The current season of Game of Thrones showed powerful women and women getting the power. Brienne of Tarth is knighted in a room full of applauding men, one of them said ‘fuck tradition’ when she told them that women don’t get knighted due to tradition. Sansa and Dany literally ran the whole scenario.
Battle of Winterfell is the most anticipated moments of the show as it turns out, the breakout belongs to a woman.
Jamie, Dany, and Jon laid out a plan. During the process, Bran explained to them that the Night King is after him. By killing Bran, the Night King could wipe out the memories of the human race. Bran, however, chose to be in the open to lure the Night King to him as opposed to hiding in the crypt.
Despite the lighting (one of the reasons many found it difficult to enjoy), the episode was indeed chilling. The moment when Jon Snow faces the Night King, who goes on to ‘zombify’ the fallen soldiers of Winterfell, including little Lyanna Mormont (who died a heroic death), gave me shivers.
Amidst all this, the Night King walks towards Bran. Paralelly, in a montage, Jon is attacked by undead Viserion. Dany and Jorah were being cornered by wights. Jamie, Brienne, and Sam were literally covered by zombified soldiers. Even the crypt is under attack.
This is a tension-packed moment and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was holding my breath.
Bran looks up and the Night King reaches for his sword to cut Bran’s head. When things seemed hopeless, we see a light behind the Night King, a figure jumping towards him, Arya.
Arya is holding out the Valyrian steel but Night King blocks and grabs her in a chokehold. And then, she drops the knife, grabs it with her free hand and stabs the night King to death, thus killing all the wights including Viserion.
Now, Arya was showered with praises by Netizens, calling her GOAT (Greatest OF All Time). The fact that a young girl saved the day felt empowering for a lot of girls and women on social media. I myself admired Arya from the very beginning. She showed interest for archery and sword fighting in the first episode of Game of Thrones. She even called out her sister’s stupidity, blind devotion to (obviously) evil Joffrey and anti-feminist attitude. When her father said that her role is that of a strong wife and a mother, Arya retorted by saying ‘That’s not me’. What I loved the best is her snapping back every time she is called a boy or lad. She did not let the idea of internalized misogyny consume her, let alone gender stereotyping. A girl is no one but then again, a girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell.
Now, along with sweets comes the sour pickles in forms of the group who still can’t fathom a girl’s role in the killing of the most dangerous villain. Maisie Williams herself had that fear. But again, in her as well as the show maker’s words, it makes sense. The past few seasons showed Arya’s training AKA internship including brutal ones. She is blinded, beaten and trained. Kit Harrington mentioned in an interview that it made sense as to what all the training and role as an assassination would ultimately bring Arya to. And this moment with Night King was foreshadowed several times. The fight between Arya and Brienne showed her flipping the knife from one hand to the other.
Melisandre tells her she will shut three eyes forever; brown, green and blue. Her training, while she was blind, could help her sneak up to the Night King while it was dark and cold. Valyrian steel was used to assassinate Bran earlier and then, he gave the dagger to Arya.
Gendry taught her how to withstand a chokehold. More than anything else, Bran, the Three-eyed Raven said that no one could kill the night king. And, no one did. So, there’s that dear ‘Mary Sue’ and ‘Deus ex Machina’ brigade.
Game of Thrones as a TV show faced both bouquets and brickbats when it comes to the depiction of women. We were introduced to the character arcs of Cersei, Dany, Sansa, Arya, and others. At the same time, the show had its moments of glorified misogyny such as explicit nudity, graphic rape scenes, son-preference and stereotyping. That being said, some of the developments can happen only if the dark side of humanity is depicted.
Writer George R R Martin said that he cannot exclude rape from a story that shows war, due to the power dynamics and patriarchal structuring. Sex is the one form of power men use to control women. Raping women after the war is a brutal fact as to how men see women; the price or trophies they ‘won’ over and do whatever they want.
The main female characters are shown to be surviving this power structure to become their own people and rebel against oppression. Dany was sold as a slave but she turned her life around to become the ultimate queen. In Cersei’s own words she was sidelined and married off to bear children while brother had the sword and skills. Well, the brutal women she is, Cersei is the one currently sitting on the iron throne.
Sansa turned from the most hated to the most respected character because of one thing she never stopped doing, learning. More than that, Arya’s journey, from a rebel to the Night King slayer shows the importance of women’s character development and why it is necessary to not reduce women’s role to tokenism.
Reactions on social media and Youtube showed that women can shine if given the apt platform and opportunity.
And… I can’t rule out the fact that I am nervous. With the show’s unpredictable nature anything can happen to anyone. There are only three episodes left. And, I am personally rooting for Arya and Tyrion to survive the whole thing.