In previous seasons of “Game of Thrones,” it’s been easy to consider Arya Stark a favorite character on the show. She’s got spunk, she’s got backbone, and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind or pick up a sword to defend her family.
But something changed in Arya in Season 3. After she saw the Starks being slaughtered at the Twins and realized her mother and brother had been betrayed by Walder Frey and murdered, she closed off. She murdered Frey soldiers in cold blood in the Season 3 finale — a move which shocked even her traveling companion, the Hound.
In Season 4, that darkness in Arya continues to grow. According to the actress who portrays her, Maisie Williams, Arya is “spiraling” after the events of Season 3, and her arc won’t have happy results.
“She gets herself into a lot of sticky situations, but they’re really good situations for her. Old Arya would be nervous about it and wouldn’t push things as far as new Arya pushes them,” Williams tells Zap2it. “She doesn’t keep her mouth shut. She says a lot of things that old Arya wouldn’t. You thought Arya was kind of outgoing and blunt, but the new Arya is just a lot less aware of that, almost, and isn’t trying to be cheeky; [she] just purely doesn’t care. I think that’s the one thing to take away from Arya this year: She feels nothing. She’s not happy, she’s not sad, she’s not grieving, she’s not vengeful. She’s just nothing.”
She’s also given up on trying to reunite with her family. One of Arya’s main goals after she escaped King’s Landing following the death of her father, Ned Stark, was to find Catelyn and Robb, or make it to the Wall with her half-brother Jon Snow. But she’s done looking out for the rest of her family.
“She’s completely given up on [reuniting with her family], and it almost feels like they’ve given up on her because she’s like, where were they?” Williams says. “She’s angry. She feels like she’s the only one who’s been trying. Where’s the search party looking out for her? Why did no one recognize her? She’s angry at the fact that she’s trying so hard — she was angry at the fact that she was trying so hard — and she can’t see any of it coming back.
“Where’s Jon? Why has he not come back? And obviously no one knows [where she is], and there’s reasons for that, but in her head [she’s thinking] ‘You’re all being really, really selfish and I’m the only one, so now I’ve given up. Good luck, have fun, hope you don’t die.’ That’s literally it. And she’s like, I won’t. I know I can do this, because look how far I’ve come already without you guys. Whereas you, I don’t know you anymore. I tried to help you. I tried to get back with you, but [shrugs].”
That mindset might come as a shock to fans who considered Arya one of the characters on “Game of Thrones” they could continually root for. But Williams wants people to start seeing Arya for who she really is in Season 4.
“I don’t want people to like her anymore, almost. That sounds really, really bad,” Williams admits. “I want people to realize that actually she’s not the same anymore. You can’t root for her forever, because she’s not there to be your favorite character. That’s not what she’s there for. She’s real. People go down bad paths and they make bad decisions, but it’s always justified in their head. I want the audience to differentiate that and not just be like, ‘Oh, it’s Arya, we love her.’ Because actually look at what Arya’s doing. She’s being eaten away from the inside out, and she’s not stopping it.”
Williams compares Arya’s downward spiral to that of a person who suddenly finds herself a drug addict without realizing the path she was on. “Arya’s doing everything for the right reasons,” Williams says. “She doesn’t intend to be bad at all, but then killing anyone is bad. … No one is born evil, it’s just the choices that they make. And to you, they may seem like a bad thing to do — this is Maisie speaking now, not Arya — so she doesn’t mean to become this bad person, this evil character. She’s just doing what she has to do, almost, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”
So could Arya one day become a villainous character on “Game of Thrones”? Williams thinks so.
“Game of Thrones” Season 4 premieres at 9 p.m. ET/PT April 6 on HBO.