(This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones‘ most recent episode, “The Long Night,” which aired on Sunday night.)
In the 24 hours since Game of Thrones aired its long-awaited battle episode, in which the forces at Winterfell squared off against The Night King’s undead army, two topics have dominated most of the online discussion of the episode: Whether the lighting of the episode was too dark to render it coherent, and whether the character of Arya Stark is a “Mary Sue.”
“Mary Sue” is a concept familiar to fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and other nerd-friendly realms of fiction. It’s often used to describe a female character who is able to perform all functions with relative ease, in a way that’s unrealistic. It’s defined by Comic Book as a character who is “unrealistically heroic, overly capable, and lacking in any real flaws.”
The male version of such a character is called a “Gary Stu”; Rey, the heroine of the current cycle of Star Wars films, has been described by screenwriter Max Landis and others as a Mary Sue, although that assertion has been much disputed as well.
At some point on Monday, it got out in social media that someone had supposedly described Arya Stark as a Mary Sue, after she was the one who killed the villainous Night King and put an end to the battle in Sunday’s episode. The phrase “Mary Sue” was trending for a time on Twitter, as numerous commentators pointed out how wrong it was to imply that Arya — who has spent the entirety of the series learning, training, and otherwise earning the opportunity to do what she did in that episode — was a Mary Sue.
What’s unclear, however, is who exactly it was who claimed that Arya was a Mary Sue. Most of the tweets attribute that sentiment to “dudes” or “dudebros” or “people” or others who don’t have names or tweets stating that they hold this opinion. In the 24 hours after the episode, there do not appear to be any columns, op-ed pieces, or social media posts by anyone with an audience of any significance making the claim that Arya Stark is a Mary Sue.
Some of the stories reference an interview given by Maisie Williams, the actress who plays Arya, to EW, in which she stated she worried what fans would think of that moment, and even shared that her boyfriend disliked the scene. But the phrase “Mary Sue” does not appear in that interview. And rather than hating the scene, it appears most Thrones fans loved that moment, even if they didn’t enjoy the rest of the episode.
There was a Reddit thread, in the Game of Thrones subreddit, asking whether Arya had become a Mary Sue. But that thread was published in 2016, while Season 6 was airing, and had nothing to do with the events of Sunday night’s episode.
The answer to who it was that called Arya Stark a “Mary Sue” is a familiar one for those who have followed Arya’s story arc: “No one.”