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In the Game of Thrones episode The Spoils of War (S07E04), Arya lets everyone know that she is now a talented water-dancer.

I found this scene very weird, when Brienne is training kicking Pod's ass, Arya comes and interrupts the session out of nowhere, only to reveal she's a very good fighter to the point where she can beat Brienne.

Why would she do that?

  • 34
    Why does she have a reason to hide it? – Skooba Aug 15 '17 at 16:59
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    @Bebs Showing it could deter enemies from engaging, but it could also give them time to prepare. In her case, I don't she cares either way. – Skooba Aug 15 '17 at 18:29
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    I thought that was very stupid, too. I think it was just for the benefit of the viewers in case we were to stupid to understand that Arya is now a great fighter :D – NyaNya Aug 15 '17 at 18:53
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    Bit of a nitpick: I don't think she bests Brienne, only fights her to a draw (they both end up with their swords to each others' throats). – MartianInvader Aug 15 '17 at 21:55
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    The way I saw it, this scene, and a few others from that episode depict Arya as having become a bit arrogant – Traceur Aug 16 '17 at 14:21

10 Answers 10

84

The most important part of that conversation would be:

Brienne: I can go and find the master of arms for you, my lady.

Arya: He didn't beat the Hound. You did.

My own interpretation was that given Arya's character, it can be read in a combination of (at least) three ways:

Arya wants to improve

Throughout the books/series she's been continually pushing herself. It started by badgering Ned until he'd let her train with Syrio Forel. Even after leaving King's Landing, and generally going through hell, she kept training by herself.

After she met the Faceless Man, she went through an awful lot of trouble to learn their skills.

In the context of her jumping at every chance to make herself stronger, training with the fighter who beat the Hound (a brutal and effective killer) makes perfect sense.

Brienne killed the Hound

In case anyone did not notice yet: Arya holds grudges. The Hound is a bit of a special case though: while he holds a place on her (s)hit list for killing the butcher's boy, he also was her companion for quite some time.

For both reasons, she'd be pissed someone else killed him. Her attitude to conflicting feelings generally seems to be to tackle them head on.

It's also not unlikely that in her mind, fighters are measured by how they'd stack up against the Hound. Beating Brienne indirectly means she's beating the Hound.

Arya wants to establish herself

In my opinion the weakest of the interpretations, but worth a mention. She's always been the little, useless sister to Sansa. Kicking ass and taking names is one way to point out that little sister ceased to be useless. Bonus points for giving the middle finger to all those ladylike skills she's always despised.

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    Arya knows full well that Brienne did not kill the Hound because Arya talked to the hound after Brienne beat the Hound. In her mind, Arya could well believe that she herself killed the Hound by inaction. Of course neither of them know the Hound is still alive, and your guesses about Arya's view of the Arya - Brienne - Hound power triangle may be correct. But we don't know who she sees as having killed the Hound because she says "beat" not "killed". +1 from me though, because good insights. – Todd Wilcox Aug 15 '17 at 23:06
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    @ToddWilcox You're absolutely right. I wasn't sure how to describe that complex tangle of conflicting feelings Arya must be having about that encounter. It doesn't help either that she herself seems stumped when dealing with any problems that can't be solved by a liberal application of murder. – Kargathia Aug 16 '17 at 7:50
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    @ToddWilcox "Unless there's a maester hiding behind that rock..." The Hound was a dead man talking. Brienne killed him. You don't just survive a ghastly thigh injury like that without magic. He's dead in both Arya's and Brienne's minds. – SethWhite Aug 16 '17 at 14:17
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but first Arya had the possibility to kill the hound. She didn't. If it was since he was already beaten, there had been situations when should could have tried to beat and kill him. When she decided to leave the hound alone, I had the impression sh didn't do it to let him suffer, but since it wasn't feeling right for her doing this anymore. For what ever reason. Also I can't remember when that was, but at some point she told someone that she removed (not crossed) the hound from her list. So I don't think its a conflict for her not having been able to kill him. – Zaibis Aug 18 '17 at 7:20
  • @Zaibis That she didn't try to kill the Hound doesn't mean she's not conflicted about both whether she wanted, and could (earlier, that is). Whether her leaving him to die was mercy or cruelty is equally vague. And she certainly crossed him off the list: she still thinks he died from his wounds. – Kargathia Aug 18 '17 at 10:33
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I interpreted Arya's performance as a deliberate threat directed at Littlefinger. Arya is brash and overconfident, but she's not inobservant. She chose to stage that scene in front of Littlefinger, and she ended the fight by showing off the dagger with which Littlefinger had tried to manipulate her brother. Afterward, she met his gaze with intensity, and for a just a little too long.

To me, it looked like, “I don't trust you and I don't like you. If you betray my family, then I will kill you, and there is no one who could protect you.”

It occurs to me that Arya has underestimated Littlefinger, who is very good at what he does. Arya has become accustomed to looking out for herself and no one else, and her confidence in her own invulnerability does not take into account the ways that Littlefinger could manipulate the people around her to create problems that can't be solved by stabbing them. Nor does it occur to her that by brazenly threatening Littlefinger's physical safety, she is forcing his hand.

The events of the following episode, I think, confirm this interpretation. Arya is relying on her own personal talent to snoop into Littlefinger's plots, but Littlefinger is leading her by the nose.

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    +1. She even brings up Brian being sworn to protect BOTH daughters - in a way he hears. That is so much a layer of her action everyone else seems to have missed. She also demonstrated Littlefinger she CAN kill Brian in a fair fight - that is as brutal a warning as it gets. – TomTom Aug 16 '17 at 11:07
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    She seemed to be really immersed into the fight (she clearly enjoys it) and at the end looks more curiously than intimidatingly at Littlefinger. Imo she wanted to show off and went too far, realising the latter only when she notices Littlefinger. When rewatching I will focus more on your interpretation :) – Philipp Aug 16 '17 at 12:50
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    I do think that Arya greatly enjoyed it -- both the match itself and showing off for Brienne, Littlefinger, and Sansa. I think that Arya feels like she has something to prove, and that the way she's been dealing with Littlefinger is driven in part by her need to prove herself in her old home using the skills she learned in her absence. – Thom Smith Aug 16 '17 at 13:11
  • This was my exact interpretation too. I believe It is reinforced even more after this latest episode, as you point out.. – Bradley Uffner Aug 16 '17 at 18:52
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    I wondered why Arya didn't become someone else while spying on Littlefinger. Did she want him to know that she was spying? Or was she just careless? Being careless can get you killed. – MikeJRamsey56 Aug 19 '17 at 0:11
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Arya is displaying what she knows, before she begins training with Lady Brienne

Before their fight, Arya shows Brienne her dagger, we then cut away to Sansa talking about grain (yawn). When we pan back to Arya and Brienne we see they're talking. They pick up their conversation again at "it's been a while since I trained"

Sansa: If they haven't contributed the right amount of grain to the stores, then I'm afraid they'll have to make due with what they've brought. We can't...
Arya: It's been a while since I trained.
Brienne: I can go and find the master of arms for you, my lady.
Arya: He didn't beat the Hound. You did. I want to train with you.You swore to serve both my mother's daughters, didn't you?
Brienne: Move aside, Podrick.
Springfield Springfield scripts

We are told that Arya wants to train with Brienne, so a sparring seems to be in order. If Arya can work through ways to defeat Brienne (who she considers one of the best fighters) she'll be able to defeat anyone, and possibly even the Mountain, likely the most difficult person to kill on her list.

Arya knows she's not excellent, but her being in the safe confines of her home also allows her to become more cocky, as can be seen in the fight with Brienne. Even when she gets put back into place by being knocked down, she gets back up and fights effectively.

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    and possibly even the Mountain... I think you mean Franken-Mountain. – GibralterTop Aug 17 '17 at 20:35
  • I doubt Arya is planning to 'fight' the [franken]-Mountain. She just plans to kill him. She didn't 'fight' Walder Frey or the entire Frey clan... – Cos Callis Aug 18 '17 at 21:13
  • @CosCallis as I know as well as the next person. Anything could happen with the mountain. If it turns into a fight. She'll be prepared. – Edlothiad Aug 18 '17 at 21:38
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The other answers are excellent but missed two points I think.

  • Point 1:

    Constant training is required to remain at peak fighting ability. What's more training with different people allows more different tricks and styles to be brought into your own ability and for you to learn how to beat them. For example that kick she took in this fight she would most likely be ready for next time.

    That sort of training though is unavoidably public, even if they tried to sneak away somewhere to do it some people would see or hear it. Additionally if people don't know she can fight then in an attack her own allies might respond incorrectly to the situation.

  • Point 2:

    Combat skills are not her true strength. She didn't use them at all to defeat the Freys. Poisons and other skills of assassination along with the face masks - those are the hidden skills that she can and should keep from others. If no-one knows that she can appear as anyone else then no-one would have cause to suspect it.

    By revealing one strength that would most likely be discovered anyway she both helps explain how she survived all those years and generates some respect while at the same time misdirecting people away from her true and hidden strength.

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    +1 for point 2 - if you want to avoid being associated with the silent, faceless murderer (when that happens), it helps to be associated with the ass-kicking brat rather than the quiet, skulking brat. – gowenfawr Aug 16 '17 at 12:23
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From an out-of-universe perspective, I guess it's wish fulfillment for the audience to have a (mock) battle between Brienne and Arya. It's also a nice way of showing how long it's been since Arya left Winterfell and how much she's learnt since. The fight might even be supposed to show that Arya is "worthy" of having Bran's dagger. I interpret the combination of her fighting skills and receiving a weapon made from Valyrian steel as her actually having a chance fighting White Walkers. (Not that this necessarily means she will even survive that far. HBO could just be toying with exactly that expectation.)

However, it also fits her character. While she's cautious in some respects (she is an assassin, after all), Arya also tends to be a bit cocky. Plus, now that she's finally home, this may be the safest she's felt in a while, so a bit of celebratory showing off might not be that surprising.

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    Interesting viewpoints, seems accurate to me. – Edlothiad Aug 15 '17 at 20:37
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Why not? This way people will give her more respect than they normally would a child of her years.

Also, the whole North is mobilizing for war, including women and girls. She would need to train eventually and would have to either pretend to suck or be surprisingly good. This way she can be a military inspiration and an answer to all the whiny girls and chauvinist men who claim a girl can't fight.

Also, Arya's victims traditionally do not know it is she who is killing them. So, it is not much a disadvantage for her enemies to know what she can do. Since, they don't realize she could appear in another form.

5

Take a look at the scene again:

It becomes apparent to me upon review that the show is implying that Arya is not trying to send a message to Littlefinger or anyone else for that matter. Why do I think this? There's a shot where towards the end where Brienne is looking up at Baelish, and Arya sees her looking and turns to look herself. This implies that she didn't know he was there when they started. It's possible this is misdirection on the show's part, but given how heavy handed it's been with other scenes, I'm betting it isn't misdirection here. Additional evidence towards this point:

  • The way she enters: she seems to just be wandering around the castle when she hears Brienne and Podrick training. She didn't meet up with Brienne elsewhere and ask to schedule a training session; it appears instead to be a spur of the moment decision, rather than a calculated demonstration.

  • Arya's back is to the camera in almost every shot from Sansa's perspective, meaning Arya can't see them.

  • Arya doesn't project her voice to be heard by people eavesdropping, and the conversation between them before and after their bout seems... intimate, as though they share secrets.

  • By the time Arya looks up, Sansa has left the walkway, and only Baelish is left. This, to me, would give impetus to her spying on Baelish as she does in the next episode, if she thought he was spying on her.

Some other wild speculations about this scene. I think there are three setups the show runners are going for here:

  • One has already been mentioned, namely that because Arya only sees Baelish at the end, she has reason to spy on him next episode.

  • Two is that Arya is going to have some sort of badass showdown with the White Walkers. The crazy skillz, the Valerian dagger, and, reaching further back, Arya's close connection with Jon, lead me to believe there's a rescue in store there.

  • Three, this scene sets up Littlefinger's plan to separate the sisters. This comes from the reaction Sansa has and the look Littlefinger gives her after Arya says "You swore to serve both my mother's daughters, didn't you?" He knows where Sansa's mind is going, and as we see in the next episode, so does Arya. Sansa involuntarily sees Arya as a threat to her power, and, now, possibly to her physical well-being. Brienne is her ace-in-the-hole physically, and her threat against Baelish. Now Sansa knows Brienne can't protect her from Arya, and, what's worse, Brienne might not even try.

But what about your question as to why she put her cards on the table, even in private? Well, honestly, I think because it's fun. Have you ever been really really good at something, and walked by some people practicing it? Isn't it a wonderful feeling to just go in there and kick the best person's ass? I know I wouldn't be able to resist. Otherwise, I think the rest of the answers make some excellent points, in that she honestly wants to train with the best, and she's not revealing her most dangerous talents.

3

There are a great many good answers here, so I'll keep mine short. My interpretation was simply: Because she likes showing off, especially to those who think she's in need of protection.

Arya has never exactly been subtle that she thinks she's the best at basically everything. She's still bristling a little at Brienne's assumption that she needed protection when Brienne confronted the Hound. This was her way of showing off what a talented fighter she is, and shoving Brienne's view that she is helpless right back at her. In Arya's mind she could have killed the Hound at any time, she wasn't being kept against her will.

2

My take on this is probably she was telling her elder sister (& Littlefinger) to take her seriously.
It's very difficult for Sansa to understand what Arya has went through, considering Sansa had her own issues. Now that she is handling everything at North, Sansa might be thinking Arya is still a kiddo.

Fighting with one of the best knights shows Arya is seriously something.

1

She might not be showing off her skills, but testing them...

While Arya was traveling with the Hound, the Hound found her one-morning training near the water. Arya is challenged by him and it ends with a hard slap to the face and a harsh reality; She could not beat him in a fight if she really tried. Just like any enemy they encountered together, they all lost to the Hound.

Except for Brienne of Tarth.

The fight between Brienne and Arya goes quite elegantly until Brienne needs to resort to brute force by kicking Arya quite hard. Unlike the slap to the face, Arya recovers from this instantly and continues.

In my opinion, this follows the storyline for Arya so far this season. She went to the Frey's and killed them, last time she was there, her whole family was killed. She finds her Wolf and says good bye to her this time instead of chasing her away. She meets Hot Pie and... well nothing special but Hot Pie seems to be great at giving people directions on where to go.

And besides the Waif, she hasn't really fought anyone else. So what better way to test yourself than to fight the someone you know has the capability to kill someone as strong as the Hound.

  • Interesting, thank you. – Bebs V Aug 20 '17 at 15:41

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