Sunday’s pre-Battle of Winterfell episode of Game of Thrones, now known as “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” had plenty of character development as fan favorites gathered around campfires and swapped stories (that only sometimes featured giants) on the eve of their showdown with The Night King and his army of White Walkers. But one Stark had a scene that swept the fanbase off its feet — and showed just how far she’s come since the first season.
**WARNING: Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 2 follow**
Yes, Arya (Maisie Williams) paid off the flirtation/eyeballing with Joe Dempsie’s Baratheon bastard Gendry with a sex scene where she’s just as in charge as when she’s murdering the everloving hell out of people. "We're probably going to die soon. I want to know what it's like before that happens," Arya says, of exploring life's more, well, carnal pleasures.
And when the show's scripts went out, Williams’ friend Sophie Turner (who plays her Thrones sister, Sansa) wanted Williams to know what she was in for immediately.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Turner called up her costar after blazing through the script and told her to jump to the sex scene. “I called Maisie and was like, ‘Have you read it yet?’ ” Turner said. “And she’s like, ‘I’m midway through Episode 1.’ And I’m like: This scene, this page, read it! This is awesome! She was very happy.”
“Sophie said, ‘Whatever you do, you have to skip to this episode, this scene first,’ ” said Williams. “So I just read that and it was practically all I knew about the entire season.” And with that knowledge came doubt. This couldn’t be right, right? “At first, I thought it was a prank,” Williams said. Showrunners D.B Weiss and David Benioff had fooled their actors before with fake scripts, and even the real scripts were under such tight security measures that something like this could feel unreal.
“I was like, ‘Yo, good one.’ And [the showrunners were] like, ‘No, we haven’t done that this year.’” That budding realization meant a lot for Williams, who, for one thing, quipped that she needed to hit the gym. The nudity was up to Williams — the actress remembered the showrunners told her she could “show as much or as little” as she wanted — so she erred more private, noting that she felt it wasn't important for Arya to show off some skin. “This beat isn’t really about that," she explained. "And everybody else has already done it on the show, so…”
The beat is about Arya remembering some of her humanity after becoming a hardened killer over the course of her teen years. “David and Dan were like, ‘It’s the end of the world, what else would you have her do?’” Or, put another way, as Benioff said in the post-episode breakdown, “Everyone faces it in different ways, but they're all facing it and that's why this episode was so important to us because, it's all these characters that we've been following for so long and now they're facing a common enemy.” And that threat, like Arya’s development into a sexual being, carries considerable weight.
It weighed heavy on some fans, who posted plenty of Twitter reactions about seeing their murder-happy royal all grown up:
Game of Thrones returns for the big battle on April 28.