The ending of Game of Thrones' penultimate Season 8 episode was as shocking as the penultimate episode of Season 1. The series that killed off Ned Stark to the horror of viewers was back at it again, this time with a dragon fire-bombing of King's Landing that seemed to kill everyone in its path, everyone except Arya. She managed to survive the fire, smoke, ash and collapsing buildings, to look up and see a white horse she could ride to safety. Or did she? Is Arya already dead on Game Of Thrones?
It's not a totally out-there concept. White horses are incredibly symbolic in fantasy, from winged horses like Pegasus in Greek mythology to more modern high fantasy stories, like Gandalf's horse Shadowfax from The Lord of the Rings. The Bible even talks about pale horses "whose rider is Death."
Now, to be fair, Game of Thrones rarely goes in for that sort of symbolism. Though it is a fantasy show, it prefers those tropes to come with a little more bite. Jaime Lannister, for instance, rides in on a white horse to Winterfell in Season 1, the god-like golden knight of the realm. By the end of the episode, he's revealed himself to be a terrible person inside. The white horse, like the armor, is just an act.
However, fans caught more than one reference to white horses in this episode, which suggested Arya may have passed from this world. If so, it's her spirit which rode out of the city, looking for vengeance.
One explanation: The white horse is the same one fans saw Harry Strickland astride just before Drogon destroyed the gates of the city. In reality, this is probably true. The show doesn't have a rental budget to bring in endless white horses — it probably is the same one. But here's the rub. Strickland's horse died on-screen (along with most of the Golden Company.) If the show did mean it to be obviously the same horse, and not just an accident of horse availability, then it's a ghost, come to take dead Arya's spirit away.
The other, creepier, argument is that the horse isn't there at all. Arya is creating it in her mind's eye as she dies. Why would that happen? Because she just saw a white horse in the hands of the little girl she couldn't save.
Look closely at the picture above. That's the woman who saved Arya when she first stepped out into the street and was nearly trampled. Arya is now trying to rescue the mother and daughter from Drogon, who is visible in the background. In the scene, the mother stumbles and falls, and, with no time to go back, Arya tries to save the daughter. But the kid pulls away and runs back to mom, directly into the fire stream coming from Drogon's mouth.
While some theories believe the white horse is that toy come to life — a symbol of Arya's quest to now punish Daenerys for murdering the child — the other explanation is that Arya is dead, and in her final moments, she sees the white horse toy come to life to carry her away from this world.