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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched Game of Thrones' most recent episode, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms."
In leading up to the massive Battle of Winterfell that'll soon arrive to wipe out plenty of familiar characters, Game of Thrones delivered an episode that held back on action in place of deep and meaningful conversations. (And even a well-deserved knighting.) There was still some action to be had, though, particularly where Maisie Williams' pragmatic Arya was concerned, as the brave Stark warrior actively incited the loss of her virginity to Joe Dempsie's Gendry.
While Game of Thrones' many millions of viewers likely had a slew of different thoughts and ideas about Arya and Gendry's sexy time, Maisie Williams herself thought it was most important for bringing a sense of humanity back into Arya's life. In her words:
It was really interesting because it’s a very human relationship for Arya. This is something she’s stayed away from, an emotion we’ve never really seen her engage with. David and Dan were like, ‘It’s the end of the world, what else would you have her do?’ This may be is a moment where Arya accepts death tomorrow, which she never does — ‘Not Today.’ So it was that moment where she says, ‘We’re probably going to die tomorrow, I want to know what this feels like before that happens.’ It’s interesting to see Arya be a bit more human, speak more normally about things people are scared of.
On the one hand, it was powerful and encouraging to see Arya take change over her sexuality in such a way. Many fans have long wanted for Game of Thrones to get Arya and Gendry romantically entangled, and finally witnessed it now that Arya and Maisie Williams are of a proper age. Plus, Game of Thrones sex scenes are all the more celebratory when characters are consenting, which isn’t always the case in the story that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are telling.
On the other hand, however, vengeful and wayward characters who temporarily focus on their humanity are often set up to take unforeseen falls. After all, the reason why characters like Arya tend to survive as long as they do is because they keep an eye on the prize. Once that dedicated effort gets detoured, it’s often difficult to revert back to an original stance. (Not that I’m saying sex with Gendry would be so life-changing, but still.)
Of course, Arya herself seems to be taking the fatalist approach, accepting that she may very well be one of the many who are killed whenever the Night King and his dead army finally arrive at Winterfell. For any fans who automatically assumed that Arya would be a surefire survivor, that sex scene is possibly a sign that the character isn’t so certain herself.
Arya does know one thing full well, though. She definitely did not want to sit around and spend her last hours on Earth dealing with old shits like The Hound and Beric. At least she and the younger Clegane sibling had a meaningful conversation before she went off to jump Gendry’s stammering bones.
For us, what was interesting about this episode was that this is our last night together, and I think everyone would face the end in different ways. Some characters want to make love for the first time because they've never done it before, and other characters are getting drunk and singing songs.
As for the actual sex scene itself, it took Maisie Williams a spell to realize that Arya and Gendry’s coupling was a legitimate scene and not just a prank that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were pulling on her. The showrunners have done similar things in the past, so when Williams passed an eye over the scene in the scripts at the behest of co-star Sophie Turner, she suspected foul play.
Clearly, no pranks were on the table in this case, and Maisie Williams said it was during the table read for the episode that she came to terms with what filming that moment meant. To be expected, vision of future trips to the gym flashed through her mind.
As viewers noticed during “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Arya and Gendry don’t technically have sex on camera, and Maisie Williams doesn’t get as open or extreme with her nudity in the way that other stars have in the past. But while other actors and actresses had nudity clauses in their contracts, which were signed when the performers were beyond 18 years of age, Williams joined Game of Thrones at age 11, long before anyone knew where the HBO drama was heading.
Maisie Williams basically faced all of her formative years while working with Benioff and Weiss, and they were seemingly respectful of her wishes and input as far as Arya’s on-screen reveals went. Here’s how she put it:
David and Dan were like, ‘You can show as much or as little as you want.’ So I kept myself pretty private. I don’t think it’s important for Arya to flash. This beat isn’t really about that. And everybody else has already done it on the show. . . . [The scene] was rushed. We were [directed by] David Nutter, who has a habit of speaking fast anyway. By the end we’re rushing to finish the scene and David is going, ‘Okay, you’re going to come in and do this and do that and, great, take your top off’ — and then walked off. And I’m like, ’Okay. Let’s do it.’
Being asked to choose your own nudity limitations seems like it would be almost as nerve-wracking as being told exactly what to do. But whatever mental pressures Maisie Williams may have been facing, she nailed the scene and kept Arya’s vitality intact. Now all she has to do is survive the Battle of Winterfell, NBD. Thankfully, she should have more weapons to use now.
I think everyone can agree that even though Arya’s sexual awakening reportedly wasn’t a bad experience for anyone, the silver lining here is still that no one’s genitals suffered the way that Kit Harington’s did while filming his dragon scene.
Game of Thrones will continue its final stretch of episodes as Season 8 airs Sunday nights this spring on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET.