Been meaning to write this one for a while now, but the first episode of season 7 really confirmed all my major theories about the story arc.
Let’s begin, like season 7, with Arya. The interesting thing about Arya’s mass-assassination of the Freys is she says “Tell them Winter came for them.” This gives it away. Arya, by taking a face of the dead to haunt the living, mimics the tactics of the Night King. Like the Night King, her vengeance can be all-reaching. And the faceless men are much like the zombie hordes – nameless, faceless, with one singular purpose. This is how the story segues from the battle among the kingdoms to the battle with the Night King. This may also have to do with anything the Faceless Men do in the Stronghold. Surely they must research the origins of their magic and how they can find deliverance from the Night King. But enough about that.
I also figured Arya would be the one to assassinate Cersei. But I’m surprised nobody else has mentioned my angle, that taking the face of Walter Frey is a foreshadowing of how she’ll do it. Cersei’s madness is onsetting, as her conversation with Jaime attests. She will surely suspect he is to repeat history and be King(Queen)slayer yet again, and off him before he gets a chance. Arya will then use his face to haunt her, claiming he’s back from the dead. This weakness for Jaime and what she’s done will let Arya kill her easily.
But not without massive guilt. You know, the kind that will have the Night King come straight for her.
Notice in the “next episode” teaser, Arya encounters her dire wolf again. She’s the only Stark who really still needs her Dire Wolf, which is a sort of Patronus for the children to help see them through their innocent years. Contrast it with Sansa’s dire wolf, which gets offed pretty quickly – forcing her to grow up quickly and face the reality of grownup politics.
Arya has been an innocent child trapped in the machinations of grownups her whole life. She thought she met a nice guy in Jaquen H’Ghar, but he’s really just an agent for the Iron Bank. Her assassination of Cersei was something planned by the Bank, because the Lannisters couldn’t pay their debts. Once the assassination is complete she is of new use to them and her downward spiral will be quick.
Some suggest she might warg into her Dire Wolf to avoid being taken by the Night King. I find this a fitting bittersweet ending – her eternal innocence saved by melding with the spirit of the wild.
Now – how will the war play out? The Iron Bank and Cersei gives a good clue into how the Kingdoms will spar. The secret to the crown is nobody has a monopoly on it. Each kingdom has a certain dimension of power and stake in it:
Braavos: purse (Iron Bank)
Ironborn: navy (ironborn fleet)
Mereen: army (unsullied)
Dorn: fertility (Elia Martell)
If you take a closer look at the seven aspects of the Septem, you will probably be able to chart a simple 1-1 ratio between these dimensions. The Septem therefore becomes the spiritual recording of this ancient connection between the kingdoms. Cersei’s destruction of the Septem destroys the old shadow of this relationship, and paves the way for it to be rebuilt anew.
So that’s how they will play out, and they will only find a resolution when each kingdom finds its proper role restored in the crown, whoever manages it.
Now, as to Jon Snow. We know he’s special. I think he’s Azor Ahai. If you remember, Aegon Targaryen had two sister wives. Jon Snow has two living half sisters – Sansa Stark and Danerys Targaryen. Ice and Fire. He will ride the dragons with them against the Night King.
Of course, Snow will also need a badass flaming Valyrian sword. He will get it – through the willing sacrifice of the Red Priestess. She will find redemption for her life of error only by becoming the fiery spirit of the sword.
I always found Sansa’s development to be beautifully understated. As is the nature of ice. We already see her cold calculating command in this first episode. She knows exactly what Baelish wants and knows how to control him with it. Baelish, the man nobody else trusts. She is the perfect counterpart to Danerys’s fiery temperament.
More in a bit.