"The Broken Man" is the seventh episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fifty-seventh episode of the series overall. It premiered on June 5, 2016. It was written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Mark Mylod.
In the Riverlands
Revealed to have survived his wounds from his battle with Brienne, Sandor Clegane lives with a band of villagers. Brother Ray, their leader, is a septon. He talks with Sandor, and recounts how he had saved Sandor's life after having mistaken him for a corpse. When Ray mentions Justice, Sandor remarks that if there was justice in the world, he should have been punished. Ray responds that perhaps he has been punished already.
At a gathering, a trio of men from the Brotherhood Without Banners arrives and attempts to extort the group, but upon finding out that the group has no worthwhile possessions, they leave. Sandor warns the septon that the Brotherhood will return, and that Ray should defend himself from them. He tells Sandor that "Violence is a disease—you don’t cure it by spreading it to more people." Sandor replies that you don't cure it by dying either. Later, while he goes out to the forest to chop wood, he returns to find all of the villagers murdered and the septon hanged. Angered, Sandor picks up an axe and heads off.
In King's Landing
Queen Margaery is studying the Seven-Pointed Star at the Sept when the High Sparrow enters and they discuss the passage she's been reading, which is about the Mother's love and mercy. Margaery notes that in the past she pretended to love the poor when in fact she only really pitied them. The High Sparrow asks her why she hasn't joined King Tommen in the marriage bed, and Margaery explains that the desires that once drove her no longer do so. The High Sparrow assures her that desire is not necessary. She has a duty to produce an heir. The High Sparrow then makes a thinly veiled threat against Margaery's grandmother, Olenna Tyrell, stating that while she is a remarkable woman, she is also an unrepentant sinner.
After Margaery returns to the Red Keep, Olenna meets with her under the supervision of Septa Unella. Olenna insults the septa until Margaery comes to Unella's defense. Olenna pulls Margaery into another room in an attempt to gain some privacy, but Unella simply follows them. Olenna threatens to have her guards come in, but Margaery again defends the septa. She states that Unella has been a true friend and teacher, to which Olenna asks with some horror what the Sparrows have done to her. Margaery replies that the gods could have punished Olenna and her allies for marching on the Great Sept, but instead they showed mercy. Olenna retorts that they marched on the Sept for Margaery and Loras' sake, and that Loras is still in prison. She then tries to convince Margaery to leave King's Landing and return to Highgarden. However, Margaery refuses, stating that her duty requires her to be at King Tommen's side.
Margaery instead pleads for Olenna to return to Highgarden instead. As she emphatically tells her grandmother to return home, Margaery secretly slips a piece of paper into Olenna's hand. In doing so, she seems to have successfully communicated to Olenna that she doesn't quite mean what she's been saying in front of Septa Unella, and Olenna's expression changes, realizing this. She plays along and agrees to acquiesce, then walks away.
As soon as she is clear of them, Olenna privately unfolds the piece of paper and finds that there is a rose drawn on it. She seems cheered by the silent message, as the use of the Tyrell sigil indicates that Margaery is merely tricking the Sparrows and that her true loyalty is still to House Tyrell. She also seems to understand that Margaery is urging her to leave for her own safety.
Cersei later confronts Olenna about her plans to leave, telling her to remain for the sake of Margaery and Loras, who is still imprisoned. Olenna retorts that the reason all of this is happening is because of Cersei, as she was the one who allowed the Faith Militant to reform and allowed them to arrest Loras and Margaery. Cersei admits that she made a mistake with the Sparrows, but insists that an alliance between the Lannisters and Tyrells is more important now than it ever was. Olenna refuses her, noting that Cersei has neither influence nor support anymore and is surrounded by enemies. She tells Cersei that she (Olenna) will be leaving the city as soon as possible, and that Cersei's utter defeat is her only consolation.
In the North
Jon, Sansa, and Davos Seaworth begin searching for allies to retake Winterfell from Ramsay. First, with the help of Tormund and Wun Wun, they secure the allegiance of the Wildlings and their elders led by Dim Dalba, who are still indebted to Jon for saving them at Hardhome and are aware that Ramsay and his allies will wipe them out if they do nothing. When the meeting disperses, Jon asks Tormund if he's sure that the Free Folk will join him, and Tormund responds: We’re not clever like you southerners. When we say we'll do something, we do it. Prior to traveling to Bear Island, Davos shows Jon and Sansa the letter sent by Lyanna Mormont rejecting Stannis Baratheon's plea for help.
Jon, Sansa, and Davos travel to Bear Island, where they meet with Lyanna, the ten-year old head of House Mormont. Sansa and Jon try to flatter her with small talk about her mother Maege and uncle Jeor Mormont. However, Lyanna is unimpressed and aggressively brushes them off, demanding to know their business in Bear Island. Lyanna initially rejects their request for help and stresses that House Stark is dead and that she needs her forces to garrison Bear Island. She also remarks that Jon and Sansa cannot be considered Starks since the former is a bastard and the latter has been married twice into enemy houses. Lyanna is initially unconcerned about the threat of Ramsay. Before Lyanna can dismiss them, Davos intervenes. After briefly discussing his background, Davos manages to convince the young Lady Mormont by warning her about the dangers the White Walkers pose to the living. She agrees to contribute 62 men, which is all she can manage, and promises that they each fight as well as ten men.
Later, Jon and Sansa travel to Deepwood Motte to secure the allegiance of House Glover. They receive a frosty reception from Robett Glover, who points out that the late King Robb failed to protect his home from the Ironborn. Despite his being one of the Starks' most loyal bannermen, Robb did not come to his aid when the Ironborn invaded Deepwood Motte, imprisoned his wife and children, and brutalized his subjects (unaware that this was Robb's intention, but he was persuaded otherwise by Roose Bolton). When Sansa tries to highlight the fact that the Glovers had pledged fealty to House Stark, Robett responds that he received them out of respect for their father Eddard Stark but warns them that they have outstayed their welcome.
In the end, Jon and Sansa are only able to recruit a small number of minor houses, only adding a few hundred extra soldiers to their army. Lady Lyanna and her men are seen among the Stark and Wildling forces. Davos deals with a brawl among the Wildlings. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Jon is adamant that they attack Winterfell as soon as possible before Ramsay rallies more forces and before the weather turns on them. Sansa disagrees, instead opting to try and recruit more houses. When Jon refuses to change his mind, Sansa begins writing a letter, later revealed to be sent by raven to Petyr Baelish, taking him up on the offer for troops she previously rejected.
Jaime and Bronn lead the Lannister army to the gates of Riverrun, where the Freys attempt to coerce the Blackfish into surrendering the castle by threatening to execute Edmure Tully. The Blackfish calls their bluff and refuses to surrender. Disgusted with the Freys' incompetence, Jaime takes charge of the siege and attempts to parley with the Blackfish, warning him that the Lannisters will show no mercy to the Tullys, but if he surrenders, the lives of his men will be spared. The Blackfish rejects the offer and warns Jaime that he has two years worth of food in his stronghold, and that while hundreds of his own men may die defending, thousands of Lannister troops will perish as well.
Theon and Yara take the Iron Fleet to Volantis to hide and rest. Inside a brothel, Theon sits despondently as Yara and the others carouse with naked and semi-naked prostitutes. Yara repeatedly tells Theon to drink some ale and he repeatedly refuses.
Yara is persuading Theon to regain his former identity and self confidence, as she will need his assistance in getting justice and retaking the Iron Islands from their uncle Euron. When pressed, he says that if justice were served, he would be burnt for his crimes, so she responds, “Fuck justice then. Do it for revenge.” Eventually she convinces him to put his guilt aside and help her because she needs him. He drinks some ale and begins to gain some composure.
She then reveals to Theon that she plans to take the Iron Fleet to Meereen and forge an alliance with Daenerys before Euron does. After the conversation, she goes to have sex with a female prostitute.
Although we last saw Arya hiding in the dark with Needle in her hand, the scene opens with Arya walking openly through Braavos without Needle, with her hands behind her back. She approaches two Westerosi traders drinking at an outdoor table and negotiates passage to Westeros at dawn, through the use of large bags of money she shows them.
We next see Arya standing on a bridge admiring a view of the Titan of Braavos when an old woman approaches her and reveals herself to be the Waif, who repeatedly stabs her in the gut, twisting the knife as she does. Arya escapes by leaping over the handrail and into the River. She is left stumbling through the streets of Braavos, leaving a trail of blood droplets and visibly afraid.
- 12 of 28 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish), Carice Van Houten (Melisandre), Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), Conleth Hill (Varys), Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H'ghar), and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane) is restored as a starring cast member commencing with this episode, having been absent since the season 4 finale.
- This episode marks the first time that Peter Dinklage has not appeared in two consecutive episodes as Tyrion Lannister (he has only been absent from six episodes of the series, the least of any cast member). This leaves Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey (portraying Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister) as the only two cast members who have not been absent in two consecutive episodes.
- This episode also marks Lena Headey's 50th appearance on the show as Cersei Lannister.
- Kristina Baskett, Richard Bradshaw, Bradley Farmer, Paul Howell, Rowley Irlam, Leigh Maddern, Leona McCarron, Richard Mead, Casey Michaels, Kevin Morgan, Camilla Naprous, Andy Pilgrim, Marc Redmond, Paul Shapcott, Jonny Stockwell, Leo Woodruff, Gary Greenberg and Rob Hayns were stunt performers in this episode.
- The title of this episode appears to refer to the return of Sandor Clegane. He was very nearly killed after his fight with Brienne of Tarth and thus "broken". In the books, "broken men" is a term for conscripts during wartime who desert and turn into bandits, wretched men living from one day to the next. A character named Septon Meribald gives a lengthy speech about broken men, and how they should be pitied for their miserable state (lowering themselves to animals).
- George R.R. Martin has said that two of the most thematic speeches in the entire book series were Varys's riddle pondering what the nature of power is (given in Season 2), and Septon Meribald's speech about the horrors and suffering in war. Another clergyman known as the Elder Brother is at a monastery dealing with other refugees from the war - and is heavily implied to have saved Sandor Clegane's life and nursed him back to health in his community. The TV series condensed these two thematically similar characters together into Ian McShane's character (who is named "Ray" in the script). Ray's sermon isn't line for line the same but it is thematically similar.
- The "broken man" name can also apply in a sense to Theon Greyjoy, Jon Snow, and Edmure Tully, all of them traumatized by recent events.
- Dorne does not appear in this episode, and has not appeared since the season premiere. The Night's Watch, Bran Stark and his subplot, The Vale, Samwell and Gilly in the Reach, Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell, Daenerys Targaryen and the Dothraki, and Meereen also do not appear. Cersei, Olenna, and Margaery appear in King's Landing but Tommen and the Small Council do not. House Greyjoy appears in the form of Yara and Theon's faction as their fleet arrives in Volantis, but their uncle Euron and the Iron Islands themselves do not.
- Meereen appears in the title sequence even though it isn't in the actual episode. As the creators explained, it would be very expensive to create an animation for every location that appears on-screen, so they limit them to those that will recur frequently enough that it justifies the expense. No title animation was created for Volantis when it appeared in Season 5 because it only appeared in one episode - thus there wasn't a pre-existing one to use in this episode. The Greyjoy fleet is headed to Meereen, so on the balance it was probably less expensive to just re-use the animation for that location.
- This is only the sixth episode of the entire TV series that Tyrion Lannister has not appeared in - and given that he didn't appear in the previous episode either, this is officially the first time in the entire run of the TV series to date that Tyrion has been absent for two episodes in a row. If Tyrion misses one more episode, he will slip down to tie with Cersei as the most frequently recurring character in the TV series.
- Volantis makes its second appearance in this episode. Given that the episode it first appeared in during Season 5 also featured Braavos in it, that makes this the second episode to contain appearances by two of the Free Cities within it.
- Bear Island appears for the first time on-screen in this episode, the seat of House Mormont. Jorah Mormont introduced himself as coming from Bear Island since Season 1, so it has been mentioned before in similar contexts.
- Deepwood Motte also briefly appears but it is just a small interior scene. It too has been previously mentioned in dialogue, as having been taken and held by the Ironborn.
- The Brotherhood without Banners are featured onscreen for the first time since Season 3 but without any previously established characters.
- This is the fourth episode to feature a pre-credit sequence, but the first that has not been a season premiere. The previous episodes were Winter is Coming, Valar Dohaeris and Two Swords. Co-executive producer and writer Bryan Cogman has explained the cold open was necessary to preserve the impact of revealing Sandor Clegane's survival, in view of actor Rory McCann's name appearing in the opening credits.
- Sandor Clegane has not reappeared in the novels since Arya left him for dead by the side of the road, and thus his return in this episode is a major spoiler for the books. That being said, it is vaguely hinted that he survived: later Brienne and Podrick arrive at an island monastery where refugees from the war are seeking sanctuary. The monastery is led by an Elder Brother, who tells them that the Hound is "dead". They see a large horse just like Sandor's and spot a large limping monk digging graves who might be him (they can't tell because he is wearing a large hood and cloak). A third possible hint is that the large gravedigger bends down at one point to pet a dog, i.e. a hound. The whole exchange is framed in such a way that there is a fan theory that Elder Brother was perhaps speaking figuratively: "the Hound" was dead, his violent and angry past, and "Sandor" had found his peace helping the refugees at the monastery. By the point the novels reached, this theory has not been confirmed yet, and the Hound's fate is still unknown.
- In the novels, Brienne and Podrick encounter a wandering septon named Meribald who used to be a soldier in his youth, became a bandit at one point and did many things he is ashamed of, and now makes penance for his past by helping the poor and needy. The TV version basically condensed Septon Meribald and the Elder Brother together into one character: they are similar characters in the books. In the "Inside the Episode" featurette, however, the showrunners refer to him as "Ray," not "Meribald" - apparently they made a new name for the condensed character.
- Meribald's speech about the "broken men" created by the war has been cited by Martin as one of the more thematically important points in the books. The TV adaptation does not use a line for line reading of Meribald's speech, as in the books it talks about conscripts being reduced to banditry and living like animals preying on peasants caught in war zones. This would have been difficult to introduce in this context - in the books Meribald actually gives it to Brienne - but it is one of the most iconic speeches in the novels (there are numerous fan-made audio readings of the speech).
- The TV version is nonetheless thematically similar: he explains that he used to be a soldier, and instead of glory and honor, it led to him mindlessly obeying orders to burn villages and kill unarmed peasants, but he's tried to make amends with what time he has left alive. As a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, George R.R. Martin was critical of how other High Fantasy literature glorified war, and he wanted to deconstruct this in his own works to show how in real life it is most often horrible and pointless suffering.
- In the books, the war that Meribald fought in was specifically the War of the Ninepenny Kings, also known as the Fifth Blackfyre Rebellion, which Brynden Tully was actually a major commander in. The TV version doesn't specify what conflict he fought in during his youth.
- It isn't explicitly stated where the scenes involving Sandor Clegane take place, but given the presence of the Brotherhood Without Banners it is apparently somewhere in the Riverlands - combined with the fact that Brother Ray's book counterpart Septon Meribald also operated in the Riverlands. When Arya abandoned Sandor they were actually leaving the Vale and near the coast where its southern border meets the Riverlands (which is how she was in riding distance of a port at Maidenpool). Also Brother Ray says he picked up Sandor on a wagon, so apparently he took the Hound with him as he journeyed back into the Riverlands.
- In the prior novels, and before in Season 3, the Brotherhood Without Banners was defending the commoners from random raids and slaughter. That they're killing villagers who won't give them food supplies now is a major shift. In the books they would also take provisions from villagers, but they were at least polite about it and would make the token gesture of giving them an IOU note, promising - maybe even meaning to keep their promise - to pay it when the war is over (as they gave Sandor in Season 3, even though like him villagers point out that this is functionally worthless at the moment). Still, this was in contrast to Lannister raiding parties, who killed any who resisted, or just killed villagers to intimidate them, and would not even bother to promise to pay back what they plundered.
- On the other hand, by the end of the third novel, after the Red Wedding, it is somewhat implied that the Brotherhood has become leaner and meaner in response to the Lannisters and Freys achieving domination in the Riverlands - lynching any Freys they can find. It's possible that the reason for this change in tactics will be more fully addressed in future episodes/novels.
- A later episode completely answers this question.
- Although unnamed in dialogue, the HBO Viewer's Guide identifies the lead member of the Brotherhood who appears in this episode, the one with the yellow cloak, as "Lem Lemoncloak," another member of the Brotherhood from the novels.
- This episode marks the first time that Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully has reappeared on-screen since the Red Wedding in Season 3's "The Rains of Castamere".
- The Siege of Riverrun subplot is a holdover from the fourth novel which, like the Greyjoy Kingsmoot subplot, was pushed back to Season 6, because Season 5 condensed the storylines for other major characters (Jon Snow, King's Landing, Tyrion, Daenerys) from both books four and five into a single season. In the books, Brynden Tully never had to retake Riverrun from a light Frey garrison - he wasn't present at the Red Wedding in the book version, instead Robb Stark left him behind at Riverrun with the Tully army to hold their southern flank and to guard his wife Jeyne Westerling. After word came out of the massacre at the Red Wedding, Brynden pulled back his men to the castle and gathered ample food supplies for a lengthy siege. The Siege of Riverrun is ongoing in the background from the middle of the third book to about the middle of the fourth book by the point Jaime arrives with a Lannister army to help the Freys.
- Jaime Lannister never went to Dorne as he did in Season 5 of the TV series - the Dorne subplot in Season 5 was so heavily condensed or outright changed that it bore little resemblance to that subplot in the novels. Instead, that was the point in time at which Jaime left for the Riverlands to deal with holdout pockets of Robb Stark's Tully allies - and thus he wasn't present when the Faith Militant arrested Cersei, nor for her impending trial by combat. When he received a letter from Cersei, begging him to come back and aid her, he burned it in disgust (perhaps as a symbolic gesture of severing their relationship for good), since he did not love her anymore, and knew she was guilty of all the crimes she was charged with - high treason, adultery, fornication, incest and the murders of Robert and the former High Septon.
- This episode is actually the first time that Riverrun castle has appeared as a fully realized exterior location. When it previously appeared in Season 3, it was primarily filmed on interior sets, or a few garden scenes - the castle itself was only vaguely seen as a matte painting in the background of shots for Hoster Tully's funeral down at the pier. The wideshot of the entire area around Riverrun is accurate to the books: the castle is located at a major fork in the river, where the Red Fork of the Trident is joined by its major tributary, the Tumblestone River. In peacetime the castle is located on a triangle of land where the two rivers meet, with water on two sides: in time of war and siege, the Tullys open several levies to flood the remaining third side, essentially turning it into a small island - making it very difficult to besiege, as any attacker has to divide its forces into three portions to cover each water crossing.
- Other than the time shifting, the presence of Bronn, and some other slight condensations, the Siege of Riverrun subplot plays out fairly similarly in the novels. Notable condensations are of course that the several dozen members of House Frey have been understandably condensed into just Lame Lothar and Black Walder Rivers. No outside help is expected to come help the castle so the Freys aren't keeping a tight watch on the external perimeter, and instead are spending most of their time feasting and whoring in their camps outside the castle.
- In the books, the Freys actually drag Edmure Tully out and hang him by a noose on a daily basis, to taunt his uncle Brynden to surrender. This has been going on for so long that whatever force the threat may have had at first has long since become empty. In the TV version it isn't mentioned that the Freys have done this before and it may be the first and only time.
- In the books, the Frey who commands the siege and nearly hangs Edmure on a daily basis is Ryman Frey - eldest son of Stevron Frey, who died earlier in the war, thus making him Lord Walder's heir. Incidentally, Ryman also personally killed Lyanna Mormont's eldest sister Dacey Mormont at the Red Wedding (though both Ryman and Dacey were omitted from the TV adaptation).
- In the books, Ryman was the Frey that Jaime struck across the face to teach him a lesson about not making idle threats: the TV version condensed this with Black Walder Rivers. As seen in the episode, Jaime struck him with his golden prosthetic hand, badly injuring him and knocking him to the ground. In the books the hand is solid gold, though for unknown reasons the TV series had Jaime point out that it is gold-plated steel - still a heavy, solid-metal prosthetic.
- Brynden Tully accurately points out that it would be ridiculous to trust the Freys with any oath of surrender - given that they unthinkably broke sacred Guest right, killing his own niece and great-nephew while they were guests at the Freys' table. Thus, while not explicitly spelled out in the episode, Brynden doesn't budge when the Freys threaten to kill his nephew Edmure because first, he can sense they're bluffing; but more importantly, he has absolutely no reason to doubt that if he does surrender, the honorless Freys won't just break their word, and kill both Edmure and Brynden anyway.
- Brynden actually says in the episode that "Edmure is marked for death" no matter what he does. For his part, Edmure also seems to have accepted that the Freys will kill him no matter what happens: notice that he doesn't seem surprised or upset by his uncle Brynden's refusal to surrender, and he doesn't bother pleading to either his uncle or the Freys, but just stoically accepts that he's going to die one way or another.
- Brynden states that Riverrun has enough food supplies to last for two years. In the books, he similarly managed to gather ample food supplies at the castle before the siege began, right after the Red Wedding. In the TV version, the siege wasn't going on off-screen this whole time but is stated to have only recently begun after Brynden recaptured it in a sneak attack, thus he still has two full years worth of food supplies in this version as well. Sieges can last for many years in Westeros, because castles are built with larger storage space to survive the years-long winters.
- In the books, the parley between Jaime and Brynden is longer. Jaime offers Brynden the option of joining the Night's Watch, where Jon Snow is the Lord Commander (since this takes place before the Mutiny at Castle Black), but Brynden refuses, citing his dislike for Jon and that Eddard Stark was promised the same and executed anyway. Though it is not common knowledge, Brynden also expresses his belief that Tywin Lannister was the true architect of the Red Wedding, even though it still does not absolve the Freys of their crimes. Running out of patience, Jaime challenges Brynden to single combat, with each choosing a champion, but Brynden instead offers to fight Jaime one-on-one. Jaime agrees, but Brynden, aware of House Lannister's general lack of dignity and honor, balks at the last minute and returns to the castle, whereupon Jaime goes back to the siege camp.
- In the books, Jaime didn't bring a full Lannister army of 8,000 men to Riverrun to assist the Freys: instead, some elements of other Lannister armies were already present, commanded by his cousin Daven Lannister (son of Stafford Lannister), who had been struggling in vain to get the Freys in line (Daven is a capable leader and Jaime sympathizes with his troubles). Thus in the book version, Jaime only brought about 1,000 new Lannister soldiers with him as reinforcements from King's Landing. As the siege was a recent development in the TV version, TV-Jaime apparently just brought them all at once (it wasn't stated how many Lannister soldiers were already present under Daven's command in the books). The Frey army surrounding Riverrun numbered about 2,000 in the books (most of the other half of their army accompanied the Boltons to Winterfell to help them hold the North, but this was cut from the TV version).
- Bronn tells Jaime "you promised me a lordship and a castle and a highborn beauty for a wife". In "The House of Black and White", Jaime indeed promised Bronn "a much better girl [than Lollys Stokeworth] and a much better castle", but no lordship. Yet Jaime promises Bronn he'll get all three.
In King's Landing
- The scene of Olenna and Cersei is the opposite of the scene in "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken": in the earlier episode scene, Cersei acted smugly and arrogantly, pretending to write a letter when Olenna was speaking to her chidingly about the arrest of Margaery and Loras; in this episode, Olenna is the one who indifferently writes a letter, while Cersei begs for her assistance.
- This episode once again raises the issue that Loras Tyrell is being treated as the male heir of House Tyrell. In the novels he had two older brothers, and they were cut from the TV show, but even so it is unclear if they have younger brothers or cousins after Loras if he were to be removed.
In the North
- Lyanna Mormont appears for the first time in this episode, the new head of House Mormont of Bear Island. She was first mentioned early in Season 5, when it was explained that she is the young 10 year old niece of Jeor Mormont (and first cousin of Jorah). Stannis sent all the Northern Houses letters asking them to acknowledge him as the rightful king, but despite having no substantial army left and only being a little girl, Lyanna sent back a defiant letter which read "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark." The characters directly recount this incident in the episode.
- Lyanna Mormont was named directly after Lyanna Stark, Jon and Sansa's aunt who died in Robert's Rebellion, and who appeared in flashbacks earlier this season. The TV episode outright states that she was named after Lyanna Stark (as opposed to "Lyanna" just being a common name in the North). George R.R. Martin made it a point to have multiple characters appear in the story who have the same given name, as it would be unrealistic if "Robert Baratheon" was literally the only person in the entire continent of Westeros named "Robert". Martin explicitly did this due to the freedom of constraints he had when writing a novel - after the heavy restraints on his screenwriting for television, which directly commanded that he never have two characters with the same first name. The TV series, however, reversed this in many cases, because it doesn't have as much time to explain character relations as clearly as a book can, i.e. this season the Karstarks are led by "Harald Karstark", as opposed to his brother from the novels, "Eddard Karstark" - apparently because it was feared viewers would confuse this with "Eddard Stark" himself. Lyanna Mormont is thus one of the few cases of a repeated first name in the TV series (outside of a dynasty) - probably because it's a plot point that her family is so attached to the Starks they named their children after them.
- In the books, it is unknown if Lyanna's mother Maege Mormont is still alive; in the fifth novel, it is implied by her daughter Alysane that she is alive and with two of her other daughters. Robb has sent her and Galbart Glover on a mission to the north prior to the Red Wedding, and ever since no one heard from them. She has older surviving sisters (the eldest, Dacey Mormont, died at the Red Wedding). Maege did leave young Lyanna as the acting ruler of Bear Island, and she sent the same letter that appears in the TV version. Maege did appear in Season 1 but had no speaking lines and disappeared without explanation from Season 2 onwards: her subsequent status after the Red Wedding was unclear in the TV continuity, but this episode directly states that Maege died at some point in the war "fighting for Robb". Maege in the TV series was apparently simplified to not have any other daughters, making Lyanna Mormont the official new head of the House. In the books, Maege's five daughters in descending age were Dacey, Alysane, Lyra, Jorelle, and Lyanna (and Alysane had two small children of her own).
- When reading Lyanna's letter to Stannis, Jon wonders how come Lyanna was the one who wrote the letter, thinking that Maege would have left at least one of the older girls behind as castellan. The answer is given by Alysane, during the march of Stannis's host to Winterfell: "Lyra and Jory are with our mother" (at unknown location) - thus, by default, Maege's youngest daughter is the acting Lady of Bear Island while her mother and older sisters are away, similar to how Bran Stark was the acting "Lord of Winterfell" in Season 2 when his older brother Robb was not physically present to rule.
- In the books, Lyanna apparently has changed her mind about supporting Stannis, for a Mormont force led by Alysane (Maege's second daughter) assists him to liberate Deepwood Motte. Stannis writes Jon about that: "we had other help, unexpected but most welcome, from a daughter of Bear Island. Alysane Mormont, whose men name her the She-Bear, hid fighters inside a gaggle of fishing sloops and took the ironmen unawares where they lay off the strand." That Mormont force joins Stannis in his campaign against the Boltons.
- Following the liberation of Deepwood Motte by Stannis in the books, the Glovers and more northern houses, openly join his army (even though their remaining forces are meager), and their combined strength becomes an increasing threat to the Boltons. The TV series adapted all of this out so Stannis isn't seen rallying any Northern Houses to his side - though in the books, Stannis did liberate Deepwood Motte due to direct advice from Jon Snow, who told Stannis it would make the local Houses start rallying to him.
- The episode implies but doesn't make explicitly clear why House Mormont only has 62 fighting men left: almost all of the Northern Houses's soldiers were massacred at the Red Wedding. Sansa and Jon are just scraping up what little is left from their home garrisons. Most Northern Houses are down to young boys and old men, and roughly one third of all the vassal Houses are now officially headed by widows because all the men died in the war. The very fact that 10 year old Lyanna is now head of her House evidences that many of the adults of fighting age have been killed by this point.
- It is unclear where the TV version is drawing the exact number of only 62 fighters. In the books, it is mentioned that all of the vassal Houses in the western half of the North can only muster about 1,200 men or so, and as Lyanna Mormont points out, Bear Island isn't very populous and didn't have a large army to begin with (before most of its soldiers got slaughtered in the war).
- It is pointed out to Lyanna that her uncle Jeor Mormont made Jon Snow his personal steward, because he was grooming him to succeed him one day and thought him trustworthy. It is unclear, however, why Jon didn't take this opportunity to also point out that her uncle outright gave him the House Mormont ancestral sword, Longclaw, made of priceless Valyrian steel, and assuredly Jeor would only have bestowed his blade on a man he thought was trustworthy. Then again, perhaps Jon was worried that if the meeting didn't go well, they might try to take the sword back from him.
- Lyanna Mormont actually isn't exaggerating that much when she says that the Mormonts are famed warriors worth many times their own number in battle. Bear Island is located off the northwest coast of The North, putting it in the unfortunate position of being under constant threat of attack from both ironborn raiding ships from the south and, to a slightly lesser extent, wildling raiders from father north who go around the Wall by crossing the Bay of Ice in basic short-range skiffs. Therefore, similar to House Umber, they are one of the few Houses that is under a constant state of military preparedness, and thus has very strong martial traditions producing great warriors - among them, as noted, Jeor Mormont himself, as well as his son Jorah (a great soldier and tournament champion in his own right). The Umbers might be the most northern House closest to the Wall on the mainland, but Bear Island is located almost as far north, and without the protection of the Wall.
- In turn, this explains why unlike much of the rest of Westeros or even the rest of the North, Bear Island has a strong tradition of producing Warrior women: Bear Island itself is fairly poor and densely forested (as seen in the episode), so its inhabitants gain most of their sustenance by fishing the surrounding waters. This means that the men are often out at sea for days at a time, unable to react to surprise sea raids made by ironborn or wildling boats that slip past them to get to their homes on the island. As a result, the mothers and older daughters of families on Bear Island had to learn to take up weapons themselves to defend themselves and their homes. While they apparently follow the inheritance laws of the mainland, putting daughters behind sons, so many men die in raids that families from the island fully prepare their daughters to fight and potentially have to rule some day.
- In part this explains why Lyanna Mormont is such a confident, capable, and defiant ruler despite being a 10 year old girl. Many major lords on the mainland don't expect their daughters to come to rule and thus don't train them for it, i.e. Tywin Lannister never tried 10 year old Cersei Lannister to be able to rule and fight if he died. In contrast, House Mormont does raise its daughters to be able to rule as capable political leaders if the need arises.
- Maege Mormont was a capable warrior in her own right, though she didn't expect to rule at first because her older brother had a son. After Jeor joined the Night's Watch and Jorah fled into exile, however, Maege proved to be a very capable military and political leader and was one of Robb Stark's chief lieutenants in the novels. Maege had five daughters and no sons but she did raise the eldest of them, after Jorah fled, with the expectation that she would one day rule Bear Island in her own right. As the elder sisters were omitted from the TV version and Lyanna is the only daughter, Maege had been raising TV-Lyanna for years with the expectation that she would one day rule House Mormont, explaining her confidence and capability in this episode.
- It isn't clear how Lyanna Mormont can still be 10 years old this season given that she was 10 years old last season - while time advanced for other characters also in the North with her, particularly that Walda Bolton announced she was pregnant in mid-Season 5 and gave birth in early Season 6, implying that at least 9 months up to maybe 1 year have passed since Lyanna was first mentioned in early Season 5, when Jon and Stannis also mentioned she was 10 years old. See "Timeline issues" below.
- Robett Glover, played by Tim McInnerny, is introduced in this episode, younger brother of Lord Galbart Glover, who briefly made a minor appearance in Season 1. No stranger to medieval television serials, McInnerny previously appeared in all four seasons of the British sitcom Blackadder, portraying Lord Percy Percy in the first two seasons, the second being a descendant of the first (and co-starring with Jim Broadbent and Patrick Malahide in the first season, with McInnerny killing Malahide's character in the finale); a version of the Scarlet Pimpernel in the third season; and Captain Kevin Darling in the fourth season.
- Robett Glover directly mentions that his brother Galbart fought for Robb and hailed him as King in the North: he doesn't quite explicitly state that Galbart is in fact dead, but heavily implies it, by using past tense. Robett does mention that his wife and children were held captive by the ironborn, which did happen in the novels (Yara kept them prisoner but made sure they were well cared for).
- Robett states angrily that the ironborn "brutalized and killed our subjects". That detail has not been previously mentioned in repsect of the catpure of Deepwood Motte. It is typical for the ironborn to sack and murder commoners during their raids, as they have done with the residents of the Stony Shore in the books.
- Robett states that House Glover only recently retook Deepwood Motte from the ironborn - which was first mentioned five episodes ago when Yara received a letter about the Second Battle of Deepwood Motte at Pike. In this episode, Robett says that they needed the Boltons' help to do it - apparently similar to how the Boltons killed the ironborn holding Moat Cailin in Season 4. In the books, it was actually Stannis Baratheon who liberated Deepwood Motte as part of his drive to rally the western parts of the North to attack the Boltons in the center (and the Boltons played no role in liberating it).
- In the books, the Boltons might have planned to attack Deepwood Motte and kill the ironborn who held it (similarly to their actions in respect of Moat Cailin), as strongly implied in the threatening letter Asha received from Ramsay - but Stannis beat them to it.
- House Forrester, from the tie-in Telltale video game, are actually bannermen sworn to House Glover (in both the books and TV/game continuity, though they've only been mentioned once in the novels). Despite House Glover showing up for the first time in this episode, no cameo mention is made of the Forresters. Given that "Season 1" of the video game was set during the events of Season 4, it is unclear if this implies that the Forresters have been entirely wiped out during subsequent off-screen events (though there's no specific reason to think this - Robett Glover doesn't mention any of his bannermen specifically in this scene).
- Robett Glover's criticism of Robb Stark is presented as actually rational: Robb threw away his chances of winning the war (which he was already losing) by marrying a political nobody ("a foreign whore"), dallied around with romance while the Lannisters were beating the Baratheons, allying themselves with the Tyrells (who have the largest army in Westeros) and tightening their grip, and ultimately, got himself and all of his men killed at the Red Wedding. In the books, criticisms of Robb Stark are actually much more widespread, and if it weren't for the manner of his death in a shocking betrayal and violation of guest right, many of the Northern Houses wouldn't be as opposed to the Boltons and Lannisters as they currently are.
- Much of Martin's point with Robb Stark was a deconstruction of the classic Fantasy trope of the romantic young warrior king: in real life, a brash young warrior who did what he felt like and broke vital marriage alliances would end up getting killed. In the books, when it is revealed that Robb Stark broke his promise of a marriage-alliance with the Freys, they ride out of his camp furiously, and even the lords that stay loyal to Robb lose a large amount of respect for him (both the ideal of keeping his vows, and ignoring the practical reality that he needed the Frey armies and this was a stupid decision). The TV version didn't stress this very much before: after Robb and Talisa's secret wedding in the Season 2 finale, at the beginning of Season 3 she is openly referred to as his new queen by his lieutenants, with little overt criticism. Instead it was almost presented as if Robb was right for marrying out of love and ignoring his political responsibilities. That Robett Glover's criticisms of Robb Stark are presented as a bitter but accurate assessment brings the presentation of attitudes about Robb Stark closer to what they were like in the books.
- In the parallel book scene, Davos attends the court of Lord Wyman Manderly, seeking to have him support Stannis. One of the attending Freys, Ser Jared (fourth son of Lord Frey), tells the Freys' version of the Red Wedding: Robb and his followers have warged into wolves, and the Freys acted in self defense. Brazenly, Jared even goes that far to claim that Wendel was killed as he shielded Lord Frey with his body. Davos is stunned at the enormity of the lie, which Wyman seems to believe. Then, Rhaegar Frey (Lord Frey's grandson) says similar things to Robett's statement in the show: "Robb Stark betrayed us all. He abandoned the north to the cruel mercies of the ironmen to carve out a fairer kingdom for himself along the Trident. Then he abandoned the Riverlords who had risked much and more for him, breaking his marriage pact with my grandfather to wed the first western wench who caught his eye".
- In contrast to Jared's outright lies, Rhaeger's criticism of Robb is correct: he took nearly all the northern troops to the south, allowing the ironborn to raid the north freely; he was so obsessed with his vendetta against the Lannisters, that he ignored the reports about the ironborn's invasion and did not even consider to return or send any troops back (Unlike in the TV show Roose never hold Robb back to return to the North with the hint that they are chasing the Lannisters in the novels nor suggested Robb to send Ramsay to liberate Winterfell - it was done without Robb's knowledge and reported to him only afterwards), not even after Wintefell was taken, but only after he heard about the alleged deaths of his brothers - then it was too late; and he did break his pact with the Freys.
- An interesting nod to the political mechanisations of the Seven Kingdoms was given in the novels. When Robb introduced his bride to Catelyn, her thoughts were: "If you had to fall into a woman’s arms, my son, why couldn’t they have been Margaery Tyrell's?" This implies that if Robb had broken his marriage proposal to the Freys, who are a powerful but minor House, to marry the daughter of House Tyrell who had also the largest army in Westeros, no one would have opposed this because of the enormous powerbase. Realistically, an alliance between the Reach and the North seemed to be very unlikely because it was the intention of Mace Tyrell that Margaery becomes the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, not of just a part of Westeros (Robb had no ambitions to claim the Iron Throne), even if it meant betraying the rebels and siding with the Lannisters who had started the war with their own treachery.
- When Tyrion confronted Tywin about the Red Wedding, he cynically responded by asking if it was better to kill thousands of their enemies on the battlefield or at dinner - by killing them in a surprise ambush at a wedding, they were saving the lives of thousands of Lannister soldiers who otherwise would have perished grinding down Robb's dwindling forces. Tyrion, however, sharply criticized his father that the North would never forget such a horrifying violation of the laws of war and guestright. Ironically, time proved Tywin wrong and Tyrion correct: had Tywin done the honorable thing and just ground Robb down through attrition on the battlefield, Robb's surviving followers like the Mormonts and Tullys might have accepted that Robb was a brash failure and grudgingly accepted Lannister rule. Robb's strict adherence to personal honor may have seemed naive and cost him the allegiance of the Karstarks and Freys, but Tywin's use of dirty tactics is now coming back to haunt his family. As Tyrion said at the time, every time the Lannisters destroyed one enemy using dishonorable tactics, all this did was create new enemies who swore vengeance for the Lannisters' crimes.
- Some new Heraldry appears in this episode. House Glover's heraldry has never appeared in the TV series before and is first introduced in this episode: a silver armored fist on a scarlet red background. The other new heraldry is for House Mormont; though curiously, House Mormont's heraldry was actually introduced in the TV show in the first season. What is introduced in this episode is a significant redesign: instead of a striding (passant) black bear on a white background next to green trees as has been depicted in prior seasons, the sigil in this episode is depicted as a black bear rearing on its hind legs (rampant).
- An explanation could be that it's Lyanna's personal sigil. In Westeros arms belong to a family, and any trueborn child may use them. This is similar to the practice in German heraldry, and converse to the practice in British heraldry, where only the head of the family may use the family arms; other members of the family have to difference their arms in some way. In Westeros this is not compulsory, though many choose to adopt their own personal arms, usually a minor variation on the arms of their house.
- Jon and Sansa say that the other Houses that gave them soldiers so far besides the Mormonts and Glovers were House Hornwood and House Mazin.
- The Hornwoods have sporadically appeared in the background of the TV series since Season 1 - primarily that their heraldry of a moose's head was clearly visible at the Tourney of the Hand. Their banners appear again at the Stark army camp in this episode (a brown moose head on an orange background). Their role is somewhat larger in the books: their lands border the Boltons' territory on the southern side, and when Robb left with most of their armies, Ramsay kidnapped Lady Hornwood, forced her to marry him and raped her, then flayed all the skin off her fingers and locked her in a tower cell until she starved to death - then used this forced marriage (really, abduction) as a nominal claim to seize control of Hornwood lands. Understandable, the Hornwoods have specific reason to hate Ramsay by this point - though all of this was omitted from the TV version.
- "House Mazin", meanwhile, does not exist in the books at all - it is an in-joke reference to screenwriter Craig Mazin, who doesn't directly work on the TV series but gave the showrunners vital advice about the unaired pilot episode. This is the third time it has been mentioned in the TV series, the second this season. A new second-tier "major House" can't easily be fit into the map of the North at this point, given that the books have already clearly defined who controls which territories. There are two in-universe possibilities: House Mazin might be a prominent third-tier "minor House" (similar to how House Forrester are prominent vassals of House Glover, who are themselves vassals of the Starks), or they might be one of the 40 or so minor noble Houses from the northern mountain clans who live northwest of Winterfell - they are all as weak as minor Houses, but are technically second-tier major Houses in the sense that they are sworn directly to the Starks and don't have any other overlords. The books never gave a definitive list of all of the northern mountain clans.
- Sansa also mentions that she wants to try to visit Castle Cerwyn. House Cerwyn's castle-seat is very close to Winterfell, directly south of it (their army camp is northwest of Winterfell at the moment). Recall that last season Ramsay demanded that the Cerwyns pay the Boltons taxes as the new lords of Winterfell and the North, but when Lord Cerwyn refused, Ramsay publicly flayed him alive, along with his wife and brother, while forcing his son to watch. Ramsay was satisfied that the son, the new lord of House Cerwyn, then paid his taxes, but Roose was disgusted that Ramsay traded a short-term gain for earning the long-term enmity of the surviving Cerwyns.
- The letter that Sansa is writing at the end of her scenes is actually legible in some shots, simply viewed upside-down. Turning the shot 180 degrees, the phrase "Knights of the Vale" is clearly visible on one line, indicating that she is writing the letter to Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, who has the massive army of the Vale positioned at Moat Cailin ready to enter the North (which numbers in the tens of thousands, because he kept them out of the war before).
In the Free Cities
- Arya Stark has officially surpassed all of her current material from the novels as of this episode. She actually regains her eyesight at the end of the fifth novel, and the play she attended in the past two episodes (a stilted reenactment of the War of the Five Kings) actually appeared in a preview chapter that Martin released for the as-yet unpublished sixth novel. At the end of that chapter Arya actually kills a target she wasn't supposed to kill: Raff, one of the Mountain's men, condensed into Meryn Trant for the TV series, whom she killed in the Season 5 finale. It is quite probable that Arya killing Raff will anger the Faceless Men both because she did it without orders and because he was a major enemy of "Arya Stark" - demonstrating that she will never let go of her past and never be "no one". In the previous episode, the Faceless Men decided to kill her for refusing to kill a target - because seeing the play makes her remember who she is and "Arya Stark" would never dishonorably kill someone who she felt didn't deserve it. Now at this point - barring a few bits and pieces which might have been reshuffled to later episodes - Arya is advancing completely beyond her currently known book material.
- Due to Arya recently surpassing the novels, there is no official guarantee that she will survive her encounter with the Waif - in-universe, at least. From a meta-narrative standpoint it would be odd if Arya spent this much time in Braavos only to die, but then again, it might be said that it was odd for the first three seasons of the TV series to build up Robb Stark's storyline only to suddenly kill him at the Red Wedding.
- The only subplots which haven't caught up with their materials from the novels at this point are Samwell and Gilly actually arriving in Oldtown itself, a few (condensed) parts of the Greyjoy subplot, parts of the King's Landing storyline, and a few elements from the Slaver's Bay storyline (though Tyrion has caught up). This isn't counting major subplots which were simply abandoned such as the Martell storyline from the books and the Griff storyline in the Free Cities. At the rate these few subplots are advancing, it appears that every subplot will totally catch up with the books by the end of Season 6.
- There are several major hints that "Arya" in this episode is really Jaqen pretending to be Arya:
- Arya is left handed, but "Arya" in the episode consistently uses her right hand to handle the money bags she gives the sailors. Maisie Williams is actually right-handed in real life but is always careful to play Arya as left-handed because she is in the novels - she wouldn't make such a casual mistake like this (three separate times in the scene).
- Maisie Williams smirks the same way that Jaqen does, tilting her head with a wry smile.
- Maisie Williams walks like Jaqen does, with his hands folded behind his back.
- In the previous episode, Arya was smart enough to know the Faceless Men would try to kill her, so she was hiding in the sewers. In this episode, she brazenly goes into a public market to buy passage on a ship, then simply waits around in public on a bridge instead of hiding again.
- Knowing the Faceless Men are after her, she should have her sword Needle on her, but doesn't.
- This entire incident may have been a test for the Waif, not for Arya. The Faceless Men are supposed to be "no one" and never kill due to personal reasons, but the Waif is clearly resentful of Arya. Jaqen directly ordered the Waif not to let Arya suffer (i.e. to just kill her with a fast-acting poison) but she disobeyed by trying to stab Arya to death - in which case the Waif actually proved that she isn't "no one". In the books, the Faceless Men actually don't blindly accept any assassination contract, but will refuse those they morally don't agree with (though their enigmatic belief system about which deaths are "due" to the Many-Faced God and which are not can be inscrutable). Thus it's possible that Jaqen wasn't necessarily upset that Arya wouldn't kill a target she didn't think deserved it.
- If this was a test for the Waif and not Arya, that means that Jaqen (or one of the other Faceless Men) is wearing an Arya face-mask. In the books, the Faceless Men can only use faces from dead people - in this episode Jaqen is even directly shown removing a face from a corpse. On the other hand, the TV continuity has changed this slightly to show that the Faceless Men can use faces that look like a still-living person. In the Season 5 finale, Arya saw her own face on the Faceless Man who poisoned himself - she might have been hallucinating in this moment, but prior to that, she also clearly saw a Faceless Man that looked like "Jaqen H'ghar" who drank poison and killed himself, while another Faceless Man pretending to be the Waif took off his mask and revealed Jaqen's face. This might simply be different in the TV version - perhaps the explanation is that the Faceless Men can take the faces of people with similar appearances and alter them to match a still-living person they closely resemble.
- If this was indeed a Faceless Man pretending to be Arya, in some ways that would make the character who appears in this episode literally a "Fake Arya". In the books, the Lannisters can't find Sansa or Arya, but they captured Sansa's best friend Jeyne Poole. After the Red Wedding, they give Jeyne to the Boltons to marry to Ramsay to solidify their hold over the North - the Boltons know she is an imposter, but with the Lannisters intend to pass her off as the real Arya. The imposter was first pointed out in the third novel, but her identity wasn't revealed until the fifth novel - as the girl is being sent to the Boltons, Brienne is going to try to rescue her, but Jaime takes her aside and stops her, saying he recognizes that she isn't the real Arya Stark (whom he saw at the Red Keep throughout the first novel). Over the years between novels, the popular fandom nickname "Fake Arya" was developed for this mysterious character, before her real identity was revealed.
- The sailors that Arya hires in Braavos say they heard that the Iron Fleet of the Greyjoys had arrived in Slaver's Bay - even though, in the same episode, we see the Iron Fleet in Volantis, still on its way east to Meereen. Either the scenes were moved around from other episodes, or perhaps the different subplots are being presented out of sequence - or, most probably, rumors about the Iron Fleet heading east are getting distorted and some wild rumors are incorrectly saying they already arrived there.
- In a post-episode interview, writer Bryan Cogman confirmed that the separate subplots in different locations are indeed simply out of synch with each other, and Arya's subplot in Braavos is chronologically ahead of the others: thus the sailors are reacting to news of the Iron Fleet arriving in Slaver's Bay, even though viewers won't see these scenes until later in the season. See "Timeline issues" below.
- The Free City of Volantis reappears on-screen for the second time in this episode. Yara and Theon Greyjoy's ironborn fleet stops there for supplies as it heads east to Slaver's Bay. In the books, their other uncle Victarion Greyjoy took the Iron Fleet east to Slaver's Bay, but the TV series condensed him out and simply gave his storyline to Yara and Theon (they are related plotlines in the books).
- In the Inside the Episode featurette, the showrunners pointed out that Yara does love and care for her brother Theon, but they made her dialogue with him (which doesn't have a direct counterpart in the novels) to be deliberately blunt, "tough love" advice, because as they put it, Yara isn't a professional psychotherapist. As they explained, moreso than the rest of Westeros, the Ironborn are a very blunt, Viking-like culture of warriors, so they felt this style of advice was more appropriate to their behavior.
- Notice that the prostitutes at the tavern the Greyjoy crew visits in Volantis have slave tattoos on their cheeks: as Varys pointed out when Volantis was first seen in Season 5, slaves in the city are given different tattoos on their faces to indicate their occupations, and the tattoo for slave-prostitutes is a teardrop under their left eye (stylized as a downwards-pointing triangle).
- At the Volantis brothel, Yara Greyjoy carouses, kisses, and has sex with a female courtesan. This is the first time we see Yara engage in same-sex relationships.
- Yara comments to Theon about the prostitute that "Nothing on the Iron Islands has an ass like that." This implies that Yara has had sex with other women on the Iron Islands.
- Yara tells Theon Greyjoy that, "Now, since it's my last night ashore for a long while, I'm gonna go fuck the tits off this one." This implies Yara only has sex with women as there are no other known women on the crew of the Black Wind.
- There is a vast difference between the monarchs Yara and Renly Baratheon when it comes to their openness of their sexuality to others. Yara carouses, kisses, and boasts about having sex with a female courtesan in front of her Ironborn followers. Renly Baratheon however was closeted about his sexuality and never engaged in same-sex relationships among his followers.
- This may be due to the religious differences between Yara's and Renly's followers. Yara and her Ironborn followers are followers of the Drowned God religion. Attitudes towards male or female homosexuality in the Drowned God religion hasn't actually been mentioned in the books or the show. Renly and his followers were followers of the Faith of the Seven. The Seven-Pointed Star, the holy text of the Faith of the Seven, prohibits "buggery."
- Yara's character is named "Asha Greyjoy" in the books, she was renamed to avoid confusion with Osha the wildling (Asha Greyjoy is a much more prominent character, but was only introduced in Season 2, after Osha was introduced in Season 1). Asha in the books shows no particular hints of being bisexual or experimenting with women: she is very sexually active and unashamed of this, going so far as to learn from a woods witch how to make her own moon tea (an abortion drug). Game of Thrones Wiki reached out to George R.R. Martin himself to inquire about this:
- Question: "Is Asha Greyjoy (renamed Yara in the TV series) bisexual in the books, or it was implied, and we just didn't catch on to it?"
- GRRM: "I have a number of lesbian and bisexual women in the novels (and a couple who experiment), but Asha is not one of them. Unless I am forgetting something..."
- Martin therefore confirmed that Asha in the books is not bisexual, nor does she even experiment with women, and if this is the case in this episode it is an invention of the TV series for Yara, distinct from her book version Asha. On the other hand, as Martin himself pointed out, several female characters in the novels at least "experimented" with having sex with other women, but this was cut from the TV version: Cersei Lannister experimented with having sex with a handmaiden in a drunken fog in the fourth novel, and Daenerys Targaryen experimented with having Irri have sex with her as well. Thus it's possible that making TV-Yara bisexual - or "experimenting" - is the TV series's attempt to make up for cutting out bisexual experiences these other characters had in the novels. That being said, if they were going to make a female character bisexual who wasn't in the novels, Yara/Asha is one of the more probable candidates - given that she is very sexually active and adventurous in the novels, to an unusual degree for a highborn woman in their culture, but just with men. This is in contrast with, for example, if the TV series decided to randomly introduce certain other female characters kissing another woman, such as Sansa Stark, Meera Reed, etc. - compared to them, this change isn't such a drastic difference for TV-Yara from book-Asha.
- In a post-episode interview with the MakingGameOfThrones.com blog, actress Gemma Whelan specified that Yara Greyjoy in the TV version is not strictly attracted to only women, but has been sexually active with both men and women. Thus in modern terms TV-Yara is "bisexual" or "pansexual", and not "a lesbian" (none of these, however, are terms that exist in Westeros).
- Therefore the TV version isn't outright stating that these prior character relationships with specific men didn't happen in TV-Yara's backstory (with Tristifer, Qarl, etc., albeit they were never introduced or mentioned on-screen).
- In post-episode interviews, writer Bryan Cogman confirmed that the different subplots are simply being presented out of synch with each other, due to time constraints of individual episodes: Arya spent many weeks or months during her earlier training montage in Braavos, but he said that everything from when she sees the stage play onwards (starting in only episode five out of a ten episode season) logically only takes a couple of days. Arya's storyline was back-heavy, but not really connected to the other storylines, so its events are simply presented earlier (in contrast with how Littlefinger received a letter about Sansa's escape from Winterfell, which did chronologically link his surprisingly fast journey to the Wall earlier).
- Meanwhile, Cogman stated that many days and weeks pass by as Jon and Sansa travel along the west coast of the North from the Mormonts to the Glovers - they didn't mean to imply that the Wall, Bear Island, and Deepwood Motte are all a day or two's journey from each other.
- Similarly, the Greyjoys didn't just teleport all the way from the Iron Islands on the western side of Westeros to Volantis in a matter of days: weeks and months passed off-screen, because it isn't heavily interlinked with the other storylines. The only direct link with other storylines was that Theon escaped from Winterfell with Sansa but then separated from her group to head back to the Iron Islands - however, they split up very early in the season, apparently only a matter of days after they escaped Winterfell (they couldn't get very far on foot before Brienne saved them). After that significant intervals of time occurred off-screen between episodes, for both Sansa at the Wall and Theon in the Iron Islands.
- A major issue with the TV series Timeline, however, comes up regarding Lyanna Mormont. She was first mentioned in episode 5.2 "The House of Black and White", when Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon received her letter at the Wall, and Jon said she was a 10 year old girl (as she was at that point in the novels when she sent the same letter). In this episode, Sansa also remarks that Lyanna is "10 years old" - implying that less than a full year has passed. Yet this is physically impossible: unlike the Braavos, Iron Islands, or Meereen storylines, the subplots of Stannis at the Wall and the Boltons at Winterfell were heavily interlinked. By the second half of the season Stannis even entered into the North and was directly interacting with the Boltons and their armies. Thus the Bolton and Stannis subplots had to have been more or less chronologically linked. In episode 5.5 "Kill the Boy", Walda Bolton announced to Roose and Ramsay that she was pregnant with Roose's new child, a son which she later gave birth to in episode 6.2 "Home" (five episodes ago). Walda didn't say exactly when she first conceived, but still, factoring in a nine month pregnancy, roughly one year must have passed between early Season 5 and late Season 6 - Walda's pregnancy ties the timeline into place in such a way that can't simply be left ambiguous. Given that the Stannis and Bolton storylines were so closely linked, and it was stated in Stannis's storyline that Lyanna was 10 years old, it is therefore difficult to reconcile how Lyanna can still be 10 years old in this episode.
- Cogman admitted in the interview that the writers didn't attempt to develop an exact internal timeline for episodes, as this would have required a vast amount of work and slowed down the writing schedule - but at the same time, that they generally felt free to leave it ambiguous and assume unspecified amounts of time pass off-screen, so long as the storylines are not related but separated by vast distances (Braavos, the Wall, King's Landing, Meereen, the Dothraki, etc.) In contrast, the Stannis/Bolton/North storyline had merged during Season 5, and they should have been treated as linked chronologically.
- There are two plausible in-universe explanations which might be retroactively developed. The first is that Lyanna Mormont simply has a late birthday in the year, and hasn't turned 11 years old yet - i.e. that she had just turned 10 in early Season 5 but is now "10 years and 11 months old" in this episode. The second in-universe explanation is that the characters simply made a mistake about her age: either she was really 9 years old in Season 5 and Jon was mistaken, or she's really 11 years old in Season 6 and Sansa is mistaken.
- The out of universe explanation is of course that this was simply a dialogue error in this episode and it should be treated as non-canonical, and that Lyanna really is 11 years old in Season 6. Game of Thrones Wiki is attempting to contact Bryan Cogman about this via Twitter.
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Storm of Swords:
- Chapter 65, Arya XII: The Hound helps villagers with construction works.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 25, Brienne V: A septon tells about the horrors of war and broken men.
- Chapter 33, Jaime V: Jaime arrives at Riverrun where he finds a Frey tying a noose around Edmure's neck threatening the Blackfish that he means to hang him unless Riverrun surrenders.
- Chapter 38, Jaime VI: Jaime holds a parley with the Blackfish on the drawbridge to Riverrun, but is unsuccessful in convincing him to give up the castle.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 19, Davos III: Someone speaks ill about Robb Stark.
- Chapter 35, Jon VII: The Mormonts, Glovers, Cerwyns and Hornwoods join the campaign against the Boltons.
- Chapter 42, The King's Prize: One of Maege Mormont's daughters mentions her.
- Chapter 56, The Iron Suitor: A Greyjoy stops at Volantis.
- Chapter 69, Jon XIII: Jon asks for volunteers to go with him and fight the Boltons.
Lyanna Mormont: "We are not a large house, but we're a proud one. And every man from Bear Island fights with the strength of ten mainlanders."
Davos Seaworth: "If they're half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed."
Ray: "All I can do with the time I've got left is bring a little goodness into the world. That's all any of us can do, isn't it?"
Bronn: "You promised me a lordship and a castle and a highborn beauty for a wife."
Jaime Lannister: "And you'll get all three. A Lannister always..."
Bronn: "Don't say it. Don't fucking say it."
Jaime Lannister: Only a fool makes threats he's not prepared to carry out. Let's say...I threatend to hit you, unless you shut your mouth, but you kept talking. What do you think I'd do?"
Walder Rivers: "I don't give a rotten..."
[Jaime back-hands him mid-sentence.]
Jaime: "We'll breach them and kill every last one of you. But if you surrender, I'll spare the lives of your men. On my honor."
Brynden Tully: "Your honor? Bargaining with oathbreakers is like building on quicksand."
Jaime: "The war is over, Ser. Why sacrifice living men to a lost cause?"
Brynden: "As long as I'm standing, the war is not over. This is my home. I was born in this castle and I'm ready to die in it."
Robett Glover: "Yes, my family served House Stark for centuries. We wept when we heard of your father's death. When my brother was lord of this castle, he answered Robb's call and hailed him King in the North. And where was King Robb when the ironborn attacked this castle? When they threw my wife and children in prison and brutalized and killed our subjects? Taking up with a foreign whore. Getting himself and those who followed him killed. I served House Stark once, but House Stark is dead."