Littlefinger is one of the most cunning and dangerous players in all of Game of Thrones, and the actor behind the conniving Petyr Baelish just confirmed a longstanding fan theory that shows just how unpredictable he is. According to Aidan Gillen, Littlefinger did indeed recognize an on-the-run Arya Stark when the two briefly crossed paths in an especially tense moment from Season 2. He just didn’t do anything about it.
During the Season 2 episode “The Old Gods and the New,” Arya is serving as Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer at Harrenhal, hoping that her captor doesn’t recognize who she really is. Arya manages to keep her true identity a secret, but the ruse almost falls apart when Littlefinger visits, since he, unlike Tywin, has met Arya before and would likely recognize her. Of course, he might not be looking for her, since there’s no reason to expect that she’d turn up here of all places. Throughout the incredibly tense scene, as Arya serves Littlefinger and Tywin their wine, it’s unclear if Littlefinger recognizes her and is choosing not to say anything, or if he didn’t make the connection.
“It was unclear if he recognized her or not, but I have my own thoughts on that,” Gillen told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published on Wednesday. “Yes, I did recognize her — I just didn’t say anything or do anything about it.”
This certainly takes some of the mystery out of the scene, but it raises a whole bunch of other questions. If Littlefinger did recognize Arya, why the hell didn’t he do anything? Even if he didn’t want to bring it up just then, because he didn’t want to let Tywin know what he had (Littlefinger likes to play every side), why wouldn’t he follow up on the missing Stark child? She is, after all, one of the keys to the North. Why wouldn’t Littlefinger use this knowledge to his advantage, rather than letter her just do whatever?
As Gillen told EW, though, those are just his thoughts. The script and future plot of the show don’t seem to support his interpretation. However, if Gillen was acting as though his character recognized Arya while they were filming the scene, it would help explain why that episode is so intense. While we’re watching, we don’t know if Littlefinger recognizes her or not. It might not hold up as a canon theory, but it made for a tension-filled bit of television in the moment.
Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres on July 16, which, holy crap, is kinda soon.