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WARNING: The following contains spoilers from season 8 of Game of Thrones.
On Sunday’s night episode, the youngest Stark sister ended the Battle of Winterfell in one fell swoop when she killed the Night King, defeating the Army of the Dead in the nick of time. But actress Maisie Williams, who has played Arya since the series premiered in 2011, initially wasn’t sure how fans would react to the development.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Williams, 22, revealed that when she arrived at the table read for the eighth and final season, she hadn’t read the full script yet — and as a result, had no idea that Arya would be the one to put an end to the Long Night. The twist was so unexpected, in fact, that she initially worried fans wouldn’t like it.
“It was so unbelievably exciting,” she said. “But I immediately thought that everybody would hate it; that Arya doesn’t deserve it.”
“The hardest thing in any series is when you build up a villain that’s so impossible to defeat and then you defeat them. It has to be intelligently done because otherwise, people are like, ‘Well, [the villain] couldn’t have been that bad when some 100-pound girl comes in and stabs him,'” she continued. “You gotta make it cool. And then I told my boyfriend and he was like, ‘Mmm, should be Jon though really, shouldn’t it?'”
Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, said he was equally surprised that Arya was the one who got to deliver the fatal stab, especially given the fact that Jon and the Night King had memorably faced off before in “Hardhome.”
“I thought it was gonna be me!” Harington told EW. “But I like it. It gives Arya’s training a purpose to have an end goal. It’s much better how she does it, the way she does it. I think it will frustrate some in the audience that Jon’s hunting the Night King and you’re expecting this epic fight and it never happens — that’s kind of Thrones. But it’s the right thing for the characters. There’s also something about it not being the person you expect. The young lady sticks it to the man.”
Williams said she came around to embracing the idea after they shot the scene where Melisandre (Carice van Houten) reminds Arya of her “brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes … eyes you’ll shut forever” prophecy from season 3.
“When we did the whole bit with Melisandre, I realized the whole scene with [the Red Woman] brings it back to everything I’ve been working for over these past six seasons — four if you think about it since [Arya] got to the House of Black and White,” Williams said. “It all comes down to this one very moment. It’s also unexpected and that’s what this show does. So then I was like, ‘F— you Jon, I get it.’ “
According to EW, Williams was one of a couple dozen actors and hundreds of crew members who had to endure the Battle of Winterfell’s 55 nights of shooting amid freezing Northern Ireland rain.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays (9 p.m. ET) on HBO.