WARNING: Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3.
The Night King is dead, thanks to the latest episode of Game of Thrones: does that mean Arya Stark is the reborn Azor Ahai. The Battle of Winterfell was the epic bloodbath that fans predicted, with multiple major deaths, a mid-air dragon battle, and of course, the end of the Night King.
After being lured into the Godswood at Winterfell by Bran, it seemed that the Night King was going to win... before Arya leapt in, managing to stab him, destroying every White Walker, wight, and even undead Viserion in a single instant.
Of course, since the start of Game of Thrones (and, going further back, A Song of Ice & Fire), it has been prophesized that the one to kill the Night King would be the reincarnated Azor Ahai. Does "The Long Night" make Arya Stark this legendary figure? Melisandre has been (incorrectly) guessing that all kinds of people are Azor Ahai from the start: Stannis Baratheon, Jon Snow, Danaerys Targaryen... but even the Red Woman couldn't have predicted that Arya would be the one to take the Night King down.
Arya Stark Doesn't Fit The Azor Ahai Prophecy (Unless You Twist It)
The prophecy (in Game of Thrones) includes several key elements that would point to who would become the reborn Azor Ahai - but these have been so vague that even Melisandre has been unsure about who, exactly, is the Prince that was Promised. The basics of the prophecy are that "Darkness will fall heavy on the world. Stars will bleed. The cold breath of winter will freeze the seas, and the dead shall rise in the North. In the ancient books, it is written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire. And that sword will be the Lightbringer." Azor Ahai is also said to have been born from "salt and smoke", and to "wake dragons from stone".
Arya, despite being the one to kill the Night King, doesn't actually fit with much of this prophecy, or what is known of Azor Ahai. She was not born around salt and smoke, as she was born in Winterfell; salt and smoke is usually assumed to mean Dragonstone or, at the very least, by the sea. She has not woken any dragons from stone, whether that is meant literally (the way that Daenerys woke hers from the stone dragons eggs), or metaphorically (such as by "waking" Jon to his true heritage as a Targaryen/Dragon). Arya also has no burning sword, although plenty of other characters do (not that it helped the Dothraki). She didn't even kill the Night King with an actual sword, but with a Valyrian dagger; she certainly didn't forge a sword into Lightbringer by using it to kill the one she loved most; although Arya has killed her fair share of people (and then some), she has yet to kill anyone that she deeply cares about, and the Valyrian dagger has only been used by her to kill Littlefinger so far.
However, some have argued that Arya fits the prophecy in other ways. That she woke the metaphorical dragon within herself, or that her training with the Faceless men could be interpreted as her rebirth. And while she didn't pull the dagger she used from the fire, she did have Gendry forge her a new weapon. And while the dagger only killed Baelish, it sparked the War of the Five Kings that led to the death of her mother, father and two brothers. And, of course, Arya certainly fits that one most important element of the Azor Ahai prophecy: by killing the Night King.
Has Game Of Thrones Cut Azor Ahai?
Given how far the prophecy must be stretched in order to make Arya fit as Azor Ahai, a more likely scenario is that Arya is not the Prince (or Princess) that was Promised, but that Game of Thrones decided to cut the character of Azor Ahai completely. It wouldn't be the first time that the HBO interpretation of A Song Of Ice And Fire has left out elements from the books, after all. From small moments to entire characters (such as Lady Stoneheart), the live-action adaptation is choosing to ignore fairly sizeable chunks of A Song Of Ice And Fire lore.
Melisandre may have been convinced that Azor Ahai would return and save them all, but there's no way to know that Arya's actions actually make her Azor Ahai and not just a very talented assassin who was able to do what no one else could. Given that she doesn't actually fit the prophecy in any major meaningful way (unless that prophecy is stretched to its limits), and that Melisandre and Beric (the two main characters connected to the Lord of Light) are now both dead, it seems that this is the last that will be heard of Azor Ahai.
Arya Stark As Azor Ahai Proves Prophecies Don't Matter In Game of Thrones
Whether Arya is technically Azor Ahai or not is not the important issue, though. What fans can take away from Arya's kill (other than her sheer badassery, of course) is that as much stock as is put in prophecy, they don't actually trump reality. Game of Thrones is packed with prophecy, and fans have had a field day trying to interpret how those will affect the plot, but perhaps this is the first sign that prophecy in Westeros is not actually going to have that much of an effect on how things end.
According to the prophecy of the valonqar, Cersei will die, having the life choked out of her by a "little sibling", which has led to a huge amount of speculation. However, it's worth noting that this part of her fortune telling was actually left out of the show, and if Azor Ahai could be such a shocking departure from expectations, fans can't expect Cersei to meet her end the way that Maggy the Frog foretold either. Daenerys, too, was told that she would never again have children, and she has come up against visions and prophecy multiple times. However, these may also not pan out.
The assumption that prophecy is accurate in the world of Game of Thrones seems like it may turn out to be a fallacious one, and that Melisandre's obsession with finding the Prince that was Promised (and her presumed failure to do so), is more of a commentary on the nature of prophecy than an actual hint about what is going to happen.
At the end of the day, it doesn't particularly matter if fans can officially title Arya Stark as Azor Ahai - because whether she is a legend reborn or not, she did what she needed to do. She saved the day, not because it was her bloodline, her heritage, or her destiny, but because she trained to do so and then followed through. It was not fate that led her to stab the Night King and save Westeros, it was her own bravery, training, and determination. In terms of "breaking the wheel" and challenging the idea that people must be who they are "destined" to be courtesy of royal lineage (or anything else), Arya's latest kill is more satisfying than any appearance of a "true" Azor Ahai could have been. Game of Thrones is all about twists - and there couldn't have been a better twist than to spend seven seasons setting fans up for a prophetic figure who never appears.
Game of Thrones continues Sundays at 9pm on HBO.