- This article is about the episode. For the individual, see: Melisandre
"The Red Woman" is the first episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fifty-first episode of the series overall. It premiered on April 24, 2016. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
In the North
Ramsay and Maester Wolkan attend to the dead body of Myranda. Ramsay remembers the first time he met her, stating that while other people were afraid of him, including the maester, she wasn't. Wolkan asks if they should bury her or construct a funeral pyre; Ramsay orders to feed her to the hounds.
Theon and Sansa, having survived the fall from Winterfell's wall, run through the Wolfswood realizing there are already men with hounds chasing them. Theon tries to hide their scent by crossing a river. Guiding a frightened Sansa, they make it across and hide by a fallen tree with Theon hugging Sansa to try to keep her warm. Hearing the dogs still after them, Theon tries to lead them away, telling Sansa to keep heading north for Castle Black and Jon. A group of Bolton men sent by Ramsay, with the bastard's girls, find them. Theon claims Sansa was hurt when they jumped and he left her to die, but the dogs find her. The leader mocks Theon over what Ramsay will do to him now and prepares to bring them back to Winterfell. Brienne and Podrick arrive and a fight begins. Brienne kills most of them while Podrick displays the techniques she taught him, managing to kill one. He is then attacked by another and briefly holds his own before being knocked down, but Theon grabs a sword and kills the Bolton man. Sansa accepts Brienne into her service. Where they go next is uncertain.
Meanwhile, Roose Bolton meets with Ramsay and asks if preemptively assaulting the struggling army of Stannis Baratheon makes him feel like a "winner" now that they've lost Sansa. A Lannister army marching north could easily overwhelm the Bolton troops at Winterfell and the Dreadfort. Ramsay assures his father they will recapture Sansa as he's sent his best men to find her. Roose continues that they need her to rally the north against the Lannisters, if need be, and subtly warns Ramsay that if he fails to recapture her, his unborn brother will become his heir instead of Ramsay.
Arya is blind and begs for money in the streets, when the Waif approaches her with two fighting sticks, giving her one of them. Arya explains that she can't fight because she's blind, but the Waif simply answers "that's not my problem" and starts beating her. Arya poorly tries to defend herself but fails miserably. The Waif stops and says that they'll meet again tomorrow.
Varys and Tyrion are seen walking through the city of Meereen, dressed as merchants. After coming upon a starving woman and her baby, Tyrion offers a coin, saying the money is for the baby, to eat. His poor Valyrian frightens the woman, who thinks that he wants to buy her baby, to eat it. Varys intercedes, explaining to the woman the money is so the baby can eat. The relieved woman accepts Tyrion's generosity.
As they continue their walk through the city, Tyrion states that they need to find the leader of the Sons of the Harpy in order to bring peace to Meereen. Varys explains that his spies have been sent all over the city, and that soon they will bring him information. Their conversation is interrupted by a crowd of screaming people running from a huge cloud of smoke. The two make their way towards the origin of the smoke: all the ships in the harbor have been set aflame. Tyrion comments they won't be sailing to Westeros in the near future.
In the Dothraki Sea
Daario and Jorah are looking for Daenerys, and come upon the remains of a ram charred by Drogon's fire. Knowing they are on the right track, they note numerous hoof prints in the proximity. While Jorah realizes that Dothraki have been here, he finds the ring that Daenerys intentionally dropped on the ground.
Daenerys is shown walking with her hands bound, and two Dothraki take her to Khal Moro as a gift. The Khal wants to rape her, but she explains who she is, Khal Drogo's widow. The Khal unbinds her and promises her that she will not be harmed. When Daenerys asks to be escorted back to Meereen in exchange for the promise of one thousand horses for her safe return, Moro's wife tells her that she has to remain in the temple of Vaes Dothrak with the other Khals' widows for the remainder of her days and become a dosh khaleen.
In the Water Gardens
Ellaria helps Doran get to his wheelchair, as they both reminisce about Oberyn, with Doran stating how he envied his late brother for the adventurous life he led. Ellaria states that Doran would have made a bad adventurer, while Oberyn would have been a bad ruler. After Doran settles into his chair, Maester Caleotte brings him a message that Myrcella has died. Before Doran can react, Tyene stabs Areo Hotah in the back, killing him, while Ellaria stabs Doran in the chest. As he lies on the floor, his other guards do nothing, indicating they have sided with Ellaria. As she twists her knife into Doran, Ellaria angrily says he remained passive despite the brutal deaths of both his sister and brother, and that the people of Dorne are with her, now. As he is gasping, Doran begs Ellaria to spare Trystane, but she coldly scoffs at him. Doran then dies in a pool of his own blood.
In King's Landing
Cersei is sitting alone in her room, when a servant enters and announces that a ship from Dorne has arrived. Realizing that Myrcella has come home, Cersei joyfully runs down to the harbor – only to see a grim-faced Jaime alongside a shrouded body. She tearfully understands that her daughter has died.
Later, in the Red Keep, Cersei asks Jaime when was the first time he saw a dead body, to which he replies it was their mother's. Cersei tells of her memory of the horror she felt after first seeing her mother's corpse, and wishes not to see it happen to Myrcella. She reveals Maggy's prophecy to Jaime, but he dismisses it as nonsense.
Meanwhile, Margaery is still imprisoned by the Faith, and the High Sparrow comes to visit her. She asks about Loras, but the High Sparrow says that she has to confess first. When she admits that nobody is without sin, he tells her that she is on the right path but still has a long way to go.
Obara and Nymeria arrive on Prince Trystane's ship, announcing their intention to kill him. Nymeria offers Trystane the choice of which one of the Sands he'd like to fight, and he chooses Nymeria, only to be killed when Obara impales him through the back of his head when he faces Nymeria.
At the Wall
At the Wall, the mutineers have left Jon's body where he fell. Ghost is howling and scratching at the door in grief which gets the attention of several people, including Davos who leaves his room to investigate. Davos finds Jon's dead body just before Edd and some other brothers arrive. They take the body inside where Edd clears a table and angrily curses Thorne after closing Jon's eyes. Davos asks if Edd trusts any of his brothers, and he replies, "the ones in this room." Davos convinces him to go bring Ghost in, deciding that they need all the help they can get. Melisandre arrives, stating she saw Jon in the flames, fighting in Winterfell. Davos and the black brothers doubt the now dead Lord Commander could do such a thing, and she returns to her room.
Alliser Thorne, Othell Yarwyck, and Bowen Marsh hold a meeting with the remaining black brothers stationed at Castle Black and explain their reasoning for killing the Lord Commander. Most of the brothers come to understand them and side with the mutineers. Back inside the room, Davos notes Thorne is sure to have made his move by now. In response, Edd states he doesn't care because Jon was his friend and they butchered him and he rallies the loyal brothers to try and take out Thorne in revenge. Davos responds they are hopelessly outnumbered, stating Ghost isn't enough when Edd brings him up, before reminding them there are others nearby who owe Jon their lives. Realizing he means the wildlings, Edd instructs the others to bar the door and not let anyone in while he sneaks out to get help.
Thorne and other senior members of the Night's Watch approach the room, with additional members in tow bearing arms. Thorne speaks to Davos through the locked door and promises full amnesty for the members of the Watch. He offers Davos a fresh horse and a safe passage to ride south or in any direction he wishes, and adds that Davos can take Melisandre with him. Davos mocks what he knows to be an insincere offer by requesting mutton. He tells Thorne he is a poor hunter and does not want to starve, so he needs some mutton for his trip. Thorne promises him food will be provided, and notes that the offer is available as long as everyone in the room surrenders by sundown.
Alone in her bedroom, Melisandre appears crestfallen, looking as if she has been betrayed and led astray by the Lord of Light. There are various containers on a table next to her bed, among them small ones with potions and other liquids, and a mirror. She unbuttons the front of her dress, showing a young beautiful body. She then removes the dress completely and stands nude before the mirror. When she removes her large necklace, the gem loses its glow. In the mirror, Melisandre's reflection shows she has transformed, or morphed back to the 400 years old woman she has been said to be, a frail old woman with sagging breasts, leathery skin and thin, wispy white hair. Fully nude, with her head bowed down in a despondent manner, she slowly climbs into bed and pulls the fur blanket on top of her.
- Main article: The Red Woman/Appearances
- Maester Wolkan
- Maester Caleotte
- Khal Moro
- Bolton Officer
- Moro's 1st wife
- Moro's 2nd wife
- Bolton Officer
- Areo Hotah
- Prince Doran Martell
- Maester Caleotte
- Prince Trystane Martell
- A few unnamed Bolton soldiers
- 19 of 29 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Kristofer Hivju (Tormund), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon), Jerome Flynn (Bronn), Hannah Murray (Gilly), and Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H'ghar) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Jonathan Pryce is added to the main cast with his name appearing in the opening credits, starting with this episode. He previously appeared in a recurring role in the fifth season.
- Boian Anev, Kristina Baskett, Richard Bradshaw, Christopher Cox, Jake Cox, Matt Crook, Vladimír Furdík, Richard Hansen, Paul Howell, Rowley Irlam, Jack Jagodka, Milen Kaleichev, Leigh Maddern, Leona McCarron, Casey Michaels, Sian Milne, Camilla Naprous, Paul Shapcott, Ryan Stuart, Andy Wareham, Annabel Elizabeth Wood, and Miguel Ángel Luque were stunt performers in this episode.
- The episode's title apparently refers to Melisandre of Asshai, also known as the Red Woman.
- The soundtrack playing over the credits is a rendition of the Lord of Light theme. On the official soundtrack release it is titled "The Red Woman."
- The journey to Oldtown subplot (involving Samwell and Gilly), the small council, and Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish do not appear in this episode. Subplots which do not appear in this episode but which are confirmed to reappear later in the season are Bran Stark and his storyline, House Greyjoy (as a faction, not including Theon), and the Tully/Frey subplot. House Tyrell as a broader political faction does not appear, though Margaery Tyrell herself does in a prison cell (Loras doesn't appear either despite also being imprisoned, though it is a plot point that her captors are using her desire to know what happened to him as leverage over her).
- As Benioff points out in the "Inside the Episode" featurette, the novels already gave some hints that Melisandre is actually far older than she seems, and is using a magical "glamor" to project an outward image of youth. It was already a major theory circulating among book readers for some time, given Melisandre's thought to herself that she has been practicing her magical arts "for years beyond count", and Davos's description that her appearance is so perfect as to seem unnatural and artificial: her proportions a little too perfect, her skin so flawless that is has no blemishes whatsoever, her hair so red it is the color of red copper (not a natural human red hair color). In the fifth novel, Melisandre reveals that she outright has the power to project glamors on other people, when she projects the image that the Lord of Bones is actually Mance Rayder, and has him burned at the stake in his place (though the showrunners have stated Mance simply dies in the TV version). Melisandre directly explains to Jon that her glamors only affect mental appearances and perceptions in other people's minds - she doesn't actually "shape-shift" the way that the Faceless Men do. This extends beyond sight to the other senses as well, i.e. no one she touches (such as Stannis) seem suspicious that her hands feel unusually wrinkled and old, even if they don't look old. Moreover, a point is made that Melisandre never takes her elaborate necklace off in the novels, which contains a red jewel that glows when she uses her powers - implying that the jewel is a focal point of her powers. .
- An inconsistency in the TV series is that when Melisandre is taking a bath in Season 4 episode 7 "Mockingbird", she doesn't have her necklace on at all. In-universe it's entirely possible that she can briefly take it off for certain periods of time without stopping the glamor (in this episode, she wanted to see her true form in the mirror), though out-of-universe it's possible that getting the prop necklace wet might damage it. Also, Melisandre has been heavily using her magical powers of prophecy lately trying to see the future through the flames, so her glamor might be under a heavier strain.
- In the Inside the Episode featurette, Benioff said that early in the TV series, George R.R. Martin told them that Melisandre is actually several centuries old. Martin also told the actress this so she would know to play Melisandre as a much older personality (i.e. in Season 2 she talked down to Davos or even old Maester Cressen as if they are younger than her - because they are).
- The actor who played Maester Cressen back in the Season 2 premiere said that between takes he asked Carice van Houten (Melisandre) why her character doesn't die when she drinks the same poisoned wine that killed his character - and that she responded "I'm 400 years old". This sets off several warning flags, as it were, because that is exactly how long ago the Doom of Valyria occurred. Alternatively it is possible that he misheard or that she just picked a number at random (and could easily have said "five centuries", etc.).
- Director Jeremy Podeswa explained to Entertainment Weekly's James Hibberd how the final scene was filmed: similar to Cersei's naked walk of atonement in the Season 5 finale, Carice van Houten's head was actually digitally composited onto a body double - though in this case Carice herself had heavy aging prosthetics applied from the neck up (look carefully at her eyes and you can clearly see that it is still Carice herself underneath). Otherwise, they didn't create an elderly CGI body from scratch and then apply it to the footage: that is the actual appearance of the naked body double, really an elderly woman, with no other special effects from the neck down. This fit with Podeswa's goal for the scene, which was to depict Melisandre as an "indeterminate age" - fans are speculating whether she is 100 years old or a truly fantastic 400 or 1,000 years old, but he wanted to leave it deliberately ambiguous. Therefore, they wanted to depict a real living elderly woman's body - as opposed to some CGI creation that looked so old and partially skeletal/mummified that she blatantly could not be physically alive without being animated by some sort of magical force.
- Ramsay Bolton's reaction to Myranda's death seems very uncharacteristic - at least at first: in the books he never cared about his lackeys known as the "Bastard's Boys", and was capable of killing them himself (as he did to Luton). If someone else murdered them (Yellow Dick, "Little" Walder Frey) - his reaction is rage, not sorrow, as if it was a personal insult. Of course, this gets subverted by the end of the scene when Ramsay flippantly says to just feed her corpse to the dogs - a true sociopath, Ramsay truly "cares" about no one, though he can get upset when one of his favorite "toys" gets broken.
- The episode doesn't clearly explain how Theon Greyjoy and Sansa Stark survived the jump from the walls of Winterfell. In the books - in which Ramsay's bride was Sansa's best friend Jeyne Poole - they just landed in one of the large snowdrifts which was starting to pile up against the castle walls. Jeyne still cracked a few ribs (because Theon landed on top of her), but otherwise the snow broke their fall. Despite some minor injuries they didn't have a problem outrunning Bolton scouts, because a blizzard had just settled over the castle which masked their escape. It is unknown how to reconcile this with how in the TV version, Melisandre's blood sacrifice of Shireen actually lifted the blizzard and the snow was visibly melting - though it does take time for very large 20 foot high snowdrifts to melt completely.
- Theon tells Sansa "I've seen what his [Ramsay's] hounds do to a person," presumably referring to Tansy, who was ripped apart by the hounds ("The Lion and the Rose").
- Back in Season 4, after Brienne saved Podrick Payne from Littlefinger's guards, she promised to start giving him combat training so he can defend himself like a proper squire. Note that now Podrick can hold his own reasonably well in a fight against a Bolton soldier, at least distracting him so Brienne has one fewer enemy to focus on, and at the end even manages to land a killing blow against him, while tackling him off of his horse - though he still has trouble facing another one in an even fight on the ground until Theon takes him by surprise.
- Prior to the episode's airing, a series of interviews were conducted with the main actors in pairs, one of which with Alfie Allen and Daniel Portman, who play Theon and Podrick, respectively, serving as something of a spoiler that Theon and Podrick would meet in some way.
- The oath of fealty that Brienne of Tarth exchanges with Sansa Stark is of course the same one that Brienne exchanged with Sansa's mother Catelyn Stark back in Season 2 episode 5 "The Ghost of Harrenhal". Given that Podrick helps Sansa out with a line she stumbled with, it appears to be a commonly used formula for oaths between knights and lords, used across Westeros.
- There might be some minor confusion for viewers that Sansa previously rejected Brienne's pledge of service back in Season 5 episode 2 "The House of Black and White". However, actress Gwendoline Christie subsequently explained that there was a very important non-verbal instruction in that episode's script: Sansa was surrounded by Littlefinger and his guards at the time, and she realized that if she tried to accept Brienne's offer, Littefinger's guards would kill Brienne at the first opportunity, and they were too numerous to simply try to run away with Brienne ahead of them. Therefore the script stated that Sansa didn't mean what she was saying in that episode when she rejected Brienne, instructing that Sansa was giving her a furtive look with her eyes to the effect of "I want to go with you, but run like hell before Littlefinger's guards kill you". As this was a non-verbal point it was somewhat difficult to convey on-screen at the time. Now that Sansa and Brienne are alone without Littlefinger around, Sansa can happily accept Brienne's offer of service.
- In order to play Arya Stark as blind, actress Maisie Williams actually wears large 16 millimeter contacts that she cannot see through - she was never given the option to just produce the cloudy effect in her eyes with CGI, she was told to wear the contacts from the start. The true-blindness contacts, however, are only used in dialogue-heavy scenes when she is standing relatively still: Williams explained that for the stick-fighting scenes with the Waif, she had to switch to using slightly modified contact lenses with small pinpricks in the center, so she could actually see - otherwise there was concern that she might hurt herself or others with the stick if a move went wrong in the performance. The pinprick-contacts are only used briefly when she's moving around and the camera isn't focused on her face, so they aren't really visible to the viewer - she then switches back to using the full-blindness contacts for other closeups.
When Arya is begging and a passerby puts a coin in her bowl, the coins are visible in closeup: the one the man puts in is actually one of the square iron Braavosi coins first introduced in Season 3, which have the image of the Titan of Braavos stamped on them. These square iron coins are how Braavosi currency is described in the novels. Starting in Season 4, however, the TV series introduced a new coin being used in Braavos that hasn't been mentioned in the books: round coins with the symbol of the Iron Bank of Braavos on them (any symbol the bank might use hasn't been described in the books yet). The other coin in Arya's bowl is round but the markings aren't distinguishable. The discrepancy between the square coins with the Titan on them and the round ones with the bank symbol on them is unclear - however, even the currency system used in Westeros is divided into different denominations of coins of difference sizes and materials (Gold Dragons, Silver Stags, and Copper Pennies), so it is entirely possible that Braavosi currency has other denominations.
- Tyrion Lannister once again displays, as he did in the Season 5 finale, that he knows how to speak High Valyrian. The joke also continues that it isn't his native language so he's a bit rusty and makes a few grammar mistakes. In the novels he actually speaks High Valyrian quite well, though admittedly he didn't grow up speaking it or the Low Valyrian dialects of Essos as his mother-tongue the way that Daenerys did (David Peterson confirmed they are speaking High Valyrian in this scene, not the local Ghiscari Low Valyrian)
- Varys, in contrast, can speak Valyrian much more fluently - given that as he explained in Season 3, he was born a slave in Lys and thus spoke Valyrian dialects as his mother tongue. Or was born in Lys, then was part of a troupe of actors who moved around between the different Free Cities, until he was castrated and left for dead in Myr, where he spent some years as a pickpocket (note that in this episode he mentions he was once a thief).
- Varys says that "Mhysa" is the "Valyrian" word for mother. Strictly speaking this is true: it is actually the Old Ghiscari word for "mother", and that is now a dead language, but it influenced the Ghiscari Low Valyrian that replaced it, which contains numerous loanwords from it. "Mhysa" is thus a "Valyrian" word much in the same way that "rodeo" is an English word (when "rodeo" is really a direct loanword from Spanish).
For the third time now, the incongruent graffiti has appeared in Meereen which is written in the Common Tongue of Westeros, despite the fact that everyone there speaks Valyrian (and even using the writing system of Westeros - in the novels, Valyrian uses a system of glyphs). In-universe it is possible that some local slaves simply speak the Common Tongue, though out-of-universe it was apparently just so the audience can read it. For that matter, the graffiti now switches between using both Valyrian and Common Tongue words: "Mhysa is a master" instead of perhaps "Mother is a master", etc.
- Tyrion and Varys surmise that the Sons of the Harpy must have some central leader and mastermind - given that their escalating attacks culminating in the ambush at the Great Pit must have required a considerable amount of planning and coordination. They can't just be a loose affiliation of local rebel cells. In the books, while the Sons of the Harpy didn't directly attack the Great Pit, a running subplot in the fifth novel is that Daenerys and her advisors similarly realize there must be one central mastermind leading the Sons of the Harpy - whom they dub "the Harpy". As of the end of the fifth novel, however, they are no closer to discovering the identity of "the Harpy". This is being introduced now in the TV show - possibly because, in part, prior seasons didn't have as much time to go into more detail about the internal politics of Meereen, as Daenerys tries to determine which of the local rulers is the Harpy.
- Major candidates who might be the Harpy in the books were several of the leading families of the Great Masters - particularly the House of Pahl, who lost many sons during her conquest - though Daenerys feared that they are just the most likely suspects.
- Another option is that it is one of the local aristocrats who have been the most helpful to Daenerys (worming their way into her confidence just as the Tyrells did to the Lannisters), particularly Hizdahr zo Loraq himself (which is what Barristan suspects), though Hizdahr's death in the TV series at the hands of the Sons of the Harpy would seem to dispel this. Another candidate along these lines is Galazza Galare, the high priestess of the Temple of the Graces in the city who is the greatest voice calling for peace and order under Daenerys's new regime.
- Yet another option is that the Harpy might actually be one of the leading freedmen: while this seems counterintuitive at first, the point is raised that some of the freedmen are angry that Daenerys isn't going far enough by completely exterminating all of the Great Masters down to the last child - as seen with Mossador last season, and Daenerys's loss of support among the freedmen when she executed him for murdering a captured Harpy. In this episode itself, Tyrion and Varys see anti-Daenerys graffiti left by the freedmen. After conquering Meereen Daenerys wanted to make peace with the other slave-masters in Yunkai (feeling she was having enough trouble ruling Meereen itself) - re-opening the Great Pit was even a major concession to the Yunkish slave-masters, and she agreed to peace despite having the upper hand for the moment. In several ways, the freedmen angry with Daenerys had more reason to break the peace than the Sons of the Harpy did. Thus it is possible that "the Harpy" is secretly a freedman who is duping the Sons of the Harpy into making counter-productive attacks, trying to provoke Daenerys to kill them all in retaliation.
- In the novels, it is actually a plot point that Daenerys has no navy after she captures Meereen, either to maneuver against her local enemies or to eventually use to transport an army to Westeros. She did have three ships that she acquired in Qarth but they were taken apart at her command to build siege engines. Any ships which were at the harbors of Meereen itself either fled or were destroyed by Daenerys's troops as they tried to escape. This introduces a subplot in which Daenerys essentially has to figure out how she will deal with her enemies' fleets in Westeros if she's ever going to mount an invasion, and ponders an alliance with House Greyjoy: of the three major fleets in Westeros, the Iron Fleet of the Greyjoys is currently the only one not controlled by the Lannisters (the other two being the Royal Fleet at King's Landing, and the Redwyne Fleet belonging to the Tyrells' vassals). In Season 4, the change was introduced that Daario Naharis said they actually managed to capture 93 ships from the Meereenese navy in the harbor - the exact number of ships in the Iron Fleet in the books - strongly implying that this subplot was going to be omitted, given that the Greyjoys barely appeared after Season 2 of the TV series (and didn't appear at all in Season 5). Now that the TV series has been confirmed to run through eight and not only seven seasons, and the Greyjoys will be prominently reintroduced in Season 6, it's probably not a coincidence that Daenerys's TV-only Meereenese navy has suddenly been burned at anchor.
- Daario Naharis comments "when I grow old" and Jorah Mormont counters "if you grow old", which Daario matter-of-factly acknowledges as a fair point - implying that sellswords don't tend to live very long. This may be loosely inspired by a prominent quote from the books, give by the sellsword Brown Ben Plumm, who switched to Daenerys's side when it looked like she was winning, but then switched over to the slaver-alliance assembling against Daenerys because it started to look like they would win. At a subsequent parley she asks Brown Ben to explain himself, but without condescension he responded by pointing out that "there are old sellswords, and bold sellswords, but no old bold sellswords" - bold sellswords who stay loyal to the weaker side don't tend to live very long, and the only sellswords who live to be old are the pragmatic cowards who switch sides to whichever side happens to be stronger at the moment.
- When Daenerys Targaryen says she will never have any children, "until the sun rises in the west and sets in the east", she is quoting what Mirri Maz Duur told her back in the Season 1 finale "Fire and Blood" after she rendered Khal Drogo catatonic, and poisoned Daenerys's pregnancy with spells in such a way that her son Rhaego was stillborn and horrifically deformed. The Season 1 finale itself actually omitted the further explanation from the novels that Mirri didn't just kill Daenerys's current child, but actually rendered her sterile - meaning that the Targaryen dynasty will die with her. Daenerys's lines in this episode act as if Mirri gave the full statement from the novels - though it is possible that Daenerys just figured this out on her own (she stops flowering for years afterwards, which convinces her that Mirri's words weren't an idle threat but her reproductive organs have in fact been severely damaged).
- Khal Moro and his bloodriders debating what is best in life seems to be an homage to the classic exchange from the 1982 fantasy-adventure film Conan the Barbarian. That they keep coming up with alternative answers until they have a list of at least five things which are best in life may be a reference to the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inquisition, in which the inquisitors start listing their weapons as fear and surprise, but then keep adding other equally valid entries as the list expands to four and five, until finally the lead inquisitor in frustration cuts the rest off saying that "among our weapons are such things as..."
- Note that Khal Moro has two wives. The Dothraki actually practice polygamy, Khal Drogo just didn't happen to have any previous wives when he married Daenerys (some keep many wives and don't care about any of them, others care about them, others like Drogo are infatuated with one wife and choose not to take other ones, etc.)
- When Daenerys is initially being led by the Dothraki warriors as they crassly discuss potentially having sex with her, she is wise enough not to reveal that she actually understands the Dothraki language, despite their insulting comments, instead waiting to reveal this when it can serve her some advantage. This somewhat mirrors how when she arrived in Astapor back in Season 3, she was careful not to reveal to Kraznys mo Nakloz that she actually understood what he was saying in his own language (Valyrian), and had to suppress her anger even when he was saying crass and insulting things (repeatedly calling her a whore, saying he liked her ass, etc.).
- In the novels, Daenerys actually encountered Khal Jhaqo (it is yet to be seen how he treats her), her enemy who used to be one of Drogo's lieutenants but abandoned her with most of the former khalasar after Drogo died, and killed one of her handmaidens. In contrast, Moro actually used to be an ally of Drogo in the novels, and attended his wedding to Daenerys. Either way, the strict rule that a widowed khaleesi cannot be harmed and must be returned to Vaes Dothrak would probably restrict even Jhaqo from directly harming her.
- The Dothraki in this episode directly describe Daenerys as having blue eyes: in the novels, generations of compounded inbreeding by incestuously marrying brother to sister preserved in members of House Targaryen the classic physical features of the ancient Valyrians, pale white/silver hair and purple eyes (ranging from a few shades such as "violet", "lilac", etc.). The TV series was originally going to follow this point by having the Targaryen actors wear color-changing contact lenses in all of their scenes - however, this was quickly abandoned during early production, because it was felt that "actors act with their eyes", and the purple eyes were very distracting to them (anyone in scenes with Daenerys couldn't help but be distracted by her unusual eye color - even though, in-universe, people are distracted by the Targaryens' exotic eye color). At any rate this made them decide to abandon using the contacts and they never appeared in the finished versions of any scenes: instead, the Targaryen characters are simply presented as having lighter eye colors such as blue (but not brown).
- This episode continues the inconsistent application of the title "King of the Andals and the First Men" used for the king who sits on the Iron Throne. In the novels, the full title is "King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men" - the three main ethnic groups of Westeros. The TV series changed this to just "King of the Andals and the First Men" in earlier seasons - Eddard Stark prominently states it when he executes the deserter at the beginning of the first episode. It is possible that they left out "of the Rhoynar" because the Dornish were not going to be introduced until Season 4, and the production team didn't want to deluge the audience with extraneous information. In Season 4 itself, however, the TV series continued to omit "of the Rhoynar", even in Oberyn Martell's presence at Tommen's coronation in "First of His Name". When Missandei formally introduces Daenerys Targaryen in episode 4.10 "The Children", however, she uses the full title of the novels, including "of the Rhoynar" - the first time it was used in the TV series. This was even more unusual, given that only four episodes previously in episode 4.6 "The Laws of Gods and Men", Missandei introduced Daenerys in the throne room (the same location and same characters) using the shortened title that excluded "of the Rhoynar".
- Game of Thrones Wiki managed to reach out to George R.R. Martin asking about this at the time, and he confirmed that the title was officially changed in the TV continuity to exclude the "of the Rhoynar" part - apparently it was formally decided at a sit-down writer's meeting of some kind. Martin said:
- "It is true that the Targaryen succession on the series is different than the one in the novels; most notably, the Mad King's father Jaehaerys II was dropped, as was established way back in season one. In much the same way as the Rhoynar have been dropped from the royal titles, "King of Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men," etc."
- Season 5, however, switched back to consistently using only the format "King of the Andals and the First Men" - to the point that the use of the phrase "of the Rhoynar" in the Season 4 finale was assumed to just be a single isolated script error.
- Now, in the Season 6 premiere, the TV series has once again flopped back to using the full title from the novels, "Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men", without explanation. At this point it is unknown what the actual title is even supposed to be in the TV continuity.
- This is actually the first episode in which Eddison Tollett is referred to in dialogue by his common nickname from the novels, "Dolorous Edd".
Mutiny at Castle Black - books versus TV series
- This episode confirms that in the TV continuity, the victory of the Boltons over Stannis had nothing to do with the motivations for the mutiny against Jon Snow: it is presented as purely about the wildlings. In the novels, the other Watch officers mutiny against Jon because Ramsay Bolton threatened to attack the Night's Watch, and Jon wanted to break his oath of neutrality to ride out and fight him first - thus in the books the wildlings were already through the Wall when the mutiny occurred, but this was irrelevant because they mutinied for a different reason altogether. No attempt is made to overtly explain why, in the TV version, Thorne would have let the wildlings through the Wall in the first place if only to kill Jon for it later, when he simply could have barred the gate to them. In the episode itself, it's said that about 40 of the 50 men remaining in the garrison are loyal to Thorne at this point, and it is not presented as if he feared rebuke at the time if he didn't open the gate.
- Moreover, even if the intention was that Thorne feared publicly turning against Jon earlier when he opened the gate, the TV version never presents any explanation for what exactly Thorne intended to achieve by killing Jon after the wildlings are through the Wall - how this would "save" the Watch even though Jon already let thousands of wildlings through to the undefended south side of the Wall.
- The "Previously on Game of Thrones" segment which ran at the beginning of this episode even re-shows the footage of Thorne letting the wildlings through the gate - highlighting to viewers who hadn't rewatched the end of Season 5 for a full year that this is how the specific sequence of events played out in the TV version.
- In the "Inside the Episode" featurette immediately following the episode, showrunners Benioff and Weiss outright give contradictory explanations for what Thorne's motivations were. Weiss begins by saying that Thorne has hated Jon since Season 1, the mutiny was a naked "power grab", and was made entirely for selfish reasons due to the older officers' grudge against the wildlings. Immediately following this the camera cuts to Benioff, who gives the explanation that the mutiny was actually like the assassination of Julius Caesar, explicitly in the sense that everyone who stabbed Jon did it for selfless reasons, Thorne wasn't making a power grab, he was doing what he honestly felt was best to save the Night's Watch.
- Thorne's speech, in which he explains his motives, seems to resemble the one Brutus gives after the assassination in Julius Caesar, that he did it for what he believed to be the survival of their organization - which matches what Benioff said. Weiss apparently believes that Thorne is simply lying.
For more information see the article "Bastard Letter"
- The TV series has drastically altered the Dorne subplot of House Martell, and drastically altered it even more in this episode: neither Doran Martell, Trystane Martell, nor Areo Hotah have died in the novels.
- This episode itself doesn't make explicit where Trystane's ship actually is, but the following episode "Home" states that it was still in the harbor of King's Landing (the HBO Viewer's Guide explained that Cersei forbid Trystane to debark and enter the city but he refused to leave without attending Myrcella's funeral, leading to an impasse). In the next episode Tommen also states that he suspects Cersei was responsible for Trystane's assassination - apparently explaining why the Sand Snakes waited to kill him when and where they did, to throw suspicion onto her.
For full notes, see the "Coup in Dorne".
Alliser Thorne: "You all know why you're here. Jon Snow is dead."
Night's Watch man: "Who killed him?"
Alliser: "I did. And Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck and the other officers in this castle."
Night's Watch Men: "Murderers! Traitors!"
Alliser: "You're right! We've committed treason, all of us. Jon Snow was my Lord Commander. I had no love for him. That was no secret. But I never once disobeyed an order. Loyalty is the foundation on which the Night's Watch is built. And the Watch means everything to me. I have given my life, we have all given our lives to the Night's Watch. Jon Snow was going to destroy the Night's Watch. He let the wildlings through our gates as no Lord Commander has ever done before. He gave them the very land on which they reaved and raped and murdered. Lord Commander Snow did what he thought was right, I've no doubt about that. And what he thought was right would have been the end of us. He thrust a terrible choice upon us. And we made it."
Ramsay Bolton: "No."
Roose: "A shame. I'd reward the man. Still, a great victory. Do you feel like a victor? I rebelled against the crown to arrange your marriage to Sansa Stark. Do you think that burning wagons in the night and mowing down tired, outnumbered Baratheons is the same as facing a prepared and provisioned Lannister army?"
Roose: "A reckoning will come. We need the North to face it. The entire North. They won't back us without Sansa Stark. We no longer have Sansa Stark. You played your games with her. You played your games with the heir to the Iron Islands and now they're both gone."
Ramsay: "I have a team of men after them with some of my best hounds. They won't get far."
Roose: "I'm glad to hear it. Without Sansa, you won't be able to produce an heir. And without an heir, well... let's hope the maesters are right and Lady Walda's carrying a boy."
Ellaria Sand: "When was the last time you left this palace? You don't know your own people. Their disgust for you. Elia Martell raped and murdered, and you did nothing. Oberyn Martell butchered, and you did nothing. You're not a Dornishman. You're not our prince."
Doran Martell: "My son Trystane..."
Ellaria: "Your son is weak just like you. And weak men will never rule Dorne again."
[Khal Moro grabs Daenerys's shirt]
Daenerys: "Do not touch me. I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen..."
[Khal Moro lets go of Daenerys's shirt and steps backward]
Daenerys: "...The First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons."
[pause. Then Khal Moro bursts out laughing, followed by his companions. He grabs Daenerys's neck]
Moro: "You are nobody, the millionth of your name, Queen of Nothing, slave of Khal Moro. Tonight I will lie with you, and if the Great Stallion is kind, you will give me a son. Do you understand?"
Daenerys: [defiantly] "I will not lie with you. And I will bear no children, for you, or anyone else. Not until the sun rises in the west, and sets in the east."
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 39, Cersei IX: Cersei tells someone about Maggy's prophecy; that person dismisses the prophecy as nonsense.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 38, The Watcher: Someone plots to assassinate Trystane Martell.
- Chapter 45, The Blind Girl: Arya Stark, rendered blind by the Faceless Men for an unsanctioned killing, learns to rely on her remaining senses. As a test, a Faceless Man hits her with a stick.
- Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell: One of Ramsay's servants is found dead. Ramsay is furious, promising to get even with the killer.
- Chapter 51, Theon I: Theon Greyjoy and Ramsay's bride flee from Winterfell with Ramsay's men in pursuit until they find help.
- Most of the episode appears to draw material from what will come in the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, particularly the storylines of the aftermath of Jon Snow's death and Daenerys Targaryen dealing with the Dothraki.
Catching up with the novels in Season 6
Though Season 6 has been widely described as the point when the TV series surpasses the novels, this is not exactly true, as storylines have been adapted at an uneven pace. The showrunners always said they felt they were adapting the story as a whole, not neatly matching up the endings of each book to each season. Indeed, Tyrion surpassed his current book material already by meeting Daenerys at the end of Season 5 - which was on the verge of happening at the end of the current, fifth novel. Broadly, preview chapters released for the as-yet unpublished sixth novel can be counted as "released" material. The point still stands that several of the storylines for some of the most central characters have now surpassed the novels - Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister - but many other subplots have not.
Characters and subplots that have caught up with their current material from the novels:
- Daenerys Targaryen and Meereen, including Tyrion Lannister
- Jon Snow and the Night's Watch
- Roose Bolton and Ramsay Bolton
- Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
- Theon Greyjoy, except for his experiences after escaping Winterfell (in a preview chapter from book six)
- Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre
- Davos Seaworth was involved in other subplots in the North which were cut, but which may now have been merged with other subplots.
- The entire Dorne subplot has so wildly diverged from its material in the novels that the Martells' original book material is being ignored at this point.
Characters and subplots that have not yet caught up with the books:
- Arya Stark - Arya goes blind at the end of the fourth novel, in which her storyline was heavily focused on. Her storyline is revisted in book five, in which she has two full chapters. Moreover, an Arya preview chapter from book six was released in which she kills Raff the Sweetling (condensed to be Meryn Trant in the TV series). The majority of the chapter, however, involves a lengthy scene at a stage play in Braavos, which is confirmed to appear later in Season 6. Thus Arya still has a considerable amount of material from the novels which have not yet been adapted.
- Bran Stark, Hodor, and Meera Reed - Bran's storyline had one chapter left in book five after he met the Three-Eyed Raven, in which he begins his training in Greensight and experiences several vivid visions of the past, including his father Eddard Stark in his youth.
- Season 6 is apparently going to stretch out this one Bran chapter for some time in Season 6, using it as a framing device to show important flashback scenes - at least some of which were actually had by other characters earlier in the novels, recounted through vivid narration: in the first novel, Eddard himself mentally recalled his final confrontation at the end of Robert's Rebellion with the Targaryen Kingsguard in the Skirmish at the Tower of Joy - Season 6 will present this as a vision of the past that Bran experiences.
- Samwell Tarly and Gilly still have most of their storyline from the fourth novel as they were heading to Braavos and Oldtown left to adapt (parts of it such as Aemon's death were moved up to actually happen at Castle Black in Season 5).
- The King's Landing subplots are a mixed case, in that after Cersei's Walk of atonement only one more chapter is set in King's Landing; however, it is an extensive scene in which her uncle Kevan Lannister and the small council discuss large-scale events across Westeros. The TV series is apparently combining and moving around some of this, and extending elements of the chapter across Season 6: at the same time, Cersei's ongoing confrontation with the Faith Militant (seen in trailers) will certainly surpass the events of the last chapter focusing on the small council.
- The Faith Militant itself and the confrontation with them to have Margaery released has fully caught up with the novels, and trailers for Season 6 show scenes which confirm that she will quickly move into unadapted material in Season 6.
- Loras Tyrell wasn't imprisoned by the Faith Militant in the novels; indeed he had a rather prominent new subplot: given that the Tyrells' homeland in the Reach is on the west coast of the continent, it is under threat from the renewed ironborn attacks, and Loras has to command their forces to deal with it. This storyline sees Loras return to the forefront, as he was somewhat in the background from the third novel onward after Renly died. It is unclear if this subplot will be worked back into Season 6 or be omitted entirely.
- Elements from the Slaver's Bay storyline were pushed back from prior novels, dealing with both internal politics within Meereen and a looming confrontation with Yunkai from without. The Yunkish diplomat Razdal mo Eraz is set to return in Season 6, organizing the slaver powers and their allies, while Daenerys's advisors left in Meereen try to deal with the mounting crisis. In the novels, these chapters after Daenerys's disappearance are told from Barristan Selmy's perspective, but with his death in the TV series, parts of them may have transferred to Tyrion.
Tyrion's storyline as he was heading east to Meereen in book five also introduced a new subplot involving a major political shakeup in the Free Cities, but this was cut completely from from Tyrion's storyline in Season 5. After he leaves for Meereen it subsequently intersects with several other subplots (not Arya's). This Free Cities subplot will probably be cut entirely from the TV series.
- Game of Thrones season 6 premiere: Melisandre's big reveal, explained, Vox, 2016 April 25.
- Game of Thrones EW podcast for 'The Red Woman' is live, Entertainment Weekly, 2016 April 25.
- David Peterson's Twitter.
- ON MAEGOR III AND THE NIGHT’S KING, The Citadel, 2015 June 09.