”… Even Arya’s somewhat dubious stab wound-healing I was able to reasonably buy.“
The dubious stab wound-healing and other aspects of those Arya/Waif Braavos scenes were attributable to questionable directorial decisions by Mark Mylod, not bad writing:
At the end of one episode, knowing the FM would come after her, a vigilant Arya was shown ensconced in a hideaway sharpening her sword. Yet in the next episode she was strolling around the streets of Braavos, defenseless, like a carefree tourist when the Waif stabbed her.
In an interview, Mylod asserted that Arya was still a naive young girl and got careless (to which a WoW commenter responded “what show have you been watching these last five seasons, you twat?”) Mylod said he purposely exaggerated her gut wounds so the viewer would seriously believe Arya might die: cynical manipulation instead of realistic portrayal.
Mark Mylod interview about S6e7 & e8:
Q: The past two episodes have had a certain ambiguity with Arya’s storyline, both with her being stabbed by the Waif and her leading her to the final fight. Did you make that intentionally ambiguous? What were you trying to convey with those sequences?
Mylod: “Yes. In terms of the ambiguity of tone in the chase, yes, that was very deliberate. My dearest wish, I suppose, the endgame there was for the audience to watch the chase for as long as possible thinking, “Oh my God, I’m watching Arya Stark’s death,” to be carried away on that emotional beat.
In terms of ambiguity at the end of episode 7, in terms of “Why is Arya stabbed then? How does she allow herself to get stabbed?” — again, one of the wonderful things about Game of Thrones is that there is so much, because it’s so tonally complex and myriad that people can make a lot of their own choices. A lot of the time I’ll make choices in my own head that I don’t even wish to be pushed out into the world, and people can make their own choices. But for me I played it that the character let her guard down.
I played it that she made a mistake, that having made that choice to get the heck out of Braavos and almost the relief, that the character has a moment of just relaxation— not quite relaxation, but at least a little kind of existential moment of, “Okay, you know what? This place is cool. I’m going to miss it. For all that’s gone on here, it’s a beautiful city. You know, there’s that great statue out on the harbor, it’s a beautiful place. I’m going to miss it,” and that little moment of revery, because, she’s a warrior, but she’s still a young woman, and she lets her guard down, and she almost pays with her life. That was my choice in that moment.
Despite its fantasy elements, GoT was still set in a medieval society in which even the strongest warriors can be disabled or die from infected cuts or bites (e.g. Khal Drogo; Sandor), or “sh*t themselves to death in a field somewhere” from drinking contaminated water (Sandor to Beric, S7e1). GoT had not resorted to reducing its characters to typical Hollywood action heroes who could get shot in the arm, but in the next scene are swinging through the air holding a rope in one hand and firing a machine gun with the other.
Moreover, the rationale that Arya “is still a young woman, and she lets her guard down” is inconsistent with everything about Arya’s character and story line. The director admitting that he “played it that she made a mistake” was unjustifiable, in my opinion.