The following article contains potential SPOILERS for Season 7.
Ever since Season 1 of Game of Thrones, when Arya Stark was a sweet little girl knocking about with her red-headed friend, Mycah, and direwolf, Nymeria, she’s been threatening to wreak revenge upon her enemies. And sure enough, the young Stark girl soon started drawing up a kill list. She’d repeat each name to herself before going to sleep, like a mantra that kept her strong and focused so she’d get up the next day ready to put her plans into action.
And while she’s still kind of wet behind the ears – she still looks very much like the young girl she is – she’s come a long way, transforming herself into a formidable assassin. Having followed through with her plans and crossed the likes of Walder Frey and Meryn Trant off her list, she continues to work her way through it. In the case of Joffrey Baratheon and Tywin Lannister, the job was done for her.
But who’s left on Arya’s list, and what does it mean for Season 7? Who will she kill first and what reverberations might that set off? Who will die at the hands of someone else? These are the remaining people Arya’s still holding a grudge against and here’s how events might pan out.
The Hound/Sandor Clegane
Why: For killing her friend Mycah, the butcher’s son.
So what next? Although Arya left The Hound for dead after his fight with Brienne of Tarth, as viewers we know he’s alive. Arya says that he’s not on her list any longer because he’s dead – taken at face value, that means that he should be back on it once she realizes he’s still kicking.
Leaving The Hound for dead has been read by some as Arya demonstrating an unwillingness to grant him what he wanted – he asked her to finish him off as an act of mercy. Instead, the implication is that she wanted him to suffer, leaving him to endure a drawn-out, painful death.
But, more likely, she was wise enough to realise that he might survive. As viewers, we certainly felt he’d pull through. He’s extremely hardy after all, and it just didn’t feel like he was done yet.
The chances are she wanted him to survive: the relationship between Arya and The Hound was a touching double act. He acted as her mentor and though she was his prisoner and he planned to cash her in, he showed her kindness on many occasions and the two grew to respect one another. It makes sense that she would abandon her pursuit of vengeance.
If Arya has shown that she is open to people proving they can change, could this mean she’s open to striking other people off her list (without killing them)?
So what next? Maisie Williams — who plays Arya — told Entertainment Weekly she thinks the young Stark will prioritize killing some over others on her list: “If I had to put them in order of who she wants dead the most — just three of them — it would probably go Cersei, Melisandre, then The Mountain or Ilyn Payne — they’re on par with each other”.
This suggests that at the start of Season 7, she’ll be targeting Cersei Lannister first of all. Although that doesn’t mean others won’t be dispatched along the way.
Could a plot to kill Cersei unravel after Jon and Daenerys meet and Arya has reconnected with big ‘brother’ Jon Snow? With Dany’s biggest rival Cersei, perhaps Daenerys could agree to team up with Jon, who recognizes the threat from the North and is keen to raise an army, after he promises her Arya to assassinate Cersei. This could result in sending Arya off on a mission south to King’s Landing.
From the trailer, it certainly looks like Arya is heading north as Season 7 opens, probably on course for Winterfell, and home to reunite with surviving family members Jon and Sansa, which would be the set-up for the ensuing potential mission south.
Ilyn Payne is also down at King's Landing – another name on her list – so Arya could feasibly strike off two at once.
Why: As the royal executioner, Ilyn Payne is responsible for swinging the blade that beheaded her father.
What next? Ilyn Payne is currently in King’s Landing, where Cersei presently sits on the Iron Throne. It follows that he could meet his fate at the business end of Needle, Arya’s weapon of choice, if she carries through on her plans to off Cersei in a two-for-the-price-of-one type deal.
The Mountain/Gregor Clegane
Why: How could we forget the rats-in-the-bucket method of torture that The Mountain dishes out? We can’t. It’s etched into our brains. For that and his other sadistic torture techniques at Harrenhal, witnessed by Arya when she was imprisoned there, the beastly Gregor Clegane is on her list.
What next? If not strictly alive and kicking, he is at least kicking. And kicking is an understatement – he’s a killing machine, and now programmed to be totally loyal to Cersei, whose bidding he carries out. He’s been resurrected by Qyburn after being poisoned by Oberyn Martell during the trial by combat of Tyrion Lannister and is, to all intents and purposes, a zombie.
Arya will likely come face to face with him if she pursues Cersei but with the prospect of the highly anticipated Cleganebowl looming – an event fans are calling for which would see warring brothers The Hound and The Mountain do battle – he could see his end then. Or could Gregor see off Sandor, leading an enraged Arya to do the job after all? It would be an awesome version of David and Goliath…
What next? Arya took an instant dislike to the Red Woman. A red priestess, Melisandre operates under the belief there is a prophesied promised one that will pull a flaming sword – Lightbringer – from fire to combat the impending darkness. Once believing it to be Stannis Baratheon, who was killed by Brienne, she is now of the belief that the "Prince that was Promised" is Jon Snow.
Last seen heading south after her exile by Jon from the North, Arya could come across her sooner rather than later. But could Melisandre’s new-found trust in Jon unite these two and lead to Arya striking her off the list?
Why: He’s responsible for selling Gendry to Melisandre.
What next? Less of a priority for Arya than others on her list, he could find his life being spared. Although, strictly speaking, he’s already dead anyway, having been resurrected from beyond the grave countless times by fellow Brotherhood Without Banners member, red priest Thoros of Myr.
Beric could be the key to resurrecting Catelyn Stark from the dead. This is a strand from the novels that hasn’t yet been tackled in the TV series – and may not. But if it does, and we’re about to see the former Lady Stark arise as Lady Stoneheart, it could be the key to understanding Beric’s fate. There’s a theory that he’s been brought back too many times and can’t be resurrected again and that he’ll give his own life for the revival of Lady Stoneheart.
Thoros of Myr
Why: Along with Beric, he sold Gendry to Melisandre.
What next? Thoros will likely be integral in the reanimation of Catelyn Stark if the show follows this line of narrative – so Arya will have to wait until this has happened – if it’s going to happen – before offing Thoros. And then it’s very reasonable to expect that once he’s brought her mother back, Arya will see him as redeemed and delete him from her list. We might also need him to bring Jon back again, which Arya would also presumably want were he to die again.
All will become clearer once the new season gets underway. Catch the season premiere on July 16 in the U.S. and at 2am on July 17 in the U.K.