"Stormborn" is the second episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones and the sixty-second episode of the series overall. It premiered on July 23, 2017. It was written by Bryan Cogman and directed by Mark Mylod.
During a thunderstorm at Dragonstone, Tyrion Lannister, Varys, and Queen Daenerys Targaryen talk about the stormy circumstances of her birth. Varys informs Daenerys that Queen Cersei Lannister's position on Westeros is tenuous. Tyrion counsels her not to burn the Seven Kingdoms and proposes that she forge alliances with the other houses not currently aligned with Cersei. Dany then questions Varys about his previous services to her father the Mad King and King Robert Baratheon. Varys confides that King Robert Baratheon had little interest in ruling but initially appeared to be a definite improvement over Aerys II.
Dany then confronts Varys about his role in hiring the assassins to target her; Varys reminds her that his choices were limited to either feigning continuing loyalty to Robert by arranging the assassination, or refusing and losing his head for it. She distrusts Varys due to his track record of switching allegiances. Refusing to be intimidated, Varys points out that incompetent rulers do not deserve blind loyalty, then recounts his lowly origins as a castrated slave and tells her that his true loyalty lies with the oppressed masses. Varys tells Daenerys that if all she wants from him is blind loyalty, she may as well have him killed, but he is much more useful to her and to the Realm alive, and that he believes she is the last hope for the people. Dany accepts his fealty on the condition that he does not conspire against her – rather, she makes him swear to look her in the eye and tell her when she is wrong, as he is doing at this very moment, and Varys does so. Seemingly satisfied, Daenerys also warns Varys that if he betrays her, she will burn him alive. Varys replies that he would expect nothing less from the "Mother of Dragons."
Daenerys is then visited by the Red Priestess Melisandre, who believes that Dany might be The Prince That Was Promised. Varys questions Melisandre about her previous service to the ill-fated King Stannis Baratheon. While Daenerys initially does not believe that she could be the Prince, Missandei reveals that the High Valyrian word for "prince" or "princess" is gender neutral. When Daenerys asks Melisandre if she believes the prophecy applies to her, Melisandre replies she believes it could refer to Daenerys or one other: Jon Snow, the King in the North, who has united the North and the Wildlings against a common enemy. Tyrion vouches for Jon Snow and convinces Daenerys that he will make a good ally, given the crimes committed by the Lannisters against his family. Dany accepts Tyrion's advice, and tells him to extend an invitation for Jon to attend her at Dragonstone – where Jon must "bend the knee."
In the Chamber of the Painted Table, Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand firmly advocate an immediate assault on King's Landing. Tyrion advises against laying waste to the Kingdoms' capital and causing the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents. When Ellaria belittles Tyrion for his lack of stomach for war (despite his previous command and service at the Battle of the Blackwater), Tyrion retorts by deriding Ellaria in that her sole accomplishment to the war effort has been to poison an innocent girl, his niece Myrcella Baratheon, for the sake of petty vengeance against the Lannisters. Ellaria does not deny it and expresses regret that her lover Oberyn Martell died for the cause of Tyrion's freedom. Daenerys ends the argument with a rebuke for Ellaria to respect her Hand. Back to the matter of the invasion, Daenerys insists she doesn't wish to be known as the Queen of the Ashes, to which Olenna Tyrell sarcastically ponders if Daenerys will take the Iron Throne by asking politely. Olenna reminds Daenerys of her granddaughter Margaery Tyrell's fate, a beloved queen who was killed when Cersei blew up the Great Sept of Baelor.
Tyrion proposes using a combination of Tyrell and Dornish forces to lay siege to King's Landing, much to the chagrin of Olenna and Ellaria, who balk at the thought of using their own soldiers. Tyrion, however, insists that using the Unsullied and Dothraki would arouse the patriotism of Westerosi bannermen, who would see them as foreign invaders and potentially close ranks behind Cersei. He proposes sending Grey Worm and the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock instead, cutting off Cersei's retreat and dealing a massive blow to the morale of the Western army. In the meantime, the Greyjoy fleet will escort Ellaria back to Sunspear to rally the Dornish forces and then ferry them up the coast to King's Landing, bypassing the Stormlands and allowing the siege to commence early. Daenerys accepts Tyrion's proposal and reminds the others on her council that she will not be attacking King's Landing, and requests consenting approval from everyone, which they give.
Daenerys dismisses everyone except Lady Olenna. The Dragon Queen tells the Queen of Thorns she is aware that her motives are based on revenge for Cersei and not out of love for Daenerys. She insists that she will usher in an era of peace. Olenna, however, reflects that there was never a lasting peace under the Mad King, or any preceding Targaryen, for that matter. She tells Daenerys that Tyrion is a clever man and that Olenna has outlasted many clever men by not listening to their advice. She tells Daenerys that the lords of Westeros are sheep, yet Daenerys is a dragon, and she must 'be a dragon' if she is to rule Westeros.
Later, Missandei visits Grey Worm to bid him farewell before his departure to Casterly Rock. Grey Worm confides that Missandei is his weakness, and when she expresses confusion, he tells her that the Good Masters of Astapor tortured the Unsullied by exposing them to their worst fears. For example, if the young boy was afraid of drowning, he'd be thrown into the sea. If he drowns, it would be "good", and if he survives, it would be "good" because only the fit survive. Grey Worm recalls that he was never the biggest/fastest/strongest but he was the most fearless warrior until he met Missandei. She replies that she also has to deal with fear and kisses him. Missandei strips naked and proceeds to undress Grey Worm. Grey Worm is reluctant to remove his trousers (presumably not wanting to horrify her with his castration scars) but eventually acquiesces to Missandei's wishes. The two of them then share an intimate sexual encounter.
In King's Landing
In the throne room of the Red Keep, Queen Cersei Lannister gives a speech urging several nobles from the Reach, including Lord Randyll Tarly, to reaffirm their allegiance to the Iron Throne and not follow House Tyrell in supporting Daenerys. Cersei warns that the Targaryen's Dothraki and Unsullied hordes would pillage their lands and homes, and rape their women. When Lord Tarly points out that Daenerys has three dragons, Maester Qyburn replies that he is "at work on a solution".
Following the audience with Queen Cersei, Lord Tarly meets in private with Jaime Lannister, who wants to appoint him as his general. Tarly is unwilling to break his fealty to Lady Olenna Tyrell and is wary of the Lannisters, who "cut [their rivals'] throats at weddings". Jaime reminds Tarly that he also swore an oath to the Iron Throne, and tells him that Cersei is preferable to Daenerys and her foreign armies. Jaime also promises that Cersei will make Tarly the new Warden of the South.Later, Qyburn leads Cersei to the dragon skulls beneath the Red Keep. He tells Cersei that his spies have reported that one of Daenerys' dragons was wounded by a spear at Meereen, showing that the dragons are not invincible. Qyburn then displays a ballista and reassures her that they can hurt dragons. Cersei tests the ballista on the nearby skull of Balerion the Black Dread (the dragon of Aegon the Conqueror) and is pleased when the bolt pierces through the massive, hard skull.
At Winterfell, Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and Davos Seaworth discuss the letter they received from Tyrion. Jon asks for Sansa's opinion and while Sansa remembers that Tyrion was kind to her and was unlike the rest of his family, she wonders if the message is truly from Tyrion. Jon confirms the letter's authenticity as it ends with the line "all dwarfs are bastards in their fathers' eyes," which is what Tyrion told Jon when they first met. Even so, Sansa worries it is too big a risk and Jon concedes that now is not the right time to go to Dragonstone. Davos opines that Dany will make a good ally in the war to come against the White Walkers.
Some days later, Maester Wolkan brings Jon Snow a message from Samwell Tarly in the Citadel. Jon gathers the Northern lords in the main hall and announces that Sam's letter reveals there is a vein of dragon glass beneath Dragonstone. He adds that Lord Tyrion has invited him to Dragonstone to meet with Queen Daenerys and announces his decision to travel to Dragonstone to convince Daenerys to join their fight against the White Walkers, declaring that he plans to travel with Davos to White Harbor and sail to Dragonstone island. Lords Yohn Royce and Robett Glover voice their opinions that a Targaryen cannot be trusted, citing the atrocities committed by Daenery's father. Lady Lyanna Mormont urges the King in the North to stay at home. Jon accepts that he is taking a risk but stresses that the fight against the White Walkers is more important, and they need Daenerys' aid if the North is to be saved. Jon emphasizes that the North is his home, it is part of him, and he will never stop fighting for it. Sansa reiterates her objection to Jon's leaving, and Jon tells Sansa that he is appointing her as ruler of the North in his absence as she is his sister, regent, and a Stark. Sansa accepts.
In the catacombs beneath Winterfell, Petyr Baelish finds Jon Snow, who is visiting his father's tomb, and vouches that Tyrion can be trusted. Petyr tells Jon that while he and Eddard had their differences, they both loved Catelyn Stark. He notes Catelyn wasn't fond of Jon, and muses that perhaps Catelyn underestimated Jon's potential as Jon now stands as the North's best chance against the coming storm. When Jon, who clearly distrusts Baelish, says that Petyr shouldn't be there and that they have nothing to say to each other, Baelish replies that Jon should be grateful to him for saving him from death at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. Baelish insists he is not Jon's enemy. He tells Jon that he loves Sansa, as he loved Sansa's mother, and this prompts Jon to grab him by the throat. Jon warns Baelish that he will kill him if he touches his sister. Outside, Jon, Davos, and several horsemen then prepare to ride south to White Harbor while Sansa watches from the castle battlements. Before he leaves, Jon looks at Sansa and they share a farewell moment. Petyr, emerging from the catacombs, gazes at Sansa.
In the Riverlands
Arya Stark encounters Hot Pie at the Inn at the Crossroads, accosting him to give her some pie and ale. Hot Pie tells her that he has become a seasoned pie-master, and Arya mentions that she has had some experience baking two pies (omitting the fact that she served Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers to their father, the late Lord Walder Frey). When Hot Pie asks Arya if the lady knight Brienne of Tarth had found her, Arya gives an affirmative answer. When Hot Pie asks where she is traveling to, Arya replies that she is traveling to King's Landing for the Queen. Hot Pie tells her that Queen Cersei has blown up the Great Sept of Baelor and wonders why she is not heading to Winterfell.
Arya replies that the Boltons occupy the castle, but Hot Pie informs her that the Boltons are now dead, killed during the Battle of the Bastards by her half-brother Jon Snow, who has been named King in the North. Arya decides to head north, and Hot Pie tells her not to worry about paying for the cost of the meal since she is a friend. As she leaves, Hot Pie remarks that Arya is pretty for someone whom he thought was a boy. Arya rides her horse into the frost-covered forest.
Later, as Arya prepares to set up camp in a snowy, forested area, her horse is startled by several wolves. Before the wolves can attack her, they are silenced by their pack leader, which turns out to be Arya's direwolf Nymeria. Nymeria is initially apprehensive towards Arya but soon recognizes her former mistress. Arya tells her direwolf that she is going home and invites her to come with her. However, Nymeria turns and leaves with the pack. Arya watches in sadness and remarks, "That's not you."
In OldtownAt the Citadel, Archmaester Ebrose and Samwell Tarly examine Jorah Mormont, whose greyscale has spread to his torso. The Archmaester tells Jorah that he should have cut off his lower arm instead of letting the infection spread. Ebrose states that Mormont is beyond saving. While it is customary for infected smallfolk to be sent to live with the stone men, Ebrose gives Mormont one more day, implying with a look at his sword that the anointed knight could choose to commit suicide instead. When Sam asks about sending condolences to Jorah's family at House Mormont, Jorah replies that he is estranged from his family. Later, the Archmaester lectures Tarly about the art of writing history. Sam refuses to give up on Jorah and mentions that a previous Maester, Pylos, successfully treated two cases of advanced greyscale. Ebrose responds that Pylos contracted the disease himself and died of it. Undaunted, Sam decides to treat Jorah and visits his quarters. He tells Jorah, "You're not dying today," and reveals that he once served under Jorah's father, the late Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and was present when he died. Sam gives Jorah rum to drink, telling him that the process will be painful. Sam also provides Jorah with a mouthguard so he can focus on biting down on it to help muffle his screams. Sam's plan involves using a scalpel to separate and cut away Jorah's infected skin and then applying ointment to the exposed layer, though Jorah gives him a look that tells Sam he shouldn't bother trying to explain it to him. Despite experiencing the pain of having a patch of greyscale skin debrided, Jorah nods his consent for Sam to continue the treatment.
On the Narrow Sea
On the Narrow Sea, Yara Greyjoy and her brother Theon Greyjoy travel aboard their portion of the Iron Fleet with their Dornish allies Ellaria Sand, her daughter Tyene, and Tyene's half-sisters Obara and Nymeria Sand. In their quarters, the Sand Snakes are lying in bed and argue about killing Lannisters. Elsewhere, Ellaria drinks Ironborn liquor with Yara and Theon, which she compares unfavorably to Dornish wine. Ellaria asks Yara if she had ever been to Dorne, to which Yara responds that she has been there a few times. Ellaria responds that there is a boy in every port in Dorne, which Yara responds, "A boy, a girl. Depends on the port." Yara and Ellaria begin to sexually flirt with each other. Yara tells Ellaria that Theon will serve as both her bodyguard and adviser. Yara puts her feet up on the table. Ellaria bends over Yara and spreads her legs apart across the table. Ellaria moves her hand up Yara's leg towards her crotch. Ellaria invites Theon to have a threesome with her and Yara, but Yara tells Ellaria to "Leave him be." While Yara and Ellaria began kissing, Yara's ship is struck. On the deck above, they discover that their fleet has been ambushed by Euron Greyjoy's portion of the Iron Fleet.
Euron's flagship Silence rams Yara's ship and lands a boarding party, Euron at the forefront of the attack. Yara and her men fight fiercely but are overwhelmed by Euron's warriors. Tyene retreats below decks to protect her mother Ellaria on Yara's orders, while Obara and Nymeria fight against Euron's Ironborn. Obara fights Euron, who kills her by impaling her with her own spear. Nymeria attacks him with her whip but Euron strangles her to death with it. Though Tyene kills several Ironborn, she and Ellaria are overwhelmed. Ellaria tells the Ironborn to kill them quickly, but they are taken captive instead.
Yara and Euron fight with axes as Yara's fleet burns in the night. Euron captures Yara and then goads "little Theon" to come save her. Theon is about to come to his sister's aid but panics when Euron's men begin mutilating the wounded sailors, reminding him of the tortures he suffered at Ramsay Bolton's hands. To Yara's dismay, Theon jumps overboard while Euron laughs with cruel glee. Theon clings to driftwood and sees Obara and Nymeria's corpses impaled on and hanged by the neck from the prow, respectively. Euron's fleet starts sailing towards King's Landing as Yara's fleet burns in the Narrow Sea, while Theon watches helplessly as the ship carrying his sister disappears into the night.
- Main: Stormborn/Appearances
- 17 of 23 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Jerome Flynn (Bronn), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), and Joe Dempsie (Gendry) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Boian Anev, Richard Bradshaw, Chloe Bruce, Grace Bruce, Michael Byrch, Nick Chopping, James Cox, David Cronnelly, Matt Crook, Jason Curle, Levan Doran, Ben Essex, Daniel Euston, Bradley Farmer, Vladimir Furdik, David Garrick, David Grant, Nicklas Hansson, Rob Hayns, Lyndon S. Hellewell, Gergö Horpácsi, Paul Howell, Rowley Irlam, Erol Ismail, Orsányi Iván, Milen Kaleychev, László Kósa, Norbert Kovács, Phil Lonergan, Sonny Louis, Leigh Maddern, Jonny McBride, Leona McCarron, Kim McGarrity, Carly Michaels, Casey Michaels, Trayan Milenov-Troy, Sian Milne, Mark Mottram, Lucy Murray, Camilla Naprous, David Newton, Béla Orsányi, Radoslav Parvanov, Andy Pilgrim, Oleg Podobin, Marc Redmond, Andrej Riabokon, Florian Robin, Doug Robson, Fabio Santos, Stanislav Satko, Paul Shapcott, Mark Slaughter, CC Smiff, James Stewart, Matt Stirling, Jonny Stockwell, Ryan Stuart, Gáspár Szabó, Marek Toth, Gyula Tóth, Raycho Vasilev, Calvin Warrington-Heasman, Will Willoughby, Leo Woodruff, Lewis Young, Tamiko Brownlee, Neil Frazer and Gavin Weatherall were stunt performers in this episode.
- The title refers to Daenerys Targaryen, and how she received her personal sobriquet, "Daenerys Stormborn" (which she has used throughout the series). Right before the rebels arrived at King's Landing at the end of Robert's Rebellion, her pregnant mother was sent to safety on Dragonstone. Her mother went into labor soon afterward, during a massive storm that smashed to pieces what little was left of the Targaryen fleet anchored at Dragonstone, before dying in childbirth. Being born during this ill-omened storm, she earned the nickname "Daenerys Stormborn". The episode itself opens with Tyrion and Daenerys referring to this.
- The original title of this episode was actually "The Mad King's Daughter", as Bryan Cogman revealed in a post-premiere interview. His initial draft of the episode had someone refer to her as "the Mad King's Daughter" in every other storyline, and these were actually filmed, but the lines were trimmed for time from the final version (i.e. Cersei calls her that in the final cut, but someone would have called her that too in the Winterfell storyline). The idea was to stress that no one in Westeros really knows Daenerys because she's been in exile her whole life, and her father was an infamous, literally insane tyrant, so many people would realistically be somewhat wary of her.
- Cogman went on to say in his post-premiere interview that with so many once-separated characters now meeting again, there was a danger in the writing process of going into "recap mode": two separated characters summarizing their experiences even though we, the audience, already saw this, so it would waste time and narrative focus.
- In the original draft, for example, Varys's scene with Daenerys was actually much longer, as he gives a summary of the current political situation across all of Westeros for her to plan out her next move - this was actually filmed, but edited for time/focus.
- Similarly, his original draft included a scene - which was removed from his second draft and never even filmed - of Theon and Tyrion on Dragonstone having a conversation about Sansa - Tyrion was in a sham marriage to her and worries about her safety, and Theon explains how they escaped Winterfell. This was never even filmed and cut from the script fairly early, by the second draft revision, because they'd just be using up screentime summarizing things the audience already saw (not to mention, why Theon and Tyrion wouldn't have had such a conversation in the days they first met in Meereen, which was weeks or months ago). Cogman said one of the primary reasons he initially put it in was just because Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) and Alfie Allen (Theon) are two of the best actors in the cast, so he wanted to have a scene showing them off together.
- Cogman also remarked in his post-premiere interview that while filming Season 7, even the actors were surprised at times at how fast the pace is going, that is, how much time passes off-screen between scenes: we see a character writing a letter sent by messenger-raven, someone else receiving it in another part of Westeros, then the original sender reacting to a response letter in the same episode. Cogman emphasized that this isn't inherently a contradiction in the internal Timeline of the TV series, it's simply that the pace of the narrative is officially faster i.e. in Season 1, Ned Stark and his family travel from Winterfell to the Inn at the Crossroads within a single episode, because many weeks of travel happen off-screen. Weeks and months of narrative pass for Robb Stark while on campaign in Season 2, as well, when scenes aren't directly connected. The timeline only becomes an issue when there is an overt contradiction. For example, Grey Worm leaves Dragonstone and arrives at Casterly Rock, on the other side of the continent, by ship in the next episode, which confused some reviewers - but nothing actually limited how much time passed between these episodes (presumably, weeks pass off-screen); it would only be a contradiction if, for example, Grey Worm arrived at Casterly Rock and said "we left Dragonstone yesterday".
- The Bran Stark and Sandor Clegane storylines do not appear in this episode. The storyline of Daenerys and her various allies shifts into focus, which only briefly began at the end of the last episode.
- The Title sequence updated for this episode to replace The Twins from the preceding episode with Pyke - even though there are no scenes set in the Iron Islands themselves, the Greyjoy characters are very prominent in it (sometimes the animations are chosen on a representative basis).
- This is one of the few episodes to actually refer to the eastern continent across the Narrow Sea from Westeros by name as "Essos" - only four times in the past six seasons, making this the fifth time. It is called "Essos" by name in both Daenerys's scenes and by Cersei. Essos is a loose fantasy analogue of Eurasia, and indeed is so vast that characters usually refer to a more specific region, such as "the Free Cities" or "the Dothraki Sea". A character saying "I am going to Essos" is loosely similar to someone in real life saying "I am going to Eurasia" - which could refer to anything from Italy to China.
- This episode has two characters named "Nymeria" in it: Arya's direwolf Nymeria (who returns), and the Sand Snake, Nymeria Sand (who is killed). The dialogue simply avoids referring to Nymeria Sand by name. Both characters were named after Nymeria, queen of the Rhoynar, the founder of unified Dorne who lived a thousand years ago (Nymeria Sand is in fact her descendant as a member of House Martell) prior to this episode.
- Daenerys Targaryen becomes aware of Jon Snow for the first time, not knowing that he is her nephew by blood. Jon, and nearly everyone alive, is unaware he is the hidden son of Daenerys's older brother Rhaegar Targaryen and Eddard Stark's sister Lyanna Stark. Jon is currently known as Eddard Stark's illegitimate son while Bran Stark is the only living person who knows the truth of Jon's parentage at this time, with the possible exception of Howland Reed.
- Tyrion Lannister recalls accompanying Jon Snow to the Wall in Season 1's "The Kingsroad", and cites the deaths of Eddard Stark and Robb Stark at the hands of the Lannisters as reasons why Jon will likely ally with Daenerys against Cersei, despite Aerys Targaryen's crimes against House Stark and House Stark's role in the subsequent rebellion against him. On the other hand, Daenerys wasn't even born when her father killed Jon's grandfather, while Cersei directly betrayed Ned and benefitted from Robb's defeat.
- Daenerys and Tyrion remark on how she was born on Dragonstone during a large storm similar to the storm currently sweeping over the island at the time. As explained in the "General" notes above, the storm she was born during was so massive and dangerous that it destroyed what was left of the Targaryen fleet at anchor. A preview chapter from the sixth novel explains these weather patterns: because the planet Westeros is located on is bigger than real-life Earth, it has much larger stretches of open water across its oceans, and combined with the fact that the warm summer seasons can last for years at a time, massive super-hurricanes are generated in the warmer southern waters of the Summer Sea during their summer years. These large storms sweep north, and usually tend to slam into the Stormlands and Shipbreaker Bay (it's why these locations have such names in the first place). While the winds and rains can be dangerous, the water the storms dump when they make landfall has also turned the southern portions of the Stormlands around Cape Wrath into a lush temperate rainforest. The odd thing is that the storms pass over the Stepstones to reach the Stormlands, the island chain between Westeros and Essos at the southern end of the Narrow Sea, before curving west to hit the Stormlands. If they went a little farther to the west, however, the storms would make landfall in Dorne, and dump all of their rains there - but because they don't, Dorne remains a parched desert land. No one is sure why the storms go up the Narrow Sea instead of west to Dorne: Doran Martell and most maesters think it is due to weather patterns, while septons and the superstitious think the "weather patterns" are like that because Durran Godgrief of Storm's End offended a sea god in ancient times. At any rate, on rare occasions, one of these super-hurricanes will sweep even farther north, past Massey's Hook and into Blackwater Bay, where it will ravage islands like Dragonstone.
- Daenerys confronts Varys about her condition during her exile and in Season 1: that he wasn't a very good secret benefactor given how much peril she was always in, begging for support from one Free City then the next, nor did he seem aware that her brother Viserys Targaryen was weak and stupid - and given that Varys had no way of knowing Drogo would kill Viserys, presumably for most of the 17 years after the rebellion he should have been planning to put Viserys on the Iron Throne, not her. She is sarcastically quoting what Varys's ally Illyrio Mopatis said to Viserys in the Season 1 premiere ("Winter is Coming"), that the commoners "drink secret toasts to his health" - to demonstrate that unlike Viserys, she won't fall for such flattery (Jorah later explained that the commoners don't care about politics so long as there is peace, so the idea that there would be a general uprising against Robert Baratheon is pure fantasy). She also points out that she was practically sold off like a horse to secure the marriage-alliance with Drogo's Dothraki. So, ultimately, he didn't seem to be keeping good track of Viserys or Daenerys's welfare. Varys can only respond that he did what he could with limited resources while keeping it a secret. She also brings up that he aided assassination plots against her, though Tyrion argued in Season 5 that Varys must have been intentionally botching the assassinations - just stringing King Robert along so he wouldn't replace Varys with someone who would actually try to have her killed.
- Varys's allegiances are somewhat different in the novels due to an omitted storyline from the TV version, but this is a massive spoiler for the books, so it will not be discussed in this article.
- It's also brought up that Daenerys and Varys haven't really had a discussion before about their past history and potential future strategies. Apparently, Varys returned to Dorne by the end of last season, then the Martell fleet met the Targaryen fleet in the Narrow Sea (contrary to the claims of some critics, it was never visually established that he sailed all the way back to Meereen again for no reason, but that time passed of-screen). Even so, it's unclear why he didn't discuss it with her after he boarded her boat right before arriving at Dragonstone - but this may only have been a matter of a few days, and she may have just been waiting for her first official council to confront him with it.
- Olenna Tyrell meets Daenerys Targaryen in this episode. Interestingly, Olenna is one of the few characters left alive by this point who is old enough to remember when House Targaryen was originally in power and held the Iron Throne - even the time before the reign of the Mad King, when King Aegon V Targaryen was a good and stable monarch (Aegon V being Maester Aemon's younger brother). Other older characters who might remember those days – Aemon, Tywin Lannister or even Barristan Selmy – are dead by this point in the TV series. Olenna actually mentioned back in Season 4's "Oathkeeper" that in her youth she was originally betrothed to "some Targaryen or other" as it was "all the rage" due their then-stable rule. Of course, not personally wanting the match, she managed to get out of it and married Luthor Tyrell instead. In the books, Olenna was betrothed to one of King Aegon V's sons, but he actually wasn't attracted to her either because he was secretly a homosexual, and ultimately argued with his father as well to have the betrothal called off.
- Bryan Cogman (who also wrote "Oathkeeper") explained in subsequent interviews that he likes putting in historical details like this to try to weave disparate story elements together (the Targaryen storyline in Essos isn't in utter isolation from the Westeros storylines, they used to rule Westeros). However, he said that while he actually did write more historical references for this episode, they were ultimately cut for time, because it was a lot of exposition that wasn't directly relevant to the current plot. In the finished version, Olenna only vaguely refers to the fact that she lived through the reigns of Daenerys's father, and his father before him - and there were just as many wars then as there are now.
- The prophecy of The Prince That Was Promised is mentioned very prominently in Daenerys's conversation with Melisandre; it has been mentioned only sporadically in earlier TV seasons, but was much more prominently foreshadowed in the novels. The TV producers stated that they tried to avoid setting up prophecies when possible, because it ties them in to a future storyline that they don't have an absolute guarantee they'll be able to finish. The novels also explain that the High Valyrian word for "prince" used in the prophecy is gender-neutral - sort of like "Ruler That Was Promised" or "Leader That Was Promised" in English. The phrasing consistently used is "Prince That Was Promised", which Melisandre even used last season, though this episode renders it as "Prince Who Was Promised" - though as this is itself a translation from the original High Valyrian, it's probably up to the choice of the translator.
- At first glance, it might seem odd that Daenerys is unaware that the High Valyrian word for "prince" is gender-neutral, given that she was just speaking with Melisandre in High Valyrian about the prophecy, and moreover, Daenerys even stressed in Season 3's "And Now His Watch Is Ended" that Valyrian is her mother tongue. Missandei, a skilled translator, even says that Daenerys's High Valyrian is excellent in Season 3's "Second Sons". The prophecy is set up much more in the novels, however, explaining that this is a mistaken assumption many people made, particularly in the past three generations since the Targaryens took an interest in it (around the time of Daenerys's grandfather). Daenerys's older brother Rhaegar was motivated by the prophecy; Rhaegar also frequently wrote correspondence with Maester Aemon (his grandfather's uncle) at the Wall. Both of them knew High Valyrian very well. Yet when Maester Aemon hears that Daenerys is not only alive but has hatched three new dragons, the possibility occurs to him that Daenerys is the prophesied figure, at which he laments that in all these years it simply never occurred to him that the "ruler who was promised" could also be a woman. This scene only occurs in the TV series, as Daenerys hasn't heard of the prophecy yet in the books - but if in the books it didn't even occur to a very well educated scholar and Targaryen like Maester Aemon for so long, it isn't unreasonable that it wouldn't occur to TV-Daenerys either after a brief mention. Aemon even says the prophecy was made a thousand years ago, and in all that time translators never stressed that it could be a man or a woman, rendering it as just "prince".
- After the episode aired, staff linguist David J. Peterson indeed confirmed that this is how he would justify the scene, that Daenerys doesn't realize that "prince" is gender-neutral in High Valyrian - specifically citing that it simply didn't occur to Maester Aemon either in the books. Peterson said of the issue, "When I saw it in the script, I didn't even question it. Seems fine to me now." Peterson also used the example that even in English, it is common for occupation nouns to be non-gendered - "surgeon", "doctor", "actor" - but if you refer to a "surgeon" out of context, many native English speakers will still assume that the surgeon is a man.
- Reacting via Twitter, Sam Coleman (Young Hodor) compared it to how the word "doctor", such as in the TV series Doctor Who, can equally refer to a male or female Doctor.
- The actual High Valyrian word - which can be translated as "prince" or "princess" - wasn't actually given in the novels. In the High Valyrian language that Peterson constructed for the TV series, the word is "dārilaros".
- In the books, Aemon goes on to explain that dragons themselves were a hint that a "prince" can be male or female - people forgot how dragon reproduction worked after they died out, but dragons can actually switch from female to male and back to female again, as mutable as flames - apparently this influenced High Valyrian to not use specific genders for terms regarding powerful figures. The TV show hasn't introduced this point about dragon biology.
- Melisandre introduces herself to Daenerys by saying, "I am called Melisandre." She uses the word called as opposed to saying, "My name is Melisandre". This may be a hint to the novels, in which it is revealed in Melisandre's POV chapter in the fifth novel that this isn't her original name: long ago, when she was a child, her original name was "Melony". When she was sold at a slave auction, she was referred to as 'Lot Seven'.
- Melisandre was previously seen speaking High Valyrian with Thoros in Season 3. High Valyrian was the language of the fallen Valyrian Freehold, their fantasy analogue of the Roman Republic, but High Valyrian remained the language of well-educated people in Essos, much like Latin in real-life medieval Europe (and many people in Westeros learn it as well). The common everyday speech of the general populace diverged over time into Low Valyrian, much as Italian or Spanish diverged from Latin. Thus the "Valyrian" that Grey Worm and Missandei were speaking in Season 3 is actually a variant of Low Valyrian, and not exactly the same language that Daenerys is speaking in now. In the books, Melisandre is described as fluently speaking and saying prayers in three languages: Asshai'i (the language of Asshai, where she says she is from), High Valyrian, and the Common Tongue of Westeros.
- Daenerys welcomes Melisandre because the Red Priests helped to keep the peace in Meereen, back in Season 6. Tyrion actually met with Kinvara in Meereen, another high-ranking priestess from Volantis while Melisandre is from Asshai, put apparently they are both part of the same religious organization (the books haven't clearly explained the hierarchy of the Lord of Light religion]]).
- Melisandre still believes that Jon Snow to be The Prince That Was Promised. Actress Carice van Houten stated in an interview with the LA Times that, "She’s still on the path of Jon and just knows that they have to meet in order to... God knows, but she’s on Jon’s track." Note that Melisandre only says Daenerys "has a role to play" and does not say that Daenerys is The Prince That Was Promised. 
- In the books, Melisandre prays to the Lord of Light to give her a vision in her flames of Azor Ahai Reborn/The Prince That was Promised - but all she sees is "snow" - i.e. perhaps a metaphor for Jon Snow. When Melisandre first saw Jon in the Season 4 finale, she was looking at him from across the funeral pyres of those who died in the recent battle - she looked through the flames, and saw Snow (a pun reference to the moment from the novels).
- Another part of the prophecy given in the books is that "the dragon has three heads" - as hinted by the three-headed dragon used in House Targaryen's heraldry. That is, "the Prince" might not actually be one person but a group of three people acting towards a common goal. Many also think it has to be someone of the Targaryen bloodline - Rhaegar was convinced of this, but it might not strictly be a requirement for all three persons, if true.
- Melisandre's gives an added line of the prophecy in this episode which is not in the books, and might be a spoiler for future novels: "The Prince Who Was Promised will bring the dawn". The first war against the White Walkers 8,000 years ago to end the Long Night was called the War for the Dawn, war to bring back the dawn, etc.
- It is possible that this new line may in fact refer to the sword, "Dawn", forged from a falling star (and as strong as Valyrian steel. Part of the prophecy is that the Prince would be born under a falling star - then the TV series flashback last season made it a point to show that young Ned Stark rested the sword Dawn at the foot of his sister's bed right after she gave birth (so this part of the prophecy might be figurative). In the books, Ned returned Dawn back to Starfall, the home castle of Arthur Dayne's family.
- In the books, Daenerys hates the Starks, along with the Baratheons and Lannisters, for their role in the downfall of her family's dynasty - as she heard from her brother Viserys's skewed version of events. She refers to the Starks and Lannisters both as "the usurper's dogs". On two occasions, Ser Barristan Selmy tells her a very "sugarcoated" version about her father (mentioning very gently he was a bit unstable, relating mainly positive facts and omitting all the atrocities he committed) - thus Daenerys still has no idea that her father was an extremely deranged tyrant, who ruthlessly harmed her mother and many other innocent people. Selmy also tells that Ned tried to dissuade Robert from sending assassins after her (Barristan was present at the Small Council scene in which was discussed in the books, but he was absent in the TV version - though others could have just told him about the assassination plan, similar to how Renly told Loras about it); Daenerys, however, doesn't change her mind (at least not yet) about the Starks, reasoning that if a child is set upon by a pack of hounds, it does not matter which one tears out his throat. It remains to be seen how she would treat Ned Stark's children, who like her weren't yet born at the time. She forgave Tyrion and was willing to work with him, not holding him responsible for the death of her kin, so she may act the same towards Jon, but it is uncertain.
- Daenerys says she will not be "queen of the ashes". This is perhaps a reference to the novels: one of the visions Daenerys sees in the House of the Undying is of her father, telling someone (perhaps Rossart) "Let him [Robert] be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be the king of ashes" - referring to the Wildfire Plot. The same turn of phrase was also used in the TV series in Season 3's "And Now His Watch Is Ended": Varys tells Olenna that Littlefinger doesn't care who he has to hurt to seize power: he would burn Westeros to the ground so long as he got to call himself king of the ashes.
- Tyrion Lannister clearly resents Ellaria Sand for killing his niece Myrcella Baratheon, which occurred in the Season 5 finale "Mother's Mercy", and claims that "we don't poison little girls here", which seems to be a reference to Oberyn Martell's promise to Cersei that Myrcella would be safe in Dorne ("We don't hurt little girls in Dorne"). Unlike the psychotic Joffrey, Tyrion had a good and loving relationship with Cersei's younger two children. Though Tyrion is in a position to demand justice for Myrcella's murder, a likely reason he does not is out of fear that the Dornish will withdraw support if Daenerys kills Ellaria and the Sand Snakes.
- It is unknown if the Dornish will kill Myrcella in future novels, as their storyline has been drastically changed. In the released "Arianne" sample chapters of the sixth book, Nymeria and Tyene depart for King's Landing, accompanying Myrcella, with the intent of stirring up trouble between the Lannisters and Tyrells. It is doubful that they (let alone Ellaria, who begs them to forgo their vendetta) intend to harm Myrcella. Yet there are vengeful Dornish who seek to avenge Oberyn's death by killing Myrcella, as Doran warned Ser Arys Oakheart; one of those, Gerold "Darkstar" Dayne, indeed attempted to kill her.
- Tyrion says that the Lannisters have been the real power in Westeros for decades: this is technically true, as Tywin Lannister lent King Robert Baratheon so much money to fund his new regime that he became dependent on him (and after that propped up their own puppets as his successors). Before that, Tywin was Hand of the King to the Mad King for nearly twenty years as well.
- Tyrion's plan to attack Casterly Rock is similar to Robb's plan to do the same in Season 3 ("Kissed by Fire", "The Rains of Castamere") - Robb didn't actually plan to do this in the novels, it was an invention of the TV series; perhaps to increase the shock of the Red Wedding by giving Robb some hope of victory. In the books, Robb planned to retreat back to the North and clear out the ironborn (after Balon Greyjoy died, which happened earlier in the books), and rebuild his dwindling powerbase, though Catelyn warned that with the south securely in Lannister hands they could just grind them down through attrition. Nonetheless, capturing the enemy's home castle has been a common goal in many major wars in Westeros's history, as it is a humiliation which may make a rival's vassals abandon them:
- During Robert's Rebellion, the entire Tyrell army was pinned down besieging Storm's End, even though Robert Baratheon was out in the field with his army, and it didn't have direct strategic significance. Both Robert and the Targaryens thought that if Storm's End fell, many of his vassals would abandon him even if his field army was winning, but his younger brother Stannis successfully lasted out the entire siege until the end of the war.
- As seen in the second novel/Season 2, that fact that Theon Greyjoy was able to seize control of Winterfell, even just using a raiding force of only 20 men against a skeleton defense, was a grave humiliation for Robb, which started to make his subordinates lose faith in his ability to win the war.
- As the showrunners point out in the Inside the Episode video, the four faction leaders around Daenerys's war council table are all women: Daenerys herself, Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, Olenna Tyrell. Three of the four men in the room are eunuchs (Varys, Grey Worm, Theon) - while the fourth, Tyrion, is not a typical able-bodied military commander, but a disabled dwarf.
- The meticulously constructed prop for the table map of Westeros in Dragonstone's war room (the Chamber of the Painted Table), which was constructed for Season 2, notably doesn't contain the errors which appeared in Cersei's floor map introduced in the preceding episode: the major city Gulltown is clearly marked, "Rook's Rest" is not misspelled as "Rook's Nest", and "Dyre Den" is not spelled as "Dire Den".
- Yara Greyjoy's fleet is clearly referred to as "the Iron Fleet", even though her uncle Euron Greyjoy referred to his own fleets as "the Iron Fleet" in the preceding episode. In the books, the "Iron Fleet" is the national fleet of the Iron Islands, composed of their best ships and crews, but it is only a fraction of their total naval forces, from the combined fleets of each individual House. Yara took "the" Iron Fleet (as her uncle Victarion did in the novels, cut from the TV show), but the simple answer in the TV show seems to be that Euron just considers his fleet the real "Iron Fleet" now. This is directly comparable to how both Joffrey and Stannis at the Battle of the Blackwater considered their respective navies to be the real "Royal Fleet".
- Yara's fleet is charged with taking Ellaria Sand back to Sunspear to quickly ferry the Dornish armies north by sea. The TV series has never actually depicted Sunspear, the regional capital of Dorne. It only showed the Water Gardens, which are a private retreat of the Martells just down the road from Sunspear itself. The "shadow-city" which extends around Sunspear castle itself is the largest settlement in Dorne, but given its arid climate it isn't really a full sized city by the standards of the rest of Westeros, but a moderately sized market town.
- In the behind-the-scenes videos for this episode, Emilia Clarke explains that Daenerys's reluctance to make a direct assault on King's Landing with dragons and a foreign army of Dothraki and Unsullied is because she has grown from her experiences in the Liberation of Slaver's Bay. In Meereen, she charged in with dragons and an outside army, and it led to a protracted insurgency against her. She realizes that she needs to win the peace after the major fighting, she has grown more skilled at the politics of war, and realizes she needs to win over the rest of Westeros's lords while focusing on the Lannister army itself.
- Tyrion summarizes that the Tyrell and Dornish armies will make a passive siege of King's Landing while the Unsullied attack Casterly Rock, but he doesn't explain what their large Dothraki mounted horde will be doing. The line was probably just trimmed for time (according to Cogman, several lines were trimmed throughout), but presumably they will be used against the Lannister field armies.
- In Season 1, King Robert had a discussion with Cersei about the effectiveness of the Targaryens using a Dothraki horde in Westeros. Cersei repeated her father Tywin's assessment that the Dothraki are excellent as a cavalry force against field armies, but they are not equipped for or skilled at castle sieges. Robert countered that the Dothraki don't need to take their castles: if they defeat all their field armies, while the Iron Throne's lords hide inside their castle walls and do nothing to protect the countryside, eventually the commoners will grow to resent them, and lords will start openly abandoning them to side with the Targaryens.
- His assessment was made before Daenerys even acquired an Unsullied army, who as seen at Yunkai and Meereen, are effective at siege warfare, as an elite infantry force. Thus their strategy for dividing up military objectives logically has the Unsullied and Dothraki complement each other: Unsullied for castle sieges, Dothraki for pitched field battles (not that the Unsullied at unskilled at field battles either, but the Dothraki are far more numerous for those).
- As for the movements of Daenerys's armies, it is unclear why her fleet would need to pick up the Dornish army from Sunspear and ferry them north to Dragonstone and King's Landing, when her fleet had to pass Dorne in order to reach Dragonstone, farther north in the Narrow Sea. It's possible that she simply only took a small fraction of her entire fleet to Dragonstone - there's no way her entire force of over 110,000 (not even including the Tyrells and Martells) could have quartered on Dragonstone island itself. In which case they may have just been sending Yara to rejoin their other fleets - Dorne is a likely stopping point for any army passing over from the east.
- According to linguist David J. Peterson, the point when Grey Worm informs Daenerys that a Red Priestess from Asshai (Melisandre) has arrived and seeks an audience was originally supposed to be in Valyrian: he doesn't know why it was changed to English in the final version.
In King's Landing
- The intention of Qyburn to use a custom-made ballista against Daenerys's dragons appears to be a reference to how the dragon Meraxes died in the First Dornish War. While the Targaryens conquered the rest of the Seven Kingdoms in the War of Conquest, the harsh desert of Dorne proved quite an obstacle. A few years later they returned and captured all of its castles and towns, but the Dornish launched a brutal guerrilla war against their occupation forces. The Targaryens responded by burning any castle which rose against them with dragonfire, but the Dornish armies would flee when the dragons came and return as soon as they left. When Queen Rhaenys Targaryen attacked Hellholt while flying Meraxes, however, the garrison put up a stiff defense, and a very lucky shot with a ballista bolt managed to hit the dragon in the eye mid-flight, piercing into her brain and killing the dragon instantly. Rhaenys apparently died in the fall but her body was never recovered. Meraxes's death was a stunning blow to the Targaryens.
- The TV episode didn't expend exposition on the history of how Meraxes died, given limited time, though this is fully explained in the Season 5 Blu-ray animated featurette "Dorne (Histories & Lore)". Instead, Qyburn cites that Drogon was wounded in the ambush at Daznak's Pit in Meereen as proof that Daenerys's dragons aren't invincible. The writers actually admit in the Blu-ray commentary for that episode that Drogon was able to be wounded with spears in that attack because he was just a juvenile at the time - which is true. Dragons' scales get thicker and harder as they age, until fully adult dragons' scales are practically impervious to swords, spears, or projectiles. Contrary to myth, a dragon's underbelly isn't any more soft or exposed than the rest of its hide: the eyes are the only weak spot on an adult dragon, the only part of them that isn't covered by their armored scales. There are historical examples of juvenile dragons being injured with human weapons, but the only thing that can pierce an adult dragon's hide is really another dragon. After Meraxes died, subsequent wars involving dragons did shift tactics to try to aim for their eyes with heavy projectiles - but the dragon-riders were very wary of this as well, so they were more careful to make quick bombing-runs on ground targets and evade projectile fire. A major example is the Siege of Rook's Rest during the Dance of the Dragons, when Aegon 's forces did try to shoot the adult dragon Meleys in the eyes, but her rider successfully evaded their fire. Ultimately, no other dragon was ever killed again by shooting it in the eyes. Vermax was also killed by human action in the Dance, though in that case it was a younger dragon and his foes hurled grappling hooks in his path, so he ended up impaling himself with more force than a human weapon ever could.
- It's possible that Qyburn's custom ballista is actually going to be present in the next novel, given how it evokes the details given only in the novels about how Meraxes died: when they practice shooting it, they even aim directly for the eyes of a dragon skull.
- It's unclear how effective Qyburn's ballista weapon will actually be, given that they tested it by shooting at a stationary skull, while a live dragon is a moving target. It did manage to pierce dragonbone, which is stronger than steel, but a living dragon would be covered in a thick layer of armor scales.
- The Making Game of Thrones blog made an update post for this episode, explaining that all of the dragon skulls in the Cersei scene are real props, not CGI. First, the art department made 3D sculptures, then the props department made full-sized skulls based on them out of polystyrene. Head sculptor Darren Fitzsimons stated that the prop of Balerion's skull is "about 30 feet long, 11 feet high, and 16 feet wide," and it took his team six weeks just to sculpt it (before painting and plastering). They kept a real sheep skull in their office as a comparison when making the surface texture. In the books, it is said that Balerion was so large that he could comfortably swallow a war-horse whole, along with its rider.
- Notice that the dragon skulls are all different sizes, because they died at different ages - one of them is even no larger than a dog's head. Several characters have remarked in prior seasons (as in the books) that the dragon skulls got increasingly smaller the more recent they were - implying that younger generations of dragons got stunted through inbreeding. This wasn't true of most dragons, who simply died young in the Dance of the Dragons - but the Last dragon was indeed a stunted, sickly, inbred creature who died young, not much bigger than a dog. In Season 1, Viserys mentioned to Doreah that the more recent dragon skulls were smaller until the last was no bigger than a dog's, and in Season 4, Tywin repeated this information, dismissing that the last dragon's head was the size of "an apple" (exaggerating), though Joffrey pointed out that the oldest skull was the size of a carriage.
- Note how large Balerion's skull is, compared to Drogon's head: Balerion's skull is twice as tall as Cersei, while Drogon's head is roughly the same height as Daenerys. Dragons keep growing as long as they live, and Balerion was the oldest and largest - hatched before the Doom of Valyria, he lived to be two centuries old before he died (of old age, one of the only Targaryen dragons to do so). Decades-old dragons like Balerion were practically invincible, with scales harder than steel - Qyburn's scorpion-bolt would have no hope of penetrating them, only piercing his eyes.
- Even compared to earlier Targaryen dragons, Daenerys's dragons are growing unusually fast (possibly due to the resurgence of magic in the world they brought), because it sometimes took a decade or two for them to reach a size at which they could be ridden. This is a discrepancy even in the books, however, and the vague explanation used to handwave it is that, much like individual dogs, individual dragons just grow at their own rates unique to each one.
- Arya previously stumbled upon the preserved dragon skulls in the catacombs below the Red Keep in Season 1's "The Wolf and the Lion".
- As Viserys explained in Season 1, the dragon-skulls used to be put on display along the sides of the throne room, but they were removed when Robert seized the crown. Viserys didn't know what happened to them and thought Robert might have just had them smashed to pieces, but Cersei explains in this episode that Robert kept them stored in the levels of the dungeon as a sort of trophy.
- When Cersei first enters the catacombs with the dragon skulls in them, she walks past tattered old Targaryen dragon banners on the floor. This is a detail from the books, in which other characters who pass through this way (such as Tyrion and Jaime) spot them, put away there much like the dragon skulls.
- Cersei Lannister's twisted narratives of Daenerys Targaryen to demonize her and convince several lords to switch back to the Lannister side is filled with half-truths, which while not complete fabrications, are exaggerated or taken out of context (which makes them more effective than total lies). The accusations against Daenerys are similar to the Liberation of Slaver's Bay ("Breaker of Chains"). The slave masters used lies and scare tactics to terrify the slaves into submission.
- Daenerys’ Targaryen's Unsullied are described as a slave army, playing to the Westerosi opposition to Slavery, but leaving out that they are now free men loyal to her out of gratitude ("And Now His Watch Is Ended").
- That Daenerys is leading a Khalasar of Dothraki "savages" - which is technically the truest statement, as the Dothraki do have a feared reputation ("Blood of My Blood"). Cersei ignores the fact that all of the Noble houses and Great Houses have committed similar atrocities during the War of the Five Kings (the Lannisters most especially).
- Daenerys' crucifixion of the 163 Great Masters, not revealing it was retaliation for their crucifixion of 163 children. The fact that the Great Masters were practitioners of slavery, an institution abhorred in Westeros, was also neglected ("Two Swords", "Oathkeeper").
- Daenerys' execution of the Great Master she had burned alive and fed to Rhaegal and Viserion, when she got bored with crucifying them - she only did that one or two times, not out of boredom or sadism but as a calculated means of execution to try to scare the rest into not supporting the ongoing Uprising in Meereen against her ("Kill the Boy"). Cersei has done far worse for more flippant reasons.
- She stresses that Daenerys is Aerys II Targaryen's (the Mad King) daughter and focusing on his tyrannical reign, even though Daenerys was born after her father died. She also doesn't bring up Daenerys's actions to end slavery in Meereen.
- Cersei's accusations about the Dothraki to the lords gathered before the Iron Throne are technically accurate - that they will burn their villages, rape their women, butcher their children - but are also hypocritical. George R.R. Martin intended this in the books, highlighting how much of stereotypical Fantasy literature treats their analogue of medieval European knights as the "good" faction, with fantasy analogues of foreign non-white cultures (if they ever show up at all), usually being depicted as villainous foreign hordes. Martin wanted to stress that in real medieval Europe, knights committed all kinds of war atrocities, including the exact same things they had accused other cultures of, i.e. English knights claiming that if the Mongols or Muslim powers invaded, they would rape, pillage, and burn their lands. Even as the English were doing the exact same things in France and Scotland, announcing Crusades to "save oppressed Christians" in the Near East only to massacre entire Muslim cities when they got there, etc. The first novel/TV season includes characters like Robert Baratheon warning of the "barbarism" of the Dothraki, but then in the second novel/season the Lannisters themselves under men like Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch conduct a campaign of mass torture and rape throughout the Riverlands. At the very start of the story, the Dothraki are also shown enjoying fights to the death at weddings - "a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair" - only for Tywin Lannister to then engineer the massacre of the Starks at a wedding, breaking guest right. Tywin, Cersei, and other lords in Westeros who have committed similar violent acts deriding the Dothraki as "savages" is supposed to be hypocritical, in-universe.
- Randyll Tarly, Samwell's father, returns in the episode by travelling to King's Landing. During conversation, Jaime Lannister cites him as the only one who ever defeated Robert Baratheon, during the (Battle of Ashford); this was previously mentioned in Season 5's "Kill the Boy" by Stannis Baratheon to Samwell Tarly, after he realizes he is Randyll's son.
- Randyll Tarly is often portrayed in the novels in a quite negative light, especially his behavior toward Sam and Brienne, but even if he's described as a ruthless and stern man, he is not outright sadistic, often dispensing strict justice that is nonetheless within the bounds of the law, similar to Stannis Baratheon. In this episode he proves to be an honorable person as well: reluctant to break his oath to the Tyrells, and open in expressing his negative opinion about both the Lannisters and the Freys - bluntly referring to the Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor (Cersei's wrath and how she deals with her enemies), the killing of Aerys II Targaryen (Oathbreaking), and the Red Wedding (Tywin Lannister and the Freys' violation of Guest right).
- It is unclear if Randyll will do the same in the next novel, but due to various story condensations, this may be representative of what several other characters will do. As the episode acknowledges, Randyll fought for the Targaryens in Robert's Rebellion, as did the rest of the Reach. On the other hand, rather than depicting him as blindly breaking ranks with the Tyrells and new Targaryen claimant to serve the crazed Cersei, it depicts him as very conflicted, only grudgingly switching to Cersei's side out of fear of the Dothraki (who do have an earned reputation as pillaging conquerors) - even the Mad King never brought a Dothraki horde to Westeros. He also says he is wary of what Cersei might do to his people if he crosses her, given that she just demonstrated that she is willing to massacre hundreds of innocent civilians to achieve her goals. Thus, while for various reasons Book-Randyll might not do this, with so many of other storylines omitted, the TV show doesn't really break its own internal logic to have TV-Randyll do this (only very grudgingly siding with Cersei).
- Dickon Tarly (Samwell's brother) was recast starting in this episode: Freddie Stroma played him in his one, debut episode in Season 6, but he couldn't return for Season 7 due to a scheduling conflict. The role is now taken up by actor Tom Hopper. As a wink to the audience to explain the change, when Jaime meets the Tarlys he doesn't recognize Lord Randyll's son and mistakenly asks if his name is "Rickard", causing him to announce to both Jaime and the audience that he is in fact Dickon Tarly. "Rickard" is the name of Ned Stark's father but it is also a fairly common name in Westeros.
- Randyll Tarly accurately points out in the throne room scene that Daenerys Targaryen has three adult dragons, and her ancestor Aegon I Targaryen managed to conquer the Seven Kingdoms with only three dragons as well - admittedly, bigger dragons, but she has a much larger army, and even the support of the Tyrells and Martells.
In the North
- Episode writer Bryan Cogman gave an interview after "Stormborn" premiered in which he explained Sansa Stark's council scenes. Cogman disagreed that Sansa can be described as attempting to "undermine" Jon and this was not the writers' intention. He felt reviewers who say this dislike the character of Sansa and fail to assess that Sansa's counterpoints are just as valid as Jon's. Cogman also states that Sansa raised her objections during the council meeting in "Stormborn" because Jon did not consult her in private before publicly announcing his decision. The following is a transcript of the relevant exchange from this interview:
- Questioner: "A couple of times, we turn to Sansa at Winterfell, and she undermines Jon a couple of times in the episode, and - "
- Cogman: " - She's 'undermining' him? I mean, so? He's only been king like a week. And everyone's like, 'oh, she's undermining him in public'? Well, let's think about it for a second. He has just walked in there and said Aegon[sic] Targaryen's daughter has arrived with what are essentially nukes, invited him to come down, and he's going to go. It's a crazy, risky plan! And his reasoning is sound, but her reasoning for being like 'what the hell is wrong with you?' is sound. And why shouldn't she raise it there, you know, he didn't bother to consult her in private before the meeting. So I feel like I get defensive of her. And also, this is something that's important to remember, she's just a kid. He's a kid. They're kids thrust into these leadership positions. And it's messy, and their relationship as brother and sister is messy and complicated. So I guess she could have used some more tact, but a) it's not as fun to write or perform, and b) she loves him, she tries to stop him because she thinks he's risking his life. The last Targaryen that summoned a Stark, as she points out quite correctly, roasted said Stark alive in his own armor."
- Sansa asks Jon to remember what happened to "our grandfather", Rickard Stark, who was summoned to King's Landing and executed by the Mad King, who is Daenerys's father. Ned's father Rickard was seen on-screen during Bran's visions in Season 6. Despite Jon unknowingly being Ned's nephew as opposed to his son, Sansa's statement is still correct: Jon is the son of Ned's sister Lyanna, so either way, Rickard was still his grandfather by blood, albeit through his mother rather than through his father (on that side, Jon's paternal grandfather is Aerys II Targaryen, meaning that his paternal grandfather was responsible for the death of his maternal grandfather).
- This council scene, as well as the gathering in the episode before this one, is the first time that Sansa Stark is shown as being an active "political player" (in the "game of thrones") and making political arguments on her own that affect large-scale strategies. In the preceding episode, she argued for giving the lands of the Karstarks and Umbers to new houses while Jon argued for letting the children of the Karstark and Umbers retain their family lands as they had no part in their fathers' crimes. In this episode, Sansa makes an argument against Jon leaving for Dragonstone because Daenerys's father killed their grandfather, while other Starks who have gone south face perilous situations. Jon accepts the mission as a risk and does not want to leave the North, but he stands by his decision to go to Dragonstone as it is their best chance to get the weapons and allies needed to defend the North against the Long Night and he is the only one present who has experienced the threat they are all facing. Jon appoints Sansa as his regent, giving charge of the North to Sansa while he is gone, and Sansa accepts the responsibility. This marks the first time Sansa is officially in charge of anything politically.
- It is unclear why, if Sansa has grown to distrust Littlefinger, she doesn't simply tell the Vale lords that he actually murdered her aunt Lysa Arryn. It's possible she fears that Littlefinger still has more control over her cousin Sweetrobin Arryn, and there are no other witnesses, so it might risk her alliance with the Vale lords - for now. Sansa could be using Petyr Baelish's tactics of building a power base and waiting for the right time to challenge Baelish. Sansa knows that she needs the support of the Northern and the Vale lords before making accusations.
- Lord Yohn Royce says that he remembers the Mad King. Not only did the Vale fight against the Targaryens in Robert's Rebellion but in the books, Lord Royce was actually present at the Tourney of Harrenhal, the first time that King Aerys showed himself in public in many years. At this event, everyone in attendance was stunned to see how visibly insane the king had become, randomly switching from rage to laughter to crying without provocation, reacting to hallucinations that weren't there, and his physical appearance had deteriorated into ropes of matted hair and inches-long fingernails. Thus Lord Royce can say with validity that he remembers the Mad King, from personal observation, not just that he heard second-hand news about his atrocities or fought Targaryen forces in the war.
- Lord Robett Glover again voices his accurate criticisms of Robb Stark that he originally made when he first appeared in Season 6's "The Broken Man": Robb went south with his army, but he made decisions that ultimately cost him the war and resulted in the death of himself, as well as Stark bannermen, at the Red Wedding. In the books, other characters criticize that while Robb was brave and a great military leader, he was also a young and inexperienced boy-king who made political mistakes that led the defeat of the North under Stark leadership.
- Alys Karstark and Ned Umber are visible in the background of the Winterfell council scenes, but have no speaking lines.
- Jon Snow receives letters via messenger-raven from both Dragonstone and Oldtown in this episode, but no message from Castle Black at The Wall informing Winterfell that Bran Stark, last legitimate son of Ned Stark and heir to Winterfell, is still alive, even though that was shown in the preceding episode. However, this is not inherently an error. The writers already stated in prior seasons that regarding the internal Timeline, the geographically separated storylines in each episode aren't strictly synchronized. The audience saw Bran Stark reach the Wall at the beginning of the previous episode, but within the fictional universe, that apparently happened after Jon Snow left Winterfell. Nothing in Bran's brief introduction scene in the prior episode referred to events in other storylines, so this doesn't contradict anything.
- Tyrion uses the phrase, "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes," in his letter to Jon. Jon recalls that Tyrion told him that when they first met in the Season 1 premiere ("Winter Is Coming").
- In the Season 7 premiere and the Season 6 finale, it was unclear if Samwell was aware that Jon wasn't Lord Commander of the Night's Watch anymore, or heard rumors that he had died and been resurrected (more difficult to believe if he wasn't here). Apparently, he was at least informed off-screen that Jon is King in the North now (it's common knowledge across Westeros at this point, even Hot Pie knew at the inn when Arya came), so he sent his letters directly to Winterfell - there's no indication that they were sent to Castle Black first.
- The Order of Maesters doesn't have its own official Heraldry symbol. The books only mention that the "symbol" of a master is the chain of office he wears around his neck (they don't carry banners). However, the prop letter that Jon receives from Samwell in this episode is sent from the Citadel and needed to be stamped with some kind of wax seal - so its seal uses the symbol of a maester's chain, artistically depicted as a circular chainring with twelve links in it.
- Jon Snow receives a letter from Samwell Tarly in Oldtown about how there is literally a mountain of dragonglass underneath volcanic Dragonstone island - raising the question of why Davos Seaworth never told Jon about this in the first place. In the preceding episode, Sam even acknowledged that Stannis Baratheon told him there was dragonglass there (back in Season 5). It actually isn't impossible to reconcile all of this: as presented, it seems that Stannis and Davos were aware that loose dragonglass can be found scattered throughout the island, but this specific dragonglass mine deep under the volcano was abandoned and forgotten generations ago. The clearly visible book page Sam was reading, with the map of Dragonstone on it, makes this more explicit: it says that even the Valyrian Freehold, with its continent-spanning empire, judged this to be the largest concentration of dragonglass in the known world - that's why they created a colony there to begin with. Thus, it seems that this ancient Valyrian dragonglass mine was long abandoned, so even Stannis didn't know just how much dragonglass was truly there.
- In the fifth novel, Tyrion muses at one point on why the Valyrians only colonized Dragonstone, and didn't try to conquer the rest of Westeros. At the time it was divided into seven divided and constantly feuding kingdoms, which could not have withstood their many dragons and vast armies (Aegon I Targaryen later managed to conquer all of it with only a fraction of their strength). The commonly held view of historians is that they founded it as a trading outpost - but there were plenty of other islands they could have occupied. All of the wealth in Westeros was farther west, in the gold mines of the Westerlands or the rich fields of the Reach - they knew it was there, but chose just to focus on Dragonstone. This may have been setting up that the Valyrians – the only people besides the Children of the Forest to extensively use dragonglass – actually settled Dragonstone specifically to control its vast dragonglass deposits.
- Jon Snow says during the council scene that "we know Dragonglass can destroy both White Walkers and their army" - referring to their hordes of undead Wights. Staff writer Dave Hill gave an interview a few days before this episode aired in which he stated that was indeed an official change in the TV continuity: in the books, dragonglass only kills White Walkers. Wights can only effectively be destroyed by fire; dismembering them is ineffective, as Jon found out while fighting Othor (in the book), for the severed body parts continue fighting independently. Hill didn't give a reason why this change was made - possibly because it would be too difficult to work with large numbers of stuntmen actually being set on fire (while wearing protective layers); changing it so that dragonglass works on wights as well allows for more manageable fight choreography. Hill said that this change was introduced during the Battle at the Cave of the Three-eyed Raven in Season 6's "The Door" (apparently, it wasn't clearly visible due to how chaotic the fight sequence was).
- In the books, Sam discovers by trial-and-error that dragonglass is ineffective against wights and fire is effective. On the way to Castle Black, a wight attacks him and Gilly (in the show it was replaced with an Other). Sam stabs the wight with a dragonglass dagger, but it shatters to pieces. Sam stabs the wight with his steel dagger, but it just bounces off the wight's iron mail (it would hardly matter even if the wight was not armored - at best Sam could cut a limb of it, and it wouldn't stop the wight). Desperately, Sam grabs a burning piece of wood and shoves it into the wight's mouth, immediately causing the whole creature to burst into flame and be destroyed. Later, Sam tells Melisandre about the anomaly, that what kills Others (White Walkers) is ineffective against wights. She explained, "Necromancy animates these wights, yet they are still only dead flesh. Steel and fire will serve for them. The ones you call the Others are something more".
- Jon's direwolf Ghost does not appear in this episode. Episode writer Bryan Cogman explained via Twitter that a scene between Ghost and Jon was not only scripted but filmed, yet it was cut from the final version of the episode.
- The Winterfell scenes open with children being trained to fire bows and arrows in the courtyard, both boys and girls. This follows after the preceding episode when Jon said that they need everyone between the ages of 10 and 60 physically capable to train in combat to defend against the threat of the White Walkers.
- This shot somewhat parallels the first scene at Winterfell in the first episode of the TV series when the Starks were introduced: the male and female heads of House Stark (Ned and Catelyn then, Jon and Sansa now) overlooking boys and girls using bows and arrows in the courtyard (Bran was training in the premiere under Robb and Jon's tutelage, after which Arya shoots an arrow from behind Bran), when they are interrupted by a messenger who says that a raven has arrived with a message from the south.
- In the exterior sets of Winterfell, the various stone direwolf engravings and statuettes have been restored. When the Boltons took over, the production team made it a point to show that all of them had been smashed or defaced, off-screen. Since the Starks took back control, they apparently set about restoring those as well.
- In the crypts, a statue of Eddard Stark has been erected in his memory, as is traditional for every Stark buried there. Petyr Baelish mentions that he delivered Eddard's remains himself as a gesture of goodwill from Tyrion Lannister, which occurred in Season 2's "Garden of Bones". The dialogue might not be explicit: he delivered Ned's remains to Catelyn, while she was at Renly Baratheon's camp, and she sent some of her men back north with them while she stayed at Renly's camp.
- In the current books, it is still unconfirmed if Ned's remains ever actually reached Winterfell, as it wasn't mentioned again (and they would have to be transported through the main front in the war in the Riverlands). Season 6's "Battle of the Bastards" already established this, by having Jon state that Ned's remains are buried in the Winterfell crypts now.
- Jon's harshness towards Littlefinger is left unexplained; he hasn't had scenes with him before, and it's currently unknown whether or not he knows the role Littlefinger played in Eddard Stark's arrest (which subsequently resulted in his death, though Littlefinger had no direct part in Eddard's death). It's possible that Sansa told Jon more of Littlefinger's treachery off-screen, but even Sansa isn't aware of the full extent of Littlefinger's crimes - she knows that he continued to serve the Lannisters, but only to later betray them by killing Joffrey. Littlefinger makes it clear that he loves Sansa, but adds "as I loved her mother", likely giving Jon the (quite truthful) impression that he harbors (unrequited) lustful feelings towards Sansa, and prompting Jon to threaten Littlefinger with death if he touches Sansa. Additionally, Jon is aware Littlefinger is responsible for Sansa's marriage to Ramsay Bolton, the man who raped and abused Sansa - one of Jon's younger sisters. Littlefinger's part in Sansa's suffering at the hands of the Boltons and his implied intentions towards the only family Jon knows he has left are certainly enough to send Jon into a rage. As seen in Season 2's "Garden of Bones", Littlefinger can get a little too enthusiastic about his desire for Catelyn/Sansa when talking about it, letting his act slip enough that his stalker-crush becomes apparent to other people.
- Jon grabs Littlefinger by the throat, and slams him against a wall, just like Ned did in Season 1's "Lord Snow" (both for making somewhat creepy verbal advances about a female relative).
- Jon's decision to go to Dragonstone himself can be debated both ways:
- In many cases (but not all), a monarch would normally send an envoy, as Sansa suggested; if the monarch goes himself, it may give the impression that he is lesser than the monarch who invited him. Robb acted that way by sending his mother Catelyn to Renly Baratheon's camp rather than going himself. Additionally, there is the possibility that Daenerys hates Jon's house for supporting Robert Baratheon against her father. In the books, Daenerys feels that way (due to her brother Viserys's skewed narratives), and has not changed her mind yet.
- In contrast to the show ("The House of Black and White"), Ser Barristan Selmy tells Daenerys a very "sugarcoated" version about her father Aerys, implying very gently that he was insane. Barristan omits all the atrocities Aerys committed; the worst thing Daenerys hears about her father is that he lusted after Joanna Lannister and acted indecently at her bedding. Neither Selmy nor anyone else ever told Daenerys the whole ugly truth about her father.
- On the other hand, Jon's decision to go to Dragonstone himself finds support in that Jon is one of the few people alive who has actually seen the Night King and his army, survived the encounter, and has fought a White Walker (as shown in Season 5's "Hardhome"). He is also the only one at Winterfell who has experience with this threat. As such, he has the most information and will need this information when he explains the situation to Daenerys in an effort to form an alliance with her against the Night King as opposed to an envoy who has not seen or experienced the Night King or his army. A few other people have seen the Night King and survived the attack at Hardhome: Tormund, Tormund's wildlings, Dolorous Edd, and a few Night's Watch members, but they are not at Winterfell and are on other missions. Samwell and Gilly have seen White Walkers and Sam fought one, but they are south in Oldtown. Even if Jon could send them, he would risk insulting Daenerys by sending such an envoy when she asked to meet with Jon in person. Jon is afraid enough of the Night King that he's willing to risk anything to convince Daenerys to ally with him.
- In many cases (but not all), a monarch would normally send an envoy, as Sansa suggested; if the monarch goes himself, it may give the impression that he is lesser than the monarch who invited him. Robb acted that way by sending his mother Catelyn to Renly Baratheon's camp rather than going himself. Additionally, there is the possibility that Daenerys hates Jon's house for supporting Robert Baratheon against her father. In the books, Daenerys feels that way (due to her brother Viserys's skewed narratives), and has not changed her mind yet.
In the Riverlands
- Hot Pie returns in this episode, after being absent since Season 4's "Mockingbird", in which he met Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne and told them what he knew about Arya Stark. In this episode, Hot Pie asks Arya if Brienne found her; she confirms it, but does not divulge why she did not go with her, as seen in Season 4's "The Children".
- Hot Pie was part of the batch of Night's Watch recruits gathered by Yoren, who passed Arya off as a boy to smuggled her out of King's Landing with these recruits in the Season 1 finale. After escaping Harrenhal with Arya and Gendry in Season 2 and running into the Brotherhood Without Banners, Hot Pie parted ways with Arya in Season 3, when he found the relative safety of the Inn at the Crossroads. At the inn, the owner gave Hot Pie a job as a cook due to his skill at it (as he was a baker's apprentice). Not being martially skilled, he felt Arya's dangerous journey wasn't really for him. Though he stayed behind, they wished each other well.
- Hot Pie refers to the fact that Arya disguised herself as a boy while she was with the Night's Watch recruits (on Yoren's instruction), as the Watch doesn't take female members. Arya was around 11 going on 12 years old then so she was able to pass for a boy - Hot Pie is a bit hard on himself by saying Arya's too pretty to be mistaken for a boy now, as roughly five or six years of internal story time have passed since then (Arya is around 17 years old at this point).
- This is the first time in the show that someone tells Arya she is pretty. In the books, Arya was not considered to be traditionally beautiful, in contrast to her sister who is widely acclaimed for her classic beauty. Eddard and Jon are the only ones to tell Arya she is pretty. Because Arya is a tomboy, interested in more traditionally masculine pursuits, and didn't mind getting dirt on herself, she earned nicknames such as "Arya Underfoot" and "Arya Horseface". However, as the novels go on, characters begin to notice Arya's growing beauty as she matures. This is similar to Lyanna. Eddard has remarked that Arya looks like Lyanna at her age, and Lyanna grew up to be very beautiful.
- Similarly, Hot Pie still refers to Arya as "Arry", the boy's name she adopted as part of her disguise. It is the name that Hot Pie knew her by for a long time, though by the time they parted in Season 3, he knew she was really Arya Stark. Of course, Hot Pie also has an ongoing habit of mixing up names, so continuing to call her "Arry" out of habit fits his character.
- Arya says bids farewell to Hot Pie by saying, "Take care of yourself, Hot Pie. Try not to get killed" - even though he is in the relatively safe position of working as a baker at an inn (albeit the ongoing war is ravaging the countryside). Hot Pie confidently responds that he's like her, he's a survivor. Apparently, this exchange is an in-joke at how Hot Pie has managed to survive all the way from Season 1 to Season 7 - despite not even being a Starring Cast member or important lord, but just a random commoner. Of 19 human characters introduced in Season 1 who are still alive, only three were never promoted to "Starring Cast" on the show: Sweetrobin Aryn, Ilyn Payne, and Hot Pie. Not being as socially important as the other two (who are nobles), there was never any guarantee that Hot Pie would survive from one episode to the next (even less than the Starring cast on Game of Thrones). Despite this, Hot Pie has somehow managed to avoid being killed for the entire run of the TV series up to now, often due to blind luck, i.e. in Season 2 when he realized that Gregor Clegane was picking prisoners to execute purely at random, but didn't get picked.
- Arya, of course, refers to the "Frey pie" she made for Walder Frey in the Season 6 finale, made of his own sons.
- This episode seems to indicate that it is now widespread and accepted knowledge throughout Westeros that Cersei was responsible for blowing up the Great Sept, an act of sacrilege killing hundreds of people. Even Hot Pie, a common baker at a major inn, is aware of it.
- Hot Pie comments that he cannot believe someone would do something so cruel. Of course, in contrast to the Starks, Hot Pie does not know Cersei well, thus cannot preceive how wicked she is and what she is capable of.
- Hot Pie indicates that the "Battle of the Bastards" is known by that name in-universe, referring to it as such.
- Arya immediately starts sloppily digging into the pie she was given, eating with no table manners - possibly a hint at the influence of traveling with the gruff Sandor Clegane for so long.
- In behind the scenes videos from prior seasons, the showrunners said that Arya was losing herself in violence and revenge, but several major critics assessed that Arya's mental state wasn't visibly affected despite the number of people she killed. In this episode, however, much of this consequence is shown: Arya's reunion scene with Hot Pie depicts her as numb and emotionally dissociated, still somewhat detached after just killing several dozen Freys (even though she felt they deserved it). Hot Pie still behaves the way he did in the middle of Season 3, but Arya has been through a lot more since then (i.e. coming to the outskirts of the Red Wedding, hearing that her mother and brother were dead and the North lost). Apparently her mind is focused at this point purely on killing Cersei, with no thought to the future. Only Hot Pie's news that the North has risen again under her own brother Jon Snow starts to snap her back to being more like old "Arya".
- Arya was apparently so focused on killing the Freys and Cersei that she never stopped to ask about news of events in the rest of Westeros, that Jon retook the North. Given the large distance between The Twins and the Inn at the Crossroads, however, and their storylines aren't in synch, it's possible that she killed the Freys then left around the same time the Battle of the Bastards took place, and she was alone on the road after that. The Lannister soldiers she ran into last episode weren't in a position to tell her about it either, because they were out in the field (they pointed out that they were common soldiers and didn't have messenger-ravens, and weren't in communication with their home castles).
- The merchants in the background of the inn remark that if Daenerys besieges King's Landing, food prices will triple, provided that they get to the city before the siege starts and everyone starves. The same thing happened at the beginning of the War of the Five Kings, with food shortages leading to the food riots in Season 2. When the Tyrells were supporting Renly, the Starks and Lannisters were fighting over the Riverlands, and Stannis was blockading sea shipments, King's Landing was cut off from its major food suppliers, reduced to just a trickle from the immediate lordships of the Crownlands. The books went into this in some more detail, with Tyrion explicitly noting that drastic hyperinflation was setting in at the food markets - one Gold Dragon coin, which before the war was worth a knight's horse (the medieval equivalent of a nice automobile), could now only buy six skinny piglets or a side of beef; in the first novel a baker in King's Landing told Arya that a loaf of bread coast 3 Copper Pennies, but when Tyrion visits the same market in the second novel, 6 Copper Pennies can only buy one melon. See the main article on "Currency" for more price information.
- When discussing Stannis Baratheon and his planned assault on King's Landing in Season 2's "The Prince of Winterfell", Bronn tells Tyrion Lannister and Varys that sieges kill more people from starvation than combat. The lords and ladies sell their diamonds for a "sack of potatoes" and the Smallfolk will become cannibals if the situation becomes desperate. This allows the thieves to become the "richest men in town" by stealing the food and re-selling it.
- The merchants also remark as they leave the inn that the distance from there to King's Landing is 200 miles. The novels haven't given the exact distance, though the merchants might have just been mistaken or else hyperbolic.
- Arya Stark's direwolf Nymeria finally returns after being absent since Season 1's "The Kingsroad". Arya previously ordered Nymeria to flee for her life after she attacked Joffrey Baratheon to defend Arya, in Season 1 episode 2 "The Kingsroad" (making this an absence of exactly 60 episodes). This led to the vindictive Cersei having Sansa's direwolf Lady executed in her place. In the intervening six years, Nymeria grew into a formidable adult direwolf the size of a small horse, and is leading her own pack of common wolves in the Riverlands. Arya also originally had Nymeria flee right before they reached the Inn at the Crossroads, while heading south - in this episode, Arya encounters Nymeria again just north of the Inn, on her way back.
- There are more hints in the novels about Nymeria's survival and activities in the intervening books, which are peppered with sporadic reports that an unusually large wolf is leading a growing wolf pack in the Riverlands, feasting on the slain after battles and harassing farmsteads. Common wolves fear men and will avoid them whenever possible, but the huge Nymeria has no fear of man and leads her pack on bold attacks for food - catching their targets unprepared, who are used to just having to scare off wolves instead of fighting them outright.
- A few viewers were confused and thought the other wolves were Nymeria's pups: to clarify, she took over other wolf packs as their new alpha, gradually gaining more and more members by absorbing other packs. It's actually unknown if direwolves can even breed with common wolves.
- Arya's interaction with Nymeria shows displays more signs of her journey back to being "Arya Stark". In both the books and novels, a running theme with Arya is her loss of identity: how she keeps adopting new fake names to hide her identity (i.e. Arry the refugee boy, among more in the books) until she is adopting fake personas in her Faceless Men training, ultimately trying to be "no one" like them. Arya can't give up her Stark past, however, she keeps her sword Needle and decides to come home. Arya is still slowly pulling back from her adopted personas and remembering herself before the war began: in this episode, Hot Pie calls her "Arry" multiple times throughout their scene but she doesn't correct him. Only when she sees Nymeria does she outright state her identity as "It's me, Arya".
- In the Inside the Episode video, the showrunners directly explain why Nymeria didn't come with Arya, and what Arya meant when she said, "That's not you". It was a direct callback to the Season 1 scene in which her own father Ned said that she's grown up to be a proper lady and rule over a castle, but Arya said, "That's not me" - she wanted to keep being a tomboy and learning to use a sword. She wasn't denying it was Nymeria that she saw - as the showrunners state, what Arya meant was she realized and accepted that, like herself, a direwolf can't be tamed, Nymeria has her own life now with her wolf pack, and she can't expect her to give that up to come back with Arya.
- In a post-premiere interview, writer Bryan Cogman lamented that his script was "too clever by half" (a phrase from the novels) when he came up with the line "That's not you", admitting that a lot of people legitimately thought it was somehow Arya denying that it could really by Nymeria (which is implausible, as real wolves don't grow that large) - it was a reference to Season 1, and it helped that the Inside the Episode video, which is made available immediately after the episode, clarified the reference.
- Also in the post-episode interview, Bryan Cogman explained that there are severe filming limitations on depicting direwolves, not simply in terms of budget but animal wrangling. A dragon is totally CGI so, while expensive, they have full control over every second of movement it makes. In contrast, direwolves are played by real wolves against a green-screen. They are then superimposed into shots with the actors, which is time-consuming. Arya finding Nymeria in the woods was officially the last scene that was filmed for Season 7, in February 2017. It was actually filmed on-location in Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Maisie Williams herself actually flew out to Calgary, but didn't film with the actor-wolves at the same time for safety reasons. First, the actor-wolves would be filmed in front of a green-screen, then Maisie would film on-location while acting opposite a green ball etc. for visual reference, then they would digitally combine the two shots together. Apparently Maisie actually flew out to Calgary to watch the wolves off-camera for reference.
- It seems that the woods they filmed in were an actual location in the woods around Calgary, which, if true, would make this one of the few times the TV series has filmed outside of Europe or the Mediterranean. The actor-bear who appeared in Season 3 was filmed within a set constructed on a parking lot in Los Angeles, while previous shots of the direwolves from Season 5 onwards were filmed inside sound stages at Calgary (i.e. the brief scene in which Ghost and Samwell defend Gilly from two rapers inside Castle Black).
- Now that it is winter, a thin layer of snow is seen at the Crossroads Inn - the farthest south that it has been seen snowing in Westeros so far (in the preceding episode, it was seen snowing a little further north in the Riverlands, between the Twins and Fairmarket).
- Timed to coincide with the premiere of Season 7, actor Ben Hawkey (Hot Pie) partnered with UK-based food delivery app Deliveroo to open You Know Nothing Jon Dough, a pop-up bakery that sells direwolf-shaped loaves of bread (like the one his character made in Season 4).
- It is unclear why Sam gave Jorah rum as an anesthetic, rather than milk of the poppy, which is commonly used in Westeros for that purpose (it is their version of morphine). Even without any medical background, Sam should have known that. It's possible that he couldn't take any without being noticed when Ebrose forbid from trying the experimental treatment - though this wouldn't explain how he did manage to acquire all of his surgical tools and ingredients to make the anti-greyscale medical ointment.
- An explanation could be that the access to milk of the poppy is limited and strongly supervised, like in modern days the access to morphine for everyone in a hospital. That Sam could get his hands on everything else is less surprising, because he is a maester in training, was seen assisting the Archmaester in autopsies and therefore able to take everything that is not restricted.
- In the books, Samwell was actually by Jeor Mormont's side after he was mortally wounded during the Mutiny at Craster's Keep (in the TV version his attacker just keeps stabbing him until he dies, and a large fight breaks out, so Sam flees). Jeor's last words were to beg Sam to pass on a message to Jorah: "Tell my son. Jorah. Tell him, take the black. My wish. Dying wish." He didn't think Jorah was beyond redemption but wanted him to join the Night's Watch as he should have instead of fleeing into exile. So far in the books, Jorah has not been made aware of his father's dying wish.
- In the novels, Archmaester Ebrose is specifically the archmaester of medicine, and he is indeed one of he best medical minds in all of Westeros. Moreover, he is mentioned as authoring several major studies on infectious diseases (including dangerous plagues from other continents, such as the "butterfly fever" from Naath, Missandei's island home).
- Several callbacks are made to previous information given about Greyscale in Season 5: Sam recalls meeting Shireen Baratheon, and how she was cured of greyscale as a baby by Maester Cressen (though it left her face scarred). Ebrose counters by pointing out information also from the books: that greyscale can rarely be cured in infants or children, but not adults, and only if it is treated fairly early - Shireen was a baby and it was treated early, but Jorah is an adult with an advanced case, and thus beyond known treatment. Ebrose also says that Jorah should have cut his arm off to stop the spread (which sometimes works but often doesn't), and the only remaining option (besides suicide) would be to ship Jorah to the ruins of Old Valyria with the stone men. Ebrose also says that greyscale takes years to actually kill someone, leaving them in great pain for perhaps 10 to 20 years. The loose figures given in the novels are around 5 to 10 years, though it is not unheard of for someone to live 20 years with it. The novels only vaguely mention that when the infection grows inwards and starts warping the flesh of the brain, it can drive victims to madness, without giving a time scale for it; in this episode, Ebrose thinks Jorah might have only 6 months at best before he goes crazy from it (and he was infected nearly 2 years before).
- The book that Sam was reading in the preceding episode seemed to hint that the cure for greyscale was to consume powdered Dragonglass - though the maester who wrote it also doubted it would work. It's unclear what Samwell made the medical ointment out of that he used on Jorah.
- The novels note that Greyscale-scarred flesh is hard and deadened, so it doesn't actually feel any pain. After his run-in with Stone men while on a boat in the books, Tyrion is told to prick his fingers with a knife every day to test if he caught greyscale, and he follows that advice: if he started losing sensation in one of them he'd have had to cut it off in hope of stopping its spread. Jorah is in a great deal of pain in this episode - though Sam says he's cutting through the greyscale scars, down to the next layer of still-living flesh, which can still feel pain. "Flaying" might not be an accurate term for what Samwell is doing to Jorah here: that involves peeling back the thin layers of skin, but Samwell is cutting off flesh warped by greyscale, with a scalpel.
- There is no "Archmaester Pylos" in the novels. There is a different character named Pylos, an ordinary-ranking master, who served as the elderly Cressen's assistant at Dragonstone and who was being prepared as his eventual replacement. Of course, there might be more than one person named "Pylos" in all of Westeros. Given that maesters give up their family names when they join the order (those who are from noble families), it's unclear how they distinguish maesters who happen to have the same name (i.e. if there's more than one named "Pate", a common name in Westeros).
- Both of the maesters that Ebrose mentions who wrote history books he judges were mentioned in past episodes, both were invented by the TV series, and both of their descriptions in this episode match their prior descriptions:
- Ebrose remarks that "Archmaester Ch'Vyalthan" wrote very well cited research - to the extent that, while factually accurate, his prose style is very boring and legalistic. This is a call-back to Season 2, when Tyrion was reading Ch'Vyalthan's book, An History of the Great Sieges of Westeros and remarking on it to Bronn. Varys then came into the room and noticed what he was reading, and said it was a thrilling subject, but it's a shame that Ch'Vyalthan wasn't a better writer ("The Prince of Winterfell").
- Conversely, Ebrose then remarks that Maester Vaull had a very entertaining and florid prose style - to the extent that "half" of what he wrote was just made up or editorialization. In Season 4's "The Watchers on the Wall", Samwell actually read one of Vaull's books in the library at Castle Black, talking about the savagery of the wildlings, hyping up that every last one of them is a sadistic cannibal, tortures their victims, etc. Maester Aemon then chided Samwell that Vaull made most of that up, assuring him that the closest Vaull even came to seeing a wildling was the very library they were standing in.
- Samwell says the title of the book Ebrose is working on, An History of the Wars Following the Death of Robert I, could be a bit more "poetic". This seems to be a reference to A Song of Ice and Fire and/or Game of Thrones itself, both of which are poetic titles.
- It may also be a callback to Season 4, when Sam asked Jon what having sex with a girl was like (with Ygritte): Jon couldn't give a very good description, then just dropped it by saying he wasn't a poet, if that's what Sam wanted.
- When George R.R. Martin wrote Samwell Tarly, he was partially influenced by Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings: both are the best friend of the lead character, somewhat overweight, sort of an everyman who isn't originally very brave or a famous warrior, and both are called "Sam" for short. At the end of the story, it is revealed that it is based on an in-universe history book written by the main characters: Bilbo Baggins, then Frodo Baggins, and then after Frodo leaves, Samwise finishes up writing some of the loose ends. Similarly, Game of Thrones might be setting up that Samwell Tarly is going to write an in-universe history book about all of these events in Westeros, on which the book series is likewise based (and therefore the poetic titles are Sam's invention). This would be consistent with the Archmaester instructing Tarly "about the art of writing history".
- This doesn't mean that Sam could be the literal author of the series A Song of Ice and Fire, as the story contains a great many characters that Sam has never met and many events for which he was not present. However, it is possible that, like in The Lord of the Rings, Sam will be writing in-universe about the events of the series.
- It's worth noting that the phrase "the song of ice and fire", like "the game of thrones", appears in the novels, but unlike "game of thrones", it has yet to appear in spoken dialogue. During her visit to the House of the Undying, Daenerys sees a vision of her brother Rhaegar saying, "His is the song of ice and fire," apparently referring to his newborn son, Aegon. Thus under this theory, the title of the series may not be Sam's invention, but instead inspired by something else, perhaps something Sam read at the Citadel.
- Screencaps reveal the content of Jorah Mormont's suicide note, which he writes in his chamber while eyeing his sword: "Khaleesi, I came to the Citadel in the last hope that the maesters could treat me, as you ordered. Even with all their arts, I am beyond any cure but the grave. I have had a longer life than I deserved, and I only wish I could’ve lived to see the world you’re going to build, standing by your side. I have loved you since the moment I met you - Jorah"
- The camera cutting from Samwell sawing at Jorah's scaley skin to a bowl of chicken stew in Arya's scene was specified in the script, not an invention of the director.
On the Narrow Sea
- Ellaria's comment about Dornish red wines being the "best in the world" is a reference to the debate about which is the best wine in Westeros, Arbor gold or Dornish red. Both are very expensive and drunk only by the richest lords, though it is something of a matter of taste about which is better. In the preceding episode "Walder Frey" (the disguised Arya) served Arbor gold to the men of House Frey (laced with poison), to encourage them to drink enthusiastically, while at the same time "Walder" also mocked that this Arbor gold isn't that "Dornish horse piss". Mirroring that, in this episode, Ellaria calls the fine wine Yara serves "piss" (it may be Yara's cache of Arbor gold), while insisting on how great Dornish red is.
- Ellaria asks Yara if she had ever been to Dorne, to which Yara responds that she has been there a few times. Ellaria responds that there is a boy in every port in Dorne, which Yara responds, "A boy, a girl. Depends on the port." This implies, but doesn't confirm, Yara has had sex with men and women.
- The Season 7 trailer hyped up the Yara/Ellaria kiss with considerable focus, but ultimately out of proportion, given that it is actually fairly brief and inconsequential in the episode itself, as just mild flirtation.
- It is unclear if there was a political motive to Yara and Ellaria's sexual flirtation.
- During Euron Greyjoy's introduction in Season 6's "Home" when he confronted Balon on a rope bridge at Pyke, he boasted, "I am the storm," as if claiming he summoned the storm that was buffeting the castle. In this episode, Euron's fleet apparently managed to slip right on top of Yara's fleet and catch them by surprise by sailing under the dangerous cover of a storm - until the first Yara's crew saw of Euron was his ship, the Silence, emerging from a lighting cloud like a nightmare. It is unclear if Euron can actually summon storms, though it is implied in the books that he dabbles in black magic.
- Yara actually was captured after losing a battle in the books, but to Stannis Baratheon at the Second Battle of Deepwood Motte - thus her captivity isn't entirely an invention of the TV series, though it is significantly changing the context. Stannis explicitly didn't want to harm Yara, as she was a valuable political hostage, and someone would have to rule the Iron Islands under him if he ever hoped to conquer all of the Seven Kingdoms; thus he kept Yara alive and planned to force her to marry one of his lieutenants, to make a claim to Pyke.
- Euron Greyjoy manages to fight off the attacks of the Sand Snakes, despite taking multiple glancing flesh wounds because he is wearing heavy armor plate. In the books, the ironborn are noted for wearing heavy armor plate into battle on the high seas - which no one else does, because if they get knocked into the water they won't be able to swim. The best ironborn warriors, however, wear heavy armor because they have no fear of drowning.
- It might not be clearly visible in the dark, but Euron's armor has a variant of his personal sigil carved into it: below the Greyjoy Kraken on his chest, there is a large, lidless eye.
- The Sand Snakes fight scene in Season 5's "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" was heavily criticized by all major review publications as one of the worst the TV series ever produced; indeed, behind the scenes interviews revealed that it was rushed through production and subjected to heavy, easily avoidable filming restrictions. Due to filming in a UNESCO World Heritage site, they could only film during the day, and couldn't damage the interiors - so they couldn't fit cameras in properly, had to film in wide shot, and had to film an infiltration mission during the day. As originally conceived, it would have taken place at night, in the tight corridors of the palace - both of which factors are vital to hiding the use of stuntmen or framing quick-cuts with the actual actors. In this episode, during the fight on their ship, the Sand Snakes are actually presented visually as capable and deadly warriors - in many ways, the dark, night-time battle in the cramped spaces of the ship are specifically what the Water Gardens fight scene was supposed to be like. Obara Sand even manages to go toe to toe with Euron for a time, but he is wearing heavy armor while she is not - as the Dornish fighting style is based on speed and agility, which she cannot bring to bear in the cramped spaces of the brawl on the ship's deck.
- The Sand Snakes in the TV show do not resemble the actions or personalities of their book counterparts, and received widespread criticism from major reviewers - they're treated as minor sidekicks for Ellaria rather than fleshed out characters, and have bizarre, stereotyped personalities. In the books, the Sand Snakes never even jokingly threaten to kill each other. Obara and Nymeria haven't even had many speaking lines. By the Season 6 finale, "The Winds of Winter", the TV show even shifted to making jokes at the expense of the Sand Snakes, as if to shift the blame for their handling in-universe (Olenna Tyrell insulting all three of them as annoying). In this episode, it's presented almost as if the audience should be cheering Euron when he kills two of them, even though he is an unabashed villain in the storyline.
- It appears the TV writers are simply wrapping up the Dorne subplots as quickly as possible as an admission of failure, after the extremely negative critical reception that their truncated adaptation of it received for Season 5. Alexander Siddig (Doran Martell) even confirmed that he was supposed to appear in four episodes of Season 6, before ultimately being killed off in the premiere episode - further evidence that the TV series outright abandoned whatever plans it may have had for Dorne after Season 5, without really thinking through the in-universe plot logic of why it is happening.
- Most intriguingly, Jessica Henwick, who played Nymeria Sand, had to squeeze in her brief appearance in this one episode of Season 7 around her new schedule as a lead in Marvel's Iron Fist series. Henwick said the producers told her that if she couldn't fit it into her schedule, they wouldn't even bother recasting the role with another actor, and simply leave the character's fate unexplained (though ultimately she was able to make it in). The lack of planning around Nymeria's fate seems to reaffirm that the TV writers simply don't want to expend any more effort tying up loose narrative ends regarding Dorne.
- The ultimately handling of the Dorne subplot and characters from the books was received very poorly by critics, particularly as they are the only one of the Seven Kingdoms whose people are non-white. TheFandomentals.com said in its review for this episode, regarding Ellaria and the three Sand Snakes:
- "I also can’t help but look at the overall treatment of these women on this show and this being their cumulative moment. These four women of color were brought on the show, hyper-sexualized, dramatized, catty to no end, and violent. Then we watched the incredibly damaging racist stereotyping punished, spending more time on their torturous or violent deaths than was ever spent on trying to actual characterize and develop these people. It just really doesn’t sit well on any level."
- The battle sequence on Yara's ship took about six or seven nights to film, on their one prop ship set in front of a green screen. Gemma Whelan (Yara) injured herself at one point, so she had to come back and film her fight sequences months later.
- In a post-premiere interview, writer Bryan Cogman stated that there was truly no way Theon could save Yara even if he tried to at this point by the end of the battle, with the fight clearly lost and badly outnumbered. Theon would have died if he tried to save Yara, and all three of them knew it (Theon, Yara, Euron). However, Cogman explained, particularly in ironborn culture, they value bravery as warriors, and think the right thing would have been for Theon to self-consciously fight to the death trying to defend her, rather than retreat.
- Compare to other wars and battles in which survivors were scorned for surrendering even though there was no possible chance of victory. Very specifically, the ironborn commander Ralf Kenning at the Fall of Moat Cailin in Season 4's "The Mountain and the Viper" who, despite being totally cut off with no hope of rescue, preferred to die fighting rather than surrender.
- Showrunners Benioff and Weiss in the Inside the Episode video also comment that Euron's men mutilating all of the corpses on the ship is very triggering for Theon, and Euron's threats of violence, and they actually admit that it would have been unrealistic for Theon to quickly overcome his massive trauma and PTSD symptoms after his torture by Ramsay Bolton.
- Cogman also admitted that Euron's personality isn't exactly the same as in the books.
- Actually, Euron's portrayal in this episode, as a mighty fearsome warrior, is a heavy deviation from the books; it is greatly based on Victarion Greyjoy's book character, particulary during a naval battle which takes place in the fourth book "A Feast for Crows". Victarion is one of the most fearsome ironborn warriors, which Euron is definitely not.
- Euron has a chameleon-like behavior in both the books and TV series, adopting different personas as the need arises: braggadocious and crass with his low-brow soldiers, swaggering and charming to Cersei, etc.; when it comes to battles, however, he prefers to stay safely at the rear, sending others to fight - and afterwards he takes the whole credit to himself. He did not even have the guts to kill Balon by his own hands (it is implied he hired an assassin of the Faceless Men for that purpose). He does show his "bravery" against those who are too weak to resist him, among them four of his brothers (Harlon, Robin, Aeron and Urrigon) and captives that his subordinates have taken.
- Euron leaves Obara's corpse impaled on the prow of her ship with her own spear, and Nymeria's corpse hanging from the prow by her own whip. In the books, Euron is indeed very fond of tormenting prisoners by lashing them to the prows of his ships, before going into battle and ramming enemy vessels.
Missandei/Grey Worm sex scene
- Grey Worm and Missandei do not have a romantic or sexual relationship in the novels - their prominence as characters was increased for the TV series, and Missandei is only ten years old when introduced in the books. Several of her brothers are also Unsullied (cut from the show). Missandei was probably not aged-up so she could have a sex scene with Grey Worm - the TV writers earlier said that the idea of pairing them off only occurred to them after the actors gave strong performances when they first appeared in Season 3.
- Actor Jacob Anderson has explained in several interviews during the series that they wanted to have an arc to Grey Worm's character development, starting out as a slave-soldier stripped of his emotions by hellish training until he was just a robotic killing machine, but gradually discovering his humanity. As explained in Season 5, when he cries out in pain as he was stabbed and nearly died, Grey Worm had nothing to live for before so he didn't fear death (Unsullied will unquestioningly fall on their own swords if their owner commands it) - but Grey Worm explained that he cried out not out of pain, but out of fear, because now that he knows Missandei he has something worth living for and now fears death. As seen in this episode he is struggling with these new emotions and has been trained to think of any fear as a weakness, even love.
- The books don't specifically describe the slave-masters training the Unsullied by exposing them to their fears until they either overcome it or die from it, but it matches their utterly brutal training (it's mentioned that only one in four boys survive it).
- In a post-premiere interview, writer Bryan Cogman explained that his direct inspiration for this sex scene was actually the Oscar-winning 1978 film Coming Home, starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight (who both received Academy Awards for their performances). Voight's character is a crippled Vietnam war veteran left a paraplegic, unable to feel or move anything from the waist down or to achieve an erection (similar to Grey Worm's lack of a functional penis); therefore to still be intimate with Jane Fonda's character he performs oral sex on her (which she says is the first time she's ever had an orgasm). Cogman noted that the scene was somewhat infamous and revolutionary when it first came out, because cunnilingus for female pleasure had rarely been depicted in mainstream movies before (though as with this episode, it's not as if they depicted on-screen unsimulated genital contact, any more than fellatio scenes in the TV show were ever unsimulated).
- The Game of Thrones Wiki articles on "Eunuchs" and "Unsullied" were updated to explain the possibility of a Grey Worm/Missandei sexual relationship since their attraction was first expressed in Season 4. Despite the fact that this information has been on the wiki for the past three years before this episode aired, and this wiki is the very top Google search result for the term "Unsullied", questions nonetheless keep coming in by people who didn't even try to search the articles first. To repeat:
- In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, different regions are known to make eunuchs in different ways. Some only remove the testicles but leave the shaft of the penis intact, while others remove all external genitalia, both the penis and testicles. The slaver-city of Yunkai, for example, is known to make eunuchs by removing only a slave's testicles, but the slave-masters of Astapor make eunuchs by removing everything, penis, and testes, such as when they make the Unsullied. A eunuch with only the testicles removed but not the penis may still lose the will to partake of sexual activity, but other slave-masters like to be sure by removing the penis as well. The TV series played up questions about this by having Missandei say in Season 4 that she didn't know if Unsullied have all of their external genitalia removed, but that is public knowledge in the books.
- In real life, if an adult man has his testicles removed, he can still achieve an erection. If a boy has his testicles removed before puberty, however, it is difficult to impossible for them to achieve an erection with the remaining shaft of the penis - due to the lack of hormones during the puberty years that would normally be supplied by the testicles. This is a moot point for the Unsullied: both their testicles and penis shaft are removed when they are no more than five years old. Even eunuchs who have had their testicles and penis removed can possibly still feel other sexual stimulation, such as anal sex, though these nerve responses are much more stunted if they are castrated before puberty. Kraznys actually explains within the novels that eunuchs can sometimes achieve an erection if they only have their testicles removed, so this is why the Astapori cut off all of the Unsullied's genitals, just to be sure.
- In real life, there are various historical accounts of eunuchs engaging in sexual or at least romantic activities. For example, the ninth century medieval Islamic travel chronicler Al-Jahiz describes being surprised that the warrior-eunuchs used as guards at the court in Baghdad (sort of like the Unsullied) were quite masculine in their behavior, yet still engaged in "passive / feminine" sexual acts (receptive penetration, as the only parts left to them).
- The books introduced the idea of the Unsullied forming emotional or romantic relationships with a different Unsullied character named "Stalwart Shield", and the TV series actually introduced the same subplot in Season 5 (though they renamed him "White Rat" to keep the naming convention of the Unsullied). He was an Unsullied who was killed by the Sons of the Harpy while he was in a brothel. Daenerys is confused why he was in a brothel, but as shown on TV (and the books explained more explicitly) he just came for a prostitute to lay with him and hold him tenderly - the Unsullied were taken from their parents and families, and never knew basic physical intimacy. They are still capable of making emotional attachments to other people now that they are free. When Daenerys asked why Stalwart Shield/White Rat would go to a brothel like this in the novels, Grey Worm responded that "Even those who lack a man's parts may still have a man's heart."
- As for the physical mechanics of the Grey Worm/Missandei sex scene, in which he performs cunnilingus on her, this brings up several points about Gender and Sexuality in the fictional world of Westeros and beyond. The real-life Middle Ages didn't actually have the same categorization scheme of sexuality that industrialized 20th century society had: rather than a heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy, they had a penetrator/penetrated dichotomy (or top/bottom). Their definition of "sex" was very phallocentric due to being a male-dominated society, with an all-male priesthood dictating social mores. As a result, as confirmed by medieval scholarship, medieval society didn't conceptually recognize cunnilingus as "sex" because no one was being penetrated with a penis - though in contrast, fellatio was considered "sex" because penetration with a penis was involved. That doesn't mean that people didn't do it, but they just considered it foreplay, etc. One result of this is that they had very little conception of female homosexuality, even to condemn it, because they didn't consider it "actual sex".
- On the other hand, Westeros is different from the real Middle Ages in several respects, and they apparently do conceptually recognize cunnilingus as "actual sex". A major difference is that the dominant religion in Westeros, the Faith of the Seven, has a gender-blind priesthood of both men and women (such as Septa Unella). These women, as full priests, also write religious dictates on sexual morality, and they would understand that women can achieve sexual pleasure without a penis but other means. The novels do seem to match this point, because the Faith of the Seven does recognize female homosexuality (and frowns upon it). The Faith wouldn't officially criticize female homosexuality in Westeros unless their society considers "sex without a penis" (such as cunnilingus performed by a eunuch or another woman) as "actual sex". Thus, Jon Snow performing cunnilingus on Ygritte in Season 3's "Kissed by Fire" probably wouldn't be considered full "sex" in the real Middle Ages, but probably would be in Westeros.
- This again brings up the notes about Yara Greyjoy's sexuality, from above: the Faith of the Seven on mainland Westeros has female priests, but the ironborn have a separate religion which does not - which would be expected to actually make their societal attitudes about sexuality closer to the real-life Middle Ages, with Top/Bottom dichotomy. Thus it actually is quite fitting that Yara would be not only homosexual, but pansexual (in modern terms) - real Viking women didn't see having sex with men or women as a category choice (due to having a phallocentric definition of "sex").
- Missandei, however, is not from Westeros at all, but from Naath island off the coast of Sothoryos. The books haven't mentioned what her culture's religious structure are or what their resulting social mores regarding sexuality are like (and Grey Worm was a slave since he was a baby, so he has no other outside cultural mores about sexuality).
- Some visual symbolism is that at the beginning of the scene, Grey Worm is sharpening his spear's blade - a common sex euphemism, despite him actually being a eunuch without male genitals.
- This may be a filming error and not intended by the script, but throughout the Grey Worm/Missandei sex scene, particularly while they are standing and disrobing, neither of them makes any attempt to close the open door to the room, in the event that someone else walks down the corridor. They make no attempt to hold the door shut.
In the books
[This section will be updated with comparisons after the sixth novel is released.]
The episode contains influences from the following chapter of A Clash of Kings:
- Chapter 65, Sansa VIII: Randyll Tarly, now aligned with the Iron Throne, is present at court for the first time in the narrative.
The episode contains influences from the following chapters of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 7, Cersei II: A Lannister praises Randyll Tarly for his military background.
- Chapter 29, The Reaver: A Greyjoy destroys an enemy fleet in a naval battle.
- Chapter 35, Samwell IV: Someone reaches the conclusion that Daenerys is the prince that was promised, because the High Valyrian word for "prince" is gender-neutral, just as dragons are creatures which have no fixed gender.
The episode contains influences from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 22, Tyrion VI: Tyrion speaks ill of Cersei and advises someone to invade Westeros. Someone tells false horror stories about Daenerys.
- Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride: Asha Greyjoy is defeated and taken captive.
- Chapter 35, Jon VII: Asha's ships are destroyed.
- Chapter 69, Jon XIII: Jon's officers disapprove of the action he intends to take.
- Chapter 71, Daenerys X: Daenerys is told to embrace the draconic legacy of her family.
- Epilogue: A fleet sets sail from Dragonstone to deal with Euron Greyjoy.
The episode contains influences from the following released preview chapter of The Winds of Winter:
- The Forsaken: Euron Greyjoy sails to fight an enemy fleet.
The episode may contain influences from the following fan predictions and theories regarding The Winds of Winter:
- "Friends in the Reach": It is expected that Randyll Tarly and other bannermen of House Tyrell will forsake their overlords and declare for another faction.
- "Eldritch Apocalypse": A naval battle between Euron Greyjoy and an enemy fleet will result in Euron's victory.
Melisandre: "I believe you have a role to play, as does another. The King in the North, Jon Snow."
Varys: "Incompetence shouldn't be rewarded with blind loyalty."
Tyrion Lannister: "We turn the dragons loose, tens of thousands will die in the firestorms.
Ellaria Sand: "It's called war. You don't have the stomach for it, scurry back into hiding."
Tyrion: "I know how you wage war. We don't poison little girls here. Myrcella was innocent."
Ellaria: "She was a Lannister. There are no innocent Lannisters! My greatest regret is that Oberyn died fighting for you."
Daenerys Targaryen: "That's enough! Lord Tyrion is Hand of the Queen, you will treat him with respect. I am not here to be Queen of the Ashes."
Olenna Tyrell: "The lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You're a dragon. Be a dragon."
Archmaester Ebrose: "What? You don't like the title? What would you call it then?
Samwell Tarly: "Possibly something a bit more poetic?"
Archmaester Ebrose: "We're not poets, Tarly."
Arya Stark: "That's not you."
Ellaria Sand:"Why are you standing all the way over there then? A foreign invasion is underway."
Euron Greyjoy: "Give your uncle a kiss!"
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- ↑ [ https://www.facebook.com/relativityschool/videos/862975537194749/ ]
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- ↑ Cf. http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/news-spreads-westeros-reckons-cumulative-absurdity-258488, http://www.distractify.com/trending/2017/07/24/Z1vVSEz/samwell-tarly-wrote-game-of-thrones?utm_content=inf_10_53_2&tse_id=INF_2c3e629073aa11e784dd0bde21677fc8
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