How Arya Stark Became the Undisputed Hero of 'Game of Thrones'

arya stark azor ahai
Helen Sloan/HBO
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Ayra Stark has officially become the undisputed hero of Game of Thrones. When Bran needs protection from the Night King at the Battle of Winterfell, it isn't Theon who defeats him, though the Greyjoy dies nobly in the process. Nor is it Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen with their dragons. Instead it's Arya who delivers the final blow, with the Catspaw Dagger no less. In an episode that felt like an endless series of setbacks, it's Arya's move that finishes the cycle of destruction.

In the few moments before she arrives, everything seems hopeless. Bran and the Night King are face to face, nothing standing between them. Then out of nowhere she leaps into frame. For a brief second, he grabs hold of her throat, but her arms are free and she catches the knife before it drops and plunges it into his stomach. Immediately, his whole army is defeated. Seems like they should've been going after the Night King the whole time.

Aside from being obviously friggin' awesome -- one of the few moments of genuine excitement in a somewhat messy episode -- and, you know, crucial to the survival of mankind, Arya's actions bring a number of moments in her storyline full circle. First off: the Catspaw Dagger. In the very second episode of the entire show, this weapon, originally belonging to Littlefinger, was used by an assassin to try and murder Bran. Eventually, Littlefinger passes it on to Bran, who bestows it upon his sister, probably knowing its import. One person who certainly had some sense of what role it was going to play? Samwell Tarly, who came across an illustration of it in a text about the last fight with the White Walkers.

arya stark catspaw dagger
Helen Sloan/HBO

"We knew it had to be Valyrian steel in the exact spot where the Child of the Forest put the dragonglass blade to create the Night King, and that weapon has been one of the totemic pieces for us," showrunner David Benioff said in the post-episode "Game Revealed" segment. "And ultimately we've known for a long long time that was going to end the Night King."

There's a lot of lore associated with this piece of Valyrian steel, but perhaps what's most poetic in the context of the series is the simple fact that the blade that was once used to try and put an end to Bran's life now saves not only him, but the entire world.

Then there's the matter of Melisandre. When Arya first encountered the Red Woman, the latter was taking Gendry away to suck up his blood. Though Arya was irate, Melisandre had some words for her. She grabbed the little Stark's face and said, "I see a darkness in you, and in that darkness eyes staring back at me: Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you'll shut forever. We will meet again."

And indeed they did. In the midst of the battle -- just after Beric has perished -- Melisandre emerges and sees Arya and The Hound. The two women acknowledge that they know one another. "You said I would shut many eyes for ever," Arya says. "You were right about that too." To which Melisandre responds: "Brown eyes, green eyes... and blue eyes." She mirrors her original statement from way back, but emphasizes the "blue." In other words, she tells Arya: You're going to kill a bunch of White Walkers. However, it's not just that Arya will kill some of the merciless villains. Instead, she'll kill all of them.

Melisandre had long been touting the Azor Ahai prophecy, which stated that "only the prince who was promised can bring the dawn" during the Long Night. For years, the likely candidate for said prince was likely Daenerys or Jon. But now Arya emerges as a strong contender. "Prince" in Valyrian could mean man or woman, for one thing, and Arya has constantly disguised herself across genders and identities. She has been hidden as a boy and lived as a girl with no name. But now she's Ayra Stark, killer of the Night King. This seems like a pretty clear statement, especially combined with Melisandre's death, that Arya is the fulfillment of the Azor Ahai prophecy, though there are still some corners of the internet that disagree. 

Of course, there are still lingering questions. For one: How did Arya manage to get to the godswood? There was a moment, lost to many viewers during the heat of battle, when she dashes out of the room in which she, The Hound, and Melisandre are hiding. That still leaves a long way to go to get to Bran in time, but Game of Thrones is not a show known for its stringent adherence to laws of time and geography (see: the ability of characters to travel all over Westeros in no time at all during Season 7).

More importantly, what comes next? The last two episodes have belonged to Maisie Williams' character. First, we see Arya evolve emotionally in her surprising sex scene with Gendry, and then her years training to become an expert assassin made her the perfect person to stop an icy apocalypse. With Cersei and her army preparing for the remnants of the living, nothing is off the table. Maybe Arya Stark's next stop is the Iron Throne.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.