“That’s not you.”
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) tosses those words into the wind, watching as her long-lost direwolf disappears once more into the distance. It’s a confusing sentiment, albeit one that echoes something Arya said earlier in the series, as Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss rightly point out in a behind-the-episode featurette.
“We last saw Nymeria when Arya made her run away because she wanted to save Nymeria’s life,” says Benioff. “She knew Cersei was going to kill her if she found her, and when she finally finds Nymeria again — or Nymeria finds her — she of course wants Nymeria to come back home with her and be her loyal companion again. But Nymeria’s found her own life.”
And here’s why viewers should be worried about her as ‘Thrones’ moves forward.
“‘That’s not you’ is a direct reference to what Arya herself said to her father when her father painted this picture for her of the life she could have as the lady of a castle and marrying some lord and wearing a nice frilly dress,” adds Weiss; in the scene he references, Arya responded to Ned’s pitch: “That’s not me.” Weiss continues: “Arya’s not domesticated. It makes total sense the wolf wouldn’t be either. Once the wolf walks away, at first she’s heartbroken to have come this close, but then she realizes the wolf is doing exactly what she would do if she was that wolf.”
In many ways, Arya is already following in Nymeria’s footsteps. Like the direwolf, Arya has been on the run since the first season of the show. In her travels, she’s gathered her own collection of powerful assets, albeit in a much lonelier capacity than Nymeria and her pack. Just as Nymeria turns her back on Arya, Arya turned her back on her own roots as a Stark. She spent two seasons pretending to be “no one,” incapable of escaping the fact that she was a very bitter and broken someone. When she finally reclaimed her name, Arya’s first course of action was to enact violent vengeance. If she hadn’t run into Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), Arya would have kept riding south toward King’s Landing to assassinate the queen. There’s a detached killer quality about Arya when she speaks with Hot Pie in the inn, one that only disappears once she learns about her brother becoming King in the North. For the first time in years, Arya’s family isn’t a thing to be avenged; it’s a thing she can reclaim.
But can she return home again, truly? If the season premiere’s Ed Sheeran scene (which remains a very odd thing to consider, more than a week later) made it clear that not all Lannister loyalists were worthy of Arya’s brutal wrath, then this week’s Nymeria scene suggests Arya has already reached a point of no return. Even if she makes it back to Winterfell, is there a version of this story where Arya can get past her history of violence and find some version of happiness?
Two other reasons why Arya’s Nymeria reunion raises some alarms. It’s a reminder that Arya is one of only two Starks who still have direwolves in the mix. Removing Jon (Kit Harington) and Ghost from the equation and focusing squarely on Ned and Catelyn’s biological children, there’s something poetic about the only Stark sibling with a direwolf still standing somehow not making it through the series.
The other reason: something Sophie Turner told Hollywood Insight in a recent interview. Both Turner and Maisie Williams are parts of the X-Men film universe, as Jean Grey in the proper X-Men movies and Wolfsbane in the forthcoming New Mutants, respectively. Here’s what Turner said about existing in another famous franchise alongside Williams: “We just kind of want a crossover. Because if we’re not going to get it in Game of Thrones, we want it in X-Men.”
A few options there: (1) Turner is making idle talk about the future of the show, since she can’t give away spoilers; (2) Turner accidentally slipped up and revealed that Sansa and Arya won’t meet again; or (3) Turner is masterfully trolling yours truly and getting my nerves worked up over nothing. No harm, no foul if it’s options one or three. But if we’re looking at door number two, then Arya’s journey back North could be a very short-lived one indeed.