Warning: This post has story details from Game of Thrones season 6, episode 8, “No One”…
That was close!
Arya Stark faced off against her most dangerous threat yet in Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode, “No One.” The Faceless Men’s assassin The Waif relentlessly hunted Arya through the streets of Braavos before discovering she wasn’t really chasing her at all — The Waif was being led to a cave where the crafty Stark girl could fight her in total darkness, the only environment where Arya would have the advantage after spending months training while blind. Below Thrones star Maisie Williams answered some of our questions about Arya’s close call and her decision to turn from Jaquen H’ghar’s path.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First let’s talk about the play and Arya’s reaction to watching her family’s story told on stage…
MAISIE WILLIAMS: The fact we can make a play inside the show about the show is amazing — you wouldn’t see that on any [other show]. I know a scene that stands out for me where Lady Crane asks Arya to come with them in the traveling show and be an actor, and she’s like, “I don’t think I can do that because I don’t think I can remember all the lines.” It’s so weird saying that because that’s literally my job. And I remember saying that to my agent when she was saying I should be an actress. I said, “I can’t remember all the lines.” And now I am an actress and I’m seriously saying that in the role. That’s going to stick with me forever.
There’s also this suggestion that Arya could have a different kind of life and not be a warrior at all…
She sort of tried that with the Faceless Men too. I had a big talk with [director] Mark Mylod about that — when Arya leaves The House of Black and White. He asked me if Arya ever really thought she was going to be become a Faceless Man. I said, “I don’t think so. I don’t think she could ever believed she could give everything up.” She tried. She really tried. And maybe there’s a glimpse in the middle of it where the stress came off her and she found this moment like … like when people mediate and think of nothing. Where she was like, “Oh, this is cool.” But what’s totally shaped her is the whole reason why she’s here. If everything hadn’t happened she’d be home at Winterfell with her mom and dad. She can’t think like how they want her to because the whole reason she’s there is that she wants to go back. She’s tried, but she can’t do this.
That’s a very interesting comparison — how the Faceless Man philosophy is a bit like meditation, when you’re trying not to think about anything in particular. Being a Faceless Man is like that, except not just temporarily with your mind, but permanently with your entire identity.
Yeah, exactly. That’s the way I started thinking about it. So when she’s in the theater and they’re saying, “come with us,” she’s thinking, “This would be great, but it’s also not the reason I’m here.” It’s like that famous Top Model quote, “I’m not here to make friends.” I’m not here to dance around and play in your play. It sounds amazing. But I have bigger things that I can’t tell you that I’m going to do instead.
Let’s talk about Arya’s showdown with the The Waif. Earlier in the season you had a bunch of harsh training scenes; what were those like to shoot?
It was great having [Waif actress Faye Marsay] with me because we spurred each other on in training. I had a bit of pride. I’ve done some sword-fighting before. But she had to be better than me, and every time she’d be getting [the fighting] right and I’d be getting it wrong. I’d be like, “Hang on, I’m going to lose, but I still need to look like I’m getting better.” And every time I was doing well, she’d be like, “Yeah, but I have to look the best.” So it was the healthy way to train.
Then Arya had this extremely close call, a bunch of them, over the last two episodes.
We wanted people to think this could be the end, or the start of the end. Like maybe her wound is going to fester — like The Hound. We did so many different takes of emerging out of the water the first time she’s stabbed and sliced. I had been to a music festival so I hadn’t slept the whole weekend. Then I was jumping in the Irish sea. It was a totally manic day. We did a million different takes. We wanted it to be real frantic and panicked. Arya hasn’t been emotional in a long time, and we wanted to bring that emotion. When it’s a long-running series, you have to give her light and shade. It’s the first time she thinks she’s not going to make it, and it’s scary. She ends peoples’ lives like there’s no tomorrow, but when it’s finally happening to her, she’s petrified. She’s petrified of dying. She’s got so much more to do. And just the sheer anger, too — The Waif? Really? Of all the people to kill her.
She’s not even on her list!
She’s not even on the list! People are going to watch and be like, “Don’t put your blood on the wall. Have you learned nothing Arya? I hate you.” And then they’re going to be like, “Oh, she’s a smart girl.” There was this constant spectrum [of conversation with director Mylod] during the chase of about how petrified she needs to look, but also how safe she is. Arya’s been very lucky with the people she’s encountered so far. The whole time she was with The Hound, she took a back seat because he was really good. So I wanted her to look like she was struggling. I didn’t want [the chase stunts] to be unnecessary or superhuman. I got on set and they were [going to have Arya] rolling around, and diving, and I was like, “That looks amazing, but no.” I’d be like, “Why would she run over there? She’d just duck under here and just get out.” It doesn’t look quite as cinematic, maybe, but they’ll have to find something else if they want cinematic. And I felt awful because the job of the stunt guys is to make everything look as crazy and cool as possible. But I know Arya now. In the beginning it was a lot of guesswork, and now I’ve figured her out. You want to be happy with the work you’ve done.
More “No One” coverage: See our interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie on Jaime and Brienne’s tense, touching reunion — and whether there’s romantic tension there. Also our deep-dive recap, plus check HBO’s preview for next week’s “Battle of the Bastards.”
Our latest Game of Thrones Weekly podcast episode is now live for “No One” too, listen below and don’t forget to subscribe here.