You don’t hear much laughing on HBO’s Game of Thrones, especially from brave fan-favorite survivor Arya Stark — who seems condemned to wander Westeros from one soul-hardening misfortune to another. So in Sunday’s “The Mountain and the Viper,” when Arya burst into near-hysterics after finding out yet another relative was dead, it was perhaps the most unexpected reaction possible…and, somehow, also the most fitting.
Fans had various theories about The Laugh. We assumed Arya was cracking up because of the increasingly tragic absurdity of her situation. But actress Maisie Williams had a different take on the scene: “I loved that,” she told EW. “That was my favorite reaction of Arya’s ever. There’s so much speculation on the Internet, whether she’s laughing at The Hound and how ridiculous he now looks because he doesn’t have a plan of action, or whether she’s laughing at the fact that she now really has no one, or whether she’s just that messed up now because she doesn’t really know how she feels inside, and just laughs and goes with it.
“When I was doing it, it was more a reaction to The Hound. This whole time he’s been giving her such a hard time. He’s so in control, and he’s this tough guy, saying he’s going to take me to my aunt in the Vale and ‘I’m going to get my money and I don’t care about you, I just want my money.’ And all of a sudden this happens, and Arya completely loves it. And through laughter, she’s saying, ‘Now what are you going to do?’ It’s fascinating to see this little girl giggling in the sunlight.”
Williams says the laughing fit was actually the toughest moment she’s had to film throughout the series — not the scenes of heartache, fighting, or matching wits with acclaimed actors, but trying to sincerely laugh on command. “That’s the happiest on set I’ve ever had to be,” she says. “And it was the most difficult scene I’ve ever had to film — literally laughing on command is the most difficult thing. It was just so weird to be able to laugh on set and not be told off for it. I’m glad people like it.”
Both Arya and her sister Sansa have also shown strong character growth this season as they struggle to adapt and survive in very different ways. “I’ve been talking to Sophie about it because both of our characters have taken huge turns this year, and we’ve been showing completely different emotions,” Williams says. “We’ve been chatting about how strange it’s been that our characters are developing so differently, and we’re finding ourselves doing things on set that we never thought we’d do.”
Since Arya and The Hound learned her aunt Lysa is dead, it also means these unlikely partners will have to decide on a new course of action — a decision we probably won’t learn until the season finale, given that Sunday’s episode is devoted to the Battle of Castle Black. “What are they going to do?” the actress teases. “They’ve got too much of a relationship now for him to just leave her.”
For more from Williams, check out the “Queen of Vines” giving four tips for making epic Vines. Plus, more “Mountain vs. Viper” coverage: Our recap, our interview with Pedro Pascal, another with Emilia Clarke and our TV Book Club discussion.