The early seasons of “Game of Thrones” indeed presented a remarkable tapestry of intricate characters and compelling plotlines. One extraordinary meeting exclusive to the TV series, not found in George R.R. Martin’s books, is the encounter between Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister. This encounter, which occurred in Season 2, significantly enriched both characters’ journeys, surpassing their arcs in the novels.
In Season 2, Arya departs King’s Landing following her father’s execution and finds herself at Harrenhal, now under Tywin Lannister’s control amidst the War of the Five Kings. Disguised as a boy, Arya initially hopes to reach the Wall where her half-brother Jon Snow resides. However, she’s captured by Lannister soldiers and taken to Harrenhal, where Tywin arrives and recognizes her true identity, albeit disguised. He appoints her as his cupbearer, unknowingly employing Arya Stark, a potential leverage against her brother Robb Stark’s forces.
Throughout their interactions, Arya serves Tywin, listening in on his meetings while concealing vital information about Robb’s army. Despite their adversarial positions, their conversations carry significant subtext, with Arya maintaining a façade while subtly challenging Tywin’s assumptions. Meanwhile, Arya learns from Jaqen H’ghar, receiving her initial lessons in taking lives judiciously.
The pivotal difference in the series occurs during Arya’s decision not to name Tywin for assassination by Jaqen H’ghar, contrary to audience expectations. This divergence offers profound insights into Arya’s choices. Notably, two key moments shape Arya’s decision: her discussions with Tywin about family legacy and observing his dedication to preserving the Lannister name and power.
Tywin’s lessons on legacy resonate deeply with Arya, reminiscent of her upbringing by her father, Ned Stark. Although Tywin is an adversary, his commitment to family strikes a chord with Arya, compelling her to reevaluate her initial intention to have him killed.
This significant narrative shift between Arya and Tywin, exclusive to the TV series, amplifies the complexity of their relationship. Despite their opposing loyalties, there’s an unspoken respect between them. Tywin acknowledges Arya’s intelligence and sharpness, an aspect he finds lacking in his own children. Arya, in turn, finds validation and recognition in Tywin’s praise, a sentiment rarely experienced by her.
This newfound respect and mutual admiration subtly influence Arya’s decision not to have Tywin killed, as she values the unexpected acknowledgment from a significant figure, regardless of their opposing sides in the conflict.
In George R.R. Martin’s books, Arya’s Harrenhal experience differs significantly, excluding her interactions with Tywin. Instead, she witnesses the workings of the Lannister army and spends time with her friends and Jaqen H’ghar, contemplating different choices regarding those she desires to kill.
The depth of Arya and Tywin’s interaction in the TV series, rooted in mutual respect despite their enmity, illuminates Arya’s decision-making process and her longing for recognition—a complex and nuanced departure from the original novels.
“Game of Thrones” is available for streaming on HBO Max in the U.S.