Acronyms, Acronyms, Acronyms: A G.O.T. R.O.I. & S.W.O.T. Analysis - Arya Stark
The number of characters jostling for the Iron Throne fluctuates faster than the relevance of Dorne. For seven full seasons now, it hasn’t really changed hands; the Baratheon-but-really-Lannister line has held it from Winter is Coming to The Dragon and the Wolf. With a handful of Starks in Winterfell, the Night King leading a zombie army, and Dany commanding a Dothraki horde, an Unsullied army, and
three two dragons, we’re closer than ever to a real power shift. But who’s best positioned to wind up on top of the special spiky seat when all is said and done? I’ll turn to my whopping 10 years of corporate experience to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis for each character and predict the ROI (return on investment) for the kingdom should they end up in the hotseat.
Let’s take a look at everyone’s favorite Rat Cook, Arya Stark.
We’re all familiar with the list. Arya hasn’t lost track of her purpose over endless miles of travel and training, and she’s been making steady progress. It’s not a good idea to stand between Arya and her goals.
While the show has largely avoided any information on how the magic of the Faceless Men actually works, Arya is clearly able to impersonate her victims down to their shape, size, and voice. The strategy won’t work against everyone (mindless killing machines don’t care who you look like), but it’s a huge leg up against most foes.
Arya now holds the Valyrian steel assassin’s dagger thanks to the combined Stark takedown of Littlefinger, and she’s used the castle-forged steel sword Needle effectively since getting it back from Polliver.
Suffice to say the training montages in the House of Black and White were difficult to interpret. Arya reached the point where she was able to fight the Waif blind, but quickly slid back to getting whooped as soon as her sight returned. She narrowly escaped the Waif by taking advantage of her nightvision(?) and returned to Westeros. Since then, she’s been on fire, infiltrating the Freys and exacting vengeance for the Red Wedding and then dueling Brienne to a standstill in Winterfell. She may be at a size disadvantage, but her speed, skill, and technique put her on par with the best in the realm.
It would be strange if Arya’s journey left her as a cool, collected, and inspirational leader of armies. She’s been operating (quite successfully!) on her own for some time now, and she doesn’t seem inclined to move into a management role anytime soon.
This is a strange one. Presumably, her Faceless Man magic would allow Arya to be as large or small as she deems necessary for a given task; just use the mask of an appropriate victim. If Arya isn’t undercover, though, she’s physically unassuming. It doesn’t make her less deadly, but there’s always a risk when you’re giving up considerable height and weight to your opponent (just ask the Red Viper).
The show doesn’t seem to care, but there are still two Stark children with giant magical wolves on their side. Last season’s reunion might be the last time we see Nymeria, but it boosts Arya’s image if she decides to make another appearance.
Element of Surprise
Magical assassin training opens up a lot of opportunities. You can make enemies welcome you with open arms, morph into an innocuous serving girl, or take a more straightforward approach and just get the drop on your foe. No one sees Arya as physically intimidating at first glance, but her form changes the moment she reaches into her bag of tricks (read: faces).
Degree of Difficulty
Let’s review who remains on Arya’s list: Beric Dondarrion, Melisandre, the Mountain, and Cersei Lannister. Beric hasn’t been nearly as difficult to kill as he has been to kill permanently, but maybe she’ll give him a pass now that he’s helping to lead the fight against the Others. Our other three targets are an indeterminably old witch, a reanimated monster of a man capable of crushing skulls barehanded and cutting people in half, and the current Queen of the Seven(ish) Kingdoms who has outlasted almost everyone. Before even considering what sitting the Iron Throne might be like, she’s focused on knocking out three imposing enemies.
Return on Investment
Really bad. If Arya somehow finds herself ruling the Seven Kingdoms at the end of this, it would mean she’d finished her original kill list and lost even more family members. Her people skills are lacking, and without a clear objective she’d probably stop paying attention rather quickly. The best-case scenario for her reign is that she stops trying to get things done and leaves it in the capable hands of her small council. Let’s just let Arya live her best life, roaming the Riverlands with Nymeria (and the Hound, perhaps?), terrifying would-be petty criminals into better behavior. ROI: steady -10% per year.
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