Forget Jon Snow - there's a lot of evidence it will be Arya Stark who kills Daenerys Targaryen in the Game of Thrones finale. The big twist of season 8 has been Dany embracing her status as the Mad Queen, in controversial episode "The Bells" destroying King's Landing atop her dragon, Drogon, raining fire indiscriminately down on enemy combatants and innocent bystanders alike.
It's quite clear now that the Game of Thrones series finale will be concerned with bringing an end to Daenerys' short reign. But the question remains as to whom. Tyrion has long been expected to betray his Queen, and as recently as last week it was speculated Jon could have to kill his aunt/lover. However, now a third potential assassin has emerged.
Arya Stark was thrust into the thick of Mhysa Dany’s city razing, and as she rides away on a white horse - one eerily reminiscent of the one Drogo gave to Dany in the series premiere - there's only one logical destination. Here's why an Arya assassination attempt on Daenerys in the Game of Thrones season 8 finale not only feels inevitable, but would be the culmination of her entire eight-year-long storyline.
The Night King Wasn't An End To Arya Stark's Character Arc
From essentially day one, Arya Stark's Game of Thrones character arc subjected her to the vagaries and casual brutalities of everyday life, even more so than for Jon Snow (who had to kill one of his mentors, Qhorin Halfhand, and saw the other, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, be butchered) or for Sansa Stark (who was subjected to the repeated psychological and physical tortures of both King Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton). This, in turn, nourished in her the unquenchable thirst for revenge, a motivating factor which led to her survival through an endless series of conflicts on Westeros and her eventual training to become a Faceless Man on Essos.
And it is here that we start to see just what kind of toll the demands of vengeance take on Arya. Though filled with violence, being of service to the Many-Faced God in the House of Black and White provides a life of stability and, presumably, fulfillment for the young girl, enabling her to be the person that Westerosi society would never allow. Arya, however, simply cannot let go of the past and the many betrayals that led her to flee from the Seven Kingdoms in the first place; all of the training to make her an almost-supernatural assassin would now be redirected towards her primal need for revenge, doubling down on her course instead of allowing it to be redirected to, arguably, more productive ends.
All of which has prepared her for her role in Game of Thrones' final two seasons, in which she single-handedly massacred House Frey and, furthermore, helped to expose – and execute – Lord Petyr Baelish’s treachery and stop the army of the dead in its tracks (Littlefinger and the Night King ended up being two major names that she didn’t even know should be on her list). The entirety of Game of Thrones has been dedicated to Arya Stark becoming the ultimate of killers, but there's still one big barrier left.
Arya using that ability to effect real change in the course of Westerosi history would round off this journey, and slaying the Dragon Queen after she just slaughtered thousands of innocents would be just the way to do it. It would also be something of an irony, as Arya has already spent the past few years intending to kill the queen sitting the Iron Throne.
Killing Daenerys Would Be A Fitting Tragedy For Arya After Leaving Cersei
After seven-and-a-half years of becoming the superb fighting machine and ruthless killer that she now is, and after being immune to any temptations to deviate from that cold-blooded path (including a marriage proposal by the new lord of Storm’s End, Gendry Baratheon), Arya Stark seemed finally ready to chart a new course in “The Bells,” and she is convinced to do so by none other than Sandor Clegane.
The Hound is able to succeed where the likes of Jaqen H’ghar and Brienne of Tarth failed because he has earned her begrudging respect. His (what she thinks is) clear-eyed and unflinching perception of the world means his life has also been consumed by the obsessive need for revenge (in this case, against his brother, Gregor Clegane, who is responsible for his physical disfigurement and subsequent emotional disposition). Seeing what debilitating effect such a crusade inflicts, and realizing that the imminent death waiting for them both is, by definition, inferior to living, Arya finally turns away, choosing the future over the past for the very first time in Game of Thrones.
But after seeing what level of destruction Daenerys Targaryen wreaks in an almost off-handed way, it looks like Arya’s newfound sense of purpose will now once again be subsumed by rage and a need for justice. It is, in retrospect, the only, tragic ending that Arya Stark could ever hope to have; one that is thematically consistent with her journey thus far and, at this late stage in the game, quite inevitable. Furthermore, it’s a turn of events that’s rendered all the more tragic by the counterpoint that Dany suddenly provides – whereas Arya is choosing to forget if not necessarily to forgive, Khaleesi has opted to give in to her base instincts and her own newly-sharpened longing for vengeance.
Arya Killing Daenerys Completes Game Of Thrones' Historical Parallels
For the entirety of these final two seasons, Game of Thrones has deliberately made the attempt to paint a parallel between Daenerys Targaryen and her late father, the Mad King Aerys; King’s Landing will need to fall in both of these scenarios, with the only question being how, exactly, it would do so. Keen to make sure that Aerys II Targaryen’s plan to level the entire capital city with secret caches of wildfire wouldn’t get completed with Dany’s three massive, fire-spewing dragons, her advisors counseled her to avoid a straight-on invasion at all costs and to instead maintain a siege, starving Queen Cersei Lannister and her forces out of the Red Keep. Now that the twists of fate have buffeted her to going down the very same path that her father couldn’t fulfill – the Mad King was slain before his final, fatal command could be implemented – the historical cycle needs to be completed with assassination by someone from within Daenerys Stormborn’s own rank and file.
Of course, the exact circumstances don’t line up perfectly: back then, it was Ser Jaime Lannister, a member of Aerys’s own Kingsguard, who did the deed, whereas now it will be Arya more than likely lunging out of the shadows once again and attempting to plant a Valyrian dagger into Dany’s abdomen; previously, death and destruction on a massive scale were prevented, while, in the present, countless thousands of bodies (or, at least, their ashes) will need to be piled up and the city cleared of the near-ubiquitous rubble. But this historical echo will continue to ring out until it finally fades away into nothingness, as Aerys already has and Daenerys will do in the name of justice.
There is one final difference in this parallelism that needs to be accounted for, and it’s a notable one: what the killer’s fate will ultimately be. As a member of House Lannister and as an individual who flipped from the losing to the winning side of the rebellion against the crown, Jaime was spared any significant consequence – in fact, he continues to maintain his lofty position as a member of the Kingsguard for decades to come (until his own son, King Tommen Baratheon, finally strips him of his position). On the other hand, there is no conceivable way in which Arya will be able to escape the ramifications of her actions, even if her assassination attempt fails; it’s hard to imagine that Grey Worm, in particular, the commander of Daenerys’s forces, would let anyone get away with the killing of his queen, the only thing he has left in the whole world.
Could this mean death awaits Arya Stark in the Game of Thrones series finale – the very same fate she was, sadly, already expecting.
Game of Thrones concludes Sunday at 9pm on HBO.