Arya Stark is in Braavos training to become a Faceless Assassin at the House of Black and White, but will she ever truly become No One?
We first met Arya Stark in the Game of Thrones pilot. She was just a young girl surrounded by her family, having never left her family home of Winterfell. When she put down her sewing and made a bull’s-eye with a bow and arrow, beating her brother to the punch, she showed us how little she wanted the life of a princess Sansa so desperately dreamed of. In fact the two have been a study in opposites for the entire series, up into the present. Spoilers through Season 5 follow.
Arya even named the little sword Jon gave her Needle because of how much she doesn’t like sewing. Arya’s story, like those of all the Starks, is a story of loss. She loses her friend, the butcher’s boy; Syrio Forel, her “dancing” master; her father, Ned; Yoren, the man of the Night’s Watch who tried to get her to Winterfell; as far as she is aware, Gendry, Bran, and Rickon; Robb and Catelyn at the Red Wedding; Aunt Lysa (not that she ever met her); and the Hound, who was a sort-o- friend.
Arya is strong and despite all this remains standing, unbroken, battle-hardened. Arya is already a killer, but will she really become a Faceless Assassin?
Arguments FOR Arya Becoming a Faceless Assassin
Arya left Westeros to become a Faceless Assassin. She left the remains of her family and the continent of her birth to pursue her goal. That shows determination. Arya has always been determined and if she puts her mind to it there isn’t much she can’t do. She will force herself to get through the training. She will become a Faceless Assassin. No matter how many times they whack her with that stick during the lying game.
In Season 5, we saw her getting better at the game of lies. She brought the gift of death to someone who came to the House of Black and White and asked for it. Jaqen H’ghar set her on an assignment to kill someone. She was honing her stalking skills, and could easily have killed the money-lender had she not been distracted by another target.
Technically speaking, Arya already is a Faceless Assassin. She used a mask from the Hall of Faces in the House of Black and White and killed someone with it. She might not be an approved Faceless Assassin, she might not have killed the person she was supposed to, but she changed her face to get close to Ser Meryn Trant and then brutally killed him. And let’s be honest, he deserved it and you were totally cool with it.
We know Arya will be on an assignment to kill someone for the House of Black and White in Season 6. This is because of the casting of a theatre troupe, which appears in a sample chapter from the as yet unpublished The Winds of Winter.
Arguments AGAINST Arya Becoming a Faceless Assassin
Arya has trained with Syrio Forel, the first sword of Braavos. She learned from the Hound, one of the strongest and best fighters in the Seven Kingdoms. Now she is learning from the Faceless Man and the man with Jaqen H’ghar’s face. This is just the next step for her. She is learning to become a dangerous killer, and this is yet another technique for her arsenal.
Arya was planning to go to Jon Snow on the Wall but the ship captain wouldn’t take her there. Her decision to go to Braavos was made on the spur of the moment and she would just as easily have stayed in Westeros and gone somewhere else if the captain was willing to take her. How great can her dedication be to becoming No One?
Arya is a very strong person. No matter how hard she tries she will NOT lose her sense of self. She may even fool herself into thinking she has. She may be able to convincingly pretend she has for those in the House of Black and White, but she will never truly become No One. Arya will always be using this as a means to kill those who hurt the ones she loves.
Her philosophical upbringing is at odds with the philosophy of the House of Black and White. Arya’s first teacher in the art of death, Syrio, said, “What do we say to the god of death? Not today.” Whereas the House of Black and White is a temple to the god of death. Jaqen even tells Arya they don’t believe in any gods but death, which they serve. That’s completely opposed to Syrio’s teaching to reject death with every fiber of her being.
The Starks are marked by a strong belief in justice. Arya was raised with this belief, and feels that those who have done wrong must pay for it. This is why she wants to kill those people who have wronged her. It is about fairness, about justice in the unjust world of Westeros. The Faceless Assassins accept payment to kill people. They some times kill people who deserve it, who they apparently chance upon while selling oysters in Braavos. But for the most part, the more death, the better. Little matter where the sacrifice comes from. The teachings of the House of Black and White are in direct conflict everything she has been taught before.
Where does that leave Arya?
After everyone on Arya’s list is dead, will Arya still wish to be a Faceless Assassin? We’re guessing no. The scene from season 5 where Arya threw away everything but her sword was incredibly telling. All her other effects were passing – some clothes, some coins. But her sword is emblematic of her soul, her true self, which is connected to her family and to Westeros. It’s hiding for the time being, but it’s not gone. Jon is coming back. Bran and Rickon are still alive last we checked. Sansa probably survived the jump from the walls of Winterfell (because it would be incredibly stupid if she didn’t). And we could have an appearance from zombie mommy.
Arya still has a family, even if it looks different than it did when she first became lost after Ned’s beheading. And her actions to date tell us that they’re where her heart really is.
Arya spent a season training with Syrio, and a season and a half with the Hound. She has already spent a season with the Faceless Men. By the end of Season 6 it will be time for her to move on again.