WARNING: Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3
Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams and Kit Harington opened up about why Arya Stark had to be the one to kill one of the show's most prominent characters. Now in its eighth and final season, Game of Thrones has detailed Arya's tragic journey throughout Westeros ever since she was a child, making her triumphant moment in season 8's third episode all the more satisfying.
In Game of Thrones' eighth season, the battle between the living and the dead has finally reached Winterfell. After the Night King destroyed the Wall last season, leading an army of White Walkers and wights to rage war on the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, a climactic battle was inevitable. And while the first two episodes of season 8 were the calm before the storm, showcasing the intense preparation leading up to the fight, season 3 brought the Great War to an unexpected end. However, even among a countless roster of heroes, there was one notable MVP in the episode: Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). In the final moments of the episode, Arya successfully managed to kill the Night King with a single stab, defeating the White Walkers once and for all.
In an interview with EW, Williams and Harington revealed how surprised they were with how the Night King's death played out. Given Jon Snow's history with the Night King, as well as his significance to the series, Harington was surprised, saying, "I thought it was gonna be me!” However, he added that he was happy with the outcome, saying, "It gives Arya’s training a purpose to have an end goal. It’s much better how she does it the way she does it." Williams agreed, referring back to the moment's various setups in previous seasons, saying:
“When we did the whole bit with Melisandre, I realized the whole scene with [the Red Woman] brings it back to everything I’ve been working for over these past 6 seasons - 4 if you think about it since [Arya] got to the House of Black and White. It all comes down to this one very moment. It’s also unexpected and that’s what this show does. So then I was like, ‘F**k you Jon, I get it.'"
Harington also mentioned the fact that subverting audience expectations is part of the Game of Thrones DNA. He said that even though it might have made sense for Jon and the Night King to have a climactic battle, given their history, "It’s the right thing for the characters. There’s also something about it not being the person you expect. The young lady sticks it to the man.”
The episode's director, Miguel Sapochnik, also explained the importance of misdirection in the episode to pull the rug out from underneath audiences. Jon's sudden inability to reach the Night King, only to have Arya execute the final blow, is "a nice switch that no one sees coming."
In a series in which one of the greatest strengths is delivering on the unexpected, Arya's moment of triumph is especially satisfying - and well deserved. Game of Thrones is ripe with central characters, and even though Daenerys and Jon seem like the likeliest candidates to take the Iron Throne, someone like Arya, whose journey has seen very little relief, deserves the glory. Finishing off the Night King may have been unexpected, but it was one of the most earned kills in the series.
Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO.