Welcome, friends, to our final round of Game of Thrones analysis before our watch ends! If you’re new to these posts, each week I’ll break down a different moment that I loved in that week’s episode. However, the comments are open for you to talk about any and all aspects of the episode that you loved. There are always more moments I want to discuss, and I’m usually just looking for one magical commenter to give me an opening! I can’t wait to take one last journey through Westeros with all of you, so join in the fun whenever and however you can!
The Moment: Arya Reunites with Gendry
Setting the Scene: After Gendry arrives in Winterfell, Arya visits him to ask him to make her a new weapon.
Why It’s Awesome: “Winterfell” was an episode filled with reunions—Tyrion and Sansa, Jon and Bran, Jon and Sam—but many of the most emotional and compelling centered on Arya. As we all expected, her embrace with Jon was a moment of joy and love that was worth all the years we spent waiting for it, and her scene with the Hound was filled with the complex mixture of antagonism and respect that made their relationship one of the show’s most interesting. However, the moment I’ve found myself rewatching the most was the surprisingly sweet—and dare I say, flirtatious—reunion between Arya and Gendry.
I’ll admit it—part of me loves this scene purely because it put a ship I thought was long dead back into circulation. (I shipped these characters from early on in my reading of A Song of Ice and Fire and still think that Ned and Robert’s discussion about the marriage of their daughter and son was actually foreshadowing Arya and Gendry as a romantic pair.) With the passage of time and plenty of growing up on Maisie Williams’s part, it now feels okay for me to say that there was some real sexual tension in this scene that was fun to see. (Sparks were flying for reasons beyond the smithing, if you know what I mean.) It was playful and coy, and those are unexpected tones for Game of Thrones, especially for a scene featuring Arya.
Characters don’t get to smile a lot on Game of Thrones, so when a genuinely happy moment happens, it deserves to be treasured. And what I’ll remember most about Arya seeing Gendry again after so many years and so many changes was seeing her smile. Even in the scene with Jon, there was a hesitancy and a tension there—after the initial relief and emotional payoff of all these years of waiting, viewers were left with a sense that Jon, once again, knows nothing. He has no idea what kind of killer his sister has become and has no idea how strongly she’s aligned herself with Sansa, adding a layer of discomfort to their final hug. In contrast, there was nothing ambiguous about Arya’s demeanor with Gendry. She’s never going to be a cheerful character or even a relatively light one, but this was the most consistently at ease we’ve seen her since the show’s early days. And in showing this side of her, it made her feel like a more well-rounded character.
And that’s what made it so important. Arya is a young woman—she’s not a killing machine. And sometimes it feels like the show forgets that she is a person and that people have different dimensions and desires and emotions beyond their primary motivating factor (in her case, revenge). But in this scene, Arya got to behave in many ways like a young woman who hasn’t seen the death, destruction, violence, and trauma that have plagued her since the start of the show. She laughed and grinned and bantered and flirted with a young man in the same way she might have had her life not been upended by her father’s death all those years ago. And that’s all I have ever wanted for this character—for her to have a normal moment of happiness, even if it’s only for a stolen moment in the darkness of the coming winter.
I loved the way Joe Dempsie played Gendry’s realization that the girl he left behind had grown into a woman—and a woman he’s found himself attracted to. As his initial—almost comedic—tongue-tied reaction gave way to that fun place between warmth and heat, I felt like I was watching two partners remember the steps to a dance they thought they’d never do again—while also discovering some new moves along the way.
Although I’m a sucker for any time a man tells a woman “As you wish” (and we all know the writers are genre-savvy enough to know what that line means), my favorite part of the whole scene was Arya literally twirling around to give him one last look as he stood staring at her, completely transfixed. This is Arya discovering a whole new kind of power and loving it and Gendry loving it too. It’s Arya getting to have a moment of being desired for something beyond her skills as an assassin and relishing in it. And it’s the show giving its characters a moment of pure, uncomplicated, relatively innocent fun before tragedy strikes.
Game of Thrones is at its best when it allows its characters to have room to breathe and be human beings in between all the battles and killings, and this scene is a perfect example of that. It added a fun new dimension to Arya’s character while upping the emotional stakes of the battle to come because both Gendry and Arya now have something else to lose in it—the hope of what might be if they acted on those sparks between them.
Honorable Mentions: Sansa and Tyrion reunite, Arya and Jon hug, Sam tells Jon the truth, Jaime sees Bran across the Winterfell courtyard