"The Door" is the fifth episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fifty-fifth episode of the series overall. It premiered on May 22, 2016. It was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and directed by Jack Bender.
At the Wall
Sansa Stark receives a message bearing the sigil of House Baelish, asking her to a meeting in Mole's Town. Accompanied by Brienne, Sansa furiously confronts Petyr Baelish, asking if he was aware what Ramsay Bolton was capable of. Baelish deflects, saying he has the knights of The Vale waiting at Moat Cailin to aid Sansa. She is mistrustful of him when he claims he had no idea of Ramsay's abusive treatment of her. She doubts Baelish's ability to protect her or even himself, threatening to have Brienne kill him. He says he'll do whatever she asks and Sansa tells him to leave and never come back for her. He obeys, but not before informing that her great-uncle Brynden Tully has recaptured Riverrun and recommending she seek him out and the remaining loyal Tully forces. Sansa says she already has an army, her brother Jon Snow's army of wildlings. "Half-brother," Baelish clarifies as he walks away, reminding her that Jon is only her half brother.
At Castle Black, a war council is called, and is attended by Sansa, Brienne, Podrick, Jon, Davos, Melisandre, Tormund and Eddison Tollett, who discuss the need for more men to defend Castle Black, since the Karstarks and Umbers, two major Houses in the North, have declared for Ramsay. Jon points out that they can summon the rest of the minor Houses, such as the Mormonts, Glovers, Cerwyns, and Mazins, to rival their enemies, and Sansa reveals Brynden's successful retaking of Riverrun, though she claims she learned via one of Ramsay's ravens in order to stop Jon from pursuing Littlefinger. Sansa subsequently tasks Brienne and Podrick with securing Brynden's help while the rest of them leave Castle Black to start building their army. Before leaving Castle Black, Sansa presents Jon with a new cloak like their father's, carrying the Stark sigil.
The Waif continues to drill Arya, mocking her high-born origins. Jaqen H’ghar explains that the Faceless Men were slaves in Valyria before establishing the Free City of Braavos and the House of Black & White. Handing Arya a vial, Jaqen tells her an actress, Lady Crane, will be the next to receive the Many-Faced God’s “gift.”
Arya enjoys the spectacle of the actors re-enacting the War of the Five Kings, playing Baratheons and Lannisters, but her pleasure ceases when her father, and his execution, are inaccurately caricatured. Eddard is portrayed as a buffoon, and the actress who plays Sansa has her breasts bared to the audience. Arya sneaks into the dressing room after the play to observe her target – the actress playing Cersei – who appears to be a clever, decent woman. Arya later shares with Jaqen her plan to poison Lady Crane’s rum, which no one else in the troupe drinks. Arya suspects that a jealous younger actress, Bianca, has commissioned the kill. Jaqen cuts her off, reminding her a servant does not question.
In the Dothraki Sea
Daenerys is unsure of what to do with Jorah, having banished him twice, seeing him defiantly return twice, and him twice saving her life. Jorah finally confesses his love for Daenerys, but also reveals his spreading greyscale infection, and says that this time, he needs to leave for good. He starts to leave and states his plan to take his own life well before the greyscale envelops him, but Daenerys tearfully commands him to find a cure and come back to her side when she conquers Westeros. Jorah then departs while Daenerys and Daario Naharis lead the Dothraki horde back to Meereen.
While the rulers of Meereen enjoy a tenuous peace, Tyrion reminds them of the need to convince the Meereenese that everything has been done with Daenerys's blessing, as the Masters could use Tyrion and Varys's foreign status against them to reclaim Slaver's Bay. To that end, Tyrion invites Kinvara, High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, to negotiate spreading the word of Daenerys's accomplishments. To Tyrion's surprise, Kinvara appears to be highly accommodating in supporting Tyrion's goals, as she firmly believes that Daenerys is The Prince That Was Promised. Varys is more skeptical, being suspicious of any practitioners of magic, and points out that Melisandre had already declared Stannis Baratheon to be the Prince, only for him to be defeated twice. Kinvara says that while the Lord of Light has a plan, the humans following him do occasionally make errors. She then unnerves Varys by revealing that she knows Varys was emasculated by a "second-rate sorcerer" and offers to repeat the words he heard in the flames, and identify who it was that spoke. Varys is uncharacteristically unsettled by this revelation. Kinvara then assures Tyrion that she will send the preachers and priests best suited to the task at hand.
In the Iron Islands
As the Kingsmoot is held, Yara Greyjoy is the first to lay claim to the Salt Throne. Yara argues that raiding the mainland is not enough for their people, and that they need to use military force to teach the mainlanders a lesson. An Ironborn man challenges Yara's candidacy on the grounds that she is a woman and points out that her brother Theon Greyjoy has returned. Theon endorses his older sister and urges the gathering to do the same; stressing that she is a warrior, a reaver, and an Ironborn. Many shout for Yara to be their Queen.
Before they can crown Yara, Euron Greyjoy joins the gathering to lay claim to the Salt Throne. He openly mocks Theon for his military failures and emasculation before deriding Yara as a woman. Yara in turn accuses Euron of killing their King and her father Balon. To her surprise, Euron admits killing Balon but then defends his actions on the grounds that Balon was leading them to defeat in the North. When Euron states that his only regret is not killing Balon years earlier, he is met by resounding cheers from the crowd. Theon then counters that Euron had spent years gallivanting overseas while Yara was commanding Ironborn ships and men. Yara then suggests building a massive fleet to attack and make their mark on Westeros.
In response, Euron announces that he also supports expanding the Ironborn fleet. Revealing a trick up his sleeve, he then proposes to marry Daenerys Targaryen and then carry her army and dragons back to Westeros. The Ironborn support Euron's plan and declare him king. The Drowned Men priest Aeron Greyjoy then leads Euron down to the sea to be drowned and reborn, as is the custom. Knowing that Euron will kill them as soon as he is able, Yara, Theon, and many of their loyalists flee the Iron Islands during Euron's coronation, taking much of the Iron Fleet with them. After Euron revives himself, he is crowned by his brother Aeron. After learning that his niece and nephew have fled with their best ships, Euron calls on his followers to build their own ships so that he may pursue the pair and kill them.
Beyond the Wall
The Three-eyed Raven shows Bran a vision of a heart tree amid spirals of standing stones in a lush green valley. His vision shows Leaf and other Children of the Forest talking amongst themselves, then looking eagerly at a captive bound to the tree. Leaf approaches and forces a Dragonglass dagger into the captive's chest. The captive screams, but does not die, instead becoming the first White Walker.
Bran immediately confronts Leaf about creating the White Walkers in the first place. Leaf tries to explain that they were at war with the First Men and were desperate. Later, Bran is the only one in the cave awake and is anxious to warg back into the Weirwood tree. Bran wargs into the tree by himself and sees the Army of the Dead. He slowly walks through the army until he comes to a space occupied by four White Walkers, including the Night King. As Bran becomes aware that the The Night King and the dead are now able to see him, the Night King grabs his arm, branding him with an icy mark. He breaks out of the vision with a scream waking the others. The Three-eyed Raven tells Bran, Meera and Hodor that the Night King is now able to locate Bran and able to bypass the powerful magic keeping the White Walkers and the wights out of the cave. As a result, they must leave immediately and Bran must "become" the Three-eyed Raven. Bran asks whether he is ready, and the Raven says "No" at which point Bran's eyes whiten as he enters another vision.
As Meera and Hodor are preparing to leave they notice the air is so cold their breath is visible, indicating the arrival of the Army of the Dead outside of the cave. The Night King and three White Walkers start marching towards the cave. The Children of the Forest try using magic projectiles to fend the Walkers off, but are overwhelmed. They light a fire around the entrance which prevents the wights from entering but the Walkers extinguish a pathway and walk through. The wights end up climbing over the Weirwood and dropping through roots at the top of the cave. Meera desperately tries to get Bran out of the vision and attempts to get the frightened Hodor to carry Bran away to no avail. Using a dragonglass-tipped spear, Meera kills the first White Walker that enters, and fights alongside the remaining Children of the Forest to try to fend off the wights until Bran wakes up. Wights begin to swarm the cave, killing all of the Children of the Forest except for Leaf, as Meera starts yelling at Bran to warg into Hodor.
In the vision, Bran is at Winterfell watching Ned Stark say goodbye to his father, Rickard Stark, before being sent to the Vale as a ward. While still in the vision, Bran hears Meera's cries to warg into Hodor and the Three-eyed Raven tells him to listen to her. Bran wargs into both the present-day Hodor in the cave AND Wylis, the young version of Hodor in his vision.
The Hodor in the cave puts Bran's body on a sled and starts hauling him down a tunnel leading out of the cave with Leaf and Meera, as Bran's direwolf Summer is killed attacking the wights. As the wights are closing in on them, Leaf sacrifices herself, using magic to cause a huge explosion, buying the other three enough time to get to a door at the end of the tunnel. While the Three-eyed Raven and Bran are still sharing a vision, the Night King kills the Three-Eyed Raven, and his figure within Bran's vision blows away as ashes and rags.
With some difficulty Hodor pushes the door open and pulls Bran through, coming back to help Meera close the door just as the wights approach. Meera grabs Bran's sled and tells Hodor to bar the exit, shouting to "Hold the door!". Inside Bran's vision, Wylis notices Bran, who links the present Hodor to the past Wylis. Wylis begins to seize when he enters the mind of his future self. As Meera continues to yell "Hold the door!" to present-day Hodor, within Bran's vision Wylis falls to the ground convulsing and starts repeating this same sentence in the midst of his seizure. Eventually, "hold the door" slurs into "Hodor," as his condition deteriorates and it becomes apparent this is the moment Hodor lost the ability to say any other words, and his destiny was fixed.
Present-day Hodor braces himself against the door long enough for Meera to disappear into the snow with Bran's unconscious body on the sled. Inevitably, the wights break through parts of the wood and begin scratching and stabbing a visibly distressed Hodor. With no possibility of escape, all that is shown at the end is young Wylis in the past seizing and crying out "Hodor."
- White Walker, stabbed with dragonglass spear by Meera Reed
- Summer, mauled to death by the wights
- Three-eyed raven, slain by the Night's King
- Leaf, torn apart by the wights
- Hodor, torn apart by wights
- 17 of 28 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Jonathan Pryce (High Sparrow), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon), Jerome Flynn (Bronn), and Hannah Murray (Gilly) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- The title of this episode is revealed to be a reference to the last stand at the door to the cave in the final scene.
- Dorne does not appear in this episode. King's Landing and its subplots do not appear in this episode (including House Lannister and House Tyrell). Ramsay Bolton in Winterfell and the Tully/Frey subplot do not appear, though they are discussed. Samwell Tarly and Gilly on the way to Oldtown do not appear in this episode. With Season 6 halfway through, Bronn is the only credits sequence character yet to appear at all.
- This is only the sixth episode in the TV series in which King's Landing is not featured in any scene. The previous five were Season 1's "The Kingsroad" (because King Robert and Cersei were with the Starks on the road and had not yet reached the city), Season 3's "The Rains of Castamere" (which focused mostly on the Red Wedding), Season 4's "The Watchers on the Wall" (which focused entirely on the Battle of Castle Black), Season 5's "Kill the Boy" (which didn't feature any scene in the Seven Kingdoms not counting the North), and "The Dance of Dragons." This is also the first episode of Season 6 in which modern-day Winterfell and Ramsay Bolton do not appear. Winterfell is however visited within a vision.
Bran Stark's storyline and the White Walkers
- Bran Stark's storyline has officially surpassed the novels. He arrived at the Cave of the three-eyed raven in his second-to-last chapter in the fifth and most recent novel, corresponding to when his storyline in the TV series paused in the Season 4 finale. His last chapter involved him being guided through visions of the past, such as his father as a child sparring with Benjen and Lyanna at Winterfell - thus the first few episodes of Season 6 were still adapting some of Bran's remaining material. The White Walkers' attack on the cave, however, hasn't occurred yet by the end of the fifth novel. For all anyone knows, everything that happens in Bran's storyline in this episode, and from this point onwards, is exactly what will happen in the next novel.
- This episode reveals that the Children of the Forest actually created the White Walkers, as a weapon to use against the First Men. The first humans began migrating to Westeros 12,000 years ago, initiating the Wars of the First Men and the Children of the Forest which lasted for around 2,000 years. The Children were gradually pushed back by the more numerous and larger humans, and in desperation they did resort to various magical "superweapons": they called down the Hammer of the waters to break the arm of Dorne (the old land bridge between Westeros and Essos), and they tried again to use it to flood the Neck, turning it into a vast swamp. The Children actually made peace with the humans about 10,000 years ago, known as "The Pact" - and the White Walkers first appeared during The Long Night, about 8,000 years ago. By the Long Night, the White Walkers were killing all living things, and had apparently turned on the Children, and they were only driven back when the Children of the Forest united with the First Men to drive them back and build the Wall. It is unclear why they would create the White Walkers even centuries after the Pact was made: it's possible that they were created late in the wars but ultimately abandoned, but then returned 2,000 years later. Another possibility is that a sub-faction of the Children created the White Walkers because they thought humans would inevitably crowd them out of Westeros.
- The current novels have made no mention whatsoever that the Children of the Forest actually created the White Walkers. There have been a few scarce hints about the origins of the White Walkers - only in the sense that it was implied that they aren't really a "race" but a malevolent force created by someone else. Martin also said that he isn't sure if the White Walkers really have "a culture" as we would understand it. With this revelation in mind, it's clear why: they are not an independently living race, but a race of living weapons created by others (weapons don't have their own culture). The White Walkers don't reproduce naturally: in the novels implied that they were taking Craster's sons to turn them into new White Walkers, but the TV show outright confirmed this in Season 4's "Oathkeeper." George R.R. Martin's initial pitch outline for the series also cryptically used an alternate name for the White Walkers, saying that their armies consisted of "undead wights and the Neverborn": White Walkers aren't an independent race, were "never born," but created by another race.
- As David Benioff directly points out in the "Inside the Episode" featurette, the White Walkers were previously observed arranging the corpses of those they had slain into strange symbols. The first of these was seen in the Prologue sequence to the series premiere itself "Winter is Coming" (which was a sort of diamond-like symbol made from dead wildling body parts). The next time was in Season 3's "Walk of Punishment," when they arranged the body parts of the Watch's horses they killed into a large spiral pattern. As Benioff points out, in this episode we see that same spiral pattern formed by stone monoliths emanating out from a Weirwood heart tree where the Children of the Forest actually created the first White Walker. Thus, as he says, they are some sort of magical symbols which were actually first used by the Children of the Forest. The specific symbol used is a seven-spoked spiral, spinning counter-clockwise.
- Apparently, the frozen dead weirwood surrounded by a ring of stone monoliths which Bran sees in his vision is in fact the location where the Children of the Forest created the first White Walker, now deep in the Lands of Always Winter. It has also been suggested that this is the same ring of frozen stones that the White Walker took Craster's last son to in Season 4's "Oathkeeper" to turn him into a new White Walker, although the overall layout of that scene is remarkably different (the ice slab and structure were enclosed in a canyon; the ice shards jutting out of the ground did not resemble the stones structurally or pattern-wise, as viewed from both overhead and side shots).
- As Benioff and Weiss point out in the "Inside the Episode" featurette, Game of Thrones is supposed to be a very morally grey story, in which in contrast to many previous Fantasy works, there are few straightforward or wholly "Good" and "Evil" characters - in contrast to the way that say, in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is predominantly good, while the Dark Lord Sauron became pure evil. Generally, (though not always), this has held true throughout the narrative, as even Eddard Stark had some flaws and Tywin Lannister had some redeeming qualities. Barring a few genuine sociopaths such as Ramsay Bolton, Gregor Clegane, Rorge, etc., the overall moral tone has been gray rather than black and white. One of the few major exceptions to this until now were the White Walkers, ice demons who command a horde of the undead and who were presented as "pure evil," and their leader the Night King the worst of all. As Weiss points out, however, in this episode we learn that even the White Walkers are not some simplistic "pure evil" fantasy Dark Lords: they are just weapons created by the Children of the Forest, who were only trying to save themselves from extinction when they were losing a war, and even the Night King himself was a captured human unwillingly turned into the first White Walker. They actually aren't some stereotypical "pure evil" demonic force, but weapons that went out of control.
- This episode marks the first time the Night King is referred to by name. The production team would refer to him as "the Night King" in behind-the-scenes videos for Season 5 and other supplementary materials but the term was never used in on-screen dialogue before.
- Although unclear from the episode itself, Benioff and Weiss speak of the Night King in the "Inside the Episode" featurette as if he is in fact the first White Walker, the specific one we see being created by the Children of the Forest from a human. In this case it isn't a title passed down to whoever the current lead White Walker is - he's always been their leader.
- It is unclear if every White Walker is animated by a magical dragonglass shard in their chests, or if perhaps only the Night King has this one magical dragonglass shard, and it is his power which animates all of the others.
- The Children of the Forest are apparently now totally extinct, as it seemed that the last of them were hiding at the cave of the three-eyed raven.
- Meera Reed manages to kill a White Walker in this episode, making her only the third person to do so - after Samwell Tarly in Season 3 and Jon Snow in Season 5. Notice that one of the Children tries to stab the White Walker in the chest with a Dragonglass-tipped spear, but it is blocked by his armor, then he counters and kills the Child. The production team pointed out in behind-the-scenes featurettes how the White Walkers in Seasons 1 to 3 didn't really wear armor but were typically bare-chested, but then they shift to wearing some armor in Season 4: this was explicitly supposed to be a subtle hint that Samwell actually managing to kill one with a dragonglass dagger in Season 3 made them realize (or perhaps, reminded them) that there are things which can actually kill them, so they need to protect themselves in some fashion. The Child of the Forest that tries to stab one wasn't expecting the White Walkers to now be wearing armor, as in the TV show this was a recent development (in the books they are described as wearing armor since the opening Prologue). Meera realizes it is wearing armor and skillfully aims for its unprotected neck (as according to the traditions of the crannogmen, she was raised to be a warrior woman and skilled with weapons).
- As of the most recent novel, Sam is still the only person who has killed a White Walker (though Bran and Meera's storyline in this episode has moved past the most recent book).
- The death of Summer in this episode leaves only two of the Stark direwolves confirmed to still be alive: Jon's direwolf Ghost (who was with him at the Wall), and Arya's direwolf Nymeria (which she had to drive away early in Season 1 so Cersei wouldn't kill her - she is still loose somewhere in the Riverlands).
- Benioff and Weiss stated in the "Inside the Episode" featurette that George R.R. Martin confirmed to them that this is how Hodor will die in the next novel, and why he says "Hodor." It isn't just some wordplay they made up themselves. It was Bran's powers going out of control as he was pulled out of a vision during the attack, while adult Hodor was being urged to "hold the door." Through Bran accidentally warging into both of them at once and linking their minds, young Wylis mentally experienced his own death in the future. This traumatized him so greatly that he had a seizure which damaged his mind, the dying command to "hold the door" left seared into his younger self's mind, which he ultimately slurred to just "hodor" - from "ho(ld the) door." Benioff and Weiss said that of all the future plot revelations that Martin told them, such as that Shireen Baratheon would die as she did in Season 5 or that Melisandre is actually centuries old, and other things which haven't happened in the TV show yet, this revelation paired with Hodor's death had the most emotional punch and left them more stunned than almost anything else. As they said, they didn't even see it in a TV episode, Martin just verbally described it to them in a hotel room meeting, but even so the revelation was so powerful that it left them deeply shaken.
- Jojen Reed also said that he had visions of his own future death (he knew it involved fire), and he also had seizure-like fits after some of his visions. It's possible that they were from the stress of outright experiencing his own mind dying in the future. Unlike young Wylis/Hodor, Jojen's seizures didn't do him long-term harm - though this was possibly because Jojen himself had the power of Greensight like Bran does and could direct his own visions to a degree that young Hodor could not (Jojen could pull his mind back if the visions got too intense, young Wylis could not).
- This episode confirms that Bran actually can use his Greensight visions to influence events in the past (though he can't control this yet). This raises the possibility that certain other seemingly magical or fortuitous events performed by animals were actually Bran's doing, i.e. in the series premiere "Winter is Coming," it is taken as a sign from the Old Gods that a female direwolf would somehow cross south of the Wall and give birth to exactly six pups, one for each Stark child and even matching their genders. In Season 3's "Second Sons," Samwell and Gilly are seemingly warned by a flock of crows that a White Walker is approaching. The revelation in this episode that Bran can influence past events in his visions raises the possibility that it was Bran himself who warged into these animals in the past - as he did to young Wylis in this episode - then directed their actions to set up later events which would help himself and his allies.
- It doesn't really seem that Bran learned anything important from his visions about the day young Eddard Stark left Winterfell for the Vale. The earlier flashback three episodes ago may have been "basic training" of a sort in visions, but now, even pressed for time to show Bran as many visions as possible, he directed Bran's mind to this moment in particular, even though it didn't reveal anything else. The implication is that the three-eyed raven himself knew from his own visions about the time loop, and that he would need to bring Bran's mind to this moment in a vision, specifically because it would result in Bran accidentally turning Wylis into Hodor - setting off the chain of events in Wylis/Hodor's life so that he would be in a position to save Bran's life (multiple times). In this case it's possible that the three-eyed raven foresaw his own impending death.
- Strictly speaking, Bran's actions seem to function according to Novikov's self-consistency principle of time travel: it is impossible to outright change events in the past which have already happened, but it is possible to set up stable time loops. Bran didn't change history when he accidentally gave Wylis a seizure and turned him into Hodor - that always happened, had already happened, and Bran in the present was just fulfilling that stable time loop. More bluntly, Bran Stark's actions follow Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure time travel rules (stable time loops are possible), but not Back to the Future time travel rules (in which outright changing the timeline is possible).
- The deaths of Osha, Summer, and Hodor this season, combined with Jojen Reed dying in Season 4, mean that all of Bran Stark's traveling companions since he fled Winterfell are dead except for Meera Reed - and also excepting his brother Rickon, who departed before he went North of the Wall and is now a prisoner of Ramsay Bolton. In the books, the Reed siblings actually arrived at Winterfell before it fell to the ironborn (in the second novel and TV season), but the TV series reshuffled these scenes around a little due to time constraints so that the Reeds were introduced at the beginning of Season 3, near the outskirts of Winterfell after Bran and Rickon escape.
- As their bodies weren't burned, it's possible that Hodor, Summer, and the Children of the Forest who were killed (excluding Leaf) might be reanimated as wights. In a post-episode interview Kristian Nairn (Hodor) jokingly pointed out that the camera never actually shows Hodor's death, so for all he knows he might be called back to the set to film again some day (though he is fairly convinced that Hodor as a human is in fact dead).
- In the "Inside the Episode" featurette, Benioff more clearly explains that the reason Bran didn't immediately flee the cave was because the three-eyed raven was desperately "uploading" visions to his mind as quickly as he could - faster than his mind could process in this short time span. These vision/memories are now loaded into Bran's mind, so that even without the three-eyed raven he will continue to experience more important visions of the past in subsequent episodes.
- A few professional reviews criticized that they felt Hodor wasn't truly making a heroic sacrifice in his final scene, but was being forced against his will to sacrifice his life by Bran Stark warging into his mind. In interviews the week after the episode aired, however Kristian Nairn (Hodor) made it clear that Bran was not warging into Hodor's mind during his final stand at the door. Nairn would know because he didn't play it like that; also the character is visibly saying "hodor" in fear, and Bran never speaks when he wargs into his mind. Bran only warged into Hodor's mind earlier in the cave to make him stop panicking, so he would get up to save both Bran and himself: by the time they are at the door Bran wasn't controlling him anymore. Nairn therefore stated that Hodor indeed voluntarily made a heroic sacrifice in the truest sense: once he was at the door and no longer being controlled by Bran he could have run to save himself but that would have let the wights through and they would have killed Bran and Meera. Notice that during Hodor's last stand there comes a point where, despite his terror, he sees that Meera and Bran are successfully getting away into the cover of the snow storm, and Hodor gets a look of grave determination on his face and leans hard into the door again. Nairn stated that Hodor's dying thought was happiness that Bran and Meera would survive.
- In Bran's final vision, Eddard Stark is seen departing Winterfell and saying goodbye to his father Rickard Stark. As explained three episodes ago, he is leaving to become a ward of House Arryn at the Eyrie - notice the Arryn guard standing in the background holding a banner with House Arryn's sigil on it.
Jon, Sansa, and the War for the North
- This episode contains a lengthy scene in which Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and the other characters at Castle Black look over a large map of The North and discuss how they are going to try to rally it against House Bolton. The scene gives a relatively detailed description of the political landscape of the North:
- It is said that after House Stark and House Bolton, the three Houses with the largest armies are House Karstark, House Umber, and House Manderly. The Karstarks and Umbers already joined their forces with Ramsay Bolton's army at Winterfell. In the books, these are three of the more prominent families - and after the Red Wedding, the Karstarks are the only other vassal House with their armies still relatively intact because they abandoned Robb Stark and went home before the massacre. The Umbers took considerable losses but have a strong martial tradition as the northernmost House, always fighting wildling incursions, so even their remaining forces of old men and young boys amount to a fairly considerable army. The Manderlys are the richest vassal House, as they rule over White Harbor, the only city in the North (albeit it is the smallest of the five true "cities" in Westeros) - thus the Manderlys are in the best position to hire and raise new armies to replace the soldiers they lost.
- Not every major vassal House in the North is listed on the map - apparently they just hand-wrote onto it the more prominent ones they were talking about at first. Jon explicitly points out that there are more than just three other vassal Houses, citing that there are also "the Mormonts, Cerwyns, Glovers, Mazins, and Hornwoods" - yet when Jon points at the map, House Cerwyn isn't labelled on the map at all, even though their lands are south of the Starks.
- Of these, "House Mazin" doesn't exist in the novels. It is a joking inside reference to Craig Mazin, a writer who is a friend of Benioff and Weiss that gave them vital advice on the unaired pilot episode of the TV series. This "House Mazin" was first mentioned in Season 5 - and back then, they were implied to be incredibly weak and not noteworthy at all, given that Jon said that he had "never even heard of these people."
- While leaving out certain major families mentioned by name such as the Cerwyns or House Reed, the southern edge of the map does accurately label House Frey's lands (which border the Reeds' lands at the southern edge of "the North"), House Tully to the southwest of the Freys, and House Whent to the southeast of the Freys. The Whents held Harrenhal but actually died out during the course of the war, as their last living member old lady Shella Whent died during the Lannister occupation, and the lands were nominally given to Littlefinger. The Stark children actually have some partial claim to Harrenhal given that their maternal grandmother was herself a Whent. They might just be using an out of date map in this scene (or just defiantly labeled it "Whent" as a take-that against the Lannisters).
- Altogether, Jon says that there are about "two dozen" other vassal Houses in the North. In each of the Seven Kingdoms, there are typically about a dozen or so major vassal Houses immediately below the Great House of each region (a little more in some, a little less in others), though each of them may in turn have up to a dozen or so minor lordly Houses under it, and they have Houses of landed knights under them, and so on. The feudal patchwork is uneven in every region: some "major Houses" are actually quite poor and weak, and only considered major because they answer directly to the Great House and no one else - i.e. House Mormont, which rules over the poor forested Bear Island. Other major Houses are so strong and wealthy, such as House Manderly, that some of their minor Houses rival the weaker major Houses in size.
- The point is that when Jon says that there are "about two dozen" other vassal Houses in the North besides the Starks and Boltons, the actual number of "major" Houses in the North in the novels is fourteen - and that includes the Umbers, Karstarks, and Manderlys, which Jon apparently wasn't including. The other Houses mentioned in TV dialogue were the Mormonts (Jorah's family), the Cerwyns (Ramsay flayed their lord alive in Season 5), the Glovers (who rule the Wolfswood, and have minor vassals such as House Forrester), and the Hornwoods (in the books Ramsay killed the old woman who ruled their House by flaying her fingers then leaving her to starve to death in a tower). The Reeds are also staunch Stark loyalists, and Meera Reed is seen in this episode. Other Houses from the North haven't been mentioned as prominently in the TV series but they have been indicated on maps in past seasons: Dustin, Ryswell, and Tallhart are south of the Wolfswood on the southwest coast. Three other Houses that were sworn directly to Winterfell but which aren't very prominent even in the novels are House Locke (which mostly does whatever the Manderlys do), and the eastern and western branches of House Flint. In addition to these, there are actually about 40 or so very small noble Houses in the northwestern mountains of the North, north of the Wolfswood and northwest of Winterfell. While technically they are in the top tier of vassals because they directly serve the Starks, they are very weak - all of their armies combined consist of less than 3,000 men - which is slightly less than what a more powerful House like the Manderlys can raise individually. Of these Northern Houses, all of their armies were destroyed at the Red Wedding, except for the small local forces of the Reeds and mountain clans, who stayed behind to harass invaders.
- Thus, the only way that Jon could reach a count of "about two dozen" other major families is if first, he added some of the weaker and less notable ones like the Northern Mountain clans into the initial count of 14-17, and even then he was sort of rounding up.
- The map of the North that Jon and Sansa look over at Castle Black has an error with the Iron Islands, accidentally omitting Old Wyk island (which has appeared in other maps).
Brynden Tully and the Riverlands
- While he doesn't directly appear, this episode starts re-introducing Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully, not seen since the Red Wedding at the end of Season 3. In the TV version, he happened to be outside of the main hall when the betrayal began, and thus managed to fight his way out of the ambush in the camps outside. In the Season 3 finale, even Roose Bolton expressed his concern at Ser Brynden escaping their grasp. In the novels, Brynden actually never came to the Red Wedding at all - Robb left him behind at Riverrun to command the Tully armies and guard their southern flank while he tried to kick the Greyjoys out of the North. The TV series condensed this so that Robb was going to try to return south to make a strike at Casterly Rock, so Brynden just came with him - also viewers may have suspected the coming ambush if some characters weren't present. Either way the end result seemed to generally be the same - alone of Robb's lieutenants, Brynden was the only one that still remained alive and free. Afterwards the situation in the Riverlands was left unclarified in subsequent seasons. In the books, the main Frey army moved south to lay siege to Riverrun and has been encamped around it ever since.
- Littlefinger states in this episode that Brynden re-gathered the Tully forces to "retake" Riverrun. It is unclear what was meant to happen off-screen in the TV version, given that in the novels Brynden was always at Riverrun and it never fell to outside attack. It's possible that it initially fell to some advanced Frey raiding forces (because the Tully garrison didn't know about the betrayal), but then Brynden regrouped the main Tully army which was still in the field, then retook it, but then the main Frey army came and surrounded them. Jaime Lannister would eventually send the captive Edmure Tully to negotiate a surrender, but in the confusion, Brynden was able to escape and his whereabouts are unknown. Either that or the TV writers wanted to somehow address the fact that no one mentioned in the past two seasons that Riverrun was still left unconquered.
- Sansa makes no attempt to contact Brynden in the novels, though she also hasn't met Brienne of Tarth in the novels either. In the books, Brienne stayed in the Riverlands searching for the Stark girls and never went to the North (though these storylines are being adapted at an uneven pace). Thus sending Brienne back to Riverrun to try to open a line of communication with their Tully allies puts Brienne back onto her subplot from the books, and is a fairly plausible reason for her to go back south within the context of the TV show.
- Most of the Northern armies were destroyed in the massacre at the Red Wedding. Their Riverlord allies, however, led by the Tullys, were not present at the massacre and thus in the novels their armies were not totally destroyed - but facing the brunt of the combined Lannister/Tyrell armies, with no natural defenses between them, and now with their Northern allies massacred, most of them simply surrendered rather than face annihilation. The Tully garrison under Brynden held out in spite of them, but he only had about 200 men left under his command (more than enough to defend the castle, but not keeping on extra mouths to feed during the siege). Thus on the one hand, more of the Tully armies survived than the Stark armies (which were totally destroyed), and it is true that Sansa would try to at least contact them. On the other hand, the Tully forces are now totally surrounded by the main armies of the Lannisters, Tyrells, and Freys, and not in much of a position to help anyone. Of course, as the showrunners point out in the "Inside the Episode" featurette, the fact that Sansa didn't kill Littlefinger because she hopes to ally with his large Vale army in the future is meant to indicate that she isn't just thinking about the immediate battle in front of them, but is thinking several steps ahead to how they're going to face the Lannisters to the south, on a scale of years.
- In the episode itself, Davos is surprised when Sansa mentions Brynden's remaining Tully army and asks, "They still have an army?" - perhaps to highlight that they weren't mentioned for some time in the TV series.
- Sansa calls Brynden Tully her "uncle" - he is actually her great-uncle, as he is her mother Catelyn's uncle. This isn't incongruous, as even Joffrey would refer to his great-uncle Kevan Lannister as "uncle Kevan" in clipped fashion.
- Davos says that Brynden Tully is a hero and legend. Brynden became a war hero famous across Westeros for his actions in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, the big war fought a generation before Robert's Rebellion. In that war, in which he fought alongside Barristan Selmy, Brynden acquitted himself valiantly as a warrior but even moreso as a military commander - even the young Jaime Lannister was in awe when he first met Brynden. In-universe, if anyone could regroup the scattered remnants of the Tully armies to give the Lannisters and Freys this much trouble, it would be the Blackfish.
- The plausibility of Littlefinger meeting with Sansa Stark in Mole's Town in this episode is questionable. Sansa stayed with Littlefinger in the Vale in the novels, and never even met Ramsay Bolton - thus Littlefinger riding to within sight of the Wall itself to meet with her like this never happened in the books and is the result of heavy story condensations.
- Critics in Season 2 introduced the popular joke that Littlefinger must have a "jetpack" to quickly meet with characters in King's Landing, Storm's End, and at Harrenhal all within a few episodes of each other. Actually, a small riding party can move much faster than a large army, these three locations are not ridiculously far apart, and at that point in the war, the Lannisters controlled all of the major highways in the region (specifically the Kingsroad), and it was still pleasant autumn weather - thus a single rider could plausibly have moved around between those locations with relative speed.
- In this case, the distance between the Vale and the Wall is enormous - something like three times the distance between Storm's End and Harrenhal, and the highways are filling with snow now. Moreover, the Bolton forces are at Winterfell, directly in the middle of Littlefinger's overland path. Littlefinger said that the Vale's main army is camped at Moat Cailin - the choke point at the Neck where the Kingsroad crosses into the North. The other end of the Kingsroad is at Castle Black itself, and Mole's Town is just a few miles south of Castle Black along the Kingsroad. Winterfell, now the center of Ramsay Bolton's powerbase where his armies are massing is itself located near the Kingsroad, between these two points. Having a jetpack wouldn't address the fact that the Boltons block his path - he would need some kind of teleporter.
- Consider that in the TV version, Littlefinger said the Vale should start gathering its army and heading north after his spies heard the news that Sansa Stark escaped Winterfell. Sansa escaped Winterfell in the first episode of Season 6, and reached Castle Black in the fourth episode (albeit she didn't have horses to ride until the second episode). Littlefinger was shown receiving news of Sansa's escape only in the preceding episode (four). It is possible that scenes in different locations are not necessarily presented in chronological sequence relative to each other, so Littlefinger's scene in episode four could have chronologically taken place immediately after Sansa fled Winterfell in the season premiere. Nonetheless, in that time Littlefinger would have had to muster the knights of the Vale, ride from the Vale to Moat Cailin, then alone from Moat Cailin to Winterfell, then from Winterfell to Mole's Town - not even factoring in how Littlefinger could avoid the Bolton armies controlling he center of the North.
- The other unstated option is that Littlefinger may have arrived at the Wall by ship, at the eastern end at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, then ridden west to Mole's Town - apparently not riding to Castle Black itself due to fear of being recognized or attacked by some of the other characters there (Davos wouldn't trust Littlefinger). This is somewhat more plausible, the Boltons don't have any strength at sea to stop travel by ship, and Littlefinger has at least one ship at his disposal - but his ship might still need jets attached to travel the entire south-to-north length of "the North" to get to the Wall in so short a time period, and leave enough time to ride to Mole's Town.
- Note that Mole's Town remains in ruins after the Sack of Mole's Town in Season 4, when the wildlings attacked it to try to draw the garrison out of Castle Black, but they didn't take the bait. Littlefinger meets Sansa in the ruins of the village's brothel - fittingly, as in earlier seasons he often met characters in the brothel he owned in King's Landing.
At Castle Black
- Sansa Stark sews together new Northern-style riding clothes for herself and Jon Snow (see "Costumes: The Seven Kingdoms - The North"). Previous episodes have established that Sansa is skilled enough at sewing to make her own clothing; even in Season 1 she was first introduced in a sewing circle, and the production team explained Sansa's subtle costume shifts across Season 1 as Sansa altering her own clothing to try to fit in more with the southern styles in King's Landing. Subsequent seasons see Sansa's costume change subtly as she moves away from Cersei and towards Margaery, while making an overall return to a Northern style. Then at the end of Season 4, she created her own entirely new "Dark Sansa" outfit as Littlefinger's protégé, entirely out of materials on hand at the Eyrie.
- When Sansa and Brienne are arguing about Sansa sending her to Riverrun, Brienne criticizes Davos and Melisandre, stating that not only did they help Stannis kill Renly with blood magic, but they also abandoned Stannis when he was defeated. This is actually only true for Melisandre and not Davos: he wasn't with Stannis's army because Stannis sent Davos to the Wall, and while he did row Melisandre into position to assassinate Renly, he had no idea what she was going to do and was horrified at the appearance of the Shadow and what it proceeded to do.
- After everyone else leaves Castle Black, Eddison Tollett is outright surprised when someone else refers to him as Lord Commander - but then looks around at how few men they have left and accepts that he is. The HBO Viewer's Guide made it more explicit that after Jon Snow quit the Night's Watch upon his resurrection, he made Dolorous Edd the acting Lord Commander - much as Thorne was acting Lord Commander in Season 4. Jon's intention was just for Edd to be acting Lord Commander until another election can be held to formalize it (which Edd would probably win given that he was Jon's own choice), but with so few men left it is unclear if they will be able to hold an election for some time.
The Iron Islands' Kingsmoot
- The Kingsmoot to determine who will rule the Iron Islands occurs in this episode. It is somewhat condensed from the novels: Theon wasn't present, and another major candidate was his other uncle Victarion Greyjoy - who has been officially cut from the TV show. In the novels, the three Greyjoys - Yara, Euron, and Victarion - were the only serious candidates to go beyond the first round of introductions. There were three other early fringe candidates who present themselves but gain such little support that they soon give up. Yara (called "Asha" in the books) wanted to pull back from the mainland, make peace with the north and form an alliance against the Iron Throne, while Victarion wanted to just continue raiding as Balon had. Euron then makes his claim and announces that he wants to conquer all of Westeros - which Asha thinks is absurd given that they're having trouble as it is holding onto the few castles they've already seized. Euron then says he will use the three living dragons of Daenerys Targaryen. He also brings a magic horn that he found in the ruins of Old Valyria which he claims the old Dragonlords used to employ, and which he will use to bind the dragons to his will. The TV version cut this down to the essentials: ultimately the election was between Yara Greyjoy's pro-diplomacy and consolidation platform, and Euron Greyjoy's brazen scheme to conquer all of the Seven Kingdoms. The assembled captains are so impressed by Euron's wild promises to "make the Iron Islands great again" that they elect him.
- Considering that the episode is merging three subplots together into one event and outright omitting a POV narrator from the books (Victarion), the TV version of the Kingsmoot still manages to fit together reasonably well by its own internal logic, and basically matches the broad strokes of the subplot in the novels: Balon's more sensible daughter loses the election to his audacious brother who murdered him. The three subplots were closely related to each other in the novels. Contrast this with the Dorne subplot in Seasons 5 and 6, which also included major condensations and omissions but which ultimately produced several plot holes and drastically diverged from both the form and tone of the book version.
- In a post-episode interview with Variety, Pilou Asbæk (Euron) heavily implied that Euron actually has the dragonbinder horn in the TV series, but for pacing reasons this will only be revealed later. Other information about Euron dabbling in dark magic and his associations with the warlocks of Qarth may also be introduced later. The Kingsmoot scene in this episode itself was fully 9 minutes long, so perhaps the showrunners felt that also introducing the dragonbinder horn would have been too much information for the audience to process in a single episode.
- As with last episode, the priest of the Drowned Men that officiates the Kingsmoot and coronation is actually Euron and Balon's brother Aeron Greyjoy, but he is never identified in dialogue. The HBO Viewer's Guide, however, directly identifies him as Aeron.
- In the novels, Euron was actually exiled from the Iron Islands for raping (or seducing) the wife of his brother Victarion. The only reason Balon wouldn't let Victarion kill Euron is because Kinslaying is accursed in the eyes of gods and men. Afterwards Euron sailed to the far east and became the terror of the world's oceans. As Victarion was cut from the TV version, no mention is made that Euron was exiled, and it is simply said that he was away for years raiding far away foreign lands (which is essentially the same in both versions).
- Unlike in the books, in the show Euron openly and brazenly admits that he committed an act of Kinslaying; even Ramsay Bolton - one of the worst villains in the show, who murdered at least three of his kin (four if killing a stepmother counts as kinslaying) - wouldn't openly admit such crime (he claimed that his father was poisoned by their enemies). On the other hand, even in the books Euron doesn't really care how suspicious it looked that he arrived on Pyke literally the day after Balon's death, and is flippant when Yara/Asha implies that he killed Balon. Generally, as he says in this episode, the ironborn believe in "paying the Iron price" (taking what you want with your own strength), so none of them bother to press the question further. In the TV version the ironborn captains are impressed by Euron's sheer audacity at taking what he wants, which is a major aspect of their culture. In the books, Asha claims that Euron does not care about the taboo of kinslaying (and she is correct - he performed three kinslaying so far, though no one knows that), and if someone accused him of being afraid of being called a kinslayer, he would probably murder one of his own bastard sons just to prove that he is not.
- In the recently released sample chapter "The Forsaken" of the sixth novel, Euron admits explicitly that he murdered not only Balon, but also two more of their brothers - Robin and Harlon. He does not admit that in public, though - but only to Aeron, who is being held captive by Euron.
- The fact that in the books Euron refrains from admitting the kinslaying in public - may indicate that the ironborn would not tolerate such crime, while in the show they do.
- It's possible that later episodes will in fact address how outrageous Euron's behavior is - note that after he wins the election as Aeron performs the coronation ceremony, he seems to be almost growling the lines in anger - apparently quite distressed that Euron killed their older brother, but he feels bound by the choice of the vote. In the books, all of the Drowned Men (and Aeron in particular) loathe Euron as an "ungodly man" for his actions, such as raping Victarion's wife. Given that Victarion was cut from the TV series, it may have had Euron publicly reveal he is a kinslayer to simplify the reason why the clergy will dislike him.
- Euron asking where his niece and nephew are then cheerfully saying "let's go murder them" would be odd for other ironborn characters, but Euron is that brazen. In the books, after he wins the Kingsmoot (and Yara/Asha wisely flees that instant) he openly executes the only one who refuses to accept him as king, the lord of House Blacktyde, who defiantly voted for Asha.
- In the books, Asha/Yara does quickly escape after the Kingsmoot but she only manages to take her own ship, the Black Wind, and then flees back to the North where her loyal men still hold Deepwood Motte. However, Stannis Baratheon then attacks, almost all of her men are killed, and she is captured - and thus meets Theon again in Stannis's camp, both of them are captives. In the TV show the Glovers managed to liberate Deepwood Motte off-screen, with the help of the Boltons.
- The fact that Theon Greyjoy wasn't present at the Kingsmoot in the novels later becomes a plot point. At the Kingsmoot itself so many presumed him dead that no significant effort was made to determine if he survived. After Yara/Asha loses, she returns to Deepwood Motte, where she receives a taunting letter from Ramsay, implying that Theon is alive. Tristifer Botley tells her that in the past a Kingsmoot was ruled unlawful because the old king's son was away at sea at the time and wasn't allowed to present his candidacy as was his right. This apparently gives her the idea that if Theon can be rescued, it can be argued that the first Kingsmoot can be declared unlawful because Theon was denied his candidacy - Theon isn't popular enough to beat Euron himself, let alone become a king (most of the ironborn do not even care if he is alive or dead, and only two have mentioned him as a claimant), but it could be used as a pretext for a second round of voting, now that several major lords have grown so wary of Euron that they might switch their votes to Asha this time. Aeron and the other Drowned Men hate Euron, so they would probably accept her proposal. Before Asha can act on this she is captured by Stannis, where she is reunited with her brother, whom Stannis intends to execute. Their captivity in Stannis's camp and the upcoming major battle between Stannis and the Boltons means a second Kingsmoot will only occur if they both somehow manage to survive and return to the Iron Islands. Apparently the TV series, based on knowledge of the next unpublished book, just condensed both elections together into one Kingsmoot to simplify events.
- In the novel version, Yara and Theon don't steal most of the Iron Fleet - Victarion grudgingly accepts that Euron is now the lawful king, and Euron orders his brother to sail the Iron Fleet to Slaver's Bay to acquire Daenerys and her dragons. Victarion, who hates Euron for raping his wife years before, obeys the order to set sail but secretly plans to force Daenerys to marry him before Euron can, then return and overthrow Euron, perhaps by using the combined Iron Fleet/Targaryen army. The TV version condenses this so that Yara and Theon essentially take Victarion's place - but instead of taking the fleet east while secretly planning to betray Euron, they have openly turned against Euron. It is unclear how drastic of a condensation this is, given that it is heavily implied that Yara/Asha and Theon were going to return to the Iron Islands on their own soon, and the anti-Euron factions on the Iron Islands were hoping to ally with Daenerys against both Euron and the mainland (for all anyone knows, Asha and Theon may follow after Victarion to Slaver's Bay in the next novel - assuming they survive the coming battle at Winterfell).
- The Iron Fleet in the novels is the main "national" fleet of a sort for the Iron Islands: each major vassal House has its own military forces and fleets, but the Iron Fleet is sworn directly to the ruler of the Iron Isles. It is composed of the best ships and crews the ironborn possess, and numbers about 100 ships - each of them about three times larger than the standard longships possessed by the vassal Houses. Thus the episode's line that Yara and Theon took their "best ships" is accurate, though it isn't clear how many ships they have in the Iron Fleet in the TV version (or if they took only a fraction of them).
- Euron's command to build "a thousand" more ships might strain these numbers but it is unclear: the Iron Fleet itself only has 100 ships in it but they are larger than the regular ones and considered an elite force, and the other combined vassal Houses of all seven islands probably have more numerous albeit smaller ships. It depends on whether Euron meant "1,000 full sized war galleys" (which is implausible) or "1,000 raiding longships and skiffs" (which is much more plausible, though still a large number).
- In the books, the Kingsmoot is held on Old Wyk island, as it has been for centuries, because it was the first of the Iron Islands to be settled. The gathering is held at a location known as Nagga's Bones - apparently the skeletal remains of Nagga, the first sea-dragon. No mention is made of the exact location of the Kingsmoot in the TV version but it is apparently condensed to simply happen on the shore of Pyke island itself.
- The Drowned God religion considers it a very holy act to literally "drown" someone, but then revive them using a form of CPR. The "Drowned Men" priests are literally drowned to initiate them into the order. No mention has been made in the books of the actual coronation ceremony for kings, however - though it may also involve drowning. In the TV version they don't use CPR on Euron, they just wait to see if he can survive drowning on his own (which may or may not be the case in the novels, i.e. perhaps it is considered more holy if a new king can survive drowning without needing CPR).
- At the end of the ceremony, Euron is crowned king by placing a wooden crown made of driftwood on his head. Traditionally, the kings of the ironborn have always worn driftwood crowns (some relatively simple, others ornate), as they are provided by the sea itself. Even Balon had a driftwood crown in the novels - curiously, all of the rival kings in the war have crowns in the books (also Robb Stark and Stannis Baratheon), but in the TV version only Joffrey (and Tommen), Renly, and now Euron have been shown with crowns. There also isn't one "driftwood crown" passed from generation to generation. Even in past centuries, when one king died his crown would be broken up and returned to the sea, and the new king made his own new crown.
- It took two days to film the Kingsmoot scene itself, and another two days to film the scene of Euron's drowning and coronation (which was more difficult due to the underwater shots). Pilou Asbæk (Euron) said that for any one take his head was submerged for about 30 to 40 seconds - and he pointed out that this doesn't sound like a long time, until you actually try to hold your breath underwater for that long while someone is holding you down.
Arya in Braavos, and The Bloody Hand
- The play that Arya Stark sees in Braavos is titled The Bloody Hand in the books. This isn't stated in the episode's dialogue but the title was confirmed to be the same in HBO's Official Viewer's Guide.
- In the book continuity, the play actually takes place in the unpublished sixth novel, but it occurs during a preview chapter which was released just prior to Season 5. A few plot elements from that chapter were moved around for the TV show: in the preview chapter, Arya works at the theater for some time to hone her acting/lying skills, when the Lannisters' ambassador who came to treat with the Iron Bank of Braavos comes to see the play (Harys Swyft in the novels, Mace Tyrell in the TV version). In his entourage, Arya recognizes Raff, one of Gregor Clegane's men who is on her kill list (condensed with Meryn Trant in the TV version, who is still alive in the novels). Arya lures Raff away by pretending to be a child prostitute (knowing he is a pedophile), and then when they are in private she kills him by stabbing him in the neck with Needle and sarcastically repeating the dialogue the Lannister soldiers said to Lommy when they killed him.
- In the books, Arya is sent to the theater after successfully completing her first assignment to kill the the insurance seller (in the show she does not kill him but someone else whom she was not ordered to). It is unknown yet why it is necessary for her to join the theater, and whether it involves her next mission. She is not ordered to kill any of the actors, at least not yet - apparently it was to hone her acting/lying skills.
- The TV version split this into three separate events and reshuffled them around somewhat: Arya kills Polliver in early Season 4 in the manner that she killed book-Raff, then she recognizes TV-Meryn in the embassy to the Iron Bank in Season 5 and kills him (how she recognized Raff in the novels, but not involving the play), and now the play is introduced separately. Of course, it is somewhat implied that the Faceless Men sent Arya to the theater knowing that Raff would should up there, and combined with a play loosely based on the downfall of Arya's family, wanted to see if it was enough to tempt her into taking personal revenge on Arya Stark's enemies, even though she is supposed to leave personal attachments behind. If this was a test in the books as well, the fallout from her "failure" has not yet been seen, as the preview chapter ends with her killing Raff.
- The play itself that Arya sees, The Bloody Hand, is very similar to how it was in the novels: a thoroughly ribald, mock-Shakespearean in style production which is obviously slanted in favor of the "official" version of events that Cersei Lannister and the royal court in King's Landing have been circulating: that Joffrey Baratheon was a decent king but Ned Stark tried to overthrow him to seize power, and that Tyrion Lannister must have not only encouraged Ned's betrayal - then turned on him in order to become Hand - but also poisoned Joffrey as well. The dwarf actor Bobonono also ran around wearing a giant oversized codpiece, groped the breasts of the actress playing fake-Sansa, and at one point a prop bird "pooped" onto the head of an actor playing the Sealord of Braavos (who was in attendance at the theater). The play got generally good reviews.
- In keeping with the mock-Shakespearean style of the play itself, it also seems to be a reference to the play within a play plot element from Shakespeare's Hamlet: Hamlet suspects that his uncle Claudius killed his own brother, Hamlet's father, to seize the throne, so Hamlet puts on a play for Claudius which is an exaggerated and offensive retelling of a very similar murder. Hamlet's plan is that the play will show "the conscience of the king", and it succeeds: Claudius is clearly deeply upset at the production, convincing Hamlet of his guilt. Similarly, the Faceless Men have Arya go to a play which exaggerates the details of the War of the Five Kings and downfall of her family, to see if she is truly "no one" or is still holding on to her past.
- The play has several extra sections which were left out of the TV version; in the books it actually focuses on Tyrion, while Ned does not even appear in it, but they have roughly equal time in the TV version.
- George R.R. Martin has said that one of his influences in developing the character of Tyrion Lannister was the title character from Shakspeare's Richard III. In the play, King Richard III is portrayed as an evil and scheming tyrant, and he is infamously hunchbacked and ugly. Richard III was a king from the House of York during the Wars of the Roses, however, and they were later deposed by their rivals the Lancasters at the end of the war, who founded the Tudor dynasty - and Shakespeare was writing during the later reign of the Tudors. Martin was fascinated with how history always has more than one point of view, which is one of the reasons he gave POV narration chapters to both the Stark and Lannister characters in his story - there isn't one "good" and one "evil" side, but both have their own views. Similarly, Martin was particularly fascinated with criticisms of Shakespeare's play which argue that "Richard III" the Shakespearean character and villain isn't historically accurate, but just Lancaster/Tudor propaganda which skewed the story of events after they defeated him. Thus, Martin wrote Tyrion as almost a revisionist Richard III if these criticisms were true: he is ugly and stunted (as a dwarf), and he is very cunning, but Tyrion is also actually a well-meaning and sympathetic character and not particularly villainous. Therefore, in the exaggerated play in this episode, we essentially see what Martin thinks might have happened to the real Richard III happening to Tyrion: the stories surrounding what happened mix with his enemies' propaganda, resulting in widespread belief in "popular culture" (theatrical plays) that Tyrion was actually an evil, scheming villain, just like Shakespeare's Richard III.
- The Cersei-actress's line in the play that "I feel the winds of winter as they lick across the land" is actually a reference to the title of the unreleased sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter.
- The Bloody Hand play intentionally includes several outright inaccuracies which the theater didn't intend, but which occur because they heard about the story second-hand and the facts have become distorted (in addition to wanting it to match the official Lannister version of events). This highlights that characters in Westeros and Essos only have a medieval level of communication, they don't have television or newspapers, so information gets distorted as it passes to foreign lands. Notice that all of the Heraldry it uses for the Baratheons, Lannisters, and Starks is slightly inaccurate compared to the official versions, and not as well drawn. Tyrion has a large scar on his face even before Ned Stark dies, when he only received the wound much later during the Battle of the Blackwater. For that matter, it is publicly known that Tyrion wasn't even in King's Landing until after Ned Stark died, so he couldn't have directly conspired with him like this.
- One detail that surprisingly remains intact is that Joffrey had nothing to do with Robert's death, and because he thought he was his actual father, he was reduced to genuine tears as Robert lay on his deathbed. The background painting for the stage of the Red Keep in King's Landing is also fairly accurate, as is their wooden mock-up of the Iron Throne.
- In the books, all of the characters in the play had obvious sound-alike names to the actual characters, i.e. the Starks were called the "Storks", and the character was called "Lady Stork" and not "Lady Crane". In the TV version they just outright call the play's characters by who they are parodying: "Ned Stark", "Tyrion", "Cersei", etc.
- The play parodies of the first five TV seasons of Game of Thrones, exaggerating elements that were met with criticism by some:
- Joffrey is repeatedly slapped in the face purely for comedic effect.
- It includes several fart jokes to pander to the audience's lowbrow sense of humor.
- Random acts of nudity occur to pander to the audience, when "Tyrion" pulls down "Sansa's" shirt to reveal her breasts.
- The play introduces a rape scene with Sansa Stark which didn't actually happen in the source material (Tyrion refused to consummate their marriage in disgust).
- Catelyn Stark's role has been significantly reduced (to the point that she doesn't appear), and Sansa doesn't have many lines or much agency in the play either (at one point the actress complains that she only has two speaking lines in the whole play).
- The stage musicians at the play are actually a cameo appearance by the Icelandic indie folk/rock band Of Monsters and Men.
- Jaqen H'ghar's story about how the Faceless Men originated is from the novels, but may include some differences. As he says, they started out as a death cult among the slaves of Old Valyria, worked to death in the vast mines to feed their masters' ever-expanding hunger for resources. Over time, they came to see death as a "gift" to release fellow slaves from their hellish suffering - and in time, honed their skills to give "the gift" to the slave-masters too. Where Jaqen's story diverges is when he says that Braavos was "founded" by the Faceless Men - in the novels it was not. For that matter, the Season 5 Blu-ray set's animated featurette on "Braavos (Histories & Lore)" explained that Braavos was founded when a slave uprising took control of a slave transport fleet, killed all the slave-masters on board, then sailed to the far northwest corner of Essos where the slavers wouldn't find them. In the novels, the Faceless Men came to Braavos at some later point - though they did help the city grow and flourish, by secretly killing its political enemies across the Free Cities.
- Jaqen's claim that the Faceless Men came to give "the gift" to their slave masters in addition to their fellow slaves has led some fans to believe that the Faceless Men were somehow involved in the Doom of Valyria, the massive fiery cataclysm that wiped out the Valyrian Freehold.
- Jaqen says that the theater the play is being performed at is on "Sheelba Square". In the novels, there is no location in Braavos named "Sheelba". The name is apparently an inside reference to the character Sheelba of the Eyeless Face from Frit Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser fantasy series. The series is a deconstruction of High Fantasy tropes which heavy influenced many subsequent writers, including George R.R. Martin himself, several major Dungeons & Dragons writers, and Terry Pratchett's Discworld. In that series, Sheelba is a death god of sorts who sends the heroes out on sometimes pointless missions - paralleling that, in this episode Jaqen is a member of a cult that worships a death-god, and he sends Arya out on a mission, to Sheelba Square.
Daenerys and Meereen
- Daenerys Targaryen asks Jorah Mormont if there is a cure for Greyscale and he says he doesn't know, or how long it will take to kill him. Greyscale actually kills slowly and can take years to die from. People can in fact be cured of Greyscale, case in point Shireen Baratheon was cured, though her scars remained. There isn't actually one "cure" however, it's just that if doctors and apothecaries desperately try dozens of potential remedies on very rare occasion they work, but no one has been reliably able to find one method.
- This episode introduces Kinvara, a Red Priestess who seems to be a high-ranking leader, or perhaps the leader of the Lord of Light religion. If she exists in the books continuity she hasn't been introduced yet.
- Practically nothing has been revealed in the five current novels about the hierarchical organization of the Lord of Light religion, or its organizational history - perhaps hinting that this will be a plot point later. What is known is that the major city-states of the Free Cities do each have their own local High Priest, but the interrelationships between the different High Priests over large areas are unknown. The High Priest in Volantis in the novels is a man named Benerro, but it is unclear how he interacts with the High Priest in Myr, etc. If there actually is some ruling body of the religion in Asshai or somewhere else, its existence hasn't even been hinted at. Even in the World of Ice and Fire sourcebook (2014), the only vague new detail about the Lord of Light religion is that it started becoming increasingly popular about one hundred years before the beginning of the main narrative.
- Note that the actress cast to play Kinvara is unusually young to play one of the high ranking leaders of an entire religion: Israeli actress Ania Bukstein (Kinvara) was in fact only 33 years old when she filmed for Season 6 - and is six years younger than Carice van Houten (Melisandre). The current novels have hinted that Melisandre is far older than she actually appears, however, and now the Season 6 premiere has confirmed that she casts a magical glamor over herself to give an appearance of youth when she is truly several centuries old. Thus Kinvara is probably using a magical glamor of youth as well - and it seems fitting that an even more powerful priestess than Melisandre would be able to sustain a magical glamor of an even more youthful appearance.
- Tyrion Lannister's line to Varys when suggesting they meet with Kinvara, "Who said anything about him?" is an in-universe callback to the Season 5 premiere, when Varys urged Tyrion to come with him to meet Daenerys Targaryen.
- Kinvara demonstrates that she knows how Varys was castrated, a story which he recounted in Season 3 episode 4, "And Now His Watch is Ended". A Sorcerer cut off his genitals and burned them in a fire to commune with some supernatural force or demon, as a voice answered from the flames. Varys stated that while the incident still haunts him, what he remembers most isn't the knife or the pain, but the utter horror at some otherworldly voice answering from the fire. As he explained, for this reason he hates all who claim to wield Magic - which is why he is suspicious of Kinvara. In this episode, Kinvara says that the man who castrated him was naught but "a second-rate sorcerer" dabbling in the magical arts.
- Kinvara also says she knows that Tyrion heard a sermon from another Red Priestess claiming that Daenerys is the Lord's Chosen - which occurred back in Season 5's "High Sparrow". Tyrion sat on the other side of a market square listening and making mocking commentary on her claims, at which she turned to glare at him - despite being too far away for a normal person to hear him.
- Kinvara says that dragons are "fire made flesh" - which is what Quaithe said back in Season 2. Notice that Kinvara, Quaithe, and Melisandre all share the design motif on their clothing of a repeated pattern of elongated hexagons - meant to be a hint that they are all from Asshai.
- It seems implausible that Kinvara could arrive so quickly in Meereen from Volantis - Grey Worm even states that it has been only two weeks since the peace treaty was made last episode. Recall that it took Tyrion about half of Season 5 to make the same journey. In the novels, it takes about one year to travel from Pentos to Qarth, thus it seems that it would take ships at least months to get from Volantis to Slaver's Bay (albeit Volantis is the closest of the Free Cities to Meereen). On the other hand, it has been two weeks since the peace treaty was concluded, not since when Tyrion sent out summons to representatives of the slaver-cities. Moreover, Tyrion never indicates exactly when he invited Kinvara to the city - he may indeed have sent for her weeks if not months ago, and just not mentioned it before until he knew his plans were in place. Another possibility is that Kinvara foresaw these events through the flames and made her way to Meereen before Tyrion thought of summoning to the Great Pyramid.
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 10, Sansa I: Sansa learns that her great-uncle is under siege at Riverrun.
- Chapter 19, The Drowned Man: The Kingsmoot takes place under Aeron Greyjoy's guidance. Asha claims the Crown of Salt and Rock and obtains support. Euron interrupts the kingsmoot and lays his own claim to the throne, suggesting a plan to bind dragons to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. He wins the acclaim of most of the ironborn present and then crowned King of the Iron Islands.
- Chapter 29, The Reaver: Euron reveals his plan to marry Daenerys.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride: Asha has fled the Iron Islands.
- Chapter 27, Tyrion VII: The High Priest of Volantis preaches that Daenerys is Azor Ahai.
- Chapter 35, Jon VII: Stannis considers the Mormonts, Cerwyns, Glovers, Hornwoods and other Northern houses as potential allies in the campaign against the Boltons.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of The Winds of Winter:
- The Forsaken, Aeron I: Euron admits that he murdered Balon.
- Mercy: Arya and other actors and actresses prepare to stage a play called The Bloody Hand, concerning the court politics in King's Landing.
- Most of this episode's material appears to be based on what will come in this sixth novel, particularly the storylines of Jon Snow and his actions after his resurrection, the Knights of the Vale being rallied to Winterfell, the Red Priests arriving in Meereen to preach about Daenerys, Theon and Asha challenging Euron's rule, and Bran Stark, including the revelation of the origin of the White Walkers, the three-eyed raven's cave being overrun by them, and many dying protecting Bran, including Hodor, whose name is revealed to stem from the phrase "Hold the door".
- "Hold the door....holdthedoor...holthdor...holdor...hodor...hodor..."
- ―Young Hodor, having a seizure due to Bran Stark losing control of his powers during a vision of the past.