I was rather surprised by the portrayal of Arya in The Broken Man, the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Many of our listeners have also shared similar sentiments, noting that after appearing so self-assured, guarded, and ready to deal with retaliation from the Faceless Ones in her final scenes in Episode 06 she was uncharacteristically jovial and carefree this past week. This carelessness led to her being attacked and brutally stabbed by The Waif, who appears to have mortally wounded her. So what happened to Arya between episodes 06 and 07 to have led to such a sharp change in character? Gleaning from the feedback we’ve received, other reviewers, and my own theorizing, I present three possible scenarios that may explain what is going on.
Scenario 01: It’s a dream
This one seems a bit of a cop-out, and it is rather uncharacteristic of a TV show to not reveal the truth behind a dream sequence within the same episode. However it’s possible that what we are witnessing is Arya’s stressful dreams as she waits in her chambers for The Waif’s attack, clutching onto Needle in total darkness. Outside of her change in character, several clues also allude to this being a fantasy. She’s wearing a rather nice outfit which we’ve never seen her wear before. As far as I know the only clothes she’s had since her arrival at Braavos where some burlap rags and the dress she’s worn to the play. She was carrying a considerable amount of money, enough to guarantee her a room aboard a ship. Again, as far as I know, Arya had no money. Lastly, she didn’t appear to be carrying Needle, which if anything is the one possession we know she has. So this could very well be a construct of her imagination as she waits in her chamber for the inevitable attack to happen.
Scenario 02: It’s Jaqen
Perhaps the person we are seeing is not Arya at all, but rather Jaqen H’ghar, who has taken on Arya’s identity to deceive The Waif. In Episode 06 Jaqen was well aware of The Waif’s desire to kill Arya. This personal vendetta is rather uncharacteristic of The Faceless Ones, so perhaps Jaqen is doing this as some sort of way to test The Waif and her competency as one of The Faceless. Or Jaqen may have some hidden sympathy for Arya which forced him to bend the rules of his code in order to help Arya escape from The Waif’s wrath. Recognizing that Arya will never be able to become “No One,” yet wanting her to live on to fulfill her destiny, he may have placed himself in The Waif’s path as a decoy to temper The Waif’s blood lust and get her off Arya’s trail.
Scenario 03: It’s the actress
My own theory is that the person who was stabbed was not Arya, but rather Bianca, the actress who had hired The Faceless Ones to kill Lady Crane. Let’s go back to the beginning of the episode, to the recap of scenes from Episode 06. One of the scenes we were shown from the Braavos story was Arya calling out Bianca as the one plotting Lady Crane’s murder. To remind us of Arya’s decision the producers didn’t have to show the moment when Arya signals Bianca out, yet they specifically chose to include this. Why?
I believe that after that scene Bianca was fired from her acting troupe. In a town like Braavos word travels fast, so it is likely that Bianca would’ve been black listed by any other theater companies in the area. Finding herself out of work and without friends, Arya may have approached Bianca and manipulated her with a plan to “help” her. Arya tells her that she can start anew in Westeros, and offers to swap faces with her so she can have a new beginning with a new identity. Bianca then proceeds to seek passage to Westeros using the money she didn’t spend on Lady Crane’s assassination, all the while unaware that The Waif is on a mission to kill Arya. The Waif attacks her and she barely escapes, and is last scene bleeding out through the streets of Braavos, probably realizing in that moment that she’s been double-crossed.
I wouldn’t be surprised if during next week’s episode we see Arya stumble into a back alley where she is met by Bianca, who has been carefully monitoring the entire situation from afar. Except that this is not Bianca but rather Arya wearing Bianca’s face. As the real Bianca dies from her wounds, Arya recovers her face and prepares to make a clean getaway out of Braavos having secured passage to Westeros with Bianca’s money.
Arya had no love for Bianca since she sympathized with Lady Crane. She had no money, so she needed to find someone who did, and Bianca had enough to pay the Faceless Ones for an assassination. Bianca seemed rather immature and naive, so it’s not difficult to believe that Arya could’ve manipulated her even after calling her out and getting her fired. And with dreams of stardom and a fresh new start in Westeros, she would’ve confidently pranced around the streets of Braavos flaunting her money and demanding better ship accommodations, all the while oblivious to the pending threat that was hunting Arya down.
Scenario 04: It’s Arya!
Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair recently wrote an article arguing that the answer is a lot simpler than we’ve made it out to be. It’s just Arya, but she is playing the part of acting naive and careless as a way to draw The Waif out and set her up for some kind of trap. She reminds viewers that Arya has literally and metaphorically being playing various parts throughout her entire story arc in Game of Thrones and this is just her latest role.
It does seem like an extremely risky situation for Arya to place herself in. Was she planning on getting hurt as badly as it appears? How could she have predicted that The Waif would go for her gut instead of her throat? Even if she knew that The Waif’s primary target would be her gut, the severity of the wound makes it questionable that she anticipated surviving such a brutal attack. Is Arya counting on some Faceless potion to heal her wounds? Was she planning to have Lady Crane save her?
What if she wasn’t hurt at all? What if the attack was part of the act? Could Arya be wearing some kind of prop-vest, courtesy of Lady Crane, good enough to deceive The Waif with nothing more than a fancy theatrical special effect? Where could Arya have gotten such an idea?
I guess if you can stuff a vest with fake guts, you can do so with real ones too! Or animal parts, or food scraps, or whatever. I’m sure there is plenty of viscera around Braavos that Arya could acquire to make her wound look real. (Credit to the folks over at the Small Council Podcast for suggesting this!)
I’m still hoping that my theory about Bianca turns out to be true. We’ll see how things play out next week, but in the meantime I’d love to hear what you have to say. “Arya” with me on this theory, or not? Share your feedback below!