Game of Thrones Season 8 shocked viewers when the Battle of Winterfell did not turn out to be the expected bloodbath, or the fall of the Stark ancestral home, as some had predicted. Instead, the Night King was felled, not by Jon Snow, True Westerosi Hero, nor by Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Fireballer of Armies, but by Arya Stark. It's as if someone said "No one can take down the Night King," and Arya just smiled real wide. The actress behind the role was ready for it, too. This Maisie Williams training for Arya's Game of Thrones stunts shows she was prepared for anything.
In interviews before Game of Thrones Season 8's release, Williams admitted she was given plenty of warning her stunts would be significant for this installment. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, she told them director Miguel Sapochnik phoned her up a year in advance and told her to start training. She wasn't impressed at first until she got the script and found out precisely what that training was for.
The good news was showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss were using a variety of callbacks from Arya's work over the years, including a scene in Season 7, where she and Brienne of Tarth (played by Gwendoline Christie) spar in Winterfell courtyard. In this "Game Revealed" video, released post-Season 7, fans can see the extensive training Williams already had.
The showrunners and the fight choreographers were also very lucky in their casting. When Williams initially landed the part of Arya Stark back in 2009, she read enough of the books to learn her character was left-handed. In a move method actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale would approve of, the then-12-year-old Maisie decided she would learn to do everything left-handed, despite being a righty in real life. She was young enough at that point for it to impress on her body in a way it might not have on an older actor.
Over the decade of filming, she's basically taught herself to be ambidextrous, especially in stage combat, which gives fight choreographers more room to play with how they stage her fights. It also means she can legit pull off those Princess Bride Inigo Montoya-style moments: "I am not left-handed!"
It's that exact move Arya basically pulls on the Night King. Check out how the production pulled it off in this week's "Game Revealed" episode. (Relevant section starts at 31:23.)
My personal favorite moment in this behind the scenes clip is Kit Harington (who plays Jon Snow) admitting how pissed he was to learn Arya kills the Night King instead of him. As fans may recall, Harington did not read the scripts when he first got them, preferring to experience the final season for the first time at the read-through. One can only wonder how he handled the discovery in front of everyone that he wasn't taking down the Big Bad Blue Dude.
The good news though, is that Vladimir Furdik, who plays the Night King, was very good with this outcome.
Rest in pieces, Night King. As for Arya, the question now is who else she adds to her list, now that she's killed the biggest threat to life in Westeros. Could it be Cersei?