A familiar face returned to “Game of Thrones” during the second episode of Season 5. Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) reappeared in Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams) storyline and ushered her into the House of Black and White in Braavos.
There she — and audiences — will learn about the organization that Jaqen works for. “What we learn this season is how the Faceless Men work; how they change their appearance, how they shape-shift, basically,” Wlaschiha tells Zap2it. “One important point that Jaqen tries to teach Arya during this season is how to become what he calls ‘no one.'”
While Jaqen’s return is something fans have been wanting for some time, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding his character, his work and his ultimate purpose. Add that to the fact Jaqen isn’t even in part of this story in George R.R. Martin’s books — instead, a creepy fellow named the Kindly Man guides Arya through the House of Black and White — and there’s a lot to digest. Here are some key answers, straight from the source, about what Jaqen’s up to and why.
Is this person the same person Arya met back in Season 2?
“It’s a very interesting question,” Wlaschiha says. “The thing is, we don’t know who Jaqen is. It was never explained in the beginning. He suddenly surfaced, and we don’t know how he got to where he was — the Black Cells in King’s Landing. … We don’t really know who is behind Jaqen, if there is anything behind Jaqen — that’s very philosophical. [laughs] It’s definitely still my face.
“I think it’s the same persona, but it’s being put on by whoever is behind it. But it’s the same Jaqen persona that’s in Season 2.”
The Faceless Men in the show will be very similar to their depiction in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, according to Wlaschiha. “It’s talked about at some point what the Faceless Men do and how they understand their job, because to them it’s a job,” he explains. “They take on jobs, they kill people for a very high price. But they also, through the Many-Faced God, are able to give the ultimate gift, which is death. Death can also come as a relief sometimes.
“When we see them, we see examples for both versions. We learn more about the whole religion of the Faceless Men, because it’s not something that happens randomly. It’s a very organized guild, or sect, with few but strong principles.”
Who is the Many-Faced God?
Once Arya gets inside the House of Black and White, viewers will get to see a new set featuring physical depictions of the gods worshiped in the worlds of Westeros and beyond. But above all of them, the Faceless Men worship the Many-Faced God, who, as Wlaschiha explains, “has parts of all the other gods within it — him, her.”
What is the goal of the Faceless Men?
“To me, there is a very philosophical component to the Faceless Men because it is like all men are equal. There is no rich, no powerful, no poor. In the face of God, or in the face of destiny, everybody’s equal — and I like that,” Wlaschiha says. “They’re not corruptible. They hand out the gift of death to everyone, regardless of their standing or power in the worldly context.”
Arya has grown up a lot since Jaqen last saw her, and that’s not something Jaqen will ignore. “What was important to me this season was when we left him off at the end of Season 2 it seemed like they were friends, even though they had their conflicts, and she even named him as her third name,” Wlaschiha says. “It seemed like they were very friendly, so I thought it was important to show that just because of that doesn’t mean when she finds him now that they pick up where they left off. He’s going to be very demanding, and he’s going to show her some different sides to him. He’s definitely not going to make it easy for her to learn.”
How will this relationship change Arya?
“While she was a little girl back in Season 2 and she was all impulsive and not very thoughtful, and she didn’t think very much about that great gift of the three names, she now is much more aware of what she does and how she does it,” Wlaschiha says. “Of course Jaqen uses that, and he knows that now he can ask more of her than in Season 2.”
Is the fact it’s Jaqen instead of the Kindly Man greeting Arya a deviation from the books?
Beyond the fact that the two characters look different, Wlaschiha doesn’t think this storyline will ultimately be different for book and show audiences. “Like we learn in the season, behind everything is no one,” he explains. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s the Kindly Man or if it is Jaqen. The outer appearance doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s behind that, and we don’t know that.”
Does Wlaschiha know more of Jaqen’s secrets than the rest of the world?
In a word, no. “There’s a purpose to that,” Wlaschiha says, “because in a way I don’t like to be smarter than the audience. The storyline with Arya is very rich. They’re both very contradictory characters, they have many different sides to them, so there’s enough material to make those scenes interesting. I think at this point of the story, I don’t need to know more about him.”
But if he could know one secret about Jaqen, what would it be?
Though Wlaschiha laughs before answering, there is one question that’s been bothering him: “I’m still bugged by the beginning, why he showed up. Was he on a job? Was he supposed to kill someone? Why was he in King’s Landing in the Black Cells? I’d like to know that, and I hope it’s going to be explained at some point.”
Could Jaqen have been originally captured so he would cross paths with Arya?
“I bet it wasn’t a coincidence,” he acknowledges. “I bet it was something like that. Did he really have to be freed by Arya when she rescued him from the cage, or is that all part of a bigger plan? I think it’s all part of a bigger plan. I think of course he was sent, but if he was sent, then who sent him?”
What does Wlaschiha think of the theory that Faceless Men are trying to get a dragon?
That’s a theory from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books, and there’s some decent evidence supporting it (read more about it here). But Wlaschiha isn’t a fan of that concept, because he thinks it would go against what he feels the Faceless Men stand for.
“I’m not sure if the Faceless Men actually have any use for a dragon, because why would they need a dragon? They can do anything, anywhere, at any time anyway,” he says. “That would only mean that the Faceless Men were another group of people trying to get absolute power like everyone else. … It would be interesting, but I like the idea that the Faceless Men are kind of not corruptible. But who knows — not that I know what I’m talking about.”