Game of Thrones’ eighth season premiere was filled with juicy reunions, but one potentially game-changing scene that may have slipped under your radar is the exchange between Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie).
Arya spots Gendry on horseback as he rides into Winterfell behind her half-brother, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and her old frenemy The Hound (Rory Cochrane). She carefully chooses the moment that she reunites with each of them face to face. For Gendry, she visits him in the blacksmith shop, and it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since Gendry learned that he’s also of royal blood, the son of King Robert Baratheon. They lock eyes across the shop, and sparks that fly aren’t just coming from the forge. Arya admires Gendry’s work on a dragonglass axe: “You’ve gotten better,” she says. (That’s as much of a compliment as anyone gets from the droll teen.) When Gendry replies, “So have you — I mean, you look good,” one imagines that underneath all of that soot and dark lighting, both of them are blushing.
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Gendry slips back into the teasing way he used to address her, “Lady Stark,” and Arya quickly replies “Don’t call me that.” He still makes one more reference to his past nickname for her, “milady,” and Arya smiles in return but quickly gets back to business. She has a special request for the blacksmith, and shares a drawing of what she wants him to make. It flashes on the screen quickly, but looks to be a dragonglass spear that separates into two pieces, allowing for an interchangeable tip. It appears that Arya plans to take out some White Walkers herself. Gendry alludes to the Valyrian blade she already wears on her belt — “I always knew you were just another rich girl.” But Arya gets in the last word. “You don’t know any other rich girls,” she says slyly as she leaves the shop, but not before turning around for one last glance and a smile. Winter is coming, but it sure is getting hot in here.
If you were staring at your TV, mouth agape, waiting for these cuties to kiss, well, you’d be forgiven. But you’d also be missing some key plot elements. In Westeros, bloodline is everything — as King Robert’s offspring, Gendry has a stronger claim to the throne than Queen Cersei’s deceased children, who were 100 percent Lannister, and even Cersei herself. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) might have some stiff competition on her hands from the son of the man who usurped her father.
For some more show history that helps contextualize this reunion, recall the episode’s opening sequence, in which Arya watches the royal procession welcoming Queen Daenerys into Winterfell. The scene echoes the first episode of season 1, when the Baratheons first descended upon the North.
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When King Robert Baratheon first arrived in Winterfell during peaceful times, he told his longtime friend Ned Stark (Sean Bean) that their houses would be joined by a union between his son and Ned’s daughter. At the time, we took that to mean Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), but we all know how that turned out (several years of trauma and torture for poor Sansa, and Joffrey being poisoned to death at his own wedding).
It would bring us full circle if Arya and Gendry end up being the Baratheon son and Stark daughter that Robert prophesied. The two have always shared a special bond, from the early days when they knew each other as ‘Arry’ and ‘the blacksmith’s bastard’ while on the run from the Kingsguard. In an interview with RollingStone in 2013, Maisie Williams revealed the subtext behind Arya’s line to Gendry in season 3 when he leaves to join the Brotherhood without Banners, explaining that “I can be your family” was actually “I love you.” Arya is all grown up now. And we know she is a woman who keeps a running list of what she wants to accomplish.
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While a romance between Arya and Gendry would be adorable (not to mention a bright spot in the upcoming long, dark winter), it could potentially have major implications in the fight for the Iron Throne. Though Arya and Jon Snow have always been close, it’s been years since they have seen each other; she’s become closer with Sansa while watching her older sister govern the North. And now, Arya says she considers the Lady of Winterfell “the smartest person I’ve ever met.” The bombshell news of Jon’s Targaryen lineage might further drive a wedge between him and the Stark sisters. Since Ned was instrumental in putting Robert Baratheon on the throne, the ever-loyal and stubborn Northerners may see Gendry as the most rightful heir over any descendent of the Mad King. If he and Arya pair up, they’d be a legit Northern power couple.
The Northern Houses will be keeping a close eye on Daenerys, a foreigner, and if tensions and mistrust continue to rise, they will look to Sansa for guidance. And Arya might just have a solution to whisper in her sister’s ear, and she knows who’ll take up arms with her — if not just literally make them for her.
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After the premiere episode of season 8, David Benioff himself said in the post-show clip that Arya’s a central character at this point in the series, and we have to think that means more than a love interest for her (though why shouldn’t she have one now, after all this time?). Arya has spent several seasons on her own side quest across the Narrow Sea, literally trying to become another person (a Girl Who Has No Name). It stands to reason she’s going to do something with all the street smarts and hand-to-hand combat she’s learned over the years.
And now, her journey has brought her back not only to her ancestral roots, but to one of the few true friends that she made along the way. Arya is her father’s daughter, and her intentions are very clear when she tells Jon, “I’m defending my family.” The use of “my” and not “our” potentially speaks volumes. It calls back to four seasons earlier when Arya said aloud exactly whose family she wanted to be.
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