Maisie Williams on Arya's dark twist

In Sunday night’s Game of Thrones premiere, Arya crossed a name off her death-wish list.

With a little brutal help from The Hound, the orphaned Stark girl took out Polliver, one of Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane’s men who she witnessed torturing and murdering innocent people in the show’s second season, after Arya was captured along with a group headed to Castle Black. Not only did Arya run her sword Needle through Polliver, she tormented him too, and seemed pretty satisfied by her actions.

Maisie Williams (Arya) says her previous hands-on killings — one clearly accidental, another a soldier in the wake of the Red Wedding — were more impulsive. Her plotting with season two assassin Jaqen H’ghar was likewise mostly survival. This seemed like the most deliberate and satisfying action she’s taken since her world was overturned in season one, yet also represents a grim turn for her character.
“There’s a turn in her and it’s kind of frightening,” Williams tells EW. “She hasn’t done much that’s really that effective. In this moment after she’s killed Polliver, she’s realized her own power as well. It was about being in the right pace at the right time. I think she’s also trying to show The Hound too — I got this list and I can do this if I want to. She’s definitely kind of changing and putting on a more brutal approach to things. It’s a lot more risky, as well, b she’s not afraid of death.”

The move also represents a notable departure from the George R.R. Martin novels (in the books, The Hound kills Polliver). “This year there’s a few key plot twists and the way [the show's] writers go about it is different than the books,” she says. “I think fans of the books will be a little confused … which I think is fantastic because it keeps it interesting for everyone.”

Showrunner David Benioff notes that Arya’s dark turn really began at end of last season. “Arya’s already gone there, once you start shoving a shiv in a guy’s neck. And it really started in season one where she killed the stable boy. That was sort of a surprising-herself moment — killing the stable boy — she wasn’t planing on doing it … It’s part of her journey. She progresses, she’s more proactive. It’s not necessarily in self defense anymore.”

Fellow showrunner Dan Weiss also weighed in on the sword-melting cold open in the premiere, which saw Ned Stark’s sword Ice re-forged into two new blades: “We were looking for a strong way to open the series and different way than than in the past. We’ve had various openings, a lot of them action driven. We thought this was strongly visual but also would make a real impact in terms of what it meant for the characters and the world. Melting down Ice and subdividing it to the two swords happens off screen in the books, but it’s something so strong about the image of this most iconic weapon we’ve had on the show and all it signifies for the Starks and family history seeing it literally melted down and re-purposed for Tywin’s liking, it speaks volumes without saying a word. It also gave us a chance to build an actual working forge and have some fun with real molten metal.”