"Blood of My Blood" is the sixth episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fifty-sixth episode of the series overall. It premiered on May 29, 2016. It was written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Jack Bender.
Beyond the Wall
Meera pulls Bran through the snow as he remains in vision-state, but she is clearly getting tired. Bran experiences a rush of visions: King Aerys shouting "Burn them all!"; the Red Wedding, his family, wights in Hardhome, wildfire, dragons, Jaime Lannister and the Iron Throne. Pursuing wights are also seen. Meera cannot go on any further and tries to wake Bran, who comes out of his visions to say "They've found us." She can hear wights approaching through the trees. With no more energy left to pull Bran, and barely enough to draw her sword, she apologises to Bran for failing him, as the wights come into sight.
Just as all appears hopeless, a mysterious rider appears and attacks the wights with a sickle and a flaming flail. Once the wights in the immediate vicinity have been dealt with, he urges Meera and Bran to come with him because "the dead don't rest," and they escape on horseback.
Later, when they have reached relative safety and the rider is preparing a meal, Meera asks why he helped them. The rider reveals he was sent by the Three-Eyed Raven who "lives again" - just as he says this Bran wakes up. The rider reveals himself as a disfigured Benjen Stark, Bran's uncle, and explains that he was stabbed in the gut by a White Walker's sword and left to die, but the Children of the Forest rescued him and stopped the magic that would have turned him into a Wight.
He explains that Bran must now be the Three-eyed Raven, and when the White Walkers come to the realms of men, Bran will be waiting for them.
At Horn Hill
Sam and Gilly approach Horn Hill, the seat of House Tarly. Sam warns Gilly that they must claim Little Sam is Sam's son, and that Gilly should hide the fact that she is a wildling, since his father abhors wildlings.
Sam introduces Gilly and Little Sam to his mother, Lady Melessa Tarly, and sister, Lady Talla Tarly. In spite of her rough appearance, both immediately notice Gilly's beauty, and Melessa is delighted to meet her first grandchild. Talla tries to tell Sam of her upcoming betrothal, but Melessa shushes her. Talla takes Gilly under her wing, offering her a dress and a spare bedroom.
That evening, they all have dinner along with Sam's father, Lord Randyll Tarly, and brother, Dickon Tarly. Sam reveals his plans to become a maester and eventually return to Castle Black. Randyll criticises Sam for his weight and mocks his attempt to claim hunting and fighting skills, both of which Sam admits can actually be attributed to Gilly and Jon Snow, respectively. Talla is delighted to hear that Gilly can hunt for herself, and suggests that Randyll should be more like Gilly's father, a suggestion which makes Sam and Gilly wince.
Gilly, defending Sam from Randyll's verbal assault, mentions Sam's heroism on three different occasions in which Sam proved himself to be a greater warrior than Randyll will ever be. But in doing so, she inadvertently reveals her origins from North of the Wall. So Randyll doesn't seem to take in her point about Sam's qualities but instead only hears that she is a wildling.
Randyll reveals his prejudice towards wildlings and his contempt for Sam. Melessa, thoroughly angered by Randyll's behavior, declares that Sam isn't the one dishonoring House Tarly, Randyll is. She then storms out, taking Talla and Gilly with her. Randyll eventually agrees that Gilly and Little Sam can stay at Horn Hill; Gilly will work in the kitchens, and Little Sam will be acknowledged and raised as a bastard. However, this will be Sam's last night at Horn Hill, forever.
Sam later apologises to Gilly for not standing up to his father and that he will be leaving at first light. However, he shortly returns to her, declaring that he has changed his mind, and says that they need to stay together as they belong with each other, and that they are all leaving right now. On the way out he takes Heartsbane - the family's Valyrian Steel sword.
In King's Landing
Tommen is speaking with the High Sparrow about Margaery's Walk of Atonement, and the High Sparrow offers to let him see her. Tommen enters Margaery's cell and is surprised to find her speaking positively about the High Sparrow and contritely about her past sins, including her vanity about being seen to help the poor and needy. He finds himself agreeing with her feelings towards the High Sparrow.
Later, Mace Tyrell leads an army through the streets of King's Landing to a waiting Jaime Lannister, before giving a rather pompous speech at which Jaime cringes. Together, they proceed to the Great Sept, outside which the High Sparrow, Septa Unella, the Faith Militant and a large crowd of city folk are preparing for Margaery's Walk of Atonement. The army arrives, along with Olenna Tyrell in a litter, as the High Sparrow is speaking, and Jaime demands he release Margaery and Loras, before they can "be on their way."
The High Sparrow refuses and fends off Jaime's threats to kill all the Sparrows by saying each Sparrow yearns to die in the service of the Gods. After a tense few moments he proclaims it will not be necessary, as there will be no Walk of Atonement. Margaery has already atoned for her sins by bringing another into the faith. To Jaime's astonishment the doors of the Sept open and King Tommen emerges, escorted by his own guards, and walks down the steps to join the High Sparrow and Margaery in a demonstration of unity between the crown and the faith. The crowd burst into cheers after Tommen's speech, demonstrating that the High Sparrow now has the support of both the crown and the smallfolk.
Baffled, Mace asks what is happening. Olenna replies in disgust that the High Sparrow has beaten them.
Later, in the throne room, Tommen strips Jaime of his position in the Kingsguard because "an attack on the faith is an attack on the crown," but reveals that Jaime will not have to face imprisonment or humiliation; he can continue to serve his King and the Lannisters, just not in King's Landing.
Jaime later complains to Cersei that he has been ordered to help Walder Frey recapture Riverrun, but instead he intends to find Bronn and whatever killers Bronn can find, to march into the Great Sept and kill the High Sparrow. Cersei says that he should go to Riverrun and show everyone how easily a Lannister can take a castle, as to attack the High Sparrow and his fanatics would probably result in Jaime's death and destroy everything they are working for. She does not need Jaime to be in the city for her trial, it will be a trial by combat and she has the unbeatable Mountain. She reassures Jaime they will still defeat all their enemies, and they kiss.
Arya is watching the second half of the mummers' performance of The Bloody Hand in which the caricature version of Tyrion poisons his nephew and murders his father. She displays amusement at the rendition of Joffrey's painful death, while the crowd watches mournfully. She then seems moved by Lady Crane's performance as Cersei. She notices Bianca (the actress playing Sansa) mouthing Lady Crane's lines, possibly reinforcing Arya's hunch that Bianca is behind the Faceless Men's order for Lady Crane's death.
As the play is finishing, she sneaks backstage and poisons Lady Crane's rum, hesitating before doing so. She is still backstage as the mummers come in, and Lady Crane recognises her as having been in the audience earlier. The two converse and Arya realises she has much in common with the actor. Arya suggests to Lady Crane that Cersei's final speech is out of character to the real Queen Mother – Cersei wouldn't be grief-stricken, she'd be outraged and out for vengeance. Impressed with Arya's insight, Lady Crane compliments her again and asks if she enjoys pretending to be someone else. Apparently uncomfortable at what she has done, or unsettled by the question, Arya makes an excuse that her father is waiting for her and she leaves.
Lady Crane argues with Izembaro about improving the script and just as she is about to drink her rum, Arya reappears and knocks it from her hand. She points at Bianca and warns Lady Crane that Bianca wants her dead before running out. Unknown to Arya, the Waif witnesses this exchange and reports back to Jaqen, asking for permission to kill Arya. Jaqen reluctantly agrees, contemplating it is a shame as Arya had many gifts, and allows the Waif to proceed – but she is not allowed to let Arya suffer.
Meanwhile, Arya retrieves Needle, apparently demonstrating she has forsaken her desire to become a Faceless Man and once more is embracing her destiny as Arya Stark. She hides in a small room, blows out her candle and waits in darkness for the retribution she knows is coming.
At the Twins
At The Twins, Walder Frey receives word that Riverrun is lost, retaken by Brynden Tully. He is flabbergasted, blaming his sons for allowing the Blackfish to escape the Red Wedding. Despite having superior numbers, Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers inform their father that Houses Mallister and Blackwood have risen against House Frey and the Brotherhood Without Banners are rallying the smallfolk and raiding their supply lines and camps. Walder demands that the Tully stronghold be taken back, refusing to be humiliated for failing to hold a castle from rebels. He decides to use his trump card to force their surrender: Edmure Tully, held as a prisoner of the Freys since the Red Wedding. Walder brings him into his hall and jokingly tells his son-in-law to cheer up as he is going home.
In the Dothraki Sea
Daenerys Targaryen is riding with Daario Naharis and her newly acquired khalasar of 100,000. She asks Daario how long it will take to get back to Meereen and inquires how many ships would be needed to carry her army across the Narrow Sea. Daario replies that it will take a week to get back, and at least 1,000 ships to take her new khalasar across the sea. Pondering this, Daenerys tells the khalasar to halt as she rides on ahead on her white horse. After a while, Daario announces he will look for her, but is stopped by the distinctive shadow of a dragon passing overhead. After a moment, Drogon appears and slowly circles the khalasar before landing, revealing Daenerys on his back. Daenerys asks if the khalasar is willing to cross the Narrow Sea, defeat the armies of the Seven Kingdoms, and rip down the keeps of its lords, as Drogo had promised. When they shout their affirmation, Daenerys reminds them that every khal in history has selected three Bloodriders to ride at his side at the head of the khalasar. Daenerys, however, is not a khal and does not have to abide by their rules. Therefore, she declares the entire khalasar her bloodriders.
- King Aerys II Targaryen (Flashback)
- Lady Melessa Tarly
- Talla Tarly
- Dickon Tarly
- Lord Randyll Tarly
- Tyrell bannerman
- Lady Kitty Frey
- King Aerys II Targaryen (Flashback)
- Many Wights
- 12 of 28 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Carice Van Houten (Melisandre), Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish), Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Conleth Hill (Varys), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Jerome Flynn (Bronn), and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Boian Anev, Charlie Barrett, Richard Bradshaw, Michael Byrch, Nick Chopping, Chris Cox, Jake Cox, Bradley Farmer, Richard Hansen, Rowley Irlam, Erol Ismail, Milen Kaleychev, Leigh Maddern, Jonny McBride, Leona McCarron, Kim McGarrity, Richard Mead, Sian Milne, Camilla Naprous, David Newton, Jason Oettle, Ian Pead, Rashid Phoenix, Andy Pilgrim, Paul Shapcott, Jonny Stockwell, Ryan Stuart, Edward Upcott, Gary Greenberg and Miguel Ángel Luque were stunt performers in this episode.
- The title of the episode refers to how a Dohtraki Khal and his bloodriders address each other. As a double entendre it apparently also refers to Samwell’s reunion with his family, Benjen Stark returning to his nephew Bran, and the Lannisters and Tyrells trying to save their children from the High Sparrow.
- Although major settings for the episode, Horn Hill and The Twins do not appear in the Title sequence for the episode – even though Meereen, which doesn't appear in this episode, is still kept in it the opening credits.
- Dorne does not appear in this episode, and has not reappeared since the Season 6 premiere. The Wall, The North, The Vale, Meereen, and the Iron Islands also do not appear.
- This is only the fifth episode of the entire TV series that Tyrion Lannister doesn't appear in, who is currently the character who has appeared in the most episodes. It is also only the tenth episode that Jon Snow hasn't appeared in (matching Daenerys Targaryen, who also hasn't appeared in only ten episodes up to now, but who does appear in this episode). The frequency with which these three characters appear roughly matches the books, in which they also have the most POV narration chapters. As for the other "Tier A" starring characters (as they are called in the pay grade), Cersei has only missed 7 episodes, Sansa and Arya both missed 12 episodes and Jaime missed 16 (due to his imprisonment for most of Season 2). Cersei only became a POV chapter narrator in the fourth novel, but she does frequently appear before that in other chapters narrated by Tyrion, Ned Stark, Sansa, Jaime, etc.
- This is the first time the TV show has had a scene take place in the Reach, and as of this episode, the show has visited all 9 regions of the Seven Kingdoms (the original "seven kingdoms" plus the borderlands that became the Riverlands, and the capital region of the Crownlands). With the appearance of Horn Hill, a castle has been shown in every part of the Seven Kingdoms except for the Stormlands and the Westerlands.
- Locations in the North, the Vale, the Riverlands, and King's Landing appeared in Season 1; locations in the Iron Islands were introduced in Season 2, and locations in Dorne were introduced in Season 5. As for the Crownlands apart from King's Landing, Dragonstone was introduced in Season 2, and Stokeworth was briefly seen in Season 5.
- The production team did hope to introduce Storm's End, ruling seat of the Stormlands, in Season 2: however due to budget constraints the parley between Renly and Stannis had to simply be filmed on cliffs by the sea - though they did state in dialogue that they were in the Stormlands at the time. Robb Stark's army technically entered into the Westerlands in Season 2 while on campaign, leading to the Battle of Oxcross, but these scenes basically just focused on the Stark army camp, without showing any major locations such as Casterly Rock itself.
- With Edmure Tully's appearance, this episode also makes Season 6 the first season to include a character from each of the 11 current Great Houses. Members of Houses Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Targaryen, and Greyjoy have appeared in every season of the show, while members of Houses Tyrell and Martell have appeared in every season since their introductions in Season 2 and 4, respectively. Tullys have been featured in Seasons 3 and 6, while Season 1 and Seasons 4 through 6 have had at least one Arryn. The new Lord Paramounts of the North, House Bolton, have been featured in every season starting with the second, while the new Lords Paramount of the Trident, House Frey, were seen in Seasons 1, 3, and 6.
- Secretly, of course, Tommen Baratheon isn't actually a Baratheon, but the Lannisters maintain the pretense that he is. Brienne of Tarth and Davos Seaworth are from the Stormlands and were major Baratheon champions. The reintroduction of the Brotherhood Without Banners this season might mean Robert Baratheon's bastard son Gendry will reappear.
- This is, to date, only the second TV episode (after Lord Snow) in which no one actually dies, not even named animal characters (direwolves, horses, etc.). Jaime is shown killing the Mad King in a flashback set prior to the events of the episode – for a fraction of a second during a quick montage. The play in Braavos presents a fictionalized dramatization of Joffrey and Tywin’s deaths, but of course the actor himself is fine. Only nameless undead wights are seen being killed in the episode.
Bran and Benjen Stark
- This episode marks the return of Benjen Stark, who has not appeared in the show since the third episode of the first season "Lord Snow." Benjen Stark's fate has not been revealed yet in the books, but Bran’s storyline already surpassed the novels in the preceding episode.
- In the books, as Samwell and Gilly are heading south to the Wall, they are surrounded by dozen of wights. They are saved by a mysterious figure riding a giant elk, who keeps his face hidden, escorted by many ravens. He tells them he was sent to find someone, and Sam is not "the one." After Sam and Gilly cross paths with Bran and his companions as they head through the Wall in the opposite direction, this mysterious man joins Bran's group and escorts them north. This figure doesn’t identify himself. Sam and Gilly come up with the nickname "Coldhands" for him, given that his hands are as cold as a corpse’s – it soon becomes apparent that Coldhands is in fact some kind of reanimated corpse serving the Children, but unlike the wights, Coldhands's eyes are not glowing blue but black, he can talk and has a will of his own. He helps Bran and his companions reach the cave of the three-eyed raven, but does not enter with them, because the cave is magically warded against dead things.
- There has been rampant speculation among book-readers that Coldhands actually is Benjen Stark, somehow saved and changed by the Children of the Forest. A point against this is that when Bran asks Leaf about Coldhands, she says that the White Walkers killed him “a long time ago.”
- A major issue raised is that a transcript of the third novel which George R.R. Martin gave to his editor was later made public, with hand-written annotations from both of them. On one page, the editor circled Coldhands’s name and wrote “Benjen?” – but Martin responded by writing “NO” in capital letters next to it.
- In the Inside the Episode featurette for this episode, however, Dan Weiss openly refers to him as “Coldhands Benjen.”
- Thus there are three possibilities;
- 1 – Coldhands actually is Benjen in the novels; in which case, either Martin always knew and simply lied to his editor to keep it a total secret, or, Martin simply changed his mind at a later point.
- 2 – Coldhands and Benjen are separate characters in the novels, however, Benjen is now the same kind of creature Coldhands is – undead, not fully resurrected, but with his consciousness intact. In this case, Coldhands was foreshadowing Benjen’s return. Coldhands is the only person shown in the novels that the Children reanimated – but nothing says they didn’t reanimate others.
- 3 – Coldhands and Benjen are separate characters in the novels, but Benjen never died and had to be reanimated, but was off doing other missions for the Children elsewhere - in which case the TV show is outright merging aspects of both characters together to simplify the narrative.
- The books don’t have a term for the kind of creature that Coldhands is (or that TV-Benjen is revealed to be now). As Benjen stated, he was impaled with a sword by a White Walker and left to die so they could reanimate him as a mindless wight, but the Children of the Forest intervened and plunged an enchanted dragonglass dagger through his heart to hold off the other part of the Walkers’ magic. He wasn’t “resurrected” the way Jon Snow and Beric Dondarrion were, but is some sort of undead revenant. Like a wight killed in a relatively non-disfiguring manner, his skin is visibly pallid and his hands are blackened, - but in the books, Coldhands is explicitly not “a wight.”
- Corpses currently reanimated as wights cannot be set free of the White Walkers’ control by thrusting dragonglass through their hearts. In the episode, Benjen directly states that the Children got to him in the middle of the process, before the White Walkers could take full hold over his body.
- Benjen tells Bran that he is “the three-eyed raven” now. In the Inside the Episode featurette for the previous episode, the showrunners more clearly explained that the reason Bran didn’t immediately flee the cave when they knew the Night King was coming is because the old three-eyed raven was frantically “uploading” all of his memories and visions into Bran’s mind, so Bran could keep experiencing the visions even after he died. The way the showrunners describe it in the featurette for this episode, “three-eyed raven” is something of a title (perhaps used for the most powerful living Greenseer?), but also much more than that: in some ways the old three-eyed raven’s memories live on in Bran, so he isn’t purely “Bran Stark” anymore but a mixture of the two.
- Compare to the Dune chronicles by Frank Herbert, of which George R.R. Martin is a fan. Each new Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit is transferred the ancestral “Other Memory” of a previous Reverend Mother, forming a sausage-chain of memories stretching back across many lifetimes. Becoming a Reverend Mother profoundly changes a person, as all of these new memories and experiences are incorporated with their pre-existing ones.
- In his vision, Bran sees several glimpses of the past, including:
- The fall that paralyzed him ("Winter is Coming")
- The beheading of his father ("Baelor")
- The death of his mother ("The Rains of Castamere")
- Several images of the Night King during the Massacre at Hardhome ("Hardhome")
- Daenerys appearing before her khalassar after surviving Drogo's funeral pyre ("Fire and Blood")
- The Night King turning Craster's last son into a White Walker ("Oathkeeper")
- Young Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy ("Oathbreaker")
- Roose Bolton killing Robb Stark ("The Rains of Castamere")
- The Children of the Forest creating the White Walkers ("The Door")
- Jon Snow battling a White Walker ("Hardhome")
- Bran's visions also include several past events never before depicted in the TV series:
- The Alchemist's Guild creating massive amounts of Wildfire at the Mad King's request.
- The first-ever on-screen appearance of the Mad King himself, Aerys II Targaryen, shouting "Burn them all!" - commanding the pyromancers to put the Wildfire plot into effect and burn down King's Landing rather than let it fall to rebel armies.
- Jaime Lannister killing the Mad King at the very foot of the Iron Throne itself - as he explained in Season 3's "Kissed by Fire," in order to stop the Mad King from carrying out his insane plan to burn down the capital city.
- Jaime, having killed the Mad King, sitting on the Iron Throne, stunned by what he has just done.
- Following a vision of Eddard Stark asking where is his sister, a scene showing a body covered with blood with the hand of someone else touching it (Bran later sees this vision in full in the Season 6 finale).
- Bran also seems to have visions of the future:
- Aerys II Targaryen’s appearance in the flashback oddly contradicts all other representations of him made by the TV series, particularly that he is outright cleanshaven. In the books, Aerys’s madness reached a point where he was too paranoid to allow any blades in his presence (except those of his Kingsguard), resulting in him not cutting his hair and beard for years. He also stopped cutting his fingernails - nor did he clean himself regularly. By the time of Robert’s Rebellion itself, Aerys looked like some kind of insane homeless vagabond: his filthy, matted hair was so long that it hung below his waist, his uncut nails several inches long. The odd point is that other parts of the wider “TV continuity” kept this detail: since Season 1, the Histories & Lore animated featurettes included in the Blu-ray releases accurately depicted the Mad King with a long, unkempt beard. It is unclear why the TV series flashback changed this detail.
- Also in the brief flashback to Aerys II’s death, there were no dragon skulls in the Iron Throne room – which were stated to have only been removed after Robert Baratheon usurped the throne. Given how brief the flashback was it probably wouldn’t have justified the time and resources for the production team to make such substantial changes to the throne room set. An accurate point is that the throne room in the flashback has spiked iron braziers filled with burning fires around the support columns – not the decorative filigree design of vines and flowers seen on the columns in Season 1. When Joffrey redecorated the throne room in Season 2, he explicitly said he was restoring it to what it looked like back when the Targaryens were in power, because he thought it looked menacing and impressive. The symbol of the seven-pointed star set in the stained glass above the throne wasn’t present in Season 1 either, but was apparently another feature from the Targaryen era that Joffrey restored.
- These flashbacks are the first time other members of the Alchemists Guild have been depicted: before, only their leader Wisdom Hallyne appeared on-screen (in Season 2). It was unclear if Hallyne’s costume in Season 2 was meant to be some kind of uniform that all of the pyromancers wear, but the ones in the flashback are seen wearing the same costume he did. No particular mention has been made in the novels about whether or not members of the guild wear some kind of uniform. It’s possible the new costume team starting in Season 6 simply based their uniforms in the flashbacks on Hallyne’s costume in Season 2, extrapolating that it was some kind of uniform.
In the Reach
- In this episode, Samwell Tarly and Gilly arrive at his family's castle-seat at Horn Hill. Samwell's father Randyll Tarly has been mentioned since Season 1 but makes his first on-screen appearance now.
- Horn Hill is depicted as an opulent fortified villa rather than a castle like those seen in the North or the Stormlands. This is appropriate to the Reach's pleasant climate, which allows for more courtyards and larger interior spaces, since heat conservation isn't an issue. The Horn Hill scenes were even filmed in Catalonia.
- Samwell and Gilly were mostly absent from the first half of Season 6, barring one scene on their ship, but this matches just how long their journey was: from the northern edge of the Seven Kingdoms at the Wall to the southern shore of the Seven Kingdoms at Oldtown. In fact, they didn't just go from the northern to southern end but along the even longer diagonal distance: they left Castle Black (in the Season 5 finale) and went to the eastern end of The Wall to the Watch's port-castle at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea to board their ship. Eastwatch is thus at the absolute northeastern corner of the Seven Kingdoms, while Oldtown is at the absolute southwestern corner, in the Reach. Nor did they go in a straight line, but had to sail around the continent lengthwise through the Narrow Sea.
- Contrast the realistically long time it took for Samwell and Gilly to travel from the Wall to Oldtown by sea with how in the preceding episode, Littlefinger somehow traveled the vast distance from the Vale to the outskirts of Castle Black, without explanation (which was an invention of the TV series).
- In the books, Samwell and Gilly's sea journey from the Wall to Oldtown takes up much of their narrative in the fourth novel – most of this was omitted from the TV series.
- Few ships make the journey to the isolated waters near the Wall, so there aren’t any direct voyages between the Wall and Oldtown. Instead, Samwell and Gilly leave Eastwatch-by-the Sea on one of the small ships that the Night’s Watch possesses, which deposits them in Braavos, where they can find another larger ship to make the long journey along a major trade route. While there Sam actually cross paths with Arya Stark, who saves him from two swaggering street toughs. He introduces himself to Arya, but she gives him a false name, thus missing an opportunity to reunite with her brother, or at least notify Jon she is alive (though in the TV version Brienne found out Arya was alive, and she later told Sansa and presumably Jon).
- Samwell and Gilly book passage on the Cinnamon Wind, a ship from the Summer Islands. George R.R. Martin himself has stressed that Westeros realistically wouldn’t have that many non-white characters in it: it’s about as likely for a character from Yi Ti to appear in Westeros as it would be for someone from China to appear in England during the medieval Wars of the Roses. Even so, Martin himself explicitly cited the crew of the Cinnamon Wind as one of the few examples of “people of color” characters who enter into the narrative (outside of Slaver’s Bay, etc.). It is also one of the few times Summer Islander culture is presented in any detail. The Summer Islanders have a very open and positive attitude towards sex, and after Sam has sex with Gilly in their chambers he is wracked by guilt at breaking his vows of celibacy, but the captain's daughter Kojja Mo chides him that in their culture this expression of love is nothing to be ashamed about, and forces him to go to back bed with Gilly, threatening to throw him overboard if he doesn't. No mention is made in the TV series about who the crew was on the ship that Samwell and Gilly traveled on.
- In the novels, Maester Aemon actually departed the Wall with Samwell and Gilly, but being over 100 years old he was too frail to make the voyage and his body was already failing before he left, and he soon catches a cold while on the trip which makes his health rapidly decline. Aemon dies aboard the Cinnamon Wind at some point when the ship is passing around Dorne, and Samwell gives a eulogy for him. The TV series simply reshuffled the order of these events so that Aemon's death occurs at the Wall before Sam and Gilly leave. The crew of the Cinnamon Wind previously encountered Daenerys Targaryen and her young dragons when she was looking to book passage on a ship at the docks of Qarth, and they share information about her with Aemon. Daenerys was his last living relative, being the great-grandaughter of his younger brother, and news that she was both alive and had hatched new dragons briefly gave the dying Aemon a second wind, but it was not enough. The TV version simply has Aemon hear news about Daenerys's activities in a letter that arrived at the Wall in Season 5.
- As their ship rounds the southwestern corner of Westeros, their ship runs into ships of the ironborn making renewed attacks upon the mainland under the direction of their new king, Euron Greyjoy, and have to fight them off. Then they arrive in Oldtown.
- Curiously, the episode presents it as if Samwell and Gilly actually arrived at Horn Hill first, and haven’t been to Oldtown yet. Oldtown is the main port for all of the southern half of the Reach, so their ship would probably have had to land there before they continued on to Horn Hill. Given that they debarked off-screen, it is entirely plausible they landed somewhere farther east like in the Stormlands and then just continued overland.
- In the books, Sam and Gilly arrive at Oldtown in their final chapter, and Sam intends to send Gilly on ahead to Horn Hill without him, but neither of them is shown arriving there. Horn Hill is near Oldtown so it is possible that Sam will visit there in the next novel. Sam’s father Randyll isn’t even present at Horn Hill at this point in the novels; as one of Mace Tyrell’s most important vassals he is with his liege-lord in King’s Landing, and was given a seat on the Small Council. Thus the reunion in this episode isn’t directly from the current novels – though it does closely match the descriptions given for all of these characters and how they probably would interact.
- Given that Samwell hasn’t gone to Horn Hill in the novels – yet – he also hasn’t stolen House Tarly’s ancestral sword, Heartsbane as of the end of the fifth novel. Randyll states that it is made of Valyrian steel and has been in their family for 500 years (no new Valyrian steel swords were made after the Doom of Valyria 400 years ago). Jon Snow discovered at Hardhome that Valyrian steel can kill White Walkers, just like dragonglass, and he shared this information with Sam right before he left the Wall. This probably influenced Samwell’s decision to steal his father’s sword - or might even have been the primary reason he took it.
- The TV version condensed events so that Jon Snow actually went to Hardhome in Season 5 – in the books Jon sent other characters and only heard vague reports coming back by messenger-raven. This resulted in Jon explicitly discovering in Season 5 that Valyrian steel can kill White Walkers, just like dragonglass, and he directly tells Sam this before he departed the Wall. In the novels, Sam read in an ancient book at Castle Black that “dragonsteel” can kill White Walkers, and he and Jon speculate that this may mean Valyrian steel, but as of yet they haven’t been able to test this. Therefore, it is possible that in the next novel, Samwell will confirm in further readings through ancient books at The Citadel in Oldtown that Valyrian steel can kill White Walkers, which will convince him to return to Horn Hill to obtain the ancestral Tarly sword. Given that in the TV version Samwell already knows that Valyrian steel can kill White Walkers, it was free to simply reverse the order of these events – visiting Horn Hill first, then taking Heartsbane with him to Oldtown.
- Samwell has three sisters in the novels, but Talla is the only one named. The TV show condensed this to just Talla. Sam’s brother Dickon is Randyll’s fifth child in the novels – as Sam grew up and increasingly appeared to be a disappointment, Randyll just kept having more children with his wife until he successfully produced another son to replace Sam.
- Talla is not betrothed to anyone in the books, and no character named “Simon Fossoway” has been introduced in the novels yet. House Fossoway is another powerful noble family in the Reach (actually two, as there is another cadet branch of the family).
- Dickon, meanwhile, actually is betrothed in the novels, to Eleanor Mooton, whose family rules Maidenpool in the Riverlands. They are betrothed around the time Samwell goes to Oldtown in the fourth novel, and it is mentioned that they have married as of the end of the fifth novel.
- Dickon isn’t being particularly cruel or mocking Gilly when he laughs in disbelief when she earnestly says that Sam killed a White Walker: recall that in Season 1, many characters including Tyrion Lannister laughed at the idea that the White Walkers are real. It has been 8,000 years since the White Walkers were last seen, and in the present day most of Westeros thinks they are entirely mythical and never existed. Only a few characters in the North itself such as Ned Stark believed that the White Walkers ever existed at all, but even they thought the White Walkers were totally destroyed and would never return. The Tarlys are located at the extreme southern end of Westeros opposite from the Wall, so they really aren’t in a position to hear any of the rumors about the White Walkers’ return.
- Hannah Murray pointed out in a behind the scenes video for this episode that her character Gilly has never really thought of herself as a member of the wider "wildling" culture as a whole, because she spent her entire life at Craster's Keep, very isolated even from the other wildlings. Her father's homestead is all she knew. In the behind the scenes video, Murray said Gilly standing up to Lord Randyll's insults about wildlings in this episode was the first time that Gilly really thought of herself as "a wildling" and discovered the pride in her heritage that other wildlings like Ygritte and Tormund previously expressed.
- It was never mentioned in on-screen dialogue, but Stannis Baratheon’s wife Selyse was actually born into House Florent, another powerful vassal family from the Reach. This episode also doesn’t directly state that Samwell’s mother Melessa Tarly was also born into House Florent: Selyse Florent and Melessa Florent were actually first cousins in the books (though the Florent family tree has been somewhat jumbled in the TV version). Thus Samwell was actually Shireen Baratheon’s second cousin – though the TV show never pointed this out, even when Sam and Shireen had scenes together in Season 5.
- Gilly gets her first new costume since she was introduced on the TV series in Season 2 - meaning that she finally got to change out of the dirty, heavy roughspun wool costume she was wearing on the show for four and a half years. As Dan Weiss said, "Hannah has long had the shitiest costumes on Game of Thrones; she’s been in a burlap sack for five years. She was so happy that she finally gets into a real piece of clothing this year."
- This makes Hannah Murray the cast member who has gone the longest without a costume change - barring a few cases of characters who wear official uniforms. Arya Stark disguised herself as a peasant boy at the end of Season 1 and didn't change costumes until mid-Season 5 (about three and a half seasons without a costume change). Samwell and Dolorous Edd haven't changed costumes because they wear Night's Watch uniforms (Sam since Season 1, Dolorous Edd since being introduced in Season 2). Grand Maester Pycelle has also worn the same costume since Season 1, as his robes are the official uniform of a maester. Podrick Payne has also generally worn the same costume since being introduced in Season 2, but it is apparently some sort of standard-issue leather armor as a Lannister squire. The other only character who wore the same costume for so long, but not been required to as part of some military uniform, was Hodor - Hodor was introduced in Season 1 before Gilly was introduced in Season 2, however Hodor and Bran's storyline took a year off and didn't appear in Season 5. Thus Kristian Nairn (Hodor) is the only other non-uniformed cast member who can match how long Hannah Murray (Gilly) has been wearing the same costume - though Gilly slightly edges Hodor out in the sense that she wore the same costume for four and a half continuous seasons in a row. Hodor also acquired a new heavy fur coat in Season 4 when traveling beyond the Wall - which is a new costume of a sort. In contrast, Gilly originated beyond the Wall, so she always had a heavy fur coat, though she took it off for some interior scenes.
- Hannah Murray (Gilly) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) came up with a prank to play on John Bradley-West (Samwell) this season, sort of to make up for that fact that his co-star Murray had to have such an ugly costume all this time and he didn't. The showrunners thought it was hilarious and went along with it: they scheduled Bradley-West for a fitting at the costume department in a ridiculous new outfit that looked like some absurd variation on something Henry VIII would have worn. Surprisingly, Bradley-West didn't realize it was a prank at all - he rationalized that the show has never actually shown what people in the south of the Reach dress like before, and Samwell was supposed to be a bit of a bookish fop yet son of a powerful nobleman before he came to the Wall, so he thought that it was meant to be an in-universe joke that Samwell's formal wear at dinner was supposed to look silly.
- This is the first time that non-Tyrell nobility from the Reach have been shown. Interestingly, their style of clothing has some similarities to the Tyrells but also several differences. The difference is quite notable because the Tyrells themselves also appear prominently in the episode (albeit Margaery isn’t wearing her signature style, but Olenna is along with their servants).
- According to the “trickle-down principle” that costume designer Michele Clapton developed in earlier seasons, the vassal Houses from each of the Seven Kingdoms actively try to emulate the style of dress set by the Great House in each region: vassals from the Westerlands emulate the style of the Lannisters’ clothing, and even their servants wear simplified imitations of their style (i.e. Cersei’s handmaidens dress like her). The Tyrells’ personal servants previously seen in King’s Landing also emulate how the main Tyrell family tresses.
- The Tyrell style of dress seen with Margaery and her handmaidens is plunging necklines, short cuffed shoulders (to contrast with Cersei’s long billowing sleeves), and sometimes backless gowns which show more skin. The dresses for Margaery and Olenna also have a symmetrical cut running down the exact middle of the torso – this is to contrast with Cersei’s Lannister style, which also has a cut running down the front, but which is off-center and asymmetrical. Margaery and her handmaidens also wear their hair swept back away from the face – both to show more skin, and to contrast which how Cersei wore her long hair down, as if shielding her body like armor.
- The Tarly style, in contrast, has very large puffy shoulder pieces – the Tyrell shoulders are short and peaked (though neither of them are like the long wrist-length draped sleeves of the Lannister style). Talla’s dress that she lent to Gilly even has form-fitting wrist-length sleeves beneath the large shoulder pieces. The Tyrell style has a symmetrical cut running down the middle, but the Tarly style is entirely one piece on the front of the torso (it sews up in the back, not the front). The Tarly neckline is more of a broad U-shape, not the sharp plunging neckline of Margaery’s Tyrell gowns; none of them are shown with backless gowns. Moreover, the color scheme is entirely different – not the greens, teals, and golds of the Tyrells (from their rose sigil), but the colors of the Tarly’s own sigil, primarily warm reds with dark green as a secondary color (as their sigil is a red huntsman on a green background, and the Tyrells also have a green background, they plausibly could wear green colors just like the Tyrells – but they choose not to, emphasizing the color in their heraldry that the Tyrells don’t use). Their hairstyles are somewhat more like the Tyrells but not exactly: Melessa wears some of her hair up but parts also spill down her front – sort of like the earlier stages in Maragery’s style before she perfected it. Talla’s hair, meanwhile, is exactly like the style of Margaery’s handmaidens – possibly because Talla is younger and thus more imitative. When the Tarly women clean and style Gilly’s hair, however, it isn’t swept up at all but falls completely down.
- That the Tarlys’ costume style does not imitate the style of their Tyrell overlords actually matches their backstory quite well, and was probably a very deliberate choice by the costume designers. A plot point in the novels is that the Tyrells actually didn’t use to be kings over the region they rule, the way the Starks were kings in the North and the Lannisters were kings over the Westerlands. The ruling family of the Reach (House Gardener) was destroyed during the Targaryen Conquest – the Targaryens elevated House Tyrell to rule over the Reach because they voluntarily surrendered Highgarden to them. The Tyrells do descend from House Gardener through the female line, but many other families in the Reach actually had a better claim to Highgarden – House Florent is even a cadet branch of House Gardener, with direct male-line descent. Therefore, many deride the Tyrells as “upjumped stewards”, and it is a plot point that many of their vassals do not respect them the way that the Starks’ and Lannisters’ vassals respect them because they used to be their royal families. Melessa Tarly herself was outright born a member of House Florent, and thus probably wouldn’t have great love for the Tyrells. Instead, the Tyrells’ hold over every vassal House in the Reach is somewhat loose, and they have to be masters of court intrigue to keep them all in line. Thus it makes sense that the Tarlys actually don’t emulate the exact same costume style as their Tyrell overlords.
- The only other similar situation to this was for the Riverlands, which weren’t an independent kingdom at the time of the Targaryen Conquest. Thus House Tully did not rule as kings either, the Targaryens chose them to rule just as they chose the Tyrells in the Reach. Similarly, the Tullys’ vassals didn’t respect them as much as some other Great Houses are respected by their vassals because they were never their kings. Correspondingly, in earlier seasons the Riverlands were the only major region of the Seven Kingdoms that broke the “trickle-down principle”: Tully vassals such as House Frey made absolutely no attempt to emulate the Tullys’ style of dress at all, because they outright resented their rule. Thus just as the Freys didn’t dress in the same style as the Tullys, the Tarlys don’t dress in the same style as the Tyrells – hinting at their somewhat more decentralized hold over the Reach.
- The Tarlys have further reason to not feel compelled to emulate the Tyrells. In ancient times, the Tarlys actually were kings – albeit not over all of the Reach, but over their own petty kingdom in the eastern portions, in the foothills of the Red Mountains. The Reach as a whole used to be divided between four petty kingdoms: the two big ones were the Gardeners in the north and the Hightower in the south, but the Tarlys ruled their own small petty kingdom in the southeast in the foothills of the Red Mountains, and House Redwyne used to rule the Arbor, a large off-shore island, as its own tiny kingdom.
- The Reach is in several ways analogous to real-life medieval France: both are the “heartland of chivalry” and both are very large and populous kingdoms, offset by a large number of hostile borders which they have to divide their larger armies between (negating the advantage they have from their large populations). In the real life Middle Ages, there was a major cultural divide between northern and southern France, the north with a continental climate and heavy soils and the south with a Mediterranean climate. Similarly, there appears to be a major divide in the Reach between the northern and southern halves, divided by the Mander River. In ancient times, the Gardener kings (and their Tyrell stewards) ruled over the northern half from Highgarden, while the southern half was ruled over by the kings of House Hightower from their seat at Oldtown. This divide extended to the point that during the Dance of the Dragons, the north and south of the Reach outright joined opposite sides in the war, dividing the region in half. Thus, historically, there is also much to justify that families from the southern half of the Reach like the Tarlys have very different looks and fashions from those in the north like the Tyrells.
- The Tarly sigil displayed on the chest of Randyll Tarly’s costume is in error: the huntsman on it is facing to the left, but in all previous appearances of Tarly banners it is shown facing to the right - such as when Tarly banners prominently appeared at the Purple Wedding. Some of the previous banner props are even reused to decorate the Horn Hill set in this episode, highlighting the difference. This being said, there have been some other instances in which the direction that Stark direwolves or Lannister lions face have been flipped when they appear on armor, other costumes, and other decorations.
- Gilly's son Baby Sam appears prominently in this episode. Continuing from his previous brief appearance earlier in the season, this raises some issues with the TV series' Timeline. Two years are stated to pass between Season 1 and Season 3, and Gilly's son was born in Season 3, but afterwards it is unclear how much time is supposed to be passing in the TV series, i.e. at a steady pace of one year of story time per TV season to keep up with how fast the child actors are aging, or perhaps slowing down (events in the novels took less time). The only other hint about the passage of time is that Roose Bolton said in the Season 3 finale that he was going to marry Walda Bolton, then in Season 5 she said she was pregnant, and in early Season 6 gave birth. Thus at least around one year must have passed since Season 3, but if one TV season equals one year, as many as three years may have passed since then. Gilly's son brings this issue into focus because he was outright born in Season 3. Samwell and Gilly arrive back in the Reach in the fourth novel, when her son is still only about one year old and thus "a baby". If time is moving slower in the TV version, her son shouldn't be "a baby" anymore but possibly a "toddler" up to 3 years old. The TV series has apparently addressed this possibly discrepancy by being deliberately ambiguous: the child actor they cast to play Gilly's son this season is clearly bigger than a one year old baby and looks around 2 to 3 years old, but they avoid stating exactly how old he is.
- Two episodes from now, in episode 6.8 "No One", Edmure Tully outright states that he has been a prisoner of the Freys for "years" since the Red Wedding - years plural, meaning at least 2 years and possibly up to 3 years (if one TV season equals one year). The Red Wedding occurred at the end of Season 3, and Gilly's baby was born earlier in Season 3. Thus her son must be at least 2 years old by this point - which indeed seems to be matched by the age of the child actors they are using now.
- Melessa says that she and Randyll once met Lord Umber from Last Hearth. Since Smalljon has become Lord Umber only recently, the lord to whom Melessa refers is presumably Greatjon.
In the Riverlands
- Walder Frey, House Frey, and the Twins return in this episode, having not appeared since the Season 3 finale "Mhysa". Edmure Tully also returns, not seen since the Red Wedding, who has been a prisoner of the Freys ever since. As in the books, they intentionally took him alive because following the death of his father Hoster he is the new head of House Tully, making him a valuable political hostage.
- Actor Tobias Menzies said in interview with Entertainment Weekly that he wasn't sure if his character would ever return to the show after Season 3. The showrunners knew he wouldn't reappear in Season 4, and weren't entirely certain about seasons beyond that. Menzies does greatly enjoy working on the show so he was happy to return this season when the call came - he was busy with other projects such as the Outlander TV adaptation but they were able to work it into his schedule. This was somewhat similar to the situation with Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy) and the Iron Islands Kingsmoot subplot: the characters don't show up again for a considerable amount of time, and the showrunners were uncertain if they could fit their subplots into the show at a later point, so the actors had to hope with the audience that one day they would return. Like the Greyjoy subplot in Season 6, the Frey/Tully subplot starting now actually happened in the fourth novel - contemporaneous with Cersei's rule as regent (before her arrest). Had the TV series only run for seven seasons these subplots might even have been omitted entirely, but the confirmation after Season 5 that HBO was willing to stick with the series through eight seasons allowed these delayed subplots to be worked back in.
- As Menzies also pointed out in his interview, Edmure isn't supposed to look starved or heavily tortured: he didn't have a hellish imprisonment like Theon Greyjoy did, the Freys needed him alive as a valuable hostage so they kept him reasonably well fell and healthy - though he's still been somewhat mistreated and roughed up.
- The interview also directly asked Menzies if Edmure was in the Freys' dungeons for a full two and a half years since he was captured at the end of Season 3. Menzies responded that he actually doesn't know how much time is supposed to have passed between the Season 3 finale and his return in this episode. This touches upon the issue with the TV series's Timeline that while it was stated that Season 3 was two years after Season 1 (so that one TV season equals on year in the story), it is unclear how much time is meant to have passed by Season 6 - it could be as much as three years or at the least around one year. Menzies said he had the impression that Edmure has been imprisoned for at least one full year, but he didn't know more beyond that (in the books it was closer to one year, but time may move more slowly in the TV version).
- Apparently Menzies forgot that later this season, Edmure outright says that he has been in a dungeon for "years" - years plural, meaning at least 2 years and possibly up to 3 years (if each season lasts one year).
- Although not seen, the Brotherhood without Banners are mentioned in this episode for the first time since Season 3 (and when Arya briefly mentioned Beric and Thoros in Season 4). They are apparently still active in the Riverlands and still fighting a guerrilla war against the Freys and Lannisters, harassing their supply lines, ambushing their patrols, and inspiring the commoners to resist them as well.
- As explained in the notes for the preceding episode, the Tully/Frey subplot in the Riverlands is a holdover from the fourth novel, just like the Greyjoy Kingsmoot subplot. Season 5 condensed most of the fourth and fifth novels into one season, for several major characters such as Cersei, Tyrion, Daenerys, and Jon Snow, but it was impossible to fit every single subplot into one season, so others were either omitted or pushed back to Season 6. This results in the TV version having to slightly rearrange events to reintroduce the Siege of Riverrun subplot:
- In the books, Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully didn’t go to the Red Wedding – instead Robb Stark left his great-uncle with the Tully army at Riverrun to hold their southern flank. The TV show had Brynden present at the Red Wedding but he happened to step out of the main hall to relieve himself right before the ambush began, thus he was able to simply fight his way out of the attack on the camps outside, and Roose Bolton subsequently tells Walder Frey he’s concerned about his escape. Apparently the TV version wanted to lull viewers into a false sense of security by having Brynden physically present at the wedding (it would seem improbable that the entire Stark faction would soon be wiped out if all of them were present in the same location).
- In the novels, therefore, Riverrun never needed to be “retaken” because it never falls to the Lannisters or Freys in the first place: Brynden pulled back most of his remaining men to the castle, gathered large amounts of supplies well in advance of the invading armies, and set in for a lengthy siege. The Siege of Riverrun begins in the middle of the third novel (after the Red Wedding) and continues as a running subplot for much of the fourth novel until Jaime arrives there – the siege isn’t directly shown before that, but is going on in the background of the narrative, as characters sporadically receive reports that the siege is still ongoing. Seeing no need to waste men taking the castle given that the Tullys had no hope of rescue, the Frey army simply settled in to surrounding the castle to wait the garrison out, for months or years if need be.
- In the TV version, Brynden apparently spent the past two seasons off-screen rallying the remaining Tully forces that were in the field and regrouping them. Then, he retook Riverrun in a surprise attack, quickly overwhelming the light Frey garrison that wasn’t expecting him, because Brynden knows the layout of the castle much better than they do. Apparently the TV version changed it so that Brynden “retakes” the castle because it might have been awkward to introduce that Brynden was besieged at Riverrun for the past two seasons off-screen but no one thought to mention it in this entire time. It is unclear why the last two seasons didn’t introduce that Brynden is besieged at Riverrun – the exact circumstances of who actually controlled Riverrun at that time was left deliberately ambiguous. At most it was said that the Lannisters had named Walder Frey as the new lord of Riverrun, but whether he actually managed to take the castle was left unsaid. One possibility is that the showrunners were uncertain if the Siege of Riverrun storyarc could be introduced at all before confirmation that the TV series would last for eight seasons and not only seven; the other possibility is that they intentionally didn’t introduce it as early as Season 4 because they feared the audience wouldn’t remember it across so long a time period.
- The North’s armies were totally destroyed in the massacre at the Red Wedding – but the armies of their Riverlands allies were not present at the massacre, and still remained relatively intact. Nonetheless, they had just lost all of their Northmen allies, Robb Stark was dead with no apparent heir, and they now faced the brunt of the combined Lannister/Tyrell armies – leaving them still hopelessly outnumbered. Moreover, because the Riverlands are located south of the Neck, they also had no natural defenses or choke points to defend against these enemy armies. As a result, after the Red Wedding most of the River-lords simply surrendered rather than face annihilation – though even this quick surrender ultimately meant that most of their soldiers survived to fight another day. Thus in the books the Freys are having trouble maintaining a firm hold over the Riverlands and several major castle-seats remain besieged but defiantly unconquered.
- In contrast, when Stannis and Jon Snow later try to rally the vassal Houses in the North (as occurs in Season 6), most of their armies were destroyed so all they have left are a handful of young boys and old men – thus while the Lannisters won’t send the Boltons any armies to help them hold the North, the local forces have been so drastically reduced that they think the Bolton army alone is capable of handling them. The Riverlords still have far more men, but as seen here the Lannisters are capable of quickly sending proportionately larger armies into the Riverlands to deal with them.
- In this episode, Walder Frey states that along with the Tullys retaking Riverrun, House Blackwood and House Mallister have also risen against them. In the books, none of those has taken active rebellious actions against the Freys: most of the Riverlords simply surrendered after the Red Wedding, but along with the Tullys at Riverrun, the Blackwoods also refuse to surrender and remain besieged in their castle-seat at Raventree Hall. Thus Raventree didn't "rebel" either, but has remained uncaptured albeit besieged this entire time.
- Lord Jason Mallister at Seagard, however, ultimately did surrender, because the Freys took his only son and heir Patrek hostage at the Red Wedding and threatened to kill him if he didn’t yield the castle. This wasn't established in the TV show, so there is no reason in the TV continuity for the Mallisters to have surrendered.
- As the episode mentions, the Brotherhood Without Banners continues its guerrilla raids in the Riverlands and remains one of the few pockets of anti-Lannister forces that remains undefeated and still moving about somewhat freely. A small number of former Stark soldiers who got cut off from the main lines during the war form part of their core membership – some of the only Stark soldiers who didn’t die at the Red Wedding. In the books, the Brotherhood acts on a much smaller scale against the Freys due to their much smaller numbers: they do not raid any of the Frey supply lines and camps, only hunting down individual Freys (when traveling alone or in small groups) and hanging them from trees along the roads. Given that there are several dozen Frey family members this hasn't significantly impacted their military capacity yet, though they do find it insulting.
- Lame Lothar Frey has been recast starting in this episode. In Season 3 he was played by Tom Brooke, but with his reintroduction this season he is played by Daniel Tuite. His brother Black Walder Rivers, however, is still played by Tim Plester as he was in Season 3.
- There are many dozens of Frey characters in the books, and at least a dozen who perform distinct actions. The TV series has, understandably, heavily condensed most of their actions and given them to only two of Walder’s sons (though Walder is said to have numerous children and dozens of grandchildren, they’re just in the background in the TV version). As Lord Walder recalls in the episode, during the Red Wedding, Lame Lothar stabbed Robb’s wife Talisa to death while Black Walder slit Catelyn’s throat. In the books, Robb’s wife Jeyne Westerling wasn’t even present at the Red Wedding and is still alive (and was not pregnant with any child by Robb). Instead, as somewhat alluded in the TV version, Lame Lothar is the steward of the Twins and his father’s right-hand man, cunning and intelligent, and responsible for carrying out the fine details of broad objects his father sets. Lord Walder may have decided to betray the Starks, but it was Lame Lothar who planned out the fine details of how and when the ambush would occur and assigned specific tasks to each group of Freys. Meanwhile, “Black Walder” in the TV version is a condensation of two major Frey characters, along with a third minor one. In the books, “Black Walder Frey” is one of Lord Walder’s great-grandsons, and Catelyn sees him killing several Tully vassals during the massacre in the main hall; “Walder Rivers” is Lord Walder’s eldest bastard son, and he commands the Frey soldiers in the assault on the Stark army in its own camp outside the castle walls. The TV version combined them both into one character, officially named “Black Walder Rivers”. Also, Catelyn’s throat was slit by Raymund Frey – a very minor character who hasn’t reappeared since, so the TV version gave it to their version of Black Walder (given that Black Walder was present in the main hall in the book version).
- Walder Frey’s eighth wife, the teenaged Joyeuse Erenford, died at the Red Wedding in the TV version but not in the books. Therefore, Walder’s new ninth wife who he got to replace her is an invention of the TV series (and so far, her name hasn’t been established). In the books, Catelyn’s last desperate act was to hold one of Walder’s lackwit (mentally disabled) grandsons hostage with a knife to his throat, but Walder bluntly said she could go ahead and kill him because he wasn’t of much use (displaying that he hypocritically doesn’t really value his own family members). Rather than introduce too many new characters, the TV version just streamlined this so Catelyn grabbed his wife Lady Joyeuse instead, and ultimately killed her as Walder said she was replaceable.
- While not mentioned in dialogue, the HBO Viewer's Guide gives the name of Lord Walder's new ninth wife as "Kitty Frey". No other backstory was given.
- Lord Walder accurately points out that House Tully ruled over the rest of the Riverlands including House Frey for "300 years" - the Tullys were named the rulers over the Rivelands by Aegon I Targaryen after the Targaryen Conquest, as a reward for the Tullys leading a revolt against Harren the Black and his ironborn who ruled over the region at the time.
- The Freys say that their forces outnumbered the Blackfish's regrouped Tully forces by ten to one. In the books, the Freys can field around 4,000 men at the beginning of the war, and the Tullys around 6,000 - and the Tully army was not destroyed at the Red Wedding. Instead they mostly scattered, and Brynden indeed focused on holding Riverrun with just enough men to hold the very strong defenses of the castle against any external attack, while still being as low as possible to stretch their food supplies out for a lengthy siege which could last for two years. The rest apparently just dispersed or hid. The Freys send about half of their forces to besiege Riverrun, roughly 2,000 men - thus, if they're basing this on the books, the numbers actually are accurate that the Tullys' local forces at the castle itself are outnumbered ten to one by the Freys' local forces actually deployed to the castle.
- Jaime Lannister in the novels left King's Landing to deal with the Siege of Riverrun before Cersei was arrested by the Faith Militant. Either way, in the books Cersei also felt that sending him at the head of an army to finally bring Riverrun under their control would make Jaime and the Lannisters look like strong rulers again.
In King's Landing
- This is actually the first episode in which House Tyrell’s infantry have been depicted, with their own distinctive costumes. Like the Lannisters they are one of the more wealthy of the kingdoms, so they can afford to give their infantry a large amount of steel plate (in contrast to the Northerners, who mostly have just leather armor and chainmail). As the Reach is the heartland of chivalry in Westeros, unlike the Lannisters their armor looks much more like “classic” Western European armor. Their helmets are also shaped like roses with spikes for thorns. (See "Costumes:The Seven Kingdoms – The Reach").
- The scene where Tommen dismisses Jaime from the Kingsguard is visually framed similarly to the scene from Season 1’s “The Pointy End” in which Cersei dismissed Barristan Selmy from his position, with both men taking off their armor on the spot and throwing it on the ground in anger. They even use similar phrases when dismissing him ("You have served your house and your king faithfully"). Tommen, however, does not act on a whim, nor does he humiliate Jaime so bluntly, nor does he completely dismiss him. Even Cersei admits that Jaime can still further the Lannister cause extremely effectively. Moreover, in sharp contrast to Selmy's dismissal, except Kevan and the guards - no one else is present at Jaime's dismissal, and no one taunts him.
- As explained above, in the books Jaime is already in the Riverlands dealing with the Tullys and Freys, so he doesn’t need to be sent there. Indeed when he receives Cersei's letter, in which she informs him about her imprisonment and trial by the Faith and begs him to save her, he burns the letter in disgust; he knows well that his treacherous sister is guilty of all the heavy crimes she is charged with (among them incest, fornication and the murders of Robert and the previous High Septon) and has no intention to save her, even he had both hands.
- In the books, Jaime is never dismissed from the Kingsguard, because he wasn’t present to confront the Faith Militant – and as Barristan pointed out they are meant to serve for life. A king can demote a member from being the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard but not from the organization entirely – though even in the books, there have been some precedents for dismissing a man from the Kingsguard. In Season 4, Tywin even said he would pressure the old High Septon to grant Jaime a special reprieve to release him from his vows – given that the High Sparrow is now the High Septon, and the High Sparrow is the one that doesn’t want Jaime on the Kingsguard anymore, this scenario is certainly plausible.
- If the TV series has outright dismissed Jaime from not just his position as Lord Commander but as a member of the Kingsguard, this would theoretically make him Lord of Casterly Rock since Tywin is dead, and he comes ahead of his sister in line of succession. In the books, after Cersei’s imprisonment, their uncle Kevan Lannister steps in to take over rule of House Lannister and has no intention of letting Cersei wield power again, as she nearly destroyed their family with her inept leadership. The restoration of Jaime's inheritance rights would likely be at Tommen's prerogative. Subsequent episodes may clarify the situation in the TV version.
- This is the first time that Bronn has been mentioned in Season 6. Actor Jerome Flynn was unavailable in the early part of the season due to working on another project, but it didn’t really significantly affect anything because he was only going to become heavily involved in the plot starting with Jaime’s trip to the Riverlands anyway. The only difference is that as a result the TV show didn’t insert Bronn into the background in various minor scenes, just to establish that he is still in the storyline (as done in past seasons before a character’s main storyline picks up). Overall the TV show was able to work around his schedule without any major difficulty. Given Jaime’s line about giving Bronn a sack of gold to make an assassination, apparently Bronn has just been in the background, off-screen in King’s Landing up to this point.
- In the books, Ser Ilyn Payne is actually the one who accompanies Jaime to Riverrun, not Bronn (the trailer for the next episode confirms Bronn is going with Jaime). The actor playing Ser Ilyn developed near-terminal pancreatic cancer, however, and thus hasn’t appeared since Season 2. While he did make a recovery that was nothing short of miraculous, it is unknown if he will ever reprise his role. With him unavailable due to his health, several of Ilyn’s scenes were simply given to Bronn since Season 4 (such as helping Jaime train to fight with his left hand).
Arya in Braavos
- The play Arya Stark saw in Braavos in the preceding episode, titled The Bloody Hand, returns. The preceding episode was apparently "Act I", corresponding to the events of Season 1 with King Robert Baratheon's death and culminating with Ned Stark's execution. The "Act" seen in this episode deals with the Purple Wedding, which of course blames everything on Tyrion.
- The play isn't in the current novels but appears in a preview chapter that was released for the unpublished sixth novel. This led to some confusion because the preview chapter actually focuses on "Tyrion" plotting to poison Joffrey, and Ned Stark didn't appear at all. The simple answer is probably that the preview chapter is from the middle of the next book, and earlier as-yet unreleased chapters will show earlier Acts which "adapt" the events of the War of the Five Kings from the beginning.
- In the play, when "Tyrion" shoots "Tywin" on the privy, he says he wonders if he’ll learn that Tywin Lannister really does shit gold. In the previous seasons of the show, the joke has been mentioned by Robb ("The Pointy End") and Bronn ("The Lion and the Rose").
- In the books, when Tyrion kills Tywin at the end of the third novel, Tywin dies in agony as feces from his bowels pours out of the open wound, and then when he dies he voids his bowels. The chapter is told from Tyrion’s internal POV narration, and in his inner thought monologue as he walks away Tyrion bitterly thinks the wry observation that “Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.” The TV version omitted this line when Tyrion killed Tywin – probably because it would have been very difficult to portray on-screen: it’s one thing for Tyrion to have a wry thought about his father’s death in his inner monologue, but the TV version couldn’t use that, and to have Tyrion verbally cracking a joke aloud at Tywin’s corpse wouldn’t have matched the serious tone of the scene in either the book or TV versions; as a part of the hilarious play, though, the joke seems to fit perfectly.
- In a way, the humiliating manner in which Tywin is portrayed and killed is a realization of his worst fear: the mockery of House Lannister. For the majority of his life, all of Tywin's actions were devoted to strengthing both the position and legacy of House Lannister after his weak-willed father Tytos Lannister nearly destroyed it. As he told Jaime back in Season 1, "It's the family name that lives on. It's all that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honor... but family." However, his actions also backfired on him as his stern and oftentimes cruel treatment of his children warped them so much that their actions, specifically Cersei and Jaime's incestuous relationship, have actually devastated House Lannister's position. His cruel treatment of Tyrion (despite all he did at the Battle of the Blackwater)actually led to him murdering Tywin in a humiliating manner, and Tywin's legacy, that which he prized most, became an object of mockery abroad.
- In the play, "Joffrey" mentions "the lion and the rose" to euphemistically refer to House Lannister and House Tyrell (based on their sigils) which is actually namedropping the title of the episode Joffrey was killed in.
- Arya introduces herself as "Mercy" to Lady Crane. Arya used that name as her alias when she attended the play in the preview chapter from “The Winds of Winter” – in fact the chapter is titled “Mercy” instead of “Arya” (keeping with the pattern of previous chapters in which Arya gets so wrapped up in pretending to be someone else that her POV chapters are outright given the title of the person she is pretending to be instead of her own name). Arya is wearing her “Lanna” disguise from Season 5 but apparently wasn’t pretending to be the oyster-selling girl anymore.
- The shot of Arya retrieving her sword Needle from the wall by the canal which she hid it in was apparently filmed back during the Season 5 finale, "Mother's Mercy". Official promo images for the Season 5 finale actually showed Arya retrieving Needle from that Wall, but this did not appear in that aired episode. Southern-unit production for the TV show shifted almost all of its locations from Croatia to Spain in Season 6 (except for a few pickup shots), so what probably seems to have happened is that back in Season 5 the production team knew they wouldn’t be able to return to the on-site filming location in Croatia the next year, so they filmed Arya retrieving Needle - now in her Lanna costume, which she wasn’t wearing when she hid it there in the first place. Given that Arya hid her sword in a specific wall they couldn’t simply reproduce that part of Braavos in a different location in Spain.
- As the showrunners point out in the “Inside the Episode” featurette, Arya greatly enjoys and openly laughs at "Joffrey's" death in the stage play, as she regrets that she wasn’t able to watch him die in person, even though he was one of the first people on her kill list. When Arya first found out Joffrey was dead back in Season 4 episode 8 “The Mountain and the Viper”, she explicitly told the Hound that she didn’t care if she was the one to personally kill Joffrey, but she strongly wished she could have been there to see the look in his eyes when he knew it was over.
Daenerys and the Dothraki
- In the Inside the Episode featurette, the showrunners point out that Daenerys is expressly quoting the speech that Drogo made in Season 1 episode 7 “You Win or You Die” in which he promised to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.
- While Daenerys has surpassed her current content from the novels, it seems as if the scene with Drogon from this episode and her burning of all the assembled khals in episode 4 “Book of the Stranger” may have been split from a single event in the next book. The “Histories & Lore” featurettes for Season 3 stressed that the Dothraki fear only two things: the ocean and dragons. They fear travel on the sea because they don’t trust any water a horse won’t drink, and think it therefore must be poisoned. Meanwhile, for many centuries, the Dothraki were kept in check by the Valyrian Freehold, whose dragonlords controlled most of Essos. Only after the Doom of Valyria, with the dragons all gone, did the Dothraki dare to sweep out of the eastern plains and attack the rest of Essos. Apparently the Dothraki fear the power of dragons to the point of almost religious awe.
- In the TV version, in the “Inside the Episode” featurette for “Book of the Stranger”, the showrunners stressed that they wanted Daenerys to defeat and kill the khals without outside help – even help from her own dragon. This may hint that they actually split one event from the novels into two different scenes, removing Drogon from Vaes Dothrak. With Drogon removed, in order for Daenerys to set the fire herself, they simply had the Dothraki keep multiple braziers of fire -which were top-heavy enough that a 5’2’’ tall girl could easily knock them over - inside of a very flammable thatched tent. The Dothraki might be stunned that Daenerys wasn’t burned in the previous TV episode, but they would be even more impressed by a live dragon, which to them is practically a demigod. Then again, no one is sure what exactly will happen in the next novel, and it may play out as in the TV version.
- In the episode, Daenerys talks with Daario as she rides about her realization that she is a conqueror, not a peacemaker – she doesn’t compromise with her enemies but takes what she wants with fire and blood. In the novels she came to a similar decision in her last chapter, while she was still stranded with her wounded dragon before the Dothraki captured her – though the chapter did it in a way which would have been difficult to portray on-screen, with Daenerys delirious from thirst and actually “conversing” with vivid hallucinations/memories of characters who aren’t really there.
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Storm of Swords:
- Chapter 60, Tyrion VIII: The Freys march to conquer Riverrun.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 27, Jaime III: Jaime is given an order to take Riverrun from the Blackfish. Jaime believes he needs to stay in King's Landing, but Cersei convinces him to go.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 13, Bran II: Coldhands fights the wights that attack Bran and his escorts.
- Chapter 54, Cersei I: The Tyrell army is brought in to King's Landing. The High Sparrow agrees to free queen Margaery (although she's still to await a trial).
- Chapter 71, Daenerys X: Daenerys decides her home is in Westeros, not Meereen, and that she will follow the path of fire and blood to arrive there.
- The remaining material appears to be based on what will come in the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, particularly the storylines of Arya leaving the Faceless Men, Samwell in Horn Hill, Bran fleeing from the three-eyed raven's cave (and perhaps encountering Benjen), King's Landing and the Holy Alliance between the Crown and the Faith, and Daenerys heading back to Meereen with the Dothraki.
Walder Frey: "They're laughing at us! All across the Riverlands right down to King's Landing, they're laughing at us! I hear it in my sleep! I'm not dead yet, unfortunately for you. And I'll not leave this world until they all choke on that laughter!"
Jaime Lannister: "I'm being sent to deal with the Blackfish. Apparently Walder Frey can't manage it on his own because he's 400 years old."
Cersei Lannister: "Stand at the head of our army where you belong, where Father wanted you. Show our men where their loyalties belong. Show them what Lannisters are, what we do to our enemies. And take that stupid little castle back because it's ours and because you can."
Jaime: "You'll stand trial soon. I need to be here for you."
Cersei: "It will be a trial by combat. I have the Mountain.They made us both stronger. All of them. They have no idea how strong we are. No idea what we’re going to do to them.We've always been together. We'll always be together. We're the only two people in the world."