[Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones' latest episode, "The Bells."]
After so many seasons of hearing Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) state her intention to kill Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), it was a bit surprising to see the character finally return to King's Landing and accomplish ... well, basically nothing.
Upon arriving at the Red Keep to cross that last name off her list — due to the actor's real-life health scare, Ilyn Payne is a non-factor now — the Hound (Rory McCann) essentially stopped her in her tracks and insisted that she leave, both physically and emotionally, and let the revenge rage go at last so she could finally live. After that, she tried to rescue a few people from the piling rubble but barely managed to save herself, and when she awoke, she found that only she and a white horse [cue the inevitable Arya Is Death memes] were left standing amid the wreckage.
The preview for next week's series finale proves Arya and her new steed won't make it far from the site, as she's shown observing the rise of the now-Mad Queen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) behind the Unsullied, so what's next for Arya Stark? Let's look at some of the options.
1. A different kind of Queenslayer
There's still a chance that Arya may kill a queen before it's all said and done — just maybe not the one she meant to kill all this time. The Red Witch's prophecy that she would close "green eyes" forever could easily apply to Daenerys, and after witnessing the carnage in King's Landing, Arya may very well decide to add one last name to that list before it's all said and done for the good of the Realm.
After they left Winterfell together, Arya told the Hound that she didn't intend to return home, so if she were to go down fighting, or perhaps even win in a bout with the Mother of Dragons and stick around to help clean up the mess, that would certainly make good on that promise.
2. The Lady of Storm's End
Arya has shown us time and again that a quiet family life is not in her nature, and when Gendry Baratheon (Joe Dempsie) offered to take her hand and live out their days together as the Lord and Lady of Storm's End, she politely declined.
So, it seems quite unlikely that she would suddenly switch gears and decide to pursue a quiet beachfront life with her beau, but it's not altogether impossible, especially with all the dizzying character changes of this season. The Hound's words about how she didn't want to end up like him seemed to sink in, and while he didn't spell out what that might entail, we know him to be miserable, loveless, and completely consumed by rage. If she were to overcome that instinct, she might very well decide to settle down at last, and who else would be a better fit for her than him? He knows that she's no ordinary lady, and there's no way he would try to make her a knit-happy do-nothing like she feared so well in the beginning of the show.
3. Guard to the king/queen
We still don't know for sure how Game of Thrones will end (other than being unsatisfying), but at this point, it's a safe bet to wager that Daenerys will not keep her crown for long. It's happening at an unfortunately frenetic pace and all, but Dany is not coming into her rule with the kind of wheel-breaking goodness that she embodied on her journey to this point, so she's probably going to be usurped one way or the other.
Who could take her place? Chances are, it'll be someone Arya knows. Whether it's Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whom Las Vegas has been banking on, Sansa (Sophie Turner), whose proven her pragmatism as a leader, or Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington), who is reluctant but has a solid claim, the likelihood that Arya will be close to the incoming ruler are quite high. And who could any of them better trust to protect them than the woman who single-handedly eliminated the biggest threat the world has ever known?
4. The queen
This may be something of a throwaway because Arya has never once shown an aptitude or interest in leadership, but since she is the person who killed the Night King (and thus thousands of White Walkers and wights), we can't overlook Bronn's (Jerome Flynn) pointed comment from last week about how it's hardcore cutthroats who kill thousands and get made into a king — or in this case, a queen. Hey, stranger things have happened this season.
5. Faceless Man
There's also a very real possibility that Arya Stark will return to Braavos to rejoin Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) at the Hall of Faces and help train the next up-and-coming assassins. After all, she was the one who relieved him of his sidekick the Waif back in Season 6, so now that she's done defending her home, perhaps she'll become No One yet again.
6. Eternal explorer
There would also be a lot of symmetry to Arya Stark trying to find out what exists beyond the modern maps. While being treated by Lady Crane (Essie Davis), she asked the Braavosi actress, "Essos is east, Westeros is west, but what's west of Westeros?" When Lady Crane admitted she didn't know, but suspected it might be "the edge of the world," Arya replied that she'd "like to see that." Perhaps now that the Great War and Last War are through, she can take up a new occupation as a discoverer.
We'll know soon enough when Game of Thrones' series finale airs on Sunday, May 19 at 9/8c on HBO.