(Warning: The following contains major plot SPOILERS for the most recently screened episode of 'Game of Thrones' Season 6, Episode 8, as well as theoretical SPOILERS for future episodes. If you haven't yet seen the most recent episode, then proceed with whatever level of caution your friendly neighborhood three-eyed raven suggests is wise.)
Now, with Game of Thrones already well known for containing more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan-designed roller coaster, it's perhaps no real surprise that the latest episode of the show's sixth season was packed full to bursting with some distinctly unexpected shifts in several major characters' plot arcs. Before we start to look toward next week's episode, however — or indeed at who came off best in this week's — we should probably stop for a second and take a closer look at a one of those major changes from this week. Specifically, it's time to take a look at...
What THAT Twist In Game Of Thrones Season 6, Episode 8 Means
If you've already seen the episode (and if not, feel free to go away and watch it now, we'll wait) then odds are you know exactly what I'm talking about. After two whole seasons of training with the Faceless Men, Arya Stark has finally decided that she doesn't especially want to be a morality-shunning nameless assassin, and instead intends to head back to her homeland: Westeros.
Which, on the one hand, isn't actually all that surprising at all. Many of us have, of course, been rooting for Arya to do just that for years now — with distant dreams of a mass Stark kids reunion having just about managed to survive the traumas of the past few seasons. On the other hand, however, Arya has just spent the past several seasons pointedly walking down a very different path, making her decision to walk away from Jaqen H'gar and the Faceless Men pretty darned surprising to many fans.
Surprising or not, though, there may well be a whole lot more to that moment than meets the eye. For one thing...
Arya May Not Be Quite As In Control Of Her Own Destiny As She Thinks
There is, y'see, a distinct possibility that Arya wasn't actually intended to join the Faceless Men at all. Some fans have noted that, as Arya tells Jaqen H'gar that she has killed one of his protégés and is leaving the Faceless Men forever, her mentor looked distinctly pleased with her decision to abandon him.
Now, that could simply be a case of Jaqen being rather inscrutable, or it could hint at a far bigger plot afoot. It's entirely possible that Jaqen never intended for Arya to remain with the Faceless Men, but instead was simply trying to equip her with the skills she would need to survive in Westeros, while pointing her on a path less focused on vengeance. After all, pretty much all of his key decisions regarding Arya — whether that's sending her to watch a play that teaches her to empathize with her greatest enemy, Cersei Lannister, or sending the hatred-driven Waif to unsuccessfully chase her down — seem carefully designed to test her, and then send her back to Westeros.
It's almost as though Jaqen — who has always been openly fond of Arya — had been planning this all along, as both a way to send her home, and to test (and ultimately rid himself of) his increasingly untrustworthy assistant, the Waif. Heck, if one increasingly popular fan theory is to be believed, he's secretly Arya's old fencing instructor, Syrio Forel, which would actually make a whole lot of sense at this point.
That being said...
We Don't Yet Know Exactly What Arya Meant When She Said She Was Going 'Home'
After all, while Arya's final words to Jaqen — "A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home" — sure do seem to imply that she's not only heading back to Westeros, but heading North, too, they don't actually explicitly say any such thing. Arya, after all, may well no longer see the North as her true home — she believes much of her family to be dead, after all — and her mention of being "of Winterfell" might simply be a statement of fact, not intent.
Of course, it seems far more likely that Arya is eventually aiming to wind up atop Winterfell's battlements, but that doesn't mean she's going to be heading straight there. With merchants heading to Ramsey Bolton's war-torn North unlikely to be ten a penny, there's a pretty solid chance that Arya will be forced to make her way North — or, perhaps, elsewhere — from a far more southern starting location. Could she run into Sam in the south, perhaps, or head straight to King's Landing, to resolve some unfinished business?
Speaking of which...
We Still Don't Know Exactly When Arya's Storyline Took Place, And That Could Be Incredibly Important
This current season of Game of Thrones has, in stark contrast to previous seasons, allowed its many plotlines to drift out of chronological synchronization. In other words, there's no guarantee that storylines appearing alongside one another in the same episode are in fact happening at the same time — hence Yara and Theon's Iron Fleet's ability to magically cross the Narrow Sea in one episode, and Littlefinger being able to make his way to Castle Black in the time it normally takes everyone else to have a tense meeting.
Which, for Arya's plotline, could well prove to be incredibly important, since we don't really know when all of her adventures have been happening. They were certainly synced up with the rest of the show at one point — her assassination of Meryn Trant lined up with some of the show's other plotlines — but recent episodes have featured a lot of unclear temporal transitions. Arya could at this point be several weeks ahead of the rest of the show, and thus potentially able to make it to Westeros during Episode 9 or 10 — or several weeks behind, and thus destined to spend the season finale hanging out on a ship, looking helplessly toward her homeland as events play out as they will.
The big question now, though?