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Game of Thrones season 8: why Arya and Gendry’s reunion matters so much

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Maisie Williams and Joe Dempsie’s beloved characters have finally found their way back to each other. This is why it’s so important. 

The night is dark and full of spoilers, everybody. If you haven’t watched the first episode of Game of Thrones season eight yet, now is your chance to save yourself from learning more than you wish to know. Otherwise: read on.

He was a blacksmithing boy who happens to be the bastard of the last true king. She was a girl assassin with a bag full of faces like some pint-sized Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. Can we make it any more obvious?

In Game of Thrones fandom, almost no couple is shipped quite as hard or as, ahem, breathlessly – with the exception perhaps of Brienne and Tormund – as Arya and Gendry

The pair shared just two short seasons of screentime together as vagabonds hiding their true identity on the road to the Night’s Watch. When they were separated in season three – Gendry fell afoul of Melisandre’s leeches and was put in a boat by Davos to row for four seasons, while Arya went to assassin school in Braavos – it was a sad, sad reminder of how cruelly Game of Thrones liked to tear its favourites asunder.

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Before their separation, Arya – scrawny and scruffy with her hair cropped short to pass as a boy – was beginning to notice that Gendry was a gorgeous, greased-up man who knew his way around a forge. He lit a fire in his blacksmithing workshop and in Arya, so much so that she begged him not to leave her side and join the Brotherhood. 

“I could be your family,” Arya pleaded with him.

“You wouldn’t be my family,” Gendry replied. “You would be milady.”

The term of endearment was something of a running joke between the pair, a reminder of the first moment when Gendry discovered Arya’s true identity. (He immediately apologised for “pissing” in front of her and for all the “cock” talk.)

And the sweet nickname was back in full force in the season eight premiere, when Arya and Gendry reunited in his makeshift Winterfell forge. It’s there that Gendry has set himself the task of creating as many dragonglass weapons as his big arms can manage. Head shorn, face oiled up, Gendry looked like some kind of Westerosian Magic Mike. That’s when Arya made her entrance.

“That’s a nice axe you made,” Arya said, referring to the weapon Gendry has forged for The Hound. “You’ve gotten better.”

“Gee thanks, so have you,” Gendry replied. “I mean, you look good.”

“Thanks, so you do you.” Arya responded.

Is it hot in this burning blacksmith’s furnace or is it just all this flirtatious banter? Both Arya and Gendry grin at each other like a pair of giddy school children, a refreshing sight for these two characters who have suffered so much. How long has it been since we saw Arya’s face light up? And isn’t it wonderful that the person who brings her all this joy is Gendry? (And Jon, too, but more on that later.)

What makes the reunion even better is that the pair bond over Arya’s request for Gendry to make her a special weapon. “As you wish, milady,” is Gendry’s perfect response to Arya providing him with a rough sketch of a sword with what appears to be two pointy ends. 

There are a few theories about what Arya will be able to do with this new weapon. It appears to be a, um, double-edged sword a la Sith Lord Darth Maul’s lightsaber in the Star Wars prequels, something that Arya could twirl in her hands as lightly as if it was a staff. No shade on her sword Needle, or the little Valyrian steel dagger that Bran gave her last season, but Arya needs a weapon that reflects her abilities on the battlefield. Smooth, silent and deadly fast, Arya is a force to be reckoned with in close combat. And she needs a sword with a pointy end she can stick into all those enemies on her list.

That it’s Gendry who is going to make it for her is a moment of beautiful, poetic justice. 

While I (and fellow Game of Thrones superfan, Stylist digital editor Kayleigh Dray) would love nothing more than for Arya and Gendry to end up together, Maisie Williams has made an oblique reference to the fact that she shot her last scene on her own. “Shocker,” Williams told the Guardian. “Arya’s always bloody alone. But I was alone and I watched a lot of other people wrap.” 

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

That doesn’t mean that she won’t get a happy, romantic ending with Gendry, of course. There’s a possibility that these two crazy kids might make it through the Battle of Winterfell and the almost certain war with the Golden Company in one piece. 

Way back in the first season, Arya and Gendry’s fathers talked about joining their houses. “I have a son, you have a daughter,” Robert told Ned way back when. He was referring to Sansa and Joffrey, of course, and we all know how that ended up. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the union of Houses Stark and Baratheon happened between the loving, consensual partnership of Arya and Gendry?

But there’s also a chance that a love story isn’t in the cards for them. If that happens, the fans can rest happy knowing that Gendry has given Arya about as close to the most sweet thing anyone could ever give her: a weapon with which she can skewer her enemies. With this weapon, Gendry is giving her power, respect and freedom. And there’s nothing more romantic than that.

Just quickly, we need to talk about Arya’s other long-awaited reunion in the season eight premiere of Game of Thrones. That’s right: the reunion of Arya and Jon Snow.

The pair met at the Godswood, a place that their father – or rather, Arya’s father and Jon’s uncle – spent a lot of time over the course of their childhood. Arya ran into Jon’s arms and the pair embraced tightly, with Jon lifting his little sister into the air. 

There was some back-and-forth between the pair, with Jon asking if Arya had used her sword yet and pleading with her to help him in the war of psychological attrition between Sansa and Daenerys. “Sansa is the smartest person I’ve ever met,” Arya told him. “She’s trying to protect our family.”

“I’m her family too,” Jon responded.

“Don’t forget that,” Arya said, over one last hug.

Some are theorising that this could hint at a battle between the Sisters Stark and Jon, but we here at Stylist are more worried about Dany’s pretty neck. If she comes good on her Targaryen bloodline and becomes the Mad Queen, what’s to bet that Arya or Sansa kill Daenerys to save the Stark family – including Jon? After all, he’s still half Stark on his mother’s side. Arya’s prescient words are a reminder to Jon not that he should fear his sisters their vengeance, but that they will always be there for him.

But the more important exchange between these long-estranged siblings was at the start of their reunion. It was there that Arya asked Jon how he survived a knife to the heart. His answer? “I didn’t.” 

Kit Harington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones season 8

Classic Jon, right? Why say a full sentence when a few words would suffice. The brooding, floppy-haired hero is the Platonic ideal of the strong but silent type. And yet there’s poignancy in his words. Jon has rarely talked about coming back from the dead, not with his lover Daenerys, his sister Sansa nor many of his closest friends and advisors.

Jon wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s like his (adopted) father Ned in that respect. But he also keeps his cards close to his chest. We’ll chalk that down to the Targaryen in him. And yet here is Jon telling his little sister Arya the one thing about himself that he cannot fully come to terms with.

He tells Arya this not because he thinks that Arya will offer answers as to what happened to him when he died, or how Melisandre was able to bring him back. He tells her because he loves her, and he trusts her.

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Maybe Jon Snow has been too loving in the past. He’s certainly been too trusting. Maybe he should harden up and shed some of that Ned Stark honour if he wants to retain his kingship and, with it, his head. But, equally, it’s rare that Game of Thrones indulges in a moment of such pure hope. Now, let’s see how both characters endeavour to preserve that trust between them.

Game of Thrones airs on Sunday nights on HBO in the US and Monday mornings (and again in the evening) in the UK on Sky Atlantic and Now TV. 

Images: HBO

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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