Warning: Possible spoilers from last Sunday's episode. If you are not up to date then don't read this.
I know many people are excited about the last minutes of 'Spoils of War', finally witnessing the full power of a gamebreaker weapon as a dragon against a medieval army. And for all intents is cool. But for me, there was a second scene that made the episode:
Not only it was well choreographed, it showed two of the best fighters of Westeros merely sparring. But more than that it was Arya's face full of unbridled joy that made the scene for me. It goes back to the first season and her training at hands of Syrio Forel. For all the awful things the Starks kids have gone through, it was nice to see one smiling for a change -Jon rarely smiles, Sansa has learned not to, Bran is dead and the Three Eyed Raven (3ER) has taken his place- and I think it is fitting that Arya, the wild child of the bunch is the one doing it.
But the other reason this scene struck me as important is one tiny detail. It's not the fact that Arya can go toe to toe with Brienne and basically play with her. It is how she acquired such ability and what that does means for the Stark family.
My theory is that at the end of the day, the only great house -in which form, it remains to be seen- that will remain standing is the only house that long ago forsook any mundane power. House Stark, with their grim house words, was never about getting more powerful for the sake of power, unlike the Lannisters or even the Targaryen. The Stark aimed to obtain power but of a different nature. They wanted magical power because they are at the end of the day the first and last line of defense against the supernatural in Westeros. The Game is just a side activity to cover their tracks.
Previously I have shared my musings online about Game of Thrones in Altered Instinct's blog. Back then it was about the source of power in the greater story. Back then I pondered that for different reasons, the common trait of several key players on the story rested deep in their blood. It conflagrated nicely with the medieval idea that royal houses and more important royal blood had divine powers, an idea better reflected by the imagery used in legends such as the Fisher King and even the Holy Grail and JesusChrist'sfamily. And then I read this essay at Tower of the Hand, written by Steven Attewell that tangentially mentioned the fact that for the great houses of Westeros, the Stark had the strongest link to the magic of the world.
We know the Starks not only are descended of the First Men but somehow have Children of the Forest's blood running through their veins. It is what gives them their warg abilities, as seen with Bran. Their founder, Bran the Builder created the Wall and Storm's End, both structures enhanced with magical properties to deflect supernatural enemies. He also started the construction of Winterfell.
The interesting thing that the aforementioned essay brings forth is that the Stark continued adding magic to their bloodline. For starters, they reined on the Bolton's, their direct northern rivals that the canon books suggest were something akin to necromancers or used blood magic, hence the flayed people decorating their gardens. Odds are that some Bolton blood got into the Stark one at one point.
Then, during the Targaryen rule, they had a royal dragon rider staying there for a few days and it has been rumored that the crypts of Winterfell guard a few dragon eggs. Considering that Winterfell was built to have warm waters from a thermal underground source running inside the walls to keep a comfortable temperature during winter, it becomes out of the sudden a nice place to keep dragon eggs, just in case of an emergency.
This leads me to the following. While Bran -sorry, the 3ER- signals the return of the wargs abilities long dormant on the Stark bloodline, Arya and Jon represents the most recent acquisitions of magic powers.
In the case of Arya -and here I will deal now with mostly the show as you know the status of the books- the power of the Faceless Men is hers. Yes, her training might have been truncated, but I doubt that the Faceless Men would let her go so easily. There must be something else afoot. As Melissandre once told her, she has a destiny of many closed eyes in front of her. And she has put those powers to great use for her family, avenging her mother, brother and unborn niece/nephew. The ability to shape-change into another person -an ability I might add that was rumored the Bolton had as well at some point in the past- is the main power here. The mechanism of how that works haven't been explained, but certainly, needs a degree of magic in the blood to make it work. Her combat style as while has some preternatural movements, reactions faster than any seasoned fighter.
As for Jon, well by now we are sure who his parents are and he has Targaryen blood, which makes him a potential dragon rider. But I think it goes beyond that. For starters, I'm getting to the point where I doubt that Lyanna's father and elder brother weren't aware of Rhaegar's plans. I'm starting to think that they knew they were in love and Rhaegar wanted her as a wife. I think as well they knew of the prophecy of the 'Prince that was Promised' as it fits with the Imaginarium of the Northern myths and traditions. That the Mad King killed them and Robert started a rebellion was result of unforeseen actions (I blame the 3ER) and unexpected events. At the end of the day, what better weapon to fight the ancestral enemy of the Starks than a dragon? Jon was the first true attempt to bring the dragon blood into the Stark bloodline. If you add the fact that Jon has now tasted the power of R'hollr and has returned from the dead (another parallel to Christian motifs), we can see that Jon's blood has more power than he even knows. It's no wonder the Night King has targeted him as his main rival.
My nascent theory is that when all is done and the 'wheel is broken' leaving Westeros in a new shape, and providing people survive the Second Long Night, House Stark will remain standing, maybe in a different shape, as custodians of the underworld. The dragon might need three heads, but you know what else had three heads in mythology? Cerberus, the guardian dog of the Underworld. That, I believe, is the true endgame for House Stark. Because the world of Game of Thrones has two other continents full of eldritch abominations -the eastern shores of Essos, Sothoros- and the Iron Men pray to what basically sounds as Cthulhu. There are plenty of things that need to be beaten by the Wolves.
I dunno, at the end of the day these may just be random ramblings written while I should be working. But makes me wonder if that is the intention Martin had at the start or was something that developed organically. What is truth is that as for now, House Stark, the perennial underdogs of the story has now three powerhouses in term of superhuman power. And in a world where a dragon is such a game breaking weapon, the ability to warg into animals -including flocks of ravens and maybe a dragon-, shape-change into other people, moving as a ninja and have ice and fire in your blood plus coming back from death, all concentrated with three siblings make for a very interesting perspective of what might happen. If not, it would make good material for a story.