"Mother's Mercy" is the tenth episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fiftieth episode of the series overall. It premiered on June 14, 2015. It was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and directed by David Nutter.
In the North
As the snow begins to melt, Melisandre is elated. Still grieving, Stannis prepares to march on Winterfell. However, one of his men informs him that nearly half of his men have deserted - mainly the sellswords, who have also run away with all their horses. Another soldier comes with more bad news: Selyse has hanged herself out of grief for her daughter. As he sees her body, Stannis receives yet another piece of bad news: Melisandre has fled.
Marching across the fields with less then half the men he once had, Stannis has his men start preparing for the siege, but is instead met in combat early by the Bolton army. The mounted Bolton army easily defeats Stannis' tired and mountless army. Wounded and exhausted, Stannis fights off two remaining soldiers in the aftermath of the carnage and collapses against a tree, and is met by a woman he does not know, wearing armor.
Brienne of Tarth was warned by Podrick Payne of Stannis's arrival and leaves her watch for Sansa's signal. After the battle she waits and finds a seriously wounded Stannis. She declares who she is and that her king was killed by his brother's shadow that bore his face, before drawing her sword to slay him. Stannis, having lost everything, simply accepts his fate to die: he tells Brienne to do her "duty". After a moment's hesitation, Brienne swings her sword at him.
In Winterfell itself, Sansa uses a corkscrew she pocketed earlier to escape her room, and seeks out the tower to light her signal. After the candle is lit, she sees the Boltons clash with Stannis's army and sees this as a time to slip out of Winterfell. Desperately running across the ramparts, she is caught by Myranda and Reek. Myranda threatens Sansa with a bow, however Sansa, sick and tired of everything, tells her to kill her while there is still a part of the real her left. Myranda tells Sansa that Ramsay needs her to have an heir and nothing more afterwards, but he does not need all of her in one piece to accomplish that. Theon suddenly makes her miss, then grabs and hurls her down to the stable courtyard, killing her. Sansa and Theon run, but find themselves with nowhere to go, with Ramsay just returning from the battle. Hoping to land in deep snow and survive the long fall, the two of them grasp their hands together and jump off the ramparts.
Ser Meryn Trant is looking upon 3 young girls in the Braavosi brothel. Of the 3 girls, two begin to cry and scream when they are whipped by Meryn, however the last girl makes no reaction when whipped. Meryn sends the 2 weak girls away, and punches the last in the stomach. However, the last girl is revealed to be Arya Stark, after removing her fake face. She pulls out a knife and stabs Meryn in both eyes and chest repeatedly, and puts a gag in his mouth so that he makes no noise. She then reveals her identity and reminds Meryn of how he killed her dance master, Syrio Forel, before calling him 'no one' and slits his throat.
Arya then returns to the House of Black and White and returns the face that she used to hide her identity. However, Jaqen H'ghar and the Waif appear and say that Meryn's life was not hers to take, and that a debt must be paid. The Waif grabs Arya as Jaqen pulls out a vial, presumably containing some kind of poison. He however drinks the poison himself and collapses, with Arya screaming for him to stay alive. Arya states that he was her friend, and hears Jaqen's voice behind her say 'he was no one'. She turns around to see that the Waif now has Jaqen's face, and Arya asks who the person on the floor with Jaqen's face is. Jaqen, in the Waif's body, says that he is no one, as Arya begins to remove multiple faces off the person on the floor, until she sees her own face. She then begins to lose her sight, as her eyes turn white and screams for help.
With Daenerys gone, her council is unsure on how they should continue. Tyrion addresses both Jorah and Daario's feelings for her, understanding how one could love the wrong woman. The three argue about Jorah's betrayal, but they will not make any judgments without Daenerys first. The dragon was seen taking her north and that is where they need to search for their queen. Grey Worm, still recovering from his injuries, offers to go with Jorah and Daario, as does Tyrion. Daario firmly nixes both ideas: Grey Worm is needed to command the Unsullied in keeping the city under control, while Tyrion is the only one of them to have any political experience. He expresses confidence that with Missandei's help, the pair of them should be able to keep Meereen under control until they return with Daenerys.
As Tyrion watches Daario and Jorah depart the city, Varys calmly walks up to Tyrion. Teasing Tyrion about abandoning him in Volantis, he is pleased to see Tyrion already settling into a role that suits him. He reminds Tyrion that he has experience running a city full of people trying to kill each other, and implies that he – and his little birds, are there to help.
Somewhere in the Dothraki Sea
Meanwhile, Daenerys finds herself far away from Meereen, atop an impressive hill in a sea of green grass. Drogon is still recovering from his wounds and is uninterested in flying back. Unfortunately, he's also not interested in finding them any food. Daenerys wanders away to find something for them, but is thrown to see a trio of Dothraki bloodriders emerge. Within minutes, an entire khalasar has her surrounded. Understanding what might happen to her, she quickly removes a ring and drops it in the grass.
Jaime, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystane say their farewells to the Martells to return to King's Landing. Upon saying goodbye, Ellaria Sand kisses Myrcella on the lips, while Tyene Sand flirts with Bronn. Aboard the ship, Myrcella and Jaime talk about Cersei. Jamie begins to come clean to Myrcella, awkwardly telling her that we cannot choose who we love. Myrcella then reveals that she knows that Jamie is her real father, and that she is glad that he is, and the two embrace. However, Myrcella's nose starts to bleed and she collapses in Jaime's arms. Back in Dorne, Ellaria wipes the blood from her nose and takes the antidote for the poison coated on her lips.
In King's Landing
Septe Unella enters Cersei's cell and orders her to confess. Finally giving in, Cersei is brought before the High Sparrow to confess her sins. She confesses of adultery with Ser Lancel Lannister, but denies her incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime. Cersei begs to be allowed to go to the Red Keep to see her son Tommen. The High Sparrow accepts but states that she has to stand trial. Cersei is brought to a cell where she is stripped naked and washed before her hair is cut short. She is brought outside were she has to walk naked through the streets of Kings Landing from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep as punishment. She is escorted through an angry mob who throw rotten food at her and humiliate her. With bloody feet she makes it to the Red Keep. Upon entering the gates, Cersei finds her uncle Kevan Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle and Qyburn waiting for her. Qyburn attempts to comfort her by covering her body with a cloak. Heavy footsteps are heared when Qyburn wants to introduce Cersei to the newest member of the Kingsguard. A 7-8 foot tall man in golden armor of the Kingsguard steps forward, persumably Ser Gregor Clegane after Qyburn's experiments on him has succeed in saving him. Qyburn suggests Cersei to go inside to have a look at her feet, which are badly injured, when the huge knight lifts her up and carries her away.
At The Wall
Jon Snow tells of what he saw at Hardhome to Sam. He hopes the White Walkers can't climb the Wall as there is not enough Dragonglass or Valyrian steel in Westeros to combat them. Sam asks Jon if he can travel to Oldtown to study and replace Aemon as the new Maester of the Watch. He feels there is no other way he can help them as he cannot fight, he is also afraid for Gilly and her child's safety, and wishes to take them along. Jon reminds him that the Citadel will also not allow Sam to be with women, but is humored to hear that it is already too late for that. Sam promises he will return, they toast to that and Jon sees his only friend off.
Davos, having returned to Castle Black at Stannis' orders, urges Jon to convince the Wildlings for aid. Jon refuses him, saying that they wouldn't side with Stannis and this is not their fight. Both of them become shocked to see a speechless and despondent Melisandre return to the Wall. Ser Davos pressures Melisandre for news, specifically asking after Shireen, but Melisandre remains silent. After seeing the empty look in her eyes, Davos lets her leave.
That night, Jon is reading messages when his steward Olly tells him that a wildling knows of the whereabouts of his long missing uncle. Jon Snow quickly rushes with Thorne to a gathered group of Watch men, only to see a sign with "traitor" written on it. He turns around to find his Brothers starring him down. Thorne makes the first move and stabs his Lord Commander. "For the Watch" Thorne said, as well as the others as they close in and continue stabbing him. One after another, Jon Snow is betrayed, "For the Watch". Finally a tearful eyed Olly approaches last. After a moment of pause Olly delivers the final blow. The brothers leave as Jon falls to the ground and bleeds out.
- Ser Robert Strong
- Queen Selyse Baratheon
- King Stannis Baratheon
- Ser Meryn Trant
- Princess Myrcella Baratheon
- Lord Commander Jon Snow
- 22 of 27 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon) and Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- The episode takes its title from the Mother, the aspect of the god in the Faith of the Seven symbolizing mercy. Those accused by the Faith Militant may seek the Mother's Mercy prior to their trials if they confess, as explained by the High Sparrow to Cersei Lannister.
- This will be the second time a title includes the term "mother", as the Season 3 finale title, "Mhysa", means mother in the tongue of the Ghiscari Empire.
- During the Walk of Atonement, it was not actually Lena Headey's nude body, she used a body double for those scenes.
- The scene in which Jon Snow is repeatedly stabbed by his black brothers, with Olly delivering the final blow, resembles the Assassination of Julius Caesar, in which he was repeatedly stabbed by senators, including his former friend Brutus. In many fictionalized accounts —including HBO's own Rome series, in which Ciarán Hinds and Tobias Menzies portrayed Caesar and Brutus respectively—, Brutus tearfully dealt the final blow, to Caesar's surprise, not unlike Olly stabbing Jon.
- Jon's assassination differs from its book counterpart. In the books, Jon recieved a pretty insulting letter from Ramsay Bolton, mentioning Stannis's death (which is unconfirmed in the novels) and threatening Jon to send Selyse, Shireen, Melisandre (who are all present at the Wall) and also Reek (who is nowhere near Castle Black) to Winterfell. Jon, already full of hatred towards the Boltons, used the death threat in the letter as an excuse to march on Winterfell and destroy Ramsay. Shortly after that, he was stabbed in the courtyard by several brothers including Bowen Marsh. It is not clear if Jon's decision was the actual reason or just a catalyst that lead to his assassination. In TV series, the letter has been left out and the primary reason seems to be his decision to let the wildlings through the Wall. There is a possibility that the assassination has been planned for quite some time, considering that it took place in the middle of the night with only mutineers present as opposed to its book counterpart, which took place in the midst of both Night's Watch members and Stannis's men. Also, all three officers (Thorne, Yarwyck and Marsh) and at least dozen other members participated in assassination while in the books, it was only Marsh and a few others (only one of them is named).
- With Stannis's death, there are no Baratheons left in the realm. The only one who still bears the name is Tommen, but he is a Lannister bastard, so he isn't technically a Baratheon.
- The poison that Ellaria used on Myrcella is apparently the Long Farewell, the same poison that Tyene used on Bronn in episode The Gift.
- Myrcella's death has been foreshadowed by Maggy's prophecy in episode The Wars to Come. With her death, Tommen is Cersei's last living child.
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 5, Samwell I: Sam is sent by Jon to the Citadel at Oldtown, so that he can become a maester and replace Aemon. Gilly and the baby are sent with him in order to ensure their safety.
- Chapter 34, Cat of the Canals: While disguised as the clam-selling orphan who wanders the canals, Arya kills a man she despises. When she goes back to the House of Black and White, the Faceless Man finds out that "Arya Stark" killed this man, and gives Arya a poison which leaves her blind.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 7, Jon II: Jon sends Sam, Gilly and the baby to the Citadel at Oldtown so that Sam can become a maester and replace Aemon, and to ensure the safety of Gilly and the baby.
- Chapter 38, The Watcher: The Sand Snakes are released, and Cersei’s Kingsguard is sent in his way to King's Landing with Princess Myrcella and her betrothed Trystane.
- Chapter 45, The Blind Girl: Regarding Arya’s unsanctioned assassination, the Faceless Man tells her they are not gods to decide who lives or dies —only the Many-Faced God can give the gift of death, and they are merely his servants, so when she killed this man she took God's powers on herself.
- Chapter 51, Theon I: Theon agrees to help Ramsay’s wife escape Winterfell. In a hurry, with Bolton soldiers approaching, they are forced throw themselves over the castle's battlements.
- Chapter 54, Cersei I: Cersei decides to confess, asking Septa Unella to take her to the High Sparrow. She drops to her knees in front of him, pleads the Mother’s mercy, and admits to fornicating with Lancel. However, she defends herself by claiming she felt lonely and afraid, and she does not admit to the charges of murdering Robert or the incest and adultery with her brother Jaime, arguing it is a lie propagated by Stannis Baratheon to make himself appear the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. The High Sparrow says a trial by the Gods will decide the truth of the charges she still denies.
- Chapter 55, The Queensguard: In Queen Daenerys’ absence, her council agrees to take charge of Meereen, to send out a party in search of Daenerys, and to prepare the city against its enemies.
- Chapter 57, Tyrion XI: Tyrion witnesses the aftermath of Daenerys’s disappearance on Drogon.
- Chapter 65, Cersei II: The only way for Cersei to escape the Great Sept until the trial is to atone for her confessed sins —she must perform a walk of atonement from the Sept to the Red Keep. She is stripped naked, her head shaven, escorted out and announced to the crowds as a sinner who has confessed and begged for forgiveness and who must demonstrate her repentance by "putting aside all pride and artifice and presenting herself as the gods made her before the good people of the city." During the walk, the Septas ring a bell and shout “Shame!”, while the people insult her and throw things at her. Cersei resolves herself to endure the humiliation, yet at the gates of the Red Keep she breaks down and collapses to the ground. She is greeted warmly by Qyburn, and a large man escorts her inside. Qyburn introduces him as a new Kingsguard member who has taken a holy vow of silence and sworn not to speak until all of Cersei’s enemies are dead and evil has been driven from the realm.
- Chapter 66, Tyrion XII: Tyrion and Jorah decide to side with and help Daenerys’ reign in Meereen, which is crumbling after she flew away on Drogon’s back.
- Chapter 69, Jon XIII: Jon receives news that King Stannis has been defeated and killed in battle. Suddenly, a Night's Watch man attacks him with a dagger. The attacker is then joined by many other black brothers, including Bowen Marsh, who stab Jon repeatedly while saying “For the watch.”
- Chapter 71, Daenerys X: In the Dothraki Sea, Drogon finally lands in order to nourish himself. Since the dragon is uncooperative, Dany decides to walk back to Meereen by herself. Suddenly, a Dothraki scout appears and is soon joined by a whole khalasar from one of Khal Drogo's former lieutenants.
- The sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, remains unpublished, so there are some events brought forward from it that will occur in the story, yet the specific chapters are unknown. This includes the battle for Winterfell between Stannis and the Boltons, and may include Stannis', Selyse's and Myrcella's deaths. The episode is adapted from the following chapters of The Winds of Winter: