Haunted Houses, Dealing with Devils and Mocking the Gods

Jaqen_2x05

Season Six finally saw the return of Arya Stark to Westeros, after her time studying abroad with the mysterious and murderous Faceless Men. Once back in the Seven Kingdoms, Arya got right into applying her murder and mystery skills, stopping by Walder Frey’s strategically important Riverlands castle to exact some Titus Andronicus-style vengeance on the lands’ most-frequently eligible bachelor. And on his sons. Season Seven picked up on Arya’s story with her heading south through the Riverlands with the stated goal of visiting King’s Landing and killing Queen Cersei. But a reunion with her old pal and former-traveling companion Hot Pie had her re-evaluate her immediate destination. Turning northwards, she spanned the leagues and leagues of snowy Kingsroad to return to her old home, the ancient castle of Winterfell. There she had the pleasure of executing the devilish ne’er-do-well schemer Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish.

Had she continued south through the lands of her mother’s birth and on towards the capital of King’s Landing, she would have soon passed by a different ancient castle, where she’d previously had interactions with a different type of diabolical character. Interactions in the ruined and haunted stronghold of Harrenhal.

Harrenhal has all of the hallmarks of a classic haunted house. Built to match the hubris of an Ironborn king terrorizing the Riverlands, its massive walls could not protect King Harren the Black or his sons from the flames of Balerion the Dread. Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon melted the stone towers and killed the king and his line.

Arya: I would have just used poison and spared the real-estate.

From then on, the ruins were considered cursed and were rumored to be inhabited by the ghost of dead Harren.

There might have been something to these rumors: although the rich lands around Harrenhal made the tainted structure valuable, no lord seemed to thrive there for long.

It’s not a surprise that the Tourney of the False Spring, the tournament where Rhaegar Targaryen showed a preference  for Lyanna Stark over his wife, took place at the ill-fated castle.

With its bad reputation and it being an operating base for torture-employing Lannister goons, Harrenhal’s shattered and shadowed halls would be the kind of place you’d expect to encounter ghouls and demons looking to prey on the unwary.

Harrenhal Ruins by GrendelGrack

Harrenhal Ruins by GrendelGrack

Which is why it’s so fitting that Arya Stark encountered the somewhat malevolent Jaqen H’ghar there.

Harrenhal and Homicide

To be clear, Arya first encountered Jaqen while he was in chains, being transported with the dangerous criminals Rorge and Biter from the black cells of King’s Landing to serve at Castle Black. But it’s at Harrenhal that Jaqen forced a bargain on Arya.

When the Night’s Watch convoy taking Arya came under attack by Lannister forces, the little Stark girl saved Jaqen and his two associates from burning to death. Reunited with Arya at gloomy Harrenhal, Jaqen H’ghar had piously explained that the Red God had been cheated out of three lives, and must be appeased with three deaths. Deaths that Arya was required to specify. Jaqen was a bit insistent and creepy about that.

The prospect of the offer frightened Arya, and with good reason. She’d heard many scary tales from Old Nan and her current situation sounded like it could have been from one of Nan’s fables, featuring wizards and grumkins.

Yoren found Jaqen in a black cell, the same as Rorge and Biter, she remembered. Jaqen did something horrible and Yoren knew, that’s why he kept him in chains. If the Lorathi was a wizard, Rorge and Biter could be demons he called up from some hell, not men at all.

Jaqen still owed her one death. In Old Nan’s stories about men who were given magic wishes by a grumkin, you had to be especially careful with the third wish, because it was the last.
A Clash of Kings, Arya IX

After using two of the wishes, or rather naming the two names that resulted in swift deaths, Arya in both A Clash of Kings and the show had need of more than just one murder. (In the books, Arya needed Jaqen to kill the guards watching over a large captive group of King Robb’s men (well, Freys…) and on the show Arya just needed Jaqen to kill enough Lannisters so she could escape.

In either media, Jaqen was not initially willing to assist beyond the killing of a solitary person. He’d only do the minimum that would free him of the self-enforced obligation of three deaths for three lives.

So Arya went for a loophole:

Jaqen H’ghar: Give a name, any name.
Arya: And you’ll kill them? Anybody?
Jaqen: By the Seven New Gods and the Old Gods beyond counting, I swear it.
Arya: Alright. Jaqen H’ghar.
Jaqen: A girl gives a man his own name?
Arya: That’s right.
Jaqen: Gods are not mocked. This is no joking thing.
Arya: I’m not joking. A man can go kill himself.
Jaqen: Unname me.
Arya: No.
Jaqen: Please?

Faced with Arya’s insistence, Jaqen complies and kills more than his fair share. On departing from Arya, he hands her an iron coin of the Faceless Men, and suggests that if she wants to seek him out, she should hand the coin to any man from Braavos and say “Valar Morghulis.”

Coin

The particular enticement of the offer is implied in the books, but more explicitly stated on the show.

Jaqen: The girl has many names on her lips – “Joffrey, Cersei, Tywin Lannister, Ilyn Payne, the Hound” – names to offer up to the Red God. She could offer them all. One by one.

Arya eventually takes Jaqen up on his offer, travels to Braavos and passes the entrance exam into the murder college known as the House of Black and White. But it seemed like there would be complications in her being able to eliminate any of the names on her list.

Braavos and No Bad Students, Only Bad Teachers

Part of the process of becoming a Faceless Man is a rejection of self. A Faceless Man assassin should be No One. Arya was instructed to throw away her possessions, and that would include not only her physical property but also abstract things.

Arya Stark had a list of names to be killed. No One should not have a list that belonged to Arya Stark.

“Is that why you have come to us?” the kindly man went on. “To learn our arts, so you may kill these men you hate?”

Arya did not know how to answer that. “Maybe.”

“Then you have come to the wrong place. It is not for you to say who shall live and who shall die. That gift belongs to Him of Many Faces. We are but his servants, sworn to do his will.”
A Feast for Crows, Arya II

This seems to be in sharp contrast to what Jaqen H’ghar had offered to Arya when he gave her the iron coin. He even referenced her list of names when making his pitch to Arya. But in Braavos, it appeared Arya would have to choose to forgo any plans on getting vengeance if she was going to obtain the skills to enable her to get that vengeance.

Arya Jaqen

There are interpretations of the text that would make Arya scratching off names from her list even more complicated. There is a theory that Faceless Men can only kill you if they don’t know you.

When Arya is leaving the boat that takes her to Braavos, the crew goes out of their way to make sure that Arya, carrying a coin of the Faceless Men, knows their names. Presumably so she’d never kill them. Or never be able to kill them.

This interpretation is hinted at twice in the books during Faceless Men business meetings.

The priests used the language of Braavos, though once for several minutes three spoke heatedly in High Valyrian. The girl understood the words, mostly, but they spoke in soft voices, and she could not always hear. “I know this man,” she did hear a priest with the face of a plague victim say. “I know this man,” the fat fellow echoed, as she was pouring for him. But the handsome man said, “I will give this man the gift, I know him not.” Later the squinter said the same thing, of someone else.
A Dance With Dragons, The Ugly Little Girl

“Give a certain man a certain gift. Can you do that?”

“What man?”

“No one that you know.”

“I don’t know a lot of people.”

“He is one of them. A stranger. No one you love, no one you hate, no one you have ever known. Will you kill him?”

“Yes.”
A Dance With Dragons, The Ugly Little Girl

This interpretation is intriguing and would certainly be an extra-level impediment to Arya being able to kill those who have wronged her and her family. But strictly speaking, the people that Jaqen H’ghar killed for Arya at Harrenhal were not necessarily strangers to him. And Jaqen didn’t make any reference to such a restriction on whom he could kill.

She thought for a moment. “The name . . . can I name anyone? And you’ll kill him?”

Jaqen H’ghar inclined his head. “A man has said.”

“Anyone?” she repeated. “A man, a woman, a little baby, or Lord Tywin, or the High Septon, or your father?”

“A man’s sire is long dead, but did he live, and did you know his name, he would die at your command.”
— A Clash of Kings, Arya IX

Although the question of can Faceless Men kill people known to them or not is still debatable (one might argue that Jaqen could kill his father if he was No One in that moment, just a Faceless Man who had no father) – even if the theory is wrong it still seems highly unlikely that Arya would be allowed to act on her list of names once she’d graduated from the Senior Death Dealing Development program in Braavos.

The bigger question would be: why did Jaqen H’ghar at Harrenhal even offer Arya the option to join the Faceless Men, if it would end up short circuiting something very important to her and the reason she was joining?

Arya seems to consider Jaqen a friend and ally. When she goes to the House of Black and White, she specifically asks for him. When a man wearing Jaqen’s face drinks poison, Arya freaks out.

Arya: You don’t die! Don’t die!
The Waif: Why are you crying?
Arya: He was my friend!

But was he her friend? The question has more than one meaning, since that particular person wearing the face of Jaqen H’ghar might not have been the same Faceless Man that Arya had made her deals with in Harrenhal. And the original Jaqen H’ghar that Arya dealt with might not have been all that amicably-inclined towards her even after she unnamed him and commuted the death sentence that she herself had passed.

Magical extortion isn’t necessarily the best way to make friends, even if it’s an efficient way to influence people.

The Waif: Why are you crying?
Arya: He was my friend!
The Waif: No he wasn’t.

People don’t necessarily enjoy Arya’s Braavos storyline from the show, but there might be some hidden book-canonical truth in what’s presented. Although the inhabitant of the House of Black and White who is most often featured wearing the face of Jaqen H’ghar seems to hold no particular animus towards Arya, the Waif definitely has a distinctly anti-Arya attitude from the start.

This bias is one that is hard to explain if we consider the otherwise zen Faceless Men.

Waif

Unless the Waif did have a reason to not be zen in regards to Arya. For example: an earlier encounter with Arya when the Waif might have been wearing a different face. An encounter that did not go well for the Waif.

“Now?” She had never thought he would act so quickly.

“A man hears the whisper of sand in a glass. A man will not sleep until a girl unsays a certain name. Now, evil child.”

I’m not an evil child, she thought, I am a direwolf, and the ghost in Harrenhal.
A Clash of Kings, Arya IX

Arya naming Jaqen for death is a big deal. He responded to her request with an uncharacteristic urgency, in contrast to the previous names Arya had tasked him with. This was a serious situation for Jaqen and there’s no reason to believe that he’d lightly shrug off what Arya had done, even after she unnamed him.

Could that Faceless Man have eventually returned to Braavos, and waited for a certain scrappy girl to blunder into the House of Black and White, where this Faceless Man had the home court advantage? (And was presenting a new identity?)

The Waif not only seemed to have a grudge against Arya, she seemed to know a lot about the Stark girl. And possibly used that against her in arranging the assassination of Lady Crane. Crane was performing in a play about Arya’s family, which could have been a calculated move to remind Arya of who she was, messing up her training even if she’d gone through with the hit.

Regardless if the Waif on the show is also the Jaqen H’ghar from the earlier seasons, his sending Arya to Braavos and the House of Black and White was setting Arya up for failure, either in her not being able to follow the Faceless Men dogma or in Arya losing her linchpin character motivation. Which in itself is a bit of revenge.

Maybe Jaqen did that as retribution for Arya putting him in danger, but maybe it was simply because Arya mocked the gods by twisting the arrangement Jaqen had offered her to appease those gods.

He looked down at her pitilessly. “Three lives were snatched from a god. Three lives must be repaid. The gods are not mocked.” His voice was silk and steel.
A Clash of Kings, Arya IX

Three Lives Were Snatched From a God, Three Lives Must Be Repaid

It’s interesting to consider what Jaqen H’ghar’s motivations were in offering Arya admission into the House of Black and White, but maybe they’re not all that important. From a big picture perspective, twice Arya Stark has managed to interact with the Faceless Men and has exited the bargain with more benefit than she was due.

Her exercising an unfair advantage over Jaqen and the last name has already been well covered, and although Arya in the books is still in Braavos and it’s doubtful that the next book will closely follow Arya’s show-storyline, it’s highly likely that Arya will return to Westeros with enhanced assassination techniques at her disposal and her list of names still in play. She’ll not be No One, she’ll still be Arya Stark. But armed with trickster death-skills.

Playing with fire twice and not getting burned is noteworthy since it begins to establish a pattern, but three is a much more significant number in tales, particularly ones involving magic.

  • Grumkins and three wishes
  • The third time’s the charm
  • Three horn blasts means White Walkers
  • The Dragon has three heads
  • Three names to be repaid

Arya has twice made bargains with the Faceless Men, and has done well for herself. The first time it was a Faceless Man that came to Arya, and she really had no choice but to play along. It’s to her credit that she turned that situation to her advantage.

Ghost-of-Harrenhal-Arya

The second time, Arya went to the Faceless Men willingly so her eventual exit with their secret knowledge is quite honestly another example of mocking the gods. Or at least the odds.

If we consider that the Waif might have been the Jaqen H’ghar from Harrenhal, Arya’s killing of the Waif is a natural consequence of her naming him in the first place. Be careful what you wish for, Jaqen.

If there is to be a third interaction between Arya and the Faceless Men, it makes sense that this one will be the final meeting, one way or another. But the odds should likely to continue to be Arya’s favor, and not necessarily reflect the Faceless Men coming back from behind.

Arya: I am a direwolf, and the ghost in Harrenhal.

Maybe it wasn’t Arya making a deal with a devil in Harrenhal when Jaqen offered her three names to balance things.

Maybe this Faceless Man was the one out of his depth, making a bargain that he and his organization would come to regret.

Arya Stark was granted a direwolf, and if Ned Stark’s instincts are true, that direwolf came as a gift from the Old Gods. Jaqen repaid Arya’s philanthropic actions in saving him and his two unsavory companions and subverted that into a requirement to sacrifice lives to foreign gods. He was essentially bargaining with supernatural forces beyond his control, talking about death with an agent of the Old Gods in ruined and rotting Harrenhal.

And then he inadvertently invited a trickster blessed by the Old Gods to come to Braavos and steal secrets from his Many-Faced God.

Arya

The Old Gods are not mocked. This is no joking thing.

49 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. Thanks for an interesting read!

      If I’m wrong and Arya doesn’t make it to the end alive, I’d be very shocked if her grand denouement results from her dealings with the Faceless Men. It would make more sense to me if Jaqen was a disguise for someone who has been trying to help Arya fulfill her role in the prophecy all along; Like the tinfoil-ish theory that Jaqen H’ghar is really Rhaegar.

        Quote  Reply

    2. Patrick: “Built to match the hubris of an Ironborn king terrorizing the Riverlands, its massive walls could not protect King Harren the Black or his sons from the flames of Balerion the Dread. Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon melted the stone towers and killed the king and his line.”

      Arya: “Aegon … and his sisters.”

      Patrick: “Mmm?”

      Arya: “It wasn’t just Aegon riding his dragon. It was Rhaenys and Visenya, too.”

      Patrick: “Correct. A student of history, are you?”

      Arya: “Rhaenys rode Meraxes. Visenya rode Vhagar.”

      Patrick: “I’m sure I knew that when I was a boy.”

      Arya: “Visenya Targaryen was a great warrior. She had a Valyrian steel sword she called Dark Sister.”

        Quote  Reply

    3. Great article! Thank you for writing about Arya from an unconventional perspective.


      He was essentially bargaining with supernatural forces beyond his control, talking about death with an agent of the Old Gods in ruined and rotting Harrenhal.

      That’s a very interesting interpretation of the interactions between Arya and the Faceless Men. But do either the Old Gods, the Red God, or the Many-Faced God even exist?

      In the show, Jaqen clearly lets Arya walk out of The House of Black and White after killing the Waif, even though he could have easily stopped her himself. Do the Faceless Men have more work for her to do on Westeros? Or do they believe she has a part to play in the war between the living and the dead? Another fan theory holds the Night’s King, White Walkers, and wights are a blasphemy against the god of death, robbing him of his rightful due. If this is true, then the Faceless Men would have a great interest in taking down the Night’s King. Arya may be their (unwitting) agent to help them in this cause.

        Quote  Reply

    4. Ten Bears:
      Patrick: “Built to match the hubris of an Ironborn king terrorizing the Riverlands, its massive walls could not protect King Harren the Black or his sons from the flames of Balerion the Dread. Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon melted the stone towers and killed the king and his line.”

      Arya: “Aegon … and his sisters.”

      Patrick: “Mmm?”

      Arya: “It wasn’t just Aegon riding his dragon. It was Rhaenys and Visenya, too.”

      Patrick: “Correct. A student of history, are you?”

      Arya: “Rhaenys rode Meraxes. Visenya rode Vhagar.”

      Patrick: “I’m sure I knew that when I was a boy.”

      Arya: “Visenya Targaryen was a great warrior. She had a Valyrian steel sword she called Dark Sister.”

      Well, I’m flattered to be put into a converstation, Ten Bears! Wait, I’m Tywin in this example. Hey.

      You are correct that I shouldn’t omit the contributions of Aegon’s sisters, but now I have to go back and read up on the conquest, because I thought Balerion alone was responsible for Harrenhal’s ruination. Either way, I appreciate the feedback, as always.

        Quote  Reply

    5. Thank you Patrick for the great article! I actually never thought about how the Old Gods factor into Jaqen making a deal with and recruiting Arya, but it makes so much sense. Even when she is training in the House of Black and White she can never be fully stripped of her previous identity because she becomes her Direwolf at night when she sleeps. I don’t know if I would use the word “infiltrate”, however, Arya is definitely already spoken for by the Old Gods and I wonder if in the books, the “kindly man” will figure out Arya is a warg, if he doesn’t suspect already.

      Ten Bears,
      I believe Balerion alone was responsible for the destruction of Harrenhal. Visenya and Rhaenys definitely did have their share of destruction but I think they were elsewhere getting other houses to pledge fealty to Aegon.

        Quote  Reply

    6. Dark Sister,

      Dark Sister, thank you for this comment! You’re right that I shouldn’t really use *infiltrate*, since we know from Arya’s POV that she’s earnestly there. But I do like looking at it from the Faceless Men perspective of being the one inadvertently making a deal with the devil.

      And thanks for the backup on Balerion!

        Quote  Reply

    7. I was hoping “A man can go kill himself” was going to be included. I loved that exchange.

      I’m on my phone atm and find it a pain for writing long comments so I’ll add more later… (Harrenhal too)…

      For now I just want to mention that we might not want to try to tie what the book did at Braavos and the HoBaW with Arya’s and Jaqen’s book actions. In my opinion D&D took massive liberties in writing their part of that story to get somewhere fast with it AND in an attempt to make it interesting and exciting. For starters, as we know or as far as we know, Jaqen isn’t even at the HoBaW. That’s a big change alone as it pertains to things written here. Others… the waif is a sickly, stunted young woman that is Arya’s friend and tutor. The Kindly Man works with her a lot and is kind while not quite as cryptic. My biggest issue I had with a show change was that dang weird scene with the poison and what appeared to be Jaqen’s death. It didn’t make any sense with what the FM can do with faces, so was it an hallucination or what? My problem with it is that it made viewers think FM can wear multiple faces at once and/or that they can become a living person. Note: THEY CAN’T!! I saw it written in an article on another site this week that they can become any living person and that isn’t true, in the books anyway. They HAVE to have the face of the person they become. They also use potions and their own blood to adhere the face to their own skin, necessary in forming the bond. Doing so they essentially become the person and recall thoughts and memories of that person and even have dreams as them. So not only can multiple faces not bond to their own skin, imagine having the thoughts and features of many people at one time. IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY!

      Well, this is getting longer on my phone than planned. I just wanted to mention these things – that we might not want to theorize too crazily between things adapted directly from her book story before Braavos and D&D’s Braavos arc for what’s to come.

        Quote  Reply

    8. Clob,

      Clob, I really appreciate the comment. I agree with you that D&D have taken big liberties on Arya’s story, but I prefer to be charitable and extend them the benefit of the doubt because Arya’s story from the books is unfilmable. Not from a cost perspective, it’s just all in her head. There’s a lot of cool things from the books, but it’s almost all implication and inference or observations that Arya is silently making, and it wouldn’t be cinematic.

      There’s certainly a lot of weird theorizing about Jaqen and who he might be and if Rhaegar is a Faceless Man or whatever, and a lot of that is silly. I added to that by taken the show at face value, because it’s fun to come up with fan theories, that aren’t necessarily ever going to be answered in the books.

      Jaqen sending Arya to the HoBaW is one of those things that’s odd, since we as readers (and Arya as well) take that as an invitation for Arya to learn the death ninja skills and then apply them, and she hits that obstacle in the Faceless Men dogma.

      For fun, I decided to take that as Jaqen punishing Arya for screwing with him, and from a show perspective, I can use the show Waif and imply that maybe she’s the original Jaqen, but it’s mostly a joke. But I don’t want to just treat it like a joke. The Waif as Jaqen makes some sense, from the grudge perspective.

      I’ll stand by what I wrote, I’m not trying to hand wave away your criticisms – and I agree that there are substantial differences from the books and the show when it comes to Braavos.

      Thanks for the long comment, and I look forward to chatting some more. The reason I write these is to help pass the time until the next season.

        Quote  Reply

    9. If you’re going to reach back to the books to prop up your argument, then you also have to figure in the fact that in the books, the Waif is not Arya’s antagonist. She is simply a more experienced acolyte who assists in Arya’s training (without beating her with sticks). She is not hostile; she has a Zen, disinterested attitude. So the premise that Harrenhal-Jaqen becomes Braavos-Waif, wanting some payback, holds up only in the TV version. Also, we have strong reason to believe in the books that Jaqen’s next destination is the Citadel (with a possible stop in the Iron Islands en route).

        Quote  Reply

    10. Firannion:
      If you’re going to reach back to the books to prop up your argument, then you also have to figure in the fact that in the books, the Waif is not Arya’s antagonist. She is simply a more experienced acolyte who assists in Arya’s training (without beating her with sticks). She is not hostile; she has a Zen, disinterested attitude. So the premise that Harrenhal-Jaqen becomes Braavos-Waif, wanting some payback, holds up only in the TV version. Also, we have strong reason to believe in the books that Jaqen’s next destination is the Citadel (with a possible stop in the Iron Islands en route).

      That’s totally fair. But since the show conflates characters all the time, we can accept a Waif that isn’t the Waif, just like we can accept someone on the show with Jaqen’s face, who is kind of the Kindly Man analog, but not the Kindly Man from the books, who didn’t have Jaqen’s face.

      As for Jaqen’s trip through Westeros, I agree that in the books he didn’t head back to Braavos immediately, but neither did Arya. And the Pate stuff is not in the show.

      But if we are considering why Jaqen sent Arya to the Faceless Men, it doesn’t matter if he goes to Braavos or not, if he shows up to antagonize Arya or not. He made a deal with her in bad faith (to be fair to book Jaqen, he does not make the explicit statements about Arya offering up her names like he does on the show.) But his omitting the restrictions does seem like a cheat, and makes more sense if he is deliberately setting Arya up for failure, as payback for her putting him into an existential crisis.

        Quote  Reply

    11. Patrick Sponaugle: we can accept a Waif that isn’t the Waif, just like we can accept someone on the show with Jaqen’s face, who is kind of the Kindly Man analog, but not the Kindly Man from the books, who didn’t have Jaqen’s face.

      I’d like to add that this thing, the “Kindly Man” being Jaqen H’gar, really annoyed me. Remember, when the Kindly Man came to take Arya to the House of Black & White on the teevie version, he was an elderly black man. That’s great! I thought. I had no problem with Westeros being lily white, because that’s how it had been settled. But a port city like Braavos would have a much more racially diverse population, and it was a nice touch to have the Kindly Man being black. Then he morphed into red/white haired Jaqen. As if there could be only one Faceless Man – or only one “Face.” It got worse when the apparent “Waif” was actually a disgruntled antagonist for Arya, instead of a helping teacher.

      B&W messed up Braavos as much as they did Dorne. Hopefully, we’re through all that and I’m looking forward to how they wrap this thing up. One day, we’ll be able to compare it with George RR’s own conclusion! (Have faith…)

        Quote  Reply

    12. Wonderful article! I loved it!!!

      I do hope Braavos and Dorne continue (in the tele show) as it was completely necessary and thoroughly enjoyable (with exception). D&D I feel had some ideas and clearly got scared at the end (relating to Dorne) and rushed it. Would have loved more interactions both general and political in Dorne.

      Arya correction Tywin in HH is true and just. 3 dragons and their riders had fun. It does not matter what did or did not occur in the books.

        Quote  Reply

    13. Interesting read. I like how you tied in Nymeria and the Old Gods into Jaqen’s bargain with Arya. There’s no doubt the dire wolves will continue to have an important connection with the Stark kids in the books, but I’m hoping season 8 elaborates on it with Arya and Jon (now that Ghost is confirmed to be back, and hopefully Nymeria too).

      If there is to be a third interaction between Arya and the Faceless Men, it makes sense that this one will be the final meeting, one way or another. But the odds should likely to continue to be Arya’s favor, and not necessarily reflect the Faceless Men coming back from behind.

      I have my doubts that Jaqen will make a return in season 8 because they seemed to have closed off that story at the end of season 6, but this did trigger an interesting thought. As far as we know on the show, Jaqen and the Waif are the only 2 Faceless Men. We’ve seen some others in the HoB&W, but I just assumed they were servants and not full-fledged FM. With the Waif dead, that leaves only Jaqen and Arya that are able to change faces on the show. So let’s say Jaqen does come back, and with the intent to kill her (for betraying the FM, or continuing to use the faces). Nymeria, however, jumps in to save her and Arya is able to kill him, thus dismantling the whole FM organization. So in the end, not only does she reject becoming a nameless assassin, she destroys the very organization that in many ways represented her desire for revenge. There’s quite an interesting symbolic meaning in that, no?

      I must be in an unusual mood today, because I’m not normally this tinfoil-y. 🙂 In any case, I’ve always thought of Jaqen as an antagonist for Arya. He’s the one that pushed her to reject her identity and everything she is. I saw a post on Twitter not long ago where someone pointed out that each of the “mentors” to the Stark children are no mentors at all, but cautionary tales (i.e. antagonists). Bloodraven to Bran, Litttlefinger to Sansa, and Jaqen & the FM to Arya. Both Bloodraven and Littlefinger are gone, so it would make sense to bring Jaqen back so that Arya can be rid of him for good (whether that means by killing him or by some other way).

        Quote  Reply

    14. LadyGoodman:
      Thanks for an interesting read!

      If I’m wrong and Arya doesn’t make it to the end alive, I’d be very shocked if her grand denouement results from her dealings with the Faceless Men.It would make more sense to me ifJaqen was a disguise for someone who has been trying to help Arya fulfill her role in the prophecy all along; Like the tinfoil-ish theory that Jaqen H’ghar is really Rhaegar.

      Thank you for your kind feedback!

      I’m really interested in finding out (in the books, of course) what the Faceless Men are doing down at the Citadel. Rhaegar did love to read. Maybe there’s something to your tinfoil theory after all…

        Quote  Reply

    15. zandru: I’d like to add that this thing, the “Kindly Man” being Jaqen H’gar, really annoyed me.

      B&W messed up Braavos as much as they did Dorne. Hopefully, we’re through all that and I’m looking forward to how they wrap this thing up. One day, we’ll be able to compare it with George RR’s own conclusion! (Have faith…)

      I really think that they went with explicity showing the Jaqen face just to give viewers a sense of the familiar. But I deeply sympathize. I think the show should take advantage of opportunities to include a racially diverse cast. If they really had to use Tom W. (whatever his name is) to be the kindly man, they could have had more Faceless Men on hand with different ethnicities.

      In the books, Arya never feels out of place in the HoBaW, so we readers are comfortable there, but I felt that the showrunners needed to give us something to associate with. Otherwise it’s just Arya stuck with a bunch of strangers. Which might not have been a bad thing to go with anyway.

      Regardless, thank you for the comments, friend.

        Quote  Reply

    16. Patrick Sponaugle,

      I didn’t mean to imply that you’d gotten book! facts wrong. I was just playing around with the dialogue from the memorable Arya-Tywin scene from S2. (It’s been on my mind lately with all the discussion about how receptive Arya will be to dragon-riding Daenerys Targaryen.)

        Quote  Reply

    17. Patrick Sponaugle:

      I’m really interested in finding out (in the books, of course) what the Faceless Men are doing down at the Citadel.

      Same here, and one of most disappointing changes, for me, in the page-to-screen adaptation was the excision of Marwyn the Mage. My hopes were raised by the inclusion of Quaithe, who seems to have access to glass candles and so is presumably in cahoots with Marwyn.

      There’s a piece of me that’s hoping to find out that a much bigger, deeper and longer game than the one pursuing the Iron Throne is going on. (The analogy I always reach for is the eons-long genetic manipulation project of the Bene Gesserit in the Dune series, which is a much bigger deal than who controls the spice trade.) Marwyn seems the most likely character to be hip to the big picture, on account of his extensive research on magic throughout the known world.

      I think that book stashed away in the Citadel could be of profound importance. Do the Faceless want it for themselves, or for a client, and if so, who? I’m also dying to know what relationship exists between the Faceless and the Iron Bank. In any case, having only two Faceless on the show besides Arya, while understandable in terms of cinematic telescoping, does seem pretty skimpy in the context of global power politics.

        Quote  Reply

    18. The premise that Jaqen’s Red God or Many-Faced God might be no match for the Old Gods of the North is certainly a provocative line of thinking – especially considering the oft-repeated observation that R’hllor seems to be the only deity whose power has been demonstrated. But maybe something more powerful is just waking up from a long snooze!

      My best recollection of the books’ discussion of the Old Gods involves the possibility that they and the greenseers are one and the same – that it’s their ability to perceive across both space and time via the Weirnet that makes them appear immortal and omnipresent. But maybe that theory underestimates them…

        Quote  Reply

    19. I remember feeling so badly for him when Arya gave him his own name and he was like, “Unname me. Please?” o_o; xD

      “But do either the Old Gods, the Red God, or the Many-Faced God even exist?”

      The latter, at least, appear to.

      “I’d be very shocked if her grand denouement results from her dealings with the Faceless Men. It would make more sense to me if Jaqen was a disguise for someone who has been trying to help Arya fulfill her role in the prophecy all along”

      “In the show, Jaqen clearly lets Arya walk out of The House of Black and White after killing the Waif, even though he could have easily stopped her himself. Do the Faceless Men have more work for her to do on Westeros? Or do they believe she has a part to play in the war between the living and the dead? Another fan theory holds the Night’s King, White Walkers, and wights are a blasphemy against the god of death, robbing him of his rightful due. If this is true, then the Faceless Men would have a great interest in taking down the Night’s King. Arya may be their (unwitting) agent to help them in this cause.”

      ^^ That’s the inkling I have.

        Quote  Reply

    20. Ten Bears:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      I didn’t mean to imply that you’d gotten book! facts wrong. I was just playing around with the dialogue from the memorable Arya-Tywin scene from S2. (It’s been on my mind lately with all the discussion about how receptive Arya will be to dragon-riding Daenerys Targaryen.)

      It’s all good, I didn’t feel like you were dissing me. And I was sincerely delighted to find myself in a conversation with Arya. Thank you!

        Quote  Reply

    21. Enharmony1625: someone pointed out that each of the “mentors” to the Stark children are no mentors at all, but cautionary tales (i.e. antagonists).

      Throughout their journeys across the Riverlands, I kept hoping that Arya would notice her disturbing similarities to the Hound. “Take a good long look” I wanted to tell her. “This is YOU in 15 years or so, if you keep centering your life around vengeance.”

        Quote  Reply

    22. zandru,

      Season 4 would have been too early for that to occur in her arc, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that’s what part of her season 8 journey will be about. Particularly given her impending reunion with Sandor and Jon.

      I wonder if Sandor will tell Arya about his encounter with Sally and her father and his guilt over that? Many possibilities!

        Quote  Reply

    23. Clob,

      “I was hoping “A man can go kill himself” was going to be included. I loved that exchange.”

      Me too! One of my favorites. Along with [in the same scene] Jaqen whining: “A girl lacks honor”, followed by Arya’s patented I don’t give a f-*ck slight shoulder shrug.

        Quote  Reply

    24. Patrick Sponaugle,

      In the books, Arya never feels out of place in the HoBaW, so we readers are comfortable there, but I felt that the showrunners needed to give us something to associate with. Otherwise it’s just Arya stuck with a bunch of strangers. Which might not have been a bad thing to go with anyway.”

      ——–
      As a pre-books, show-only fan, I’m not qualified to compare Arya’s tenure at the HoB&W in the two media. However, I think you’re onto something when you observed that [without Tom W’s familiar face], it would’ve just been “Arya stuck with a bunch of strangers. Which might not have been a bad thing to go with anyway.

      Yes, I acknowledge I’m an unabashed Arya Fanboy, and I’ve loved Maisie Williams’s portrayal.

      Nevertheless, I’ve felt Arya has been at her best “stuck with a bunch of strangers” – earning their respect and before too long, their friendship and loyalty. Even when she meets up with people who abuse and bully her at first, eventually they grow to like her…or even love her. And she often puts herself in great peril to protect them – or avenge them.

      I’m thinking of, for example: Hot Pie the blowhard bully ➡️ Hot Pie the adoring, faithful friend; Lommy the threatening sh*thead ➡️ Lommy, murdered by Polliver in S2 and avenged by Arya in S4e1 “Two Chickens” … I mean “Two Swords”; Gendry, whom Arya saved twice from arrest and execution; and Lady Crane, a relative stranger Arya refused to assassinate even though it put a FM bullseye on her own back. Even Thoros in his smartass way admired her moxie before knowing who she really was. (“You’re a dangerous person. I like dangerous people.) Anguy also developed a quick but brief rapport with her.

      And of course, Arya’s (show-only?) introduction to and interactions with Tywin have been lauded as some of the best books vs. show variations.

      Because it would take volumes, I won’t get into the Hound calling Arya “the Stark Bitch” (in early S3? when she’s getting ready to leave after a free meal with the BwoB when they bring in a prisoner who recognizes her when his hood is removed), and “Wolf Girl” (when he abducts her for ransom) …. but by the end of their travels together in S4e10, with no prospects of ransom or anything else to gain, he stays with her to protect her, out of genuine affection. [According to the director (?) in the episode commentary, Sandor’s words in the following exchange meant that he loves her]:

      Brienne (sarcastically): “And that’s what you’re doing? Watching over her?”

      Sandor (sincerely): “Aye. That’s what I’m doing.”

        Quote  Reply

    25. Patrick Sponaugle,

      On-Topic + Semi Off-Topic:

      • I agree that Jaqen pulled an unfair bait-and-switch by enticing her to enroll in Murder School with the promise that she could offer up the names on her list one by one – but then punishing her for taking out Meryn F*cking Trant and insisting she could only murder people named in contract hits by FM paying customers.

      • I still wonder (not sure if books give any clues) whether: (a) Jaqen had targeted Arya for recruitment all along for some reason; (b) Jaqen decided to offer her a FM Scholarship + travel voucher only after being impressed with her courage and intelligence; or (c) Jaqen had some other motive.

      • I also still wonder if Jaqen ever truly considered Arya a “friend” – or if he was using her all along even after she had put herself in harm’s way to save him from the burning cage.

      • Finally, with the FM’s casual attitude about “death” and giving of receiving “the gift”, why was Jaqen such a whiny little bitch when Arya gave him his own name? Why didn’t he simply reply, “A girl has given a man a third name. A man will do the rest“, and slit his own wrists or drink a vial of poison? (After all, Jaqen 2.0 berated Arya when she questioned why Lady Crane had to die, and coldly told her that death comes for the decent as well as the wicked.)

      What do you think?

        Quote  Reply

    26. Ten Bears:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      And of course, Arya’s (show-only?) introduction to and interactions with Tywin have been lauded as some of the best books vs. show variations.

      You are correct about this being show-only (and I’ve yet to come across a ‘books purist’ who has much of a problem with it). In the books, Tywin’s sojourn in Harrenhal is short, and Arya only glimpses him a few times from a distance. The one significant moment is when she sees him riding away again at the head of a Lannister legion. It’s at that point that she realizes that she has wasted her first two Jaqen death coupons on low-level bullies when she could have mobilized him to take out true influencers of the Game.

        Quote  Reply

    27. Ten Bears:
      Patrick Sponaugle,

      • I still wonder (not sure if books give any clues) whether: (a)Jaqen had targeted Arya for recruitment all along for some reason; (b) Jaqen decided to offer her a FM Scholarship + travel voucher only after being impressed with her courage and intelligence; or (c) Jaqen had some other motive.

      This is a major area of speculation for readers as well. I’m sure you’ve heard the hypothesis that Jaqen = Syrio, which remains popular for sentimental reasons despite some timeline issues. Perhaps a better question is how a highly skilled Faceless operative ended up in the Black Cells, unless that’s where he intended to be until the time was right.

      Finding out the FM’s larger agenda is one of the more tantalizing treats awaiting readers. The fact that Jaqen is last seen at the Citadel apparently trying to filch a book of Marwyn’s researches into international magical practices makes it seem likely that they are much more than pricey hitmen.

        Quote  Reply

    28. Firannion,

      Personally, I think the most logical theory is that Jaqen was captured on purpose with the intent of infiltrating the Night’s Watch to gather information on the Night King and the AotD. Or something along those lines. His encounter with Arya was purely chance. I don’t put much stock in the Jaqen = Syrio theory or that there was somehow a grand plan to recruit Arya.

      When they first met, Jaqen noticed Arya’s talents and saw in her a valuable agent for the Many-Faced God. Arya herself was vulnerable, dealing with the trauma of just having lost her father. Now, whether she figures into the FM’s plan (if any) in the fight against the dead, that’s another matter. (Maybe that’s why Jaqen let her go at the end of season 6?). But I don’t think this was ordained in any way from the start.

      I also agree that the FM will likely have a much larger role to play in the book story beyond being just hired assassins, but I doubt we’ll get that in the show this late in the game. I’m very much looking forward to finding out more about them in books! I also can’t wait to find out how and under what circumstances Arya leaves them in the books. Whether she makes it back to Westeros in TWoW or not, I think it’s pretty likely that she will at least “resign” from the FM by the book’s end if not before.

        Quote  Reply

    29. Ten Bears:
      Patrick Sponaugle,
      Brienne (sarcastically): “And that’s what you’re doing? Watching over her?”
      Sandor (sincerely): “Aye. That’s what I’m doing.”

      But then when he figures he’s a dead man, he urges her to go find Brienne so she can protect her. Also the way he says “You with your water-dancing and your Needle” so affectionately.. Oh, Sandor you big softie!

        Quote  Reply

    30. Firannion: Perhaps a better question is how a highly skilled Faceless operative ended up in the Black Cells, unless that’s where he intended to be until the time was right.

      Finding out the FM’s larger agenda is one of the more tantalizing treats awaiting readers. The fact that Jaqen is last seen at the Citadel apparently trying to filch a book of Marwyn’s researches into international magical practices makes it seem likely that they are much more than pricey hitmen.

      Even highly trained operatives can make mistakes… I think the context makes clear he was caught doing something so bad that he was grouped with Biter and Rorge and locked in a cage during travel… make me wonder what would have happened IF they had made it back to the Wall how those 3 would have been dealt with, doesn’t seem like they were worth the risk.

      Regardless, I don’t think Jaqen was there for Arya, I think he was just caught and looking for an angle for escape; noticed Arya – the youngest and smallest in the group, recognized she was female too, and thought he could use her to help him escape… which actually did happen, if he hadn’t reached out to her and played nice, she might not have felt compelled to help them.

      I agree, it’s implied in the books that Jaqen (on behalf of the FM?) has a larger agenda at the Citadel and is something that I hope is explored more in the books, especially after the FM history lesson Arya got…

        Quote  Reply

    31. Ten Bears: Why didn’t he simply reply, “A girl has given a man a third name. A man will do the rest“, and slit his own wrists or drink a vial of poison?

      I’d say (now, I’m talking Book Jaqen) that he had additional missions in Westeros to perform before he could let himself die. Jaqen may have been the mysterious “man without a face” on the bridge at Pyke, who threw Balon Greyjoy to his final reunion with the Drowned God. He was most certainly the “alchemist” in Oldtown, then becoming Pate the Pigboy Maester Candidate. I don’t believe there was ever a mission to the Wall, or “Jaqen” would have gone there directly, instead of heading west to Pyke, then far south to Oldtown.

        Quote  Reply

    32. he had additional missions in Westeros to perform before he could let himself die.

      Maybe so.
      Same basic reason I suspect Melisandre looked so alarmed at the possibility of being executed, too.

      I sure hope we get some Jaqen/FM answers in the last season (e.g., was he captured intentionally or not, did he have bigger hopes for Arya all along or from some point on, or was he just tricking her into joining his club to get back at her for nearly making him commit suicide–which I’d never really considered, lol…etc. etc.) Tough to imagine that such a mysterious man and organization are done with after Arya took her leave, and have no part in S8. I’ve always doubted that he was Syrio, though I don’t suppose it’s impossible.

        Quote  Reply

    33. zandru: Throughout their journeys across the Riverlands, I kept hoping that Arya would notice her disturbing similarities to the Hound. “Take a good long look” I wanted to tell her. “This is YOU in 15 years or so, if you keep centering your life around vengeance.”

      I don’t get what I want, but earlier on, I was hoping that one day Arya would meet up with the Hound, and say “you know, you like killing. I know some guys who are into killing and that can fix up your face. Kind of.”

      And for the Hound to respond basically:
      1) There’s nothing wrong with my face.
      2) I don’t like killing. Maybe you need some help in liking killing a bit less.

        Quote  Reply

    34. Ten Bears,

      Yeah, although the show does have rough times when they invent stuff whole-cloth, their early adaptations with Arya: having her be more talkative to people like Gendry rather than so close-lipped, talking to Tywin, meeting Melisandre, that stuff all worked really well.

        Quote  Reply

    35. Ten Bears,

      In general, I’m not warm to the idea that Jaqen had been keeping an eye on Arya, or that there was some prophecy that we don’t know about in regards to Arya. Jaqen, I felt, got the ball rolling on his own with the three-lives-for-three-deaths deal, and I’d like to know more about that than much else.

      I certainly believe that Jaqen was motivated to get some missions taken care of in Westeros, and I hope we learn more about that. I think some things will never be answered, though. Like why he was a prisoner in the first place.

        Quote  Reply

    36. ^ Yeah, I was hoping the hoped-for answers would somehow be relevant enough to the sure-to-be-busy ending to be included, rather than just forgotten about and questioned indefinitely (unless GRRM/the writers addressed them personally.)

        Quote  Reply

    37. Patrick Sponaugle,

      Along those lines, I still don’t know what to make of Arya’s table manners when she met up with Hot Pie again at the Crossroads Inn (S7e2). She ate like a total slob: spearing a pie from his tray without waiting for it to be offered; asking “Got any ale?” and snatching the pitcher without waiting for a reply, and worst of all. constantly wiping her mouth on her sleeves.

      If she was meant to be channeling Thr Hound, they should’ve at least given us a snippet of dialogue to make that clear. Otherwise, Arya was behaving just the way Cersei described her (in exasperation, after she’d disappeared from KL): “that little animal.”

      At least she had the courtrdy to compliment the chef, as she always does: “Really good!” or “Mmm. This is good!”

        Quote  Reply

    38. Ten Bears,

      My interpretation: 1. this should illustrate, how awful hungry she was, 2. that she was in big hurry and 3. in enemy’s territory (everyone could be her enemy this time), not amusing in a roadhouse, especially for a girl.

        Quote  Reply

    39. Ten Bears,

      I don’t have a good interpretation. It was some weird bit of directing, if the idea was the Arya was meant to be deliberately aloof, when previously she had been more natural with the Lannister boys she encountered (who I assume Nymeria and her pack ate. Because.)

        Quote  Reply

    40. That was odd. I’d taken it as her being starving and totally single-mindedly focused on her goal, until the news about her family broke through that “trance” and reminded her that she was in the presence of an old friend (and that there were still things that could take precedence over killing Cersei.)

        Quote  Reply

    41. I wonder how Arya’s predicted reencounter with Melisandre will occur. Will the Red Woman be back on her list after Arya catches up with Gendry?

      We know that Sam and Gilly made it to Winterfell, because we’ve seen Sam and Bran put two and two together and get R + L = J. But we haven’t seen Gilly asking after her little friend and literacy mentor Shireen, have we? Having Arya on hand when Gilly gets that heartbreaking news might help reinvigorate her targeting Mel, presuming D & D intend to close that circle that they created. Not much time left to devote to such housekeeping, but Mel’s gotta go somehow. I could see Arya and Gilly hitting it off.

        Quote  Reply

    42. Firannion,

      I have to imagine they will pay off that Mel prophecy of her meeting Arya again. It wasn’t some off-hand, trivial moment. It was pretty in-your-face when Mel said that, so it would feel strange for nothing to come of it. I’ve always assumed that Mel either saw her own death at Arya’s hand, or that she saw Arya playing an important role in the war against the WW. Connecting the reveal with Gilly would add an extra level of heartbreak to it. I never really thought of that, but I like it. I’m sure Gendry and/or Jon will be involved in that somehow as well.

        Quote  Reply

    43. I’m sure Arya & Mel will meet again, though I don’t know what the significance will be. Possibly Arya would find herself wanting to re-add her to the list, but I cannot see Meli’s death being at her hands unless that somehow became necessary for reasons other than revenge. Arya might not have much patience or sympathy for hearing why Mel did the things she did and trying to understand, thinking that her faith is wacky or a hoax…perhaps until she learns what the lady was able to do for Jon. Gilly is a little bit more patient in general. ;p But yeah, at any rate, I can really only see Melisandre dying heroically in a last great effort against the oncoming darkness. And only if she managed to survive that could I see her maybe allowing herself to be killed, since she’s actually been around quite a long time and the whole world-saving mission is the only thing keeping her going anyhow.

        Quote  Reply

    Jump to the Top

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *