A lot of Game of Thrones characters when through big changes in the season-four finale, including Arya Stark.
Last night's finale, "The Children," set many characters on new paths. Tyrion was smuggled out of King's Landing by Varys and his brother Jaime (but not before he got a little retribution), The Wall got reinforced by Stannis, Bran learned more about his still-mysterious destiny, and Arya left a dying Hound and hopped a boat to Braavos, using the token Jaqen H'ghar gave her back in season two. After four seasons of struggling, much of the time under the control of someone else, Arya is finally, truly on her own, as illustrated by the final shot of the season that saw her looking out over the open water on her way to the Free Cities.
For Maisie Williams, who's played the character to increasing acclaim for the last four years, Arya's decision to leave Westeros was a sign that she's no longer worried about her mission of revenge, or finding her seemingly doomed family. It was simply about starting over.
"Particularly in this last season, we've seen a massive change in Arya. The old Arya that we used to know was slowly being chipped away, so I feel like this is a breath of fresh air," Williams told Vulture. "She's not trying to control her future anymore. She's just letting go of everything that she used to know, and she's starting fresh."
Before she left the Seven Kingdoms, Arya also seemingly got to cross a name off her infamous death list when she left The Hound (Rory McCann) bleeding and broken up against a rock, refusing to put him out of his misery as he faced a certain, painful death. It was one of Arya's most brutal moments yet, but for Williams it was for more complicated that just making a choice between giving her captor a quick death and letting him suffer.
"They're both kind of dangerous people, and they both have strengths and weaknesses that the other doesn't, and it makes it interesting, because they could try to kill each other," Williams said. "Although now, can she really bring herself to kill him? And finish it? I think in her head, it's not a spiteful thing. It's not like, 'I'm going to leave you here to die.' I think there's so much more going on in her head at that point than, 'Okay, I'm going to kill you,' or 'I'm not going to kill you.' It's almost what he wants, so she's not going to give it to him."
For much of the season, as The Hound and Arya journeyed to the Eyrie, it seemed that Arya might finally be reunited with her older sister, Sansa. The two haven't seen each other since the end of season one, and now it seems like they might never see each other again. That's something Williams has come to expect from the series: Stark reunions don't happen.
"But whenever I'm reading the scripts, and whenever there's anything like that, where one of the Starks is about to meet up with one of the other Starks, I just give up on it immediately, because I know that it's never, ever, ever, ever going to happen," she said. "You don't want to get your hopes up."
Fans of the books already know the things seemingly in store for Arya on the other side of the Narrow Sea, but for now Williams seems content to leave her enjoying the ocean air on the bow of that ship. At least until season five, Arya Stark is free.