, despite all the differences. What i really liked about her, were her eyes. From the moment I saw her, she seemed like a person not to deal with. She had that stern look and represented a more sinister side of the order. And that chase through the streets was so intense… I could almost feel the rage which was built inside her and finally unleashed on Arya. Great work Faye Marsay!

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    8. Sou,

      Agreed. A villain with no motivation is just cheap setup. And her antagonism toward Arya did not remotely jibe with the mandate to be No One, to abandon all personal agendas. Faye Marsay did a fine job with the lax writing that she had to work with, but D&D really dropped the ball on their conceptualization of this character.

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    9. I hope Faye is proud of her work on GOT. She did a fantastic job and was totally convincing as a spiteful and chilling character even though we had no idea why the Waif hated Ayra as much as she clearly did.

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    10. Ms. Marsay was a wonderful antagonist. Her performance contributed to the sense that Arya’s journey may actually have been completely internal, the result of a drug-induced dream. What I enjoyed was the fact that The Waif as such an opaque character until the very end. Once we knew for certain at the beginning of Season 6 that The Waif wanted Arya dead, Marsay conveyed her character’s intent with her physicality rather than words. Frankly I loved the duet between Marsay and Williams. It’s a physical and psychological conflict that one often sees between male actors but rarely between female actors. Well done ladies, very well done.

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    11. Firannion:
      Sou,
      Agreed. A villain with no motivation is just cheap setup. And her antagonism toward Arya did not remotely jibe with the mandate to be No One, to abandon all personal agendas. Faye Marsay did a fine job with the lax writing that she had to work with, but D&D really dropped the ball on their conceptualization of this character.

      I like to think that we are meant to believe that in the end “no one is actually No One”. People are people – it is not possible, ultimately, for them to become robots. J’aquen isn’t No One either – not really – as evidenced by his pleasure at Arya’s departure. The Unsullied are people also, despite being trained from young boys to suppress all emotion they quite clearly have deep personal lives and connection as we are shown through Grey Worm and some of the others.

      As always in Game of Thrones “the political is personal” which is maybe the central theme of the entire series, book and show. The heart in conflict with itself. There are no dispassionate choices, there’s always something personal motivating the actions of characters, no matter how hard they try to suppress it.

      So what was the Waif’s motivation? In my view, her heart’s conflict was in that she wished to be the perfect Faceless man. But Arya’s person represented everything in herself that she had worked for years to suppress. It would have been infurating to her to watch Arya just disregard all of the rules that the Waif had tried to adhere to. And even more troubling that her master just let it go again and again and again… How unjust, unfair, and unholy everything about the Arya situation would have seemed to her. And in this she lost all perspective and her emotions got the better of her.

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    12. While I did miss the Waif from the books, I enjoyed Faye’s depiction of the show’s interpretation of her character. She’s obviously an excellent actress an played the cold antagonist well. Would like to see her in other roles. Wishing her more success in her career!

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    13. Faye did such an awesome job as The Waif that I really, truly detested the character by the end. After her demise, I started thinking of Arya’s time-consuming Braavos interlude as a whole** (the time-consuming part still bothers me a whole lot) and I came to the conclusion that in thematic terms The Waif represented parts of Arya that Arya finally had to confront, kill and then grow up. Lady Crane was the first time that Arya looked at the world from her enemy’s POV, what it was like for Cersei to lose a child. It was no coincidence that a sympathetic actress played Cersei while an antagonistic actress played a Stark in Arya’s play – it was to teach her different POVs. The Waif, I feel, never graduated to this stage, while Arya did. The Waif took the word of the HoB&W quite literally, and never looked beyond. I doubt she was jealous of Arya because of Jaqen; she seemed to be antagonistic to Arya because of who Arya was in the past and who The Waif sensed Arya would always remain. All in all, Faye portrayed this mysterious character very, very well!

      ** I am finding that Season 6 is full of nuggets like this – makes the viewer go back and think and think things through – it is quite subtle in parts, not at all spelling things out.

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    14. Great work in a pretty thankless role where she can’t show any kind of good side at all! Kind of similar too as Anne Neville in the “The White Queen” but she seems like such a lovely person in real life.

      if you didn’t see The White Queen here is a taste

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    15. Firannion:
      Sou,

      Agreed. A villain with no motivation is just cheap setup. And her antagonism toward Arya did not remotely jibe with the mandate to be No One, to abandon all personal agendas. Faye Marsay did a fine job with the lax writing that she had to work with, but D&D really dropped the ball on their conceptualization of this character.

      The character seemed like an intermediate –above Arya, below Jaqen– who was bound to fail because of her personal shortcomings; plenty of characters like that in Shaolin temple movies, funnily enough. Bully-types. Nothing wrong with it in a cast of literally hundreds.

      I really liked her performance, especially that moment in the chase scene where she leaps into the group, screws up, up fixes her attire in a ‘It doesn’t matter, I’ll still kill you’ sort of way. But in the end she failed, and now she really is no one! Thanks, Faye 🙂

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    16. Kay: Lady Crane was the first time that Arya looked at the world from her enemy’s POV, what it was like for Cersei to lose a child. It was no coincidence that a sympathetic actress played Cersei while an antagonistic actress played a Stark in Arya’s play – it was to teach her different POVs. The Waif, I feel, never graduated to this stage, while Arya did. The Waif took the word of the HoB&W quite literally, and never looked beyond. I doubt she was jealous of Arya because of Jaqen; she seemed to be antagonistic to Arya because of who Arya was in the past and who The Waif sensed Arya would always remain. All in all, Faye portrayed this mysterious character very, very well!

      Hey; I haven’t thought about that. Excellent thinking, if you’ll allow me.

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    17. I had the impression the Waif wasn’t intended to be No One. She was a more advanced apprentice than Arya, but still an apprentice. She wasn’t a master like Jaqen. Plus, even Jaqen obviously still has feelings, most notably the affection for Arya since she saved his life, also indicating he isn’t as indifferent to his own death as he pretends to be, or at least he prefers poison to burning alive as any sane human would.

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    18. Adam:
      I had the impression the Waif wasn’t intended to be No One. She was a more advanced apprentice than Arya, but still an apprentice. She wasn’t a master like Jaqen. Plus, even Jaqen obviously still has feelings, most notably the affection for Arya since she saved his life, also indicating he isn’t as indifferent to his own death as he pretends to be.

      Yeah, if Jaqen was truly no one then he wouldn’t have looked so dark when Arya named him as her third kill at Harrenhal (his ‘sacrifice’ in season 5 was probably done to spare her life: he could ‘live on’ as a face, as a magic trick, but she wouldn’t.) He’s clearly always had some interest in her, even when we see him caged up in the season 2 premiere. He has a glint in his eye about her, and that continues here.

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    19. Much appreciation to Faye for her portrayal of the very mysterious Waif. Looking forward to seeing her in other roles!

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    20. Sou: Hey; I haven’t thought about that. Excellent thinking, if you’ll allow me.

      Sure, and thanks! Arya’s entire Braavos interlude is not one of my favorite storylines, but that said, I was immensely relieved that in her last scene, she seemed to reject the objective of mindless violence and revenge, which had so long defined her (boringly, for me!). The Waif seemed a mirror of the parts of Arya that Arya “killed” in order to grow up. Let’s see in the future if she is more of a killer in the Meryn Trant style of death (past), or less-suffering “poisoning” kind of death! 😉

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    21. Great job. I have seen her in a lot of things, but her characters are always so different which speaks to her ability as an actor. I completely understood her motivation in the show, and why she hated Arya so much, but it was her all-around performance that impressed me.

      I expect big things in the future for Faye, and wish her every success.

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    22. basKT_case:
      Candice!

      Ahh, another Fresh Meat fan!

      I was really excited to see her cast in GoT as I have thoroughly enjoyed her acting in many great British shows (Fresh Meat, My Mad Fat Diary, The Bletchley Circle and her guest spot on Doctor Who last year). She was a good foil for Arya and I truly hated her character, so mission accomplished! I hope this role got her some great exposure and she continues to play memorable roles in smart shows and movies. Cheers to her!

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    23. My appreciation for Faye Marsay’s performance as the Waif has grown immensely since her introduction back in “High Sparrow”. I was admittedly not the biggest fan at first, and that was notable because I’m usually head-over-heels for every casting choice that Game of Thrones makes. But looking back, that initial hesitancy makes sense because the character was an enigma, and Marsay played her as such. Around the corners of the Waif’s lips always danced this slightly contemptuous smile, which not only mocked Arya, but my own attempts to pin her down. As I came to appreciate over time, however, that was the point.

      Perhaps my favorite scene of Marsay’s on the show came in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”, when the Waif tells Arya the story of her supposed origin … and then immediately undercuts that story, leaving Arya confused and uncertain. It reminded me of the part in The Dark Knight where the Joker tells several different stories about how he got his scars. The audience quickly recognizes that none of the stories represent the real truth. That revelation rocks us because mundane explanation for the nature of this entity would be welcome; darkness inherently becomes lesser once we understand what it conceals. The inherent terror lies in the uncertainty, and the idea that this remorseless creature has no true name or face. That in effect, this person is No One, that they might come from anywhere, and the pain that they seek to inflict upon you isn’t happening for any reason that you can understand.

      I’m not endeavoring to equate what Marsay accomplished as the Waif with what Heath Ledger did as one of the most iconic villains in 21st century cinema. But the comparison holds water for me because it’s rare for an actress like Marsay – who, like Maisie Williams, is not particularly tall or physically intimidating – to have the opportunity to play such a remorseless, ruthless killer (indeed, it’s rare for any actress to have the opportunity to play such a role – those parts aren’t exactly falling off trees).

      It was fascinating to watch this petite young woman so convincingly portray a relentless assassin that people equated to the Terminator (those comparisons were so prevalent that I burned out on them fairly quickly, but they arose for a good reason). At first glance, she was easy to underestimate, but she proved her lethality, just as Arya did. They were, in many ways, two sides of the same iron coin.

      That’s why out of all the crazy theories that cropped up in the wake of Episode 7, the only one I actually found intriguing or plausible was the idea that Arya and the Waif were the same person, with the Waif representing the dark side of Arya’s personality that believed she was No One and was trying to kill her “weaker” half. I think the reason why that idea alone sparked my interest was because the thematic motifs inherent to that dichotomy were already quite strong, even though Arya and the Waif were different people. The idea of an antagonist that represents our hero’s dark mirror image is a powerful one that has been well-explored in popular fiction, precisely because the thin blurred line that lies between the two is so easy to stray across.

      If Arya’s sense of self wasn’t so indelible, her training in the House of Black and White could have easily lead her to become the Waif or someone like her – a cold, detached killer who received names from the Many-Faced God, hunted them down, and killed them without regard for their guilt or innocence, though perhaps with a smile. When Jaqen said “Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?” he represented the mostly dispassionate ideal of the Faceless Men’s philosophy – frightening, but fair. The only thing more terrifying than the abstract idea of Death as an inescapable end that awaits all of us is the idea that Death has an agenda, that it is specifically seeking you out, that your name has been called.

      That was the Waif as Marsay played her – she may not have truly been No One, but she was no one we knew. While she sought from the beginning to claim Arya’s life, we will never truly know why. That Arya – who has offered up many names to the Many-Faced God herself, but always with a clear reason in mind – managed not only to defeat the Waif, but to resist becoming her in the process was a worthy conclusion to her time with the Faceless Men, and a powerful moment for her character (which is why the complaints about Arya’s time in Braavos being wasted don’t hold water for me).

      The Waif’s face will hang anonymously in the House of Black and White for the rest of time, but unlike her character, Faye Marsay has a long life and career ahead of her. More importantly, she has name, one I won’t soon forget. I thank her for everything she gave to Game of Thrones for the past two seasons, and I wish her all the best!

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    24. Sometimes, an actor gets a role that, from the first moment you see them perform that role, it feels like they were born to play it. That happens with incredible frequency on GoT, so I wouldn’t say Faye Marsay’s perfect fit performance was a total shock. The casting people for this series should get an award of their own.

      As for Faye’s performance: She nailed it.

      I think the best parallel you could draw for her performance was Kristian Nairn’s magnificent turn as Hodor; both roles relied- at times were totally dependent upon -the actor’s ability to convey their character’s thoughts or feelings through body language or facial expressions, and that’s not easy to pull off.

      Like Kristian Nairn, Faye Marsay was able to bring a challenging role to life with a performance that I don’t think many people can fully appreciate the difficulty of.

      Bravo, Faye. Looking forward to seeing you in your future work.

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    25. “will next appear in the film Fish Without Bicycles with David Tennant and Peter Davison”

      Sweet mother of pearl….I think I need a moment! ? Two Doctors and 3 Whovian veterans!

      Faye was wonderful as Arya’s foil the Waif. What a deliciously menacing character.

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    26. There seems to be some tension in your take on the waif, or perhaps inconsistency in the show. You say the Waif did not truly become “no one” because she gloats when Jaqen poisons & kill himself. But then the Waif transforms into Jaqen and we see someone with Jaqen’s face throughout season 6. It seems plausible then that whoever was wearing the Waif’s face in season 5 is not the same person wearing the face in season 6.

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    27. Laura,

      It’s unbelievable, I don’t usually read the names before the comment, but it’s been like 10 times that I read something amazing here and when I look up the name, it’s Jared. Guy is really good and sensitive.

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    28. Thanks for your contributions to Arya’s cause, Faye! I quite enjoyed her loaded and doomed ambitions as part of the FM. If only you had twisted the knife a bit more and a bit deeper, then this would have been a different story!

      I must say that last shot with Ms. Marsay in makeup makes her look like a female Bradley Cooper. Fun! 🙂

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    29. Laura,

      Agro,

      Thank you both – that’s very kind! 🙂 It’s always a pleasure to pay tribute on these Curtain Calls to these wonderful actors, the characters they play, and the contributions that they made to this show that we love so much.

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    30. Agro,

      Ive done the same thing – and Im usually right. Very sensitive writer indeed, usually says what Im thinking but is able to make it all make sense in a way that I couldn’t ever attempt. Would love it if he had a blog…..(sorry, /OT)

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    31. Actually, the Waif might have been on Arya’s list. There was a scene in which they were playing “The Game” and the Waif asked Arya to name everyone on her list. At the end of the list, the Waif asked Arya if there were any more and Arya said something like “what name would you like a girl to say”? I took that as a cagey way of naming but not naming the Waif, who has no name known to Arya.

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    32. Very Much enjoyed Faye’s performance as The Waif

      Terrific actress, unusual Beauty and didn’t even recognise her as Anne Warrick from ‘The White Queen’

      Hope to see more of you Faye :o)

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    33. The Winter of Bastardfell,

      Arya said something like “what name would you like a girl to say”? I took that as a cagey way of naming but not naming the Waif, who has no name known to Arya.

      Yeah I caught that as well. Knew Waif was added at that moment.

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    34. Blanche Holstein:
      Well done, not an easy task to portray such a unique antagonist. Was Faye Anne Neville in “The White Queen?” She was one of the few lights in a dreadful series.

      She was, and forever will be for me, Queen Anne Neville and, yes, she and Aneurin Barnard as Richard III carried The White Queen.
      I hated The Waif but that only proves what a good actress Faye Marsay is.

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    35. I think she should be the next Doctor Who companion.

      “Thrones marathon” and the dance in the Christmas special really won me over.

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    36. I saw game of thrones first.Hated and feared the chararcter waif because of the character she is. Didnt know the actor who played it at the time. Watched the white queen Tv series later and loved the character Anne neville who was young girl caught up in the dark world of wars of roses , loved by Richard III , his childhood sweetheart, used as pawn by her father for political alliance. I learnt the actor’s name is FayeMarsay. Then i saw it. That she was the Waif in Game of thrones. My god. Such a difference in character . I couldnt connect the two for Fay marsay as Waif didnt reveal anything in her eyes that would be even 0.0001% of gentleness that was Fay marsay as anne neville. I am usually good at recognising actors from different rolesbut here i couldnt. This has convinced me that Fay Marsay can be totally different personalities as per the roles she is playing . She is far better actor than many that are ‘well known and famous’. She is truly gifted. My admiration for has increased tremondously.

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