"Book of the Stranger" is the fourth episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fifty-fourth episode of the series overall. It premiered on May 15, 2016. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, and directed by Daniel Sackheim.
In King's Landing
Underneath the Great Sept of Baelor, Septa Unella enters Queen Margaery Tyrell's cell and leads her to a private meeting with the High Sparrow. The High Sparrow asks her what she would do if he allowed her to leave that day. Margaery replied that she wants to return to her family and her husband Tommen Baratheon. The High Sparrow respects her love for her family but tells her that attachment leads to sin, citing his experience as a cobbler. Margaery manages to impress the Sparrow with her knowledge of The Book of the Stranger, which she admits Septa Unella had read at her. The High Sparrow chuckles and agrees that Unella has a habit of reading at people instead of to them.
The High Sparrow recounts how in his youth he was a womanizer and drunkard. He underwent a conversion experience the morning after an orgy, as his drunken guests lay naked all around his house. Tired of what he was now perceiving as a meaningless existence, the High Sparrow then turned his life around and became a devoted member of the Faith of the Seven. He then left his job as a cobbler and devoted his life to the poor and destitute. Believing he has found a way to reach Margaery, the Sparrow allows her to visit her brother Loras Tyrell.
She finds a dejected Loras lying on the floor of his cell. Loras has lost the will to continue resisting but Margaery tells him to stay strong because he is the future of House Tyrell. Loras tells them that he only wants his imprisonment to end and pleads with her to help him. Margaery tells Loras that the Sparrow is trying to use them to break each other and again tells him to stay strong.
At the Red Keep, Cersei Lannister walks in on Grand Maester Pycelle advising King Tommen to accommodate the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. Cersei requests that Pycelle leave the room while she talks to her son alone under the pretext of meeting him for updates about the previous Small Council meetings. During their conversation, Tommen proposes that the Iron Throne not antagonize the Sparrows further in order to avoid endangering Margaery's life. Cersei then reminds her son about the humiliation that she endured at their hands and exploits Tommen's love for Margaery. She convinces her son that the High Sparrow has no respect for kings, queens, and society. Tommen then reveals a secret that the High Sparrow shared with him.
Armed with this new information, Cersei barges into a Small Council meeting between Kevan Lannister, Olenna Tyrell, and Jaime Lannister. While Kevan and Olenna are initially hostile, Cersei convinces them to listen to her. She then informs the Council that the High Sparrow has planned to make Margaery do the walk of atonement. Olenna is horrified that the Sparrows plan to debase her granddaughter. Jaime then urges the Council to allow the Tyrells to march their army into King's Landing, crush the Faith Militant, and bring Margaery and Loras back to the Red Keep into Crown custody. Kevan says that Tommen expressly forbid him to use the Lannister army he commands at the city to make a move against the Great Sept, for fear that the Faith Militant will harm Margaery in retaliation. Jaime suggests that Olenna send House Tyrell's army to the city instead, and points out to his uncle that Tommen only forbade his army from making a move - but he never expressly told him to prevent anyone else from trying, so Kevan wouldn't be breaking any commands if his forces simply stand down when the Tyrell army arrives. The Tyrell army will surround the Great Sept, intimidating the Sparrows into releasing Margaery and Loras, without any blood actually being shed - and by the time Tommen finds out what they've done he will already be happy with the outcome. Kevan's interest is now turned, but he still expresses reluctance should they fail. Cersei is able to make him change his mind by exploiting his hatred towards the Sparrows for taking his last remaining son and heir Lancel Lannister. Olenna agrees that blood will be shed no matter what they do at this point, so it's better if it's the Sparrows' blood and not theirs.
At the Wall
At Castle Black, Eddison Tollett helps Jon Snow pack up his things. Edd scolds Jon for leaving the Night's Watch after taking an oath, to which Jon replies that he gave his life for the Night's Watch and can't trust his brothers. At that moment, the horns sound for the arrival of travellers. Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne ride through the gates and dismount in the courtyard. Jon rushes out and sees Sansa for the first time since the Starks left Winterfell for King's Landing, and they embrace. Later that night, they converse and reminisce on their childhood. Sansa proposes they take Winterfell back from the Boltons but Jon says he's done fighting, especially after hanging Olly.
Davos Seaworth asks whether Melisandre will stay at Castle Black and she replies she will do as Jon Snow, The Prince That Was Promised, commands. Davos asks what happened to Stannis and she replies he was defeated in battle. When he asks about Shireen, Melisandre is reluctant to speak. Their conversation is interrupted by Brienne, who recognizes Davos and Melisandre as Stannis' former entourage. Still bitter over the death of King Renly Baratheon, Brienne warns Melisandre that she does not forget or forgive. She also tells them that she executed Stannis after he admitted using blood magic to assassinate Renly.
Some time later, Jon receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton stating that he has Rickon Stark at Winterfell and if Sansa is not returned, he will slaughter every Wildling at Castle Black, let his men rape Sansa, and feed Jon and Rickon to his dogs. Tormund says he has 2,000 able fighters, far less than the estimated 5,000 Ramsay has. Sansa says that they have to try to retake their home and rescue their brother and that the houses of the North will unite behind Jon as the son of the true Warden of the North. Jon resolves to take Ramsay down.
In the Vale
At Runestone, Robin Arryn trains at his archery in front of Lord Yohn Royce. Petyr Baelish arrives with a retinue of Arryn guards and a pet falcon as a belated name-day gift. Royce reminds Baelish that he told him that he was taking Sansa with him to The Fingers, but he received word that she had been married to Ramsay Bolton. Baelish tells him that on the way to The Fingers they were set upon by a large force of Bolton men. A confrontation ensues, in which Petyr accuses Royce of giving away the information regarding the location of Sansa Stark to House Bolton. When Royce accuses Baelish of slander, Petyr reminds him that Robin is the Lord of the Vale, and asks for his judgment. Robin then asks Baelish if they should throw Lord Royce from the Moon Door, which prompts the surrounding knights, including those loyal to Royce, to muster themselves. Royce swears his loyalty to Robin, and he is let off without punishment on Baelish's recommendation. Royce comes onto the dark realization that Littlefinger has control over Robin. Petyr and Robin decide they have to muster the Vale knights to march North and aid Sansa.
In The North
At Winterfell, Osha is brought before Ramsay Bolton, who says that while her fellow captive Rickon Stark has value to Ramsay, he is unsure of her worth. Osha denounces the Starks, saying that her servitude and loyalty to them were forced. She also attempts to seduce Ramsay, climbing onto his lap and kissing him, all the while trying to get the knife he had been using to peel apples. Ramsay seemingly falls for it, saying that it took much longer for him to get Theon Greyjoy over to his side but that Theon told him everything, including how Osha had seduced Theon in order to help Rickon and Bran Stark escape Winterfell. Osha realizes that she has been lured into a trap, and tries to stab Ramsay, only for him to slash her throat. She dies shortly thereafter.
In the Iron Islands
Theon Greyjoy returns home to Pyke, where he learns of the death of his father, Balon Greyjoy. His sister, Yara, is unhappy about his return and his refusal to leave the Dreadfort when she made an attempt to rescue Theon from Ramsay Bolton. Theon explains that Ramsay "broke him into a thousand pieces," which Yara affirms "yes, he sent us one of those pieces" referring to the box containing Theon's penis that she and Balon Greyjoy received. Yara then suspects that Theon has come back to declare himself King of the Iron Islands, but he insists that he does not want the crown, instead wishing for Yara to rule, with him helping her in any way that he can.
Tyrion Lannister along with Grey Worm, Missandei, and Varys meet with representatives of the Good Masters of Astapor, the Wise Masters of Yunkai, and the slave-trading city of Volantis; who have arrived by sea. As the diplomatic mission enters the harbor, Grey Worm advocates using military force. When Tyrion explains that he is able to empathize with slaves because he spent one day as a slave, Missandei counters that he has not experienced slavery. The emissaries are Tyrion's former slave master Yezzan zo Qaggaz, the Yunkai'i Wise Master Razdal mo Eraz and the Volantene triarch Belicho Paenymion.
In their meeting chambers, Yezzan marvels at how Tyrion went from being a nearly-worthless slave to the de facto ruler of Meereen. The slave-trading cities offer to give Daenerys Targaryen and her mercenaries a large pot of money if they sail away from Slaver's Bay. When Missandei defends Daenerys's actions in liberating slaves, Razdal contends that slavery has existed for centuries. After hearing their offer, Tyrion proposes a counter-offer. He offers to give them a seven-year grace period to phase out slavery and to compensate slave owners, however they must end all backing for the Sons of the Harpy (regardless of whether they admit this backing or not). He then cautions them that they will not get a better offer. Tyrion then gives them time to consider his offer, though Grey Worm and Missandei insist on abolishing slavery.
Tyrion and his entourage are later confronted by a crowd of former slaves in the Meereen throne room. A freedman demands to know when Daenerys will return while another is appalled at the idea of Tyrion negotiating with slave traders. Tyrion insists he is doing his best to rule the city in Daenerys's absence. The freedmen do not trust Tyrion, a foreigner and a newcomer, and look to Grey Worm and Missandei for reassurance. Despite their misgivings, they both publicly back Tyrion's diplomacy in front of the freedmen. In private, Grey Worm and Missandei warn Tyrion that the masters will outmaneuver him, despite his best efforts to do the same to them.
In Vaes Dothrak
Ser Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis approach the outskirts of Vaes Dothrak and discard their weapons, as drawing a blade in the city is considered sacrilege. Within the city itself, Jorah and Daario run afoul of Akho and Iggo who see through Jorah's claims to be a wine merchant. Daario takes care of Iggo while Akho tackles Jorah. The knight is nearly undone, but Daario saves him at the last minute with the stiletto he smuggled in. At Jorah's insistence, Daario smashes Aggo's skull with a rock so that no one will think he was killed with a bladed weapon.
Meanwhile, the High Priestess of the Dosh Khaleen gives Daenerys a commentary on the other crones. Some of them hate Daenerys, thinking the Dothraki should not interbreed with other races, but the high priestess dismisses them, saying that the Dothraki have always interbred and have never been concerned with blood purity. To illustrate her point, the high priestess indicates another of the khaleen, a Lhazareen girl (Ornela) taken from her village at the age of twelve. Daenerys asks to relieve herself, and the high priestess sends Ornela with her. As they walk, Daenerys learns that Ornela's khal died when she was only sixteen. The pair are interrupted by Jorah and Daario, who take the Lhazareen hostage. Daenerys, unsurprised to see them, cancels their plans for escape – they have a slim chance of leaving Vaes Dothrak, let alone getting back to Meereen – and tells them that she has a plan of her own. She asks Ornela if she is willing to help them, calling her a Khaleesi (queen) instead of a khaleen (crone). The girl reluctantly agrees.
During the Khalar vezhven, the khals argue about how to deal with Iggo and Akho's deaths; Khal Moro defuses the situation by reminding them that Ahko was a member of his khalasar, and he does not care about finding the killer if he was stupid enough to get himself killed. Daenerys is then brought in by the two priestesses she befriended before. Moro insists that she join the dosh khaleen, but another khal expresses interest in making her his khaleesi, while another suggests giving her to the Wise Masters in exchange for ten thousand horses. Daenerys dismisses all of them; she claims that they are all petty and weak, and reminds them that Khal Drogo was willing to cross the "poison water" in "wooden horses" for his conquests.
Stating that none of the khals is fit to lead the Dothraki, Daenerys declares that she will lead them herself. After a pause, Moro and the khals burst into laughter. Dany reminds them that her husband, in the same temple in which they all now sit, declared that he would lead a Dothraki army across the Narrow Sea to retake the Iron Throne for his khaleesi and that all the khals have done since is to raid and plunder villages in lieu of any meaningful conquest. Disgusted with her insolence, Moro declares that she will be raped by each of the khals, then by all of their bloodriders, and then, if she is still alive, by their horses. Daenerys is unfazed by the threats, as she knocks down the braziers in the hut, setting everything aflame. The khals desperately attempt to escape the rapidly-spreading fire, only to find the temple's only door barred, the bodies of the two men guarding it lying dead outside.
As the flames climb higher, the dosh khaleen and khalasars gather in confusion. Eventually, the doors collapse and Daenerys emerges, naked and unburned, with the entire leadership present at Vaes Dothrak dead. Many of the assembled bow immediately, with the high priestess and the rest of the dosh khaleen following after a moment. Jorah and Daario move to the front of the crowd and bow last.
- 20 of 28 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Jerome Flynn (Bronn), Hannah Murray (Gilly), and Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H'ghar) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Dorne does not appear in this episode. Bran Stark, Arya Stark in Braavos, Samwell Tarly and Gilly on the way to Oldtown, and the Tully/Frey subplots do not appear in this episode.
- The Eyrie returns to the Title sequence, last seen at the beginning of Season 5. As with that episode, the events in the Vale of Arryn do not actually take place in the Eyrie but at Runestone, the seat of House Royce, but the production team explained they can only justify the expense of creating so many individually animated map markers and they often use a region's capital as a stand-in for the whole area. Pyke doesn't appear in the opening sequence, despite being a place of action in the episode and being present in the previous episode, where it wasn't featured.
- The Stranger is the aspect of The Seven that represents death. The holy text of the Faith of the Seven is The Seven-Pointed Star, which is divided up into internal books (like the real-life Christian Bible, etc.) - i.e., one internal division is the "Book of the Maiden" (devoted to The Maiden, another aspect of the Seven). The episode takes its name from when Margaery points out that the High Septon is quoting a verse from the Book of the Stranger. Only the Book of the Maiden has been mentioned by name in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels so far, but it is presumed each aspect of the godhead has its own book.
- As David Benioff directly points out in the Inside the Episode featurette, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark have never actually appeared together on-screen before in the entire TV series. Even in the series premiere "Winter is Coming," when the Stark children line up to welcome King Robert Jon isn't standing alongside them because he is a bastard (he stands behind them with Theon Greyjoy, as they share a similar position). He was also not at the feast. Similarly, Jon and Sansa didn't have any scenes together at Winterfell in the first novel - Jon was always closer to Arya, who was also a social outsider of a sort.
- Sansa speaks to Jon about "the day we left Winterfell": they did indeed leave the castle on the same day, in episode 1.2 "The Kingsroad." Jon took the opportunity to ask to join the Night's Watch, so he rode along with the royal party the short distance to the crossroads then he and his uncle Benjen Stark turned north, while the royal party turned south.
- Though Sansa and Jon don't have a particularly close relationship in the books, they think of each other several times throughout the series after their family's separation. Some examples include Jon recalling how Sansa had taught him how to talk to girls and, while regarding the beauty of a winter morning, fondly thinks that Sansa would call it an "enchantment." In the fourth book, Sansa learns of Jon's new position as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch while she is still hiding in the Vale of Arryn with Littlefinger when someone mentions to her that Eddard Stark's bastard son was recently elected as Lord Commander. She then realizes how "sweet" it would be to see Jon again. In the TV show, Sansa is told about Jon's election in Season 5, but by Ramsay Bolton under different circumstances.
- Sansa and Jon have not reunited as of the end of the most recent novel: Jon's storyline in the TV series surpassed the novels when he was stabbed to death, while Sansa's has loosely surpassed the novels but also been heavily condensed: in the novels she stays in the Vale and never even meets the Boltons. It is entirely possible that she will meet Jon again in an upcoming novel and their reactions will be very much similar to this, though several details have of course been moved around.
- Sansa's view in this episode that she was "an ass" to Jon does seem to more or less line up with the descriptions given in the novels (though she's being self-deprecating, it's more that she was just arrogant). Sansa is very much her mother's daughter, and Catelyn Stark completely ignored Jon Snow - she didn't mistreat him, but she was not his "stepmother," and in fact it was a great shame against her that Eddard brought Jon to live alongside her lawfully born children. Jon didn't think Catelyn's resentment was unusual and never expected more of her. Similarly, Sansa apparently didn't have much regard for Jon and apparently ignored him most of the time, so they didn't interact much even "off-screen" in the books. Jon was always closer to Arya, who was another social outcast of a sort due to her tomboy nature. An early chapter does have Arya mentally note that Sansa was always careful to refer to Jon as their "half-brother" and a "bastard" (as a legal term, not explicitly pejorative) - probably under the influence of Catelyn. On the other hand neither Catelyn nor Sansa ever mistreated or mocked Jon, they just avoided him. At one point, however, it was mentioned that Sansa did take time aside to help teach Jon how to properly court girls when he asked her to, so Sansa's relationship with Jon was evidently better than Catelyn's relationship with him was.
- This episode features no less than three reunions between brother-sister pairs: Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, Theon and Yara Greyjoy, and Margaery and Loras Tyrell.
- The reunion between Sansa and Jon is the first time any of the separated Stark siblings have reunited since splitting up in Season 1 (except for Bran and Rickon, who separated at the end of Season 3). There were several chances of reunion - Arya arrived at the Twins right after the Red Wedding started, Arya's arrival at the Vale, Jon attacking the mutineers while Bran was nearby - but in every case the reunion was prevented for various reason, to the point where the Stark children almost reuniting but just barely missing each other has become a running joke in the fandom.
- As of the end of the fifth novel, both Jon and Sansa think the other three remaining Stark siblings - Arya, Bran, and Rickon - are probably dead. In the TV version, Brienne actually encountered Arya briefly and informed Sansa she was alive two episodes ago - information they can now share with Jon. Theon Greyjoy informed Sansa that Bran and Rickon survived the sack of Winterfell. Meanwhile, Jon actually knows that Bran and Rickon didn't die at Winterfell - Bran encountered Samwell Tarly as he was passing through the Wall (as he did in the novels) and made him swear not to tell anyone in the Season 3 finale. Unlike in the novels, however, Samwell later told Jon anyway, as seen in Season 4. Thus, if Jon and Sansa presumably shared information off-screen, they now know that there is at least some chance that all three of the other Stark siblings who were assumed dead might still be alive.
- Ramsay Bolton, meanwhile "preferred being an only child," killed his parents and infant half-brother, and is now the last living member of House Bolton - and the only people who fight for him are those he can intimidate into serving him.
- The encounter between Brienne of Tarth, Davos Seaworth, and Melisandre in Castle Black's courtyard addresses several logical questions about how they would react to each other, in rapid succession. First, Davos is indeed curious about what exactly happened to Stannis Baratheon and Shireen (whom Melisandre burned as a sacrifice). Second, Brienne accurately points out that she did in fact meet Davos before (and also Melisandre), as she was a member of Renly Baratheon's Kingsguard - they met during the formal parley between Stannis and Renly back in Season 2 episode 4, "Garden of Bones" (though Brienne didn't say anything at the time). Third, upon meeting Davos, Brienne bluntly admits that she "executed" Stannis (in the Season 5 finale), and that just prior to this Stannis outright confessed that he used blood magic to assassinate Renly (which she says while glaring at Melisandre, who killed Renly by birthing a Shadow monster in episode 2.5, "The Ghost of Harrenhal").
- Tormund seems quite impressed with Brienne of Tarth - even though men in southern Westeros in prior episodes often thought she was some kind of freak or object of ridicule for being a strong female warrior. Recall that the wildlings actually have a strong tradition of warrior women - Ygritte, Karsi, etc. - so it makes sense that Tormund would actually think Brienne is impressive and/or attractive, instead of being dismissive to her like southern knights she has encountered in the past.
- In Season 5 it was said that Jon Snow and Tormund only managed to save about 5,000 wildlings by getting them to the southern side of the Wall. Tormund confirms now that only about 2,000 are in fighting shape, the rest are children, old people, etc. Other than Mance Rayder, the fate of the substantial number of fighting wildlings captured by Stannis following the Battle of Castle Black has not been specified.
- Sansa says Ramsay remarked that the Bolton forces at Winterfell are around 5,000 men. It is unclear, but this might refer specifically to just the Bolton forces, not the added Karstark and Umber forces which came to Winterfell only after Sansa escaped at the end of Season 5. In the books, the Boltons had about 5,000 men at Winterfell itself, not including the forces from the other Northern Houses currently allied with the Boltons (who brought about another 3,000 men), which seems to match up with this.
- Theon Greyjoy's homecoming scene to Pyke in the Iron Islands after being a prisoner of the Boltons at Winterfell visually mirrors his earlier homecoming to Pyke in Season 2, after years being a "prisoner" (Ward) of the Starks at Winterfell. Just as in episode 2.2 "The Night Lands," Theon is first shown looking at Pyke from a ship, then when he enters the main hall encounters a family member upset with him. Yara Greyjoy is framed the same way their father Balon was in the previous episode: seated in a chair and looking into the fire, not bothering at first to turn around and face Theon while talking to him.
- The way Jaime Lannister's dialogue at the Small Council scene is framed is somewhat confusing: House Tyrell actually has the largest army in Westeros, House Lannister the second largest, under normal circumstances. On top of this, Robb Stark slaughtered half the Lannister army, while the Tyrell forces have comparatively been only lightly bloodied in the conflicts - and Tywin explained in Season 4 that the Lannisters are bankrupt and can't simply hire new sellsword armies anymore. In this episode, Jaime walks to the table and says "you have the second largest army in Westeros," but the camera is in wideshot so it is unclear if he is referring to his uncle Kevan (commander of the remaining Lannister forces, which should now be the second largest) or to Olenna Tyrell. He then goes on to explain that the Tyrell army will come to besiege the Great Sept, while Kevan's army already in the city simply stands down and doesn't try to stop them (which in contrast to his last sentence, would seem to imply that he was actually referring to Kevan when he said "you" have the second largest army).
- In the novels, Cersei was kept confined to chambers, and her uncle Kevan kept her under constant guard and wouldn't let her see visitors unsupervised. In previous episodes this season, Cersei wasn't under guard and it was vaguely implied she was free to move around the city, but chose not to out of fear for her safety. In this episode it is clearly stated that she is under house arrest, in that she is forbidden to leave the Red Keep itself (she did leave to see Jaime and Myrcella return at the docks, but presumably she would have received permission for that).
- As Robin Arryn mentions, he is Sansa Stark's cousin - specifically her first cousin, as his mother Lysa Tully was the younger sister of Sansa's mother Catelyn Tully.
- A promo image of Pycelle advising Tommen in this episode was previously released for the Season 6 premiere. Either the scene was moved to this episode or - more probably, given the context - the promo image was simply mislabeled.
- The High Sparrow hasn't given any backstory about himself in the current novels - it is unclear if the story he relates about himself in this episode is an invention of the TV series or will be revealed in a future novel.
- His story to Margaery, however, seems to conflict with his introduction to Cersei in episode 5.3 - to Cersei, he says that he gave his shoes away to someone who needed them more, while to Margaery, he says he left his shoes behind the day he walked away from finery. It's unclear which story, if any, is true.
- In Margaery Tyrell's prison cell, a large beetle appears, similar to the one that Tyrion chose not to smash in Season 4's "The Mountain and the Viper" (after giving a speech recalling his cousin Orson Lannister). This is obviously not the same beetle - given that Tyrion was imprisoned in the dungeons of the Red Keep, while Margaery is imprisoned on the other side of he city in the Great Sept of Baelor.
- Tyrion says that a clever man once said that you "make peace with your enemies," otherwise you'd already be friends. It was actually Littlefinger himself who said this to Eddard Stark back in Season 1's "You Win or You Die," urging he should make peace with the Lannisters instead of openly revealing that Joffrey was a bastard. Littlefinger never said this to Tyrion on-screen, but could easily have used the same line again at an off-screen Small Council meeting Tyrion attended in early Season 2.
- This episode once again brings up a discrepancy with the currency used in Slaver's Bay, the "Gold Honor" coin. In Season 5's "The Gift," Yezzan zo Qaggaz indeed bought Tyrion at a slave-auction for 1 Gold Honor, as he recounts in this episode. For Jorah Mormont, a well-trained knight being sold as a gladiator, the bidding started at 12 Gold Honors and he was bought by Yezzan for 20. In the novels, it is stated that a bid of 5,000 Gold Honors at auction for a pair of slaves sent to the fighting pits is actually thought to be an insultingly low offer. In the subsequent Season 5 Blu-ray set, the "Histories & Lore" animated featurette on "The Fighting Pits of Meereen" contradicted this, by stating that a champion gladiator slave can be worth 300,000 Gold Honors - a figure much more closely in line with the relative value of the Gold Honor given in the books. Benioff and Weiss wrote both "The Gift" and this episode, while Dave Hill writes the "Histories and Lore" featurettes - Hill understands the relative value of the Gold Honor given in the novels, but apparently never corrected Benioff and Weiss about this.
- The episode accurately displays that the Dothraki "don't believe in money" and don't use any form of currency. They will take precious objects as plunder if they come upon it, but otherwise prefer barter and tribute of inherently useful things such as new steel weapons and armor, or horses. Thus it is mentioned that Yunkai offered the Dothraki 10,000 Horses in exchange for Daenerys, as opposed to a large amount of Gold Honors.
- Tyrion Lannister says that slavery has not existed in Westeros for "centuries" - this is specifically true, though in fact it actually hasn't existed in Westeros for much longer, at least thousands of years. The Andals invaded Westeros 6,000 years ago but their religion forbade slavery, and the First Men who moved to Westeros before them 12,000 years ago didn't believe in slavery either. As far as historians can tell, slavery has never been practiced in Westeros.
- Razdal mo Eraz returns in this episode, the political envoy from Yunkai who was introduced back in Season 3 episode 7 "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." He also summarizes his encounter with her from that episode: he outright offered her a fleet of ships to transport her army to Westeros and just leave Yunkai's slave-masters to their own devices, which he felt was a generous and mutually beneficial offer, but she refused and insisted on staying to topple the slave-masters. His return now is not an invention of the TV series due to economy of characters: after meeting with Daenerys in the third novel (much as he did in Season 3), he later returned in the fifth novel, in which he was one of the lead politicians arranging the Yunkai/Astapor/Volantis slaver-alliance now opposing Daenerys's rule over Meereen.
- In the novels, Yezzan zo Qaggaz was actually one of the Wise Masters of Yunkai - though the character was significantly changed, as in the books he is morbidly obese and one of the more powerful slave-masters. In Season 5, he bought Jorah and Tyrion at a slave-auction on the outskirts of Meereen - seeming to imply that in the TV show he is one of the Great Masters of Meereen, not of Yunkai. On the other hand, this never ruled out the possibility that he was a Yunkish slave-master visiting Meereen for the gladiator games (as it was stated the Yunkish slave-masters themselves wanted the games to open because they brought in a lot of money for the entire region). Now in this episode, it is stated that Yezzan is representing the (reconstituted) Good Masters of Astapor. Exactly which of the three major cities of Slaver's Bay TV-Yezzan is supposed to be from is therefore unclear. Then again, he doesn't necessarily need to be "from" one of them, as there are slave-masters and merchants that move around between the slave-markets of all three cities to conduct trade.
- The large ship which the three ambassadors from the slaver-alliance arrive at Meereen in displays on its sails the symbol of a Harpy clasping chains-and-manacles in its talons - which is specifically the symbol of Astapor. This specific design was previously used on-screen at Astapor in Season 3. In the novels the different cities actually use slightly different variants of the harpy symbol. The symbol of the old Ghiscari Empire, which originally founded all three cities as colonies, was of a harpy grasping thunderbolts in its talons. As for the empire's present-day descendants, Astapor uses a harpy with chains and open manacles in its talons, Yunkai's harpy holds a whip and open slave collar, while Meereen's harpy holds nothing. Only the Astapori harpy has explicitly appeared on banners (or sails) so far in the TV series: it is unclear if it is meant to be the only symbol of the slave-masters in the TV continuity, with no variation between the three cities, or if this ship simply happens to be from Astapor. Given that Yezzan outright states that he is there as a representative of the reconstituted slave-masters of Astapor, it is entirely plausible that it is simply an Astapori ship.
- Razdal represents Yunkai, and Yezzan says he represents Astapor, but the identity of the third slaver ambassador (who does have speaking lines) is not directly stated. By simply process of elimination he must be from Volantis, given that last episode Varys discovered that the foreign cities funding the Sons of the Harpy are Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis. On closer inspection, however, there is another hint: this ambassador's costume style matches what was seen in Volantis when it first appeared back in Season 5 (see "Costumes: Essos - Free Cities").
- The name given for the third envoy in promotional images was "Belicho Paenymion," which is itself a combination of different Volantene names from the books.
- Ironically, Volantis doesn't actually have its own unique costume style, out-of-universe. During production on Season 5, the few scenes taking place in Volantis were only in one episode and squeezed in very much at the last minute - after the budget and time for making entirely new sets and costumes had completely been spent on other new locations which appear much more prominently, such as Braavos. Necessity being the mother of invention, however, the production team was still determined to make functional sets and costumes for the brief scenes set in Volantis - by quickly repurposing and modifying pre-existing sets and costumes (in the industry, this is sometimes known as "kitbashing"). In the Season 5 Blu-ray commentary, costume designer Michele Clapton explains the process and that ultimately she was very proud of how it turned out and how much work her team put in with limited resources. The cast and crew also had fun trying to guess which bits and pieces of the Volantis set dressing were from what other parts of the TV show. For specifically the costumes of Volantis, many of them were actually costumes previously used in the Vale of Arryn, with some slight alterations, and intermixed with other pre-existing costumes from Slaver's Bay (see "Costumes: The Seven Kingdoms - The Vale of Arryn"). Notice that the Volantene envoy's costume is the same style that the characters in Littlefinger's scene from this episode are also wearing, just with some more jewelry and a few pieces changed up. Given the increased budget for Season 6, compared to previous time constraints, it is unclear why the costume department didn't invent a new Volantene style from scratch. Then again, Clapton left the TV series after Season 5 and was replaced this season by April Ferry as head costume designer: it is possible that Ferry was simply trying to be accurate to the "previously established" Volantene look from Season 5 when she designed the costume of this envoy, not realizing that the "Volantene style" in Season 5 was simply a kitbash of the Vale and Meereen.
- The description of the layout of Vaes Dothrak which Jorah gives directly matches the novels: the main road leading through the Horse Gate (with the large horse statues) is called the Godsway (because it is lined with the broken idols of the gods of peoples the Dothraki have conquered), which separates the Western Market and the Eastern Market. Daenerys visited the markets back in Season 1 "You Win or You Die". The Dothraki are not merchants themselves and look down on trade, so the merchants in the two markets are actually foreigners - they don't come to trade with the Dothraki, but for caravans from the west and east to trade with each other (avoiding the heavy taxes that Qarth exacts on sea shipping). Notice that Jorah specifically says they will claim they are from the Western Market: the Western Market is run by merchants from the west, i.e. the Free Cities, but the Eastern Market is run by peoples from the Further East, such as Yi Ti (in fact, the Yi Tish merchants that Daenerys observes in Vaes Dothrak are the only time in the current novels that any Yi Tish characters have directly appear in the narrative). People from Yi Ti are East Asian in appearance - Martin has stated that it is loosely this fantasy-world's analogue of Imperial China. Thus Jorah says they will claim they are merchants from specifically the Western Market because they can't plausibly be from the Eastern Market, as they obviously don't look Yi Tish.
- In the novels, Vaes Dothraki is described as a city of tents, with a handful of permanent wooden structures (such as the Temple of the dosh khaleen). It generally had this appearance when it was introduced in Season 1. The alleys that Jorah and Daario make their way through in this episode, however, are formed by more permanent buildings of mud brick.
- Daario remarks on a Dothraki couple having sex in public at a feast - as previously explained, the Dothraki think it is silly to consider the naked body shameful, and because entire khalasars are on the move together they don't really consider sex to be something that needs to be hidden away in private.
- Both the novels and the TV series in Season 1 made it a point that the Dothraki usually prefer to have rear-entry position (Doggystyle) sex, yet the Dothraki man and woman in this episode are clearly having sex in the Suspended Congress position.
- Some of the assembled Dothraki khals decorate themselves with bodypaint of different colors - Rhalko uses brown stripes, another uses black, etc. Khal Drogo used blue paint. The production team came up with the idea that the Dothraki decorate themselves with various paints made from crushed rocks, and Drogo used blue because it is the most expensive. Different khalasars, however, use different colors to distinguish themselves, i.e. Khal Jhaqo's horse seen in Season 2's "The Night Lands" used red paint stripes.
- George R.R. Martin himself clarified that in the novels, Daenerys Targaryen is not "immune to fire" under normal circumstances. The hatching of her dragons from Khal Drogo's funeral pyre was very much a one-time, magical event - in part due to the rule of Blood magic that only life can pay for life (she needed to burn Mirri Maz Duur alive on the funeral pyre as a sacrifice to give the dragons life). The showrunners in the Inside the Episode featurette seem to believe Daenerys is "fireproof" all the time - Daenerys herself isn't certain of this in the novels, and doesn't exactly try to test it again by jumping into another raging funeral pyre. On the other hand, the nature of her relationship with fire is mysterious and ambiguous in the novels - and just because she was magically/miraculously unburned once doesn't prevent another miraculous event from happening a second time for her. For all anyone really knows, in the next unpublished novel she might indeed miraculously survive a fire unburned once again.
- As when Daenerys emerged from the fire unburned in "Fire and Blood", Daenerys's hair remains unburned. In the novels, her hair was burned off, and took months to grow back. Practically, it looks much more dramatic if Dany keeps her signature hair, so the team apparently decided to let that detail slide.
- Emilia Clarke confirmed that she actually appears nude in the final scene, without a body double, having not done a nude scene since Season 3. The lighting of the shot doesn't exactly match the background, which might lead to the assumption that they digitally added her head onto a body double (as was done with Cersei in the Season 5 finale). Actually, the reason the lighting is slightly mismatched is because Clarke filmed the closeup nude scenes on a closed set - not the large on-location set in Spain with hundreds of extras in the crowd (and also, of course, because she couldn't actually be standing unburned in the middle of a raging fire). In post-production the closeup shots of her entire body were then digitally inserted into the larger set.
- Daniel Sackheim directed both this episode and the preceding one, which began by showing the immediate result of Jon Snow's resurrection as he rises up from the table at Castle Black. In the "Behind the Thrones" featurette for this episode, Sackheim explained that he wanted Jon's scene in the preceding episode and Daenerys's closing scene in this episode to parallel each other: both of them are symbolically being "reborn", and thus both of them are naked to parallel being born as an infant. All of Daenerys's clothes were burned away and she was symbolically reborn in the flames, while Jon literally returned to life, his body stripped naked so Melisandre could clean all of the blood away. While the scenes parallel each other Sackheim also intended a contrast: Jon's "rebirth" happens in the frozen north at the Wall in a room so cold his breath is visible, while Daenerys's "rebirth" is from a raging inferno - i.e. Jon is reborn amid "ice" and Daenerys is reborn amid "fire", as in the title of the A Song of Ice and Fire novel series which the TV series adapts.
- Osha hasn't returned with Rickon Stark yet in the novels, and it is doubtful that she will be killed by Ramsay Bolton - or at least, Rickon's capture is a condensation, so it seems unlikely she will die in this specific manner, though she might still die fighting Bolton forces. In the books, Osha took Rickon to the island of Skagos off the east coast of the North - a semi-independent isle only nominally part of the North, considered to practically be wildlings themselves, feared as savage raiders and rumored cannibals. So far, they haven't returned, though in his last chapter in the most recent novel Davos Seaworth learns that Rickon and Osha are hiding there, and he intends to retrieve them. Osha's death scene does flow logically for the situation - as Ramsay says, Theon would have told him everything about the Stark boys' escape under torture, so he'd know that Osha was specifically trying to seduce him to kill him.
- That being said, George R.R. Martin pointed out that even in Season 1, "Osha" in the TV series was very different from "Osha" in the novels (who is older, more stoic, and not as sarcastic). In fact, TV-Osha was one of the very rare cases in which Martin said that (from Season 1) he actually enjoyed the TV version better than the minor character Osha is in the novels - in no small part due to the strength of Natalia Tena's performance. This is why they gave her more screentime in Season 2; and why she was even brought back for Season 3 (in the novels, Osha leaves Bran right after escaping Winterfell, but the TV version kept her around until they arrived at the Wall). Thus while Osha's death may be an "invention" of the TV series, most of "TV-Osha" was itself an invention of the TV series - she wasn't this prominent of a character in the novels to begin with.
- When Ramsay asks Osha if the Bolton sigil and the idea of flaying frightens her, she counters by asking if he eats his victims as well, a question which seems to actually take him aback. Osha is most likely referring to the Thenns and their cannibalistic tendencies.
- It's also possible that this is an oblique reference to Osha's storyline in the novels: rather than Last Hearth, she took Rickon to Skagos. The novels hint that she may have been there before, and the inhabitants of Skagos are rumored to also be cannibals.
The Bastard Letter
- The episode introduces the notorious "Bastard letter" that Jon receives from Ramsay near the end of the fifth novel, in which Jon's reaction to it is actually what leads to the mutiny against him.
- In the show, no doubt is introduced that Ramsay wrote the letter, for its contents are consistent with the previous scenes. In the book, however, there are several anomalies about it - the most conspicuous is that no piece of skin is enclosed, like most of Ramsay's letters - which led to fan speculations that it was not Ramsay who wrote it.
- A line from Ramsay's letter was spoken by Iwan Rheon in one of the first teasers for the sixth season, "Winterfell is mine. Come and see." Though in the letter, the line is "Winterfell is mine, bastard. Come and see.", the "bastard" was omitted to hide the spoiler that Ramsay was saying it to Jon Snow, who at the time was believed dead. It did, however, serve as a spoiler regarding Roose Bolton, who would have to be dead in order for Ramsay to claim that Winterfell was his and not Roose's.
- For full information see the main article on the "Bastard letter"
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 41, Alayne II: Petyr Baelish reveals his intentions to claim Winterfell.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 36, Daenerys VI: Daenerys is informed about the Yunkai's terms for peace.
- Chapter 50, Daenerys VIII: The Yunkai'i lords are welcomed in Meereen and fragile peace is achieved.
- Chapter 62, The Sacrifice: Having fled Winterfell and Ramsay's control, Theon is reunited with his sister.
- Chapter 69, Jon XIII: Jon receives a threatening letter from Ramsay, who demands his bride back, and Jon instead decides to challenge Ramsay.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of The Winds of Winter:
- Theon I: Ramsay's bride is sent to Castle Black.
- The remaining material appears to be based on what will come in the sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, particularly the storylines of King's Landing and the Faith, Daenerys getting control of the Dothraki khalasars, and loosely Petyr rallying the Knights of the Vale as well.
Eddison Tollett: "I was with you at Hardhome. We saw what's out there. We know it's coming here. How can you leave us now?"
Jon Snow: "I did everything I could. You know that."
Eddison: "You swore a vow."
Jon: "Aye, I pledged my life to the Night's Watch. I gave my life."
Eddison: "For all nights to come."
Jon: "They killed me, Edd! My own brothers. You want me to stay here after that?
Jon Snow: "We never should have left Winterfell."
Sansa Stark: "Don't you wish we could go back to the day we left? I want to scream at myself, 'Don't go, you idiot.'"
Jon Snow: "How could we know?"
Sansa: "I spent a lot of time thinking about what an ass I was to you. I wish I could change everything."
Jon: "We were children."
Sansa: "I was awful, just admit it."
Jon: "You were occasionally awful. I'm sure I can't have been great fun. Always sulking in the corner while the rest of you played."
Sansa: "Can you forgive me?"
Jon: "There's nothing to forgive."
Sansa: "Forgive me."
Jon: "All right. All right, I forgive you."
Jon: "If I don't watch over you, Father's ghost will come back and murder me."
Sansa: "Where will we go?"
Jon: "I can't stay here, not after what happened."
Sansa: "There's only one place we can go. Home."
Jon: "Should we tell the Boltons to pack up and leave?"
Sansa: "We'll take it back from them."
Jon: "I don't have an army."
Sansa: "How many wildlings did you save?"
Jon: "They didn't come here to serve me."
Sansa: "They owe you their lives. You think they'll be safe here if Roose Bolton remains Warden of the North?"
Sansa: "Winterfell is our home. It's ours and Arya's and Bran's and Rickon's. Wherever they are, it belongs to our family. We have to fight for it."
Jon: "I'm tired of fighting. It's all I've done since I left home. I've killed brothers of the Night's Watch. I've killed wildlings. I've killed men that I admire. I hanged a boy younger than Bran. I fought and I lost."
Sansa: "If we don't take back the North, we'll never be safe. I want you to help me. But I'll do it myself if I have to."
Yara Greyjoy: "Men died trying to rescue you. Good men. My men."
Theon Greyjoy: "I'm sorry."
Yara: "You were my brother. You were a spoiled little cunt, but you were my brother and I risked everything for you and you betrayed me."
Theon: "I know. I know and I'm sorry."
Yara: "Stop saying that."
Theon: "He broke me. He broke me into a thousand pieces."
Yara: "I know."
Theon: "You don't know."
Yara: "He sent us one of those pieces. That's why I came for you. Why did you come here?"
Theon: "Where else could I go?"
Yara: "You heard Father was dead and you thought you'd claim the crown?"
Theon: "No, no. I only heard he died after we docked."
Yara: "You happen to show up on Pyke right before the kingsmoot?"
Theon: "I didn't know."
Yara: "You think any ironborn wants you to be king after what you've done?"
Theon: "I don't want to be king."
Yara: "What do you want?"
Theon: "I should have listened to you. You're the only one..."
Yara: "That doesn't matter anymore. Stop crying! Look at me! Tell me what you want."
Theon: "You should rule the Iron Islands. Let me help you."
Ramsay Bolton: "You've seen my banners? The flayed man. Does that worry you at all?"
[Jon receives a letter from Ramsay.]
Jon: [Reading] "To the traitor and bastard Jon Snow, You allowed thousands of wildlings past the Wall. You have betrayed your own kind and you've betrayed the North. Winterfell is mine, bastard, come and see. Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon. His direwolf's skin is on my floor, come and see. I want my bride back. Send her to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your wildling lovers. Keep her from me and I will ride North to slaughter every wildling - man, woman, and babe - living under your protection. You..."
Sansa: "Go on."
Jon: "Just more of the same."
Sansa: [Reading] "You will watch as I skin them living. You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister. You will watch as my dogs devour your wild little brother. Then I will spoon your eyes from their sockets and let my dogs do the rest. Come and see. Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North."
Jon: "Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North?"
Sansa: "His father's dead. Ramsay killed him. And now he has Rickon."
Jon: "We don't know that."
Sansa: "Yes, we do."
Tormund: "How many men does he have in his army?"
Sansa: "I heard him say five thousand once when he was talking about Stannis's attack."
Jon: "How many do you have?"
Tormund: "That can march and fight? Two thousand. The rest are children and old people."
Sansa: "You're the son of the last true Warden of the North. The northern families are loyal, they'll fight for you if you ask. A monster has taken our home and our brother. We have to go back to Winterfell and save them both."
Daenerys Targaryen: "And here, now, what what great matters do the Great Khals discuss? Which little villages you'll raid, how many girls you'll get to fuck, how many horses you'll demand in tribute. You are small men. None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will."