The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season seven.
Game of Thrones fans know that Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish always has a trick up his sleeve, but a moment in the seventh season has us worried that his latest scheme could change everything for the newly reunited Stark family. But before we dive into our concerns, we need to explore a bit of Littlefinger's background — specifically, his connection to the free city of Braavos.
As you might recall, Arya journeys to Braavos to train with the Faceless Men in earlier seasons, and it's where she learns the true meaning of "Valar morghulis." The face-swapping skills that she picks up during this training follow her back to Westeros, aiding her in her revenge against the Frey family in particular. She is also well-trained in the Braavosi fighting style, "water dancing," which she first begins learning with Syrio Forel in season one.
While Sansa looks perturbed by the good-natured fight, Littlefinger has something of a smirk playing on his lips as he watches the exchange.
But what many fans might not know is that Arya isn't the only one with a connection to Braavos in the series. Before they settled in The Fingers, the island territory that led to Petyr's nickname, the Baelish family traces back to Braavos, where Littlefinger's great-grandfather was a sellsword. This means that Littlefinger likely grew up on tales of the homeland, the Many-Faced God, and those wacky dudes who wear dead men's faces.
The moment in particular that concerns us from season seven is when Littlefinger observes Arya and Brienne sparring in the Winterfell courtyard. While Sansa looks perturbed by the good-natured fight, Littlefinger has something of a smirk playing on his lips as he watches the exchange.
So, why are we concerned? Well, the story behind this knowing smile could mean something major for the Stark family . . . and Arya in particular. Let's dive into it, shall we?
1. Littlefinger definitely notices Arya's "water dancing"
Littlefinger's great-grandfather was a fighter back in Braavos and presumably trained his male heirs to fight in the same fashion that he knew: water dancing. So when Arya arrives to Winterfell and openly exhibits mastery of the uncommon fighting style right in front of Littlefinger, he picks up on it because of his own experience with the style of swordsmanship. Notice how we've never seen Littlefinger fight in the series? We have no idea how he's trained in swordplay, but it could very likely be in the Braavosi style.
2. He also probably suspects that Arya was at the House of Black and White
While observing their sparring match, Littlefinger hears Arya reply "no one" to Brienne's inquiry about who trained her. While Arya clearly enjoys her own private joke, she might not be the only one who catches the reference to the Faceless Men; Littlefinger, who knows all about the House of Black and White thanks to the tales of his homeland, would know all about their lack of personal identity. This answer, paired with her unique fighting style, probably tips off Baelish that Arya has spent the past few years learning the art of becoming "no one."
While Arya clearly enjoys her own private joke, she might not be the only one who catches the reference to the Faceless Men; Littlefinger knows all about the House of Black and White.
Because he has been tipped off by Arya's telling behavior, Littlefinger is now aware — or at least suspicious — of her special skills. Littlefinger is already a discerning and mistrustful man . . . remember that whole speech that he gave Sansa about how "Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend"? But now that he (correctly) believes that Arya is faceless, he will be even more wary of everybody he meets. Any element of surprise that Arya might have had when inevitably attempting to kill Littlefinger is now lost. She definitely won't be able to pull a Walder Frey on him!
What's more: for somebody who has been on the series for all seven seasons, Littlefinger is a surprisingly enigmatic character. Sure, viewers know that he once challenged Ned Stark's eldest brother to a duel for Catelyn Stark's hand and lost, but do we know where he went afterward?
Consider this: Littlefinger might also have surprising skills of his own
After leaving Riverrun in disgrace because of this lost duel, it is presumed that Littlefinger went home to The Fingers. However, he's open about his hatred for the home of his childhood — who's to say that Littlefinger didn't go abroad to retrace his roots and end up in Braavos before finding work in King's Landing?
It's no secret that Petyr Baelish seeks power above all else, and there's nothing quite as invigorating as the power to become another person. It seems reasonable to suspect that Littlefinger would nurse an interest in the Faceless God and his identity-fluid followers. It's a stretch, but Littlefinger may have even dabbled in becoming "no one" himself. If he has training in changing his own appearance, it would definitely explain how Littlefinger seems to know everything about everybody; that technique would be even more effective than Lord Varys's "little birds."
While we doubt that Littlefinger is a faceless man in his own right — that's too complicated a storyline to introduce this late in the Game of Thrones plot — he's definitely on to Arya Stark. We'll have to see how his knowledge of her powers could affect the Stark family's return to power as season seven plays out.