It’s nearly been a week since the last Game of Thrones episodes so it may seem like a stupid time to post a rant about it. However, there never seemed to be a decent time to do it. This week was all about Endgame. The only sensible time would have been Wednesday but I had a book review ready to go and I’m trying to keep on top of those. So, I almost just left this alone but, as you should know by now, I’m never one to miss the chance to rant about something. And this is a doozy. Spoiler warnings to anyone who hasn’t seen the episode this week. It’s been long enough by now but I still don’t want to risk it. A friend of mine had the ending ruined for him and I feel his pain. If I’d have known how that episode finished going in, I would have been fucking livid. It was such a fantastic thing to be surprised by. So, yeah, if you haven’t seen the latest episode I’m about to give you major spoilers so stop reading now. It’s really not worth it for what I’m going to say. I’m just going to be getting angry about stupid men on the internet. I have hundreds of rants like this already. Go read them instead.
If you’re still here, I’m assuming the next thing I’m going to say is not going to shock you. Arya Stark killed the fucking Night King, man. What an absolutely amazing twist. Honestly, that entire scene was perfect. The music, the way it was shot, the fact that she appeared out of nowhere. It was genuinely a shock to see it take place. I loved it. And I loved that after all the months of trying to push Jon to be the big hero, it was actually the young girl who saved Westeros. Now, I know I’m a bit biased because I’ve always hated Jon as a character but, we have to be honest, he’s fucking useless. His approach to strategy is to just rush in without thinking and hope for the best. He’s only survived this long because of other people. He was never going to be ready to face the Night King. Even Olly managed to stab him.
So, had Jon actually been the one to make it the Weirwood to save Bran, we know what would have happened: disaster. Jon isn’t subtle, sneaky, or useful. He could never have had the skills to get that close to the Night King and stab him. We saw that earlier in the episode. He was miles away and the Night King knew he was coming. We all know that there was only one person in Winterfell who had the necessary skills to defeat him. Luckily, the Red Lady also knew this and pushed Arya in the right direction. And what a beautiful moment it was. Everyone has always underestimated Arya. Even the Night King did. He captured her and figured that was that. But we’ve seen how quick her reactions are. My mind is still blown after her fight with Brienne last season. That knife switch was insane. So, we know Arya is rightly the one to end this, right?
Well, apparently not. Because, as we’ve come to expect every time a female does something awesome in popular culture, everyone has to start making comments about it. And the phrase you’ll hear bandied about more than anything is “Mary Sue”. This phrase had it’s origins in a Star Trek fanfiction parody that set out to mock the idealised female characters many writers were creating for their stories. It quickly became part of the popular lexicon used every time a female character was made to seem too perfect. The actual definition from Dictionary.com reads:
Mary Sue is a term used to describe a fictional character, usually female, who is seen as too perfect and almost boring for lack of flaws, originally written as an idealized version of an author in fanfiction.
So, basically, any female character who is written as being highly skilled in everything in an unrealistic way. It was a term widely used after The Force Awakens when pathetic Star Wars fanboys got their feelings hurt that the saviour of the Jedis was going to be a woman. And, after this week’s episode, plenty of people took to the internet to connect it to Arya Stark.
But, Arya Stark is the opposite of a Mary Sue. We’ve seen her train for this moment. It’s been painstaking at times. Basically, all we have seen of Arya in the books is her boring training montages. Similarly, she’s had so many episodes on the show where we’ve seen her develop her skills in fighting, sneaking, and generally badassery. She’s a fucking assassin who was trained by the faceless men. She’s killed countless people. She beat the waif despite being badly injured in the fucking dark. Anyone who thinks Arya is being painted as unrealistically skilled clearly hasn’t been watching the show. We first meet her as a young girl making a bullseye with a bow and arrow. We see her learn to fight in King’s Landing. She makes her way to Braavos and goes through all sorts of trials. Yet, it’s still not enough.
Because the fragile male egos out there complaining about the twist, don’t see themselves in Arya Stark. They see themselves (whether rightly or wrongly… I’m guessing wrong) in Jon Snow. The sexy man-bun hero who has women falling at his feet. The man who has fucked up everything and put so many of his friends and loved ones in danger. The man who doesn’t deserve the respect or power that has been thrust upon him. The man who isn’t even half the swordsman that Arya is. That’s the guy they wanted to see kill the Night King. Not some little girl. But they don’t have a good reason to disagree with it. Thankfully, good old Mary Sue is hanging around somewhere to help them out. Mary Sue, much like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, really has lost all its meaning now. The definition has been thrown out of the window and the phrase is just a fallback for sexist men who don’t want to appear sexist.
Although, in the pursuit of fairness, I do have to admit there are a few Mary Sue’s in Game of Thones. This episode in particular proved that. But it’s not who they want us to think it is. It’s someone you’d never expect. Kind and reliable Samwell Tarly. Seriously, how is that guy still alive? We know he has no skills with a sword but he has survived the White Walkers more times than Tormund has had impure thoughts about Brienne. Look at the moment where Jon manages to walk, unharmed, through a battlefield teaming with wights. We see Sam in a huge pile of the undead but, somehow, he gets out unscathed. How? He’s Mary Sued himself through the entire series but nobody calls him out on it. Look at all of the skills he’s amassed with no background. He cured Sir Jorah with no knowledge of anything. He left the Citadel having earned no chains but is apparently amazing at everything. And I get it. Because the men complaining about this may think they’re Jon Snow but they’re really Samwell. So, Sam needs to survive so that they can feel good about themselves. It’s just a massive shame that tearing apart a teenage girl is also a massive part of that too.
And I know, as someone who was once a teenage girl, that not every one of us would be as good as Arya in that situation. But that’s not the point. She’s been preparing for this moment from the beginning. And you can’t ignore that. You can’t take that away from her. There were so many people in this episode who should have died but didn’t Arya isn’t one of them. She’s proven that she’s an adept fighter and has the cunning to get herself out of trouble. Arya Stark is not a Mary Sue. She’s the best Westeros has to offer.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."