Queens of the Ashes: GAME OF THRONES Arya and Daenerys

ARYA STARK

Arya’s been a fighter since S1E1; not only in a sling-an-arrow-stick-em-with-the-pointy-end kind of way. Her journey has been one of vengeance, retribution towards those who harmed her loved ones. She’s fought to survive, stay sane, and figure out not only who she is but who she wants to be.

Arya knew deep down what she did not want to be – she was no lady in the way the world formed them. She was a fighter, truthteller, passion-fueled girl who saw her loved ones taken from her again and again – her father, mother, brothers, Gendry. She literally lost her sight when she took vengeance into her own hands and fought back. When death came for her, she ran through the streets of Braavos – wounded but determined. Though trained to be “No One”, the lone wolf made a choice in the House of Black and White:  A girl HAS a name – A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell; and she’s going home.

Over the course of two seasons, Arya’s gained those she lost; reuniting with her family, her champions, and her best friend. She opened her heart and made herself vulnerable in ways she could control – still doubtful of letting others see her clearly. Where once she was resigned to a life of death and loss, Arya was suddenly faced (pun intended) with another path. One veiled by uncertainty and vengeance. Now, Arya Stark of House Winterfell has a chance to return home once more – where home ends up remains to be seen.

DAENERYS TARGARYEN

She’s spent the past seven seasons finding out who she is through what matters to her. She’s always been surrounded by advisors (some who betrayed her and others who offered clarity and reason among chaos) and now at the end of it all she’s got but one trusted ally left (two if you count her dragon).

Daenerys’ trusted inner circle grew as a result of deep respect and belief. She saw those who were tortured and imprisoned as people worthy of her help – and freedom. She believed, and destiny confirmed, that she was the one to save them all. Jorah, Missandei, Grey Worm, Tyrion, and Jon all stood at her side because she’d earned their respect and love. One by one they’ve been taken from her, either through death or perceived betrayal. Her actions in S8E5 were ones of a woman whose world crumbled before her – alone and deceived by destiny. Everything she fought for and those who fought in her name told the story of a brave woman destined to rule – to rid the Seven Kingdoms of the tyranny that’s plagued them. Never do I believe she ever thought that her choices would lead her to become that which she fought against.

QUEENS OF THE ASHES

While Arya’s journey has been one of vengeance, Daenerys’ was justice to those who committed unspeakable acts. When faced with death, Arya chose life. Daenerys chose vengeance. They have been wounded (physically, emotionally, and mentally), burned (literally in Daenerys’ case), and threatened by those who deemed them weak. Time after time, they stood back up. They rose from the ashes and kept moving.  These two complex, flawed fighters have been on mirror journeys – how their stories end I do not know. But I will most definitely be watching!

**DISCLAIMER: No endorsement by anyone associated with GAME OF THRONES is implied.**

A Stark Reality: Why GAME OF THRONES Matters

HBO shop front window (cropped view)

After a decade of hard work, sweat, tears, blood, and friendship – we soon bid adieu to the award-winning drama series, GAME OF THRONES. A show so beloved by fans and critics alike earns its spot among television greatness with sweeping saga storylines, fantasical elements, memorable characters and dialogue, costume masterpieces, and special effects that look more real than not.

I entered the GoT fandom in 2016, after my older sister’s passing. Perhaps watching this particular series with my mother seems an odd choice, but it bonded us – allowed us to escape from our grief for a while and rebuild a foundation on which House Deeny can stand. We binge-watched the first six seasons before the seventh’s premiere, and wait with anticipation together for the final journey into “Westeros”.

My mother and I are not alone in our excitement; a claim validated when I went to the HBO shop on Sixth Avenue ten days before the S8 premiere. The store was busy (as it will likely be for the near future) with fans pondering the agonizing decision of which item NOT to get. (To my delight, there were lots of House Stark merchandise leaving the shelves.)

Praying to the TV Gods (Old and New) that my favorite character survives!

GAME OF THRONES matters to people; I implore you not to discount it as a mere pop-culture phenomenon or decade-long fad as that would be doing a disservice to the cast, crew, and fans. If you doubt GoT’s significance, look at social media stats, fan fiction writings, cosplay photos, or the multitude of well-researched theory videos on YouTube. This fandom cares about not only the actors who’ve shot to stardom (deservedly so), but the finished artwork that is GAME OF THRONES. They know the names of those behind the scenes, respectful and appreciative of the writers’, directors’, and musicians’ dedication and craft.

We’re surrounded by chaos, anger, vitriol, and violence in our day-to-day life; so much so that it can seem daunting to trust that hope, joy, and love will reign supreme. People are fighting every day for what they believe in – to find justice for those persecuted or to put aside long-standing disagreements to battle an even greater threat. GAME OF THRONES entertains, shocks, moves, and awes us, but more importantly, it offers viewers a chance to examine the world around them and their part in it. We can overcome even the most challenging of obstacles, building relationships instead of walls.

The fans will certainly mourn the loss of the show (and most likely many of their beloved characters) come May 20th, but appreciation does not have a finale date. To all the artists (in front of and behind the camera) who were a part of GAME OF THRONES all these years: Your work matters! May this be but one reminder of just how much you all matter. Your watch has ended.  On April 14th, it’s the fans turn!

*No endorsement by any of the aforementioned entities, organizations, or their subsidiaries is implied.*