In episode S05E02 of Game of Thrones we see Arya reciting her list, which is now alarmingly short. The names (if I remember correctly) are: Cersei, The Mountain, Meryn Trant and Walder Frey. But basically a lot of people who are still alive and originally appeared on her list have been left out. One that instantly comes to mind is Ilyn Payne. So it begs the question, has Arya realised that Ilyn Payne had no choice in cutting her father's head off and forgiven him or has the script writer been getting a bit drunk lately?
Perhaps it is too early to answer this question, as we are barely into the season, but here's my wee bit of speculation (to be updated if we know anything more).
Arya's original kill list was (edited 3/8/19 to update death):
- Joffrey (dead)
- Walder Frey (dead by Arya's hand)
- Meryn Trant (dead by Arya's hand)
- Tywin Lannister (dead)
- The Red Woman (show only, not in the books)
- Beric Dondarrion (show only, not in the books)
- Thoros of Myr (dead) (show only, not in the books)
- Ilyn Payne
- The Mountain (undead?)
- The Hound
Let's take a look at the people Arya missed listing in "House of Black and White":
The Hound as we saw from the previous season was not granted death even though he asked for it, and Arya was more than capable to administer it. Taking off the Hound from her list is a symbol of Arya accepting that killing The Hound is no longer necessary. Whether this is out of compassion, belief that he will die anyway, or something else is never made clear. And in the books, even Arya isn't entirely sure why.
The Red Woman, Beric and Thoros are show only additions to her list related to the show-only incident of selling Gendry to be a sacrifice. And while we know the show will be diverging from the books, perhaps it is not diverging enough to create a new plot line from that incident. Perhaps that's why the writers have struck off those names?
More troubling, as you've noted, is the absence of Ilyn Payne. In fact, Ilyn Payne has been conspicuously absent from the series for a long time. Last time we saw him was during the siege of King's Landing three seasons ago. There was a brief mention of him in the previous season, in reference to him being the Crown's executioner, but no sighting. Also, Bronn replaced him as Jaime's secret trainer in the show. This tells me that the writers are slowly writing off Ilyn Payne from the series completely, and have thus expunged him from Arya's list.
I think it depends on what one means by forgiven.
One of my favorite departures from the books, is part of the TV series version of Arya's transformation into a Faceless Man while in Braavos.
Arya is tasked to kill an actress named Lady Crane. Ironically Lady Crane is playing Cersei Lannister in play that is reenacting the Death of Joffrey at the purple wedding.
The Door Transcript:
ARYA: She’s a good actress.
JAQEN: So a man has heard.
ARYA: Seems like a decent woman.
JAQEN: Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decentbehind?
ARYA: No. Who wants her dead?
JAQEN: That does not matter. The price was paid.
ARYA: The younger actress. She’s jealous because Lady Crane is better.
JAQEN: A girl must decide if she wants to serve the Many-Faced God.
ARYA: A girl has decided.
At one point when Arya was about to poison her, she finds that she can not, but instead gives Lady Crane some acting advice on how play Cersei better, after Lady Crane had asked!
Blood of my Blood Transcript:
ARYA: So change it. It would all just be farting, belching, and slapping without you.
LADY CRANE: How would you change it?
ARYA: The queen loves her son more than anything. And he was taken from her before she could say good-bye. She wouldn’t just cry. She would be angry. She would want to kill the person who did this to her.
LADY CRANE: What’s your name?
LADY CRANE: You have very expressive eyes, Mercy.
LADY CRANE: Wonderful eyebrows. Do you like pretending to be other people?
This scene shows us that Arya actually understands Cersei and can imagine how she would feel. That is the first time we really see Arya being able to show this kind of emotional understanding.
However that doesn't stop Arya from keeping Cersei off her list, as even during the beginning of season 7, Arya was headed to King's Landing until she realized her siblings had returned home to Winterfell.
In addition the Lady Crane scenes cause the Waif to take action against Arya, stabbing her in several places. Lady Crane ends up trying to help Arya, acting very much like mother figure, allowing the audience to see Lady Crane as two of the most iconic mother figures in Game of Thrones era, Catlyn Stark and Cersei Lannister.
We also come to presume that girl who allegedly hired The Faceless Men was another actress who "impersonating" Sansa in the play. This not only parallels the disagreements that Arya and Sansa had, and some disagreements they come to have at the beginning of season 7 before Bran intervenes, but also a wink to a unused book plot where Sansa's childhood friend Jeyne Poole impersonates Arya and is wed to Ramsey Bolton instead of Sansa.
There is also more irony in the idea that Arya is learning how to pretend to be someone else (someone into no one), and she's task to kill someone pretending to be someone else (no one into someones)!
But getting back to it, if forgiveness is about being able to understand another, then I would say that Arya forgives Cersei, but if forgiveness is about tolerance or acceptance, then I would say Arya has not.
Now Sansa was never on Arya's list, but she's always had a beef with her and remains to be seen, if they will stick together, with Arya forgiving Sansa through the end, when they were nearly divided by Little Finger in season 7...
However the whole crux of this Lady Crane & Faceless Men ordeal I think is in fact asking if there is justice in death and if death can be seen as forgiveness or is death ever mercy?, when Arya still wants to kill Cersei, despite understanding her loss, but when she can not kill a stranger, Lady Crane whom embodies two women: the one Arya wants to kill and one Arya lost.