Last night's episode of Game of Thrones started off with a bang, featuring Arya-as-Walder-Frey overseeing the poisoning of the Frey clan as revenge for the Red Wedding.
But what a strange scene it was.
As the Frey clan arrayed before her drank their fill of poisoned Arbor Gold, Arya-As-Walder gave a long and winding speech, pontificating on to those all around, and how they had done such a good job with killing all the Starks... but one. David Bradley's performance was magnificent, as he included all these little facial Arya-isms, giving away that it wasn't really Walder Frey.
But the entire premise should have given away this was not Walder Frey. As we know from the Red Wedding, Frey doesn't make long speeches. Instead, he sits back and sneers bloodlessly as those around him, including his own women, are massacred. Like he gives enough of a damn to pontificate. What Arya was performing, in her revenge, was her idea of what the Red Wedding must have been like.
Arya's performance was off because she wasn't in the room when it happened. Arya was outside the Twins, with the Hound. She never made it inside the castle. When The Hound realized what danger they were in, he grabbed Arya tight and rode like fury to get away. She was stolen away, to keep her safe, to live to fight another day.
The fascinating thing is how this bookends with Dany's own arrival home to Dragonstone, at the other end of the episode. Like Arya, Dany was not there in Dragonstone when Stannis arrived and murdered her people after the sack of King's Landing. She too, had been whisked away by well-meaning men who did not wish to see her slaughtered, or be slaughtered themselves. She was stolen away, to keep her safe, to live to fight another day.
In this opening episode, Arya is still focused on the past, seeking, and taking revenge for things that happened to her family that she wasn't even there for. One gets the sense that Dany too -- as she looks at Tyrion and says, "Shall we begin?" -- is planning on doing the same. Taking revenge for her family, for massacres she never saw, but has only imagined, all these years.
But as Jon Snow pointed out in this episode, "Yesterday's wars don't matter anymore." With Arya on her ways to King's Landing, and Dany being encouraged by Yara in the trailer for next week's episode to strike there too, is it too late for Jon to communicate that message farther than the walls of Winterfell?