Arya Stark has been on a long and terrible journey for most of Game of Thrones, but at the Great Battle of Winterfell, it finally paid off. In an episode full of incredible moments, the best scene in Season 8, Episode 3 belonged to Arya Stark. But how did she get to that point? Five key moments in Game of Thrones history led Arya to the right place at the right time with the right skills. Let’s break down each of those moments, how GoT references each of them in its most recent episode, “The Long Night,” and what it all might mean for the show’s final episodes and Cersei Lannister’s fate.
Warning: Huge spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3 below.
First, in case you somehow forgot what happened in last night’s episode, here’s a brief recap. Arya starts off the battle strong, slicing down wights with the new spear Gendry made, but when she takes a nasty hit to the head, things go from bad to worse.
Arya loses the spear and spends much of the battle sneaking through Winterfell trying to avoid zombies. Eventually, she’s rescued by the Hound and Beric Dondarrion (RIP) before seemingly appearing out of nowhere to kill the Night King at the last possible second with her Valyrian steel dagger, saving Bran and pretty much everyone else in Winterfell.
Ok, so how did that little girl from Season 1 get to this point? Here’s what you need to know.
5. The Origins of Arya’s Valyrian Steel Dagger
Arya killed the Night King by stabbing him with a Valyrian steel dagger right in the same spot that the Children of Men first stabbed him with dragonglass to create the first White Walker. As showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss explained in a behind-the-scenes video, this was apparently the only way to kill the Night King. (As we saw earlier, even dragon fire couldn’t do it.)
Benioff and Weiss also revealed that they’d known Arya would kill the Night King for a few years, they just needed to get the weapon into her hands. That’s why Bran handed her the “Catspaw dagger” back in Season 7.
But the dagger’s importance runs even deeper. It’s the same weapon an assassin used to try to kill Bran back in Season 1, prompting Catelyn Stark to arrest Tyrion Lannister and setting off much of the plot for the next few seasons of Game of Thrones. It’s also a nice nod to Littlefinger, who originally owned the dagger and plotted the entire thing before being executed by Arya at the end of Season 7.
4. The Finishing Blow
Arya manages to outsmart the Night King by quickly tossing her dagger from one hand to the other. It was an epic moment and a big surprise, but it’s also something Game of Thrones had already foreshadowed multiple times.
Back in Season 7, when Arya finally returned to Winterfell, she showed off her new fighting skills in a sparring match with Brienne of Tarth. Arya pulled out a win in that fight by tossing the very same dagger from one hand to the other to catch Brienne off guard, echoing her killing blow against the Night King.
3. A Girl Trained to Fight Snow Zombies
Early on in “The Long Night,” when Arya still had her spear, she used it to protect herself in a move that directly mirrored one from her Season 6 plotline. As Insider notes, the way Arya blocks an incoming wight attack is extremely similar to how she turned the tables on the Waif (that awful woman who trained Arya to be a Faceless Woman).
Arya was actually blind back then, making the maneuver all the more impressive. Still, it’s nice to see that her time spent with the Waif got a nod in the Great Battle of Winterfell.
2. “What do we say to the god of death?”
Arya’s training truly began back in Season 1, when she started her “dancing class” with Syrio Forel. The former First Sword of Braavos gave Arya private sword fighting lessons and shared plenty of wisdom until he met his death at the end of the Kingsguard after Ned Stark’s failed coup.
Before Syrio died, he repeated those words one more time. Then, in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3, Melisandre spoke the very same words to Arya. It was exactly what she needed to hear, even if the words were coming from one of Arya’s least favorite people in Westeros.
1. The Red Witch’s Prophecy, Fulfilled
This isn’t the first time Arya and Melisandre have met face to face. Back in Season 3, the Red Witch showed up to take Gendry and use his Baratheon blood to perform dark magic. That’s what got her on Arya’s list in the first place, but it also provided us with a prophecy for the Stark girl.
Here’s what Melisandre told Arya back in Game of Thrones Season 3:
“I see a darkness in you, and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes, eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.”
As fans noted at the time, this wasn’t a line from the books, which means Benioff and Weiss inserted it for some other reason. Could it be that even back in Season 7, the GoT showrunners were laying the groundwork for Arya to kill the Night King?
“Blue eyes” does seem like a clear reference to the Night King, who not only has frosty blue eyes but uses his powers to turn dead humans (and dragons) into blue-eyed wights.
Of course, that raises one final, important question: Who has green eyes?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.