WARNING: Heavy Game of Thrones spoilers will be found below.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already watched the third episode of Game of Thrones season eight, “The Long Night.” But let’s just confirm it because it does seem a bit crazy: Arya Stark is indeed the one who kills the Night King, defeating him with a Valyrian steel dagger right in the heart.
Some fans of the show and books are only going to get angrier as the adrenaline and excitement from last night’s episode wears off, and the simple efficiency of Arya’s kill sinks in. It wasn’t an ancient prophecy or secret Targaryen that ended the Long Night. The blade wasn’t some one-of-a-kind relic forged through the heart of a loved one. It was just good enough to get the job done, and Arya just stuck the Night King with “the pointy end.” And the aid of all that Faceless Men training, of course.
Showrunner David Benioff spoke about the decision to have Arya play this critical role during the Inside The Episode segment that proceeded “The Long Night” episode.
“I think it’s probably 3 years now or something, we’ve known that it was going to be Arya who delivers that fatal blow,” he said. “We knew it had to be Valyrian Steel to the exact spot where the Child of the Forest put the dragonglass blade to create the Night King, and he is un-created by the Valyerian Steel.”
That begs the decision to production on season seven, where you really start to see hints and foreshadowing of what’s to come. The Valyrian steel dagger used may not have been extra magical, but it has been floating around since season one when an assassin tries to kill Bran Stark with it. Littlefinger brings it back to Winterfell in season seven, giving it to Bran who in turn hands it over to Arya. She’d later slit Littlefinger’s throat with it, but the references don’t stop there. That exact dagger shows up in one of the books Sam is reading during his time at the Citadel in Oldtown.
And once Bran gives the blade to Arya, it’s made very visible on her belt for the majority of her remaining scenes. She even uses it during a sparring session with Brienne in season seven, pulling the same kind of hand switch maneuver on the skilled swordswoman that she does on the Night King!
The question posed by Melisandre to Arya, “What do we say to the god of death?” was a throwback to Arya’s days with Syrio Forel, her “dancing instructor.”
His words undoubtedly ran through Arya’s mind as she used her Faceless Men training to sneak up on the Night King. “Swift as a deer. Quiet as shadow. Quick as a snake. Calm as still water. Strong as a bear. Fierce as a wolverine. The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords.”