The Game of Faces, and why I think she truly is Arya Stark now and not No One

Last night had me damn-near enraged.  I was surprised to feel this way, but as many others have shared my sentiment with her character this season, I feel I am not alone.

The way she showed the scroll to Sansa, then the whole scene with them in Arya’s room.  I am a Sansa fan and as I was watching this scene play out, I felt a red-hot rage wash over me and I wanted Sansa to kill her on the spot.  Screw the consequences.  Arya is too far gone and is more of a danger to her than Ramsey was.

But…these scenes are in stark (heheh, get it?) contrast to their reunion scene in the crypts.  And I admit that I was puzzled with Arya giving Sansa the dagger and walking away.

So who is the real Arya Stark?  Is she loyal to her family, or is she lost?

I believe (or at least I want to believe) that no longer No One and is now truly a member of her house again.

When you watch those scenes again, I think you can start to pick out a narrative.

Go ahead and watch the scene of them in her bedroom again.  I’ll wait.

From Game of Thrones Memes on Twitter

Welcome back!  Let us begin this scene breakdown, shall we?

Oh, actually I am going to go back a little bit and discuss a little shot composition.  I’m not going to go SUPER deep, but hopefully I’ll convince you (and myself).

Arya returns home in Episode 4.  When we first see the two of them together, it is in the same shot.  Granted that Sansa is out of focus, but they are seen together.  Most of their shots are over-the-shoulder POV shots.  They remain close in the scene, physically and emotionally.  We even get close-up shots of their faces to ensure we can read their reactions and emotions.  They are still very close to each other in the scene with Bran.

Switch now to Episode 5.  In this episode, Littlefinger is beginning to wreak havoc on their relationship, and the two characters are shot completely differently in the frames.  I now believe that these shots were chosen to show to the audience, through the language of film, that these women are in opposition to each other.  Their relationship is turning sour and confrontational.  They begin to show this in the way the images are framed in the scene in the Great Hall, but it is still an over-the-shoulder POV shot, though now only through Arya’s perspective. Next we see them walking together until the get into Sansa’s room.  Early on they are shot in the same frame, but the dialogue takes a turn.  When Arya calls out Sansa for liking nice scenes, it cuts to Sansa.  She is now in the right half of the frame with a lot of space behind her.  The next shot is Arya, now in the far left of the screen.  Both are also given harsh and cool lighting, even though there is a fireplace in the room; this was intentional.  Now the girls are viewed as almost combative towards one another.  Their perspectives are diametrically opposed, until Sansa makes a point and Arya softens.  Then they are both shot mid-frame.  When Arya makes her comment about “not if they lose their heads first”, we get a shot showing the physical distance between them, followed by more traditional POV shots and close-ups.  We do not see them together again until…

Episode 6.  They are standing on a walkway, Arya relaying a story from when she was a young girl.  Here she is also wielding both her weapons.  She never turns around but speaks, knowing it was her.  Did she literally know that Sansa was going to come up, that this was staged?

Here she gives what I think is my fave line of the episode, and possibly the entire series.

“He was smiling and I knew what I was doing wasn’t wrong.  The rules were wrong”.

They could have shot the two characters as they had in the last episode but they didn’t.  It more closely resembles their meeting in the crypts, with POV shots, lingering on their faces.  When Sansa takes a powerful position in the conversation we again see them places at the outer edges of the frames.  They come together again for a few frames until Sansa talks about things she has survived, again pitting them against each other.  This scene really shows a tug-and-pull between the two.

I believe this was staged.  It was done outdoors where others, and potentially LF himself, could overhear and see the confrontation, and report back to LF as necessary.  After all, we were shown last episode that he has his own “little birds” in Winterfell.

Later in the episode we see them both in Arya’s room.  Now it’s possible that Sansa isn’t in on the game that Arya is playing with LF, but I’m going to hedge my bet and say she is, but she’s just a really good actress.

They make a point to show to us that Sansa sees the dagger, but leaves it.  She feels she won’t need it.  It’s also interesting how they have Sansa look in the same places Arya did in LFs room, in also the same order (I haven’t compared them that closely so if you have a play by play, please let me know!).  One of the first things that Arya says is to explain the Game of Faces.  I almost imagine her inner voice winking at Sansa saying “this entire conversation we’re about to have is actually a lie, but I’m going to say it with such conviction that you (and everyone else that could be listening) will believe it”.  We’re given several shots of them in the same frame, and others that are more traditional POV shots with traditional camera placement.  Here, the characters are (more or less) facing the camera and not turned to the side.

On a side note, I think Arya’s line again helps us see GRRMs opinion of women…that the “world doesn’t just let girls decide what they’re going to be.  But I can now”.  In his world, women are equally as important and powerful as men though often overlooked and set aside, but the times they are a changing.

I also think it’s interesting when Arya says to Sansa “I can even become you.  I wonder what it would feel like?  To wear those pretty dresses?  To be the Lady of Winterfell”.  If this wasn’t said in such a menacing tone it would be fairly benign.  Perhaps Arya truly does want to know her sister better, to understand her better, whereas when they were young, she only felt resentful.  In a weird and maniacal way, this scene might actually bring them closer together.

The end, when she hands her the dagger, is the most telling.  She is telling Sansa, and the audience, that she will not hurt her.  She is in fact giving something precious and priceless to her sister, a weapon that LF was trying to use to split their family apart.  Ultimately it will bring them closer together.

So, if you believe all of this, how then do you go back and view the scene between Sansa and Brienne?  In this light, I believe that Sansa’s reaction was two-fold.

  1. Brienne was mentioned by LF who would have made a pawn of her.  By getting her out of WF, no matter how much she protests otherwise, she could actually be saving Brienne.
  2. This was exactly what she had petitioned Jon to do when he first got the ravens.  It is what Tyrion would have done.  Brienne is not very politically minded and may not be the best to represent Sansa and Winterfell’s interest down south, but she is sending an emissary.

I’d love to know your thoughts.  Did you interpret the scene one way, and later change your mind?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Please leave your comments below!  And make sure to subscribe on iTunes Podcasts so you can hear our ramblings immediately after watching the show, as well as recaps, and soon…book readings!

2 Replies to “The Game of Faces, and why I think she truly is Arya Stark now and not No One”

  1. I never expected them to be “chummy”. They always bickered. In their back and forth about who suffered what, Sansa could have blamed Arya for Lady’s death.

    Sansa spent much of last season coming to grips with the idea of safety and protection. Arya is just now starting that. She’s been living on the edge for years. Maybe she’s trying to find purpose in life.

    If you step back, don’t girls that age hate everyone around them? Especially older sisters? I was hoping Brienne would be the one to get her on track but now that Sansa sent her away I’m not sure.

    I think Bran can give her a mission outside of Winterfell. Maybe she keep team up with the BWB. I don’t think Arya will ever take direction from Sansa.


    1. I suppose she (Brienne) could have. I was afraid that LF was pushing Sansa to use Brienne to spy on and/or manipulate Arya. And at that age, no, girls don’t hate everyone around them. Bickering with sisters sure, but to threaten murder and face-skinning? Seems a hair too harsh for me.


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