So Game of Thrones Season 5 has begun in earnest, we’re three episodes in. There’s lots going on, but the plot I want to focus on concerns Arya Stark and her ‘training’ at the House of Black and White. It’s just too bad the person training her is a terrible teacher. [Spoilers below.]
The Man Who Is Also Jaqen H’gar is now Arya’s mentor, the man has invited her into his home to look after her. He is responsible for her. So the fact that he gives her zero instruction in what the followers of the Nameless God do, how they do it, why, and so on, is doing absolutely nothing for his cause.
There’s a fountain the size of a kiddie pool in the main room which Arya has been sweeping for days. Said pool is full of deadly poison. At no point is she told this, while she sweeps. Good thing she never gets thirsty, or needs a break and decides to wash her hands. The Nameless Ones may not like labels, but they will need a name to put on the form for OSHA compliance.
So let’s talk about the Nameless thing: I get it. It’s ego death. The sense of ‘I’ that they’re trying so hard to shake off. It’s no doubt intrinsically tied to their ability to become other people, when there’s no personality inside to get in the way. It’s the reason nobody in the building talks in the first person.
Well. Nobody but Arya. Every time she speaks, she makes more ‘I’ statements, and a buzzer goes off in my head. “Bzzzzzzt! Nope. Stop talking in the first person. The Girl is failing the test the Girl was not told about.”
It’s a necessity of narrative pacing for a training process to take time. This is fact. What I don’t appreciate is how The Man Who Is Also Jaqen H’gar is deliberately hindering the girl’s progress, by offering her no instruction whatsoever. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t get it. The one time she asks for instruction, she gets a look and more silence– from a girl barely older than she is.
When it comes to education– in anything– it’s necessary to cover four important cornerstones: What to do, How to do it, Why you’re doing it, and what will happen if you do it right. Let’s check ‘em off:
- What to do: The only thing Arya’s been told to do is sweep floors. She later discards her personal belongings (except for Needle); not because of instruction, but because she’s pointedly asks why she still has them.
- How to do it: Nope. She’s been sweeping floors, with zero instruction.
- Why you’re doing it: She hasn’t been told that this might be a good way to clear her head in mindless (easy) labor. She hasn’t been told much of anything.
- What will happen if you do it right: Again, no. Arya isn’t told what will happen if she performs her work well. Instead, the Man leaves a door open, on the other side of which is a dead man, a girl, and a pair of sponges. No instruction whatsoever.
If The Man Who Is Also Jaqen H’gar had any kind of ego, he’d probably be feeling disappointed that Arya is getting frustrated. Said frustration is entirely his fault. He agreed to take her on, implicitly agreeing to show her his ways. He’s doing nothing of the kind. If and when this piss poor training regime actually works (it’s a fictional institution that’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years), The Girl Who Was Arya will be a different person.
In the meantime, she has a LOT of bumping into walls to look forward to: stumbling around a maze in the dark, with no map and no lantern. At this rate she will blunder onto what she’s supposed to be doing when it’s convenient for the plot, and only after she’s tried literally everything else.
I hate the Trickster Mentor, as a character. The person in this role has one job. So far, The Man Who Is Also Jaqen H’gar is doing a terrible job.
What do you think?