"The House of Black and White" is the second episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. It is the forty-second episode of the series overall. It premiered on April 19, 2015. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by Michael Slovis.
Arya arrives in Braavos. Pod and Brienne run into trouble on the road. Cersei fears for her daughter's safety in Dorne as Ellaria Sand seeks revenge for Oberyn's death. Stannis tempts Jon. An adviser tempts Dany.
In the Free CitiesTernesio Terys and Arya Stark arrive at Braavos, and Arya is at first scared by the horn blown by the man inside the Titan of Braavos. The two then arrive at the House of Black and White on a boat. Arya lingers outside waiting for admittance, but is rejected by an elder man despite showing the coin Jaqen H'ghar had given her and mentioning their prior association. Arya waits outside the House for days, endlessly reciting the names of the people she's going to kill, but eventually tosses away her coin and wanders off into the streets of Braavos. While hunting for pigeons, she encounters several thugs who threaten to take her food and Needle. As she prepares to defend herself, the boys scatter when the man from the House of Black and White appears again. After following him back to the House, Arya demands he divulge his identity, and he returns to her the coin she threw in the water before. His face morphs into that of the man Arya knew as Jaqen. Stating that "a man is not Jaqen H'ghar," he responds to Arya's question as to who he really is with the answer "No one. And that is what a girl must become" as he indicates that Arya may now enter the House.
Further south, Tyrion Lannister and Varys depart Pentos in a large wheelhouse pulled by many horses. Tyrion remains despondent, and as he promised, he is continuing to drink himself into a stupor. Varys explains that they are travelling to Meereen by way of Volantis. Varys points out that Tyrion was an effective ruler when he was acting Hand of the King, and that each of them were outsiders due to their deformities (a eunuch and a dwarf). They enjoyed accumulating power, he says, but they also wall themselves off from other people, like hiding inside of a large carriage as they are now - but deep down they were never satisfied being separate from society. Tyrion is unmoved from his depression, and continues to insist that he's tired of being confined in a box of some sort. Varys again warns him that he must remain hidden and that it is unsafe to be seen publicly: Cersei has promised a lordship to any man who brings her his head. Tyrion scoffs and rhetorically asks if Cersei is going to kill every dwarf in the world in the hope of eventually catching him....
In King's Landing and the Crownlands
In King's Landing, Cersei Lannister is presented with the severed head of yet another dwarf. Her offer of a lordship for Tyrion's head has indeed motivated people to start killing any dwarf they can find and try to pass it off as Tyrion. Cersei is irate, but won't punish the men who brought her the head for fear this will deter other such bounty hunters. She wants the head disposed of, but Qyburn interjects and politely asks if he can keep the head, as it might be of use in some of his "experiments."Cersei summons Jaime to their late father's office and reveals a "gift" from Dorne: an ornately carved viper, with Princess Myrcella's unique Lannister pendant suspended from its fangs. She insists it is a threat against Myrcella, a conclusion Jaime can't refute. Cersei lashes out at Jaime for not being a father to any of his children, to which he points out that if he had been, their children would be stoned in the streets. He declares he will fix the situation with Myrcella and ignores Cersei's mocking of his one-handed status.
That issue dealt with, Cersei convenes the Small Council. Sitting in the Hand's seat, she announces that "Tommen" has declared Qyburn the new Master of Whisperers and that the position of Hand of the King will remain vacant until Tommen is old enough to decide on a candidate for himself. Tommen has apparently also decided to make Mace Tyrell the new Master of Coin in addition to his duties as Master of Ships, and extends the (just now made up) position of "Master of War" to Kevan Lannister. Although Mace preens at his new responsibilities, Pycelle is outraged at Qyburn's promotion (as he was thrown out of the order of Maesters for conducting human experimentation). Kevan is disgusted at Cersei's blatant power play. Refusing the new position, he denounces Cersei as nothing more than the Queen Mother, berates her for abusing her authority to fill the Small Council with her sycophants. He then walks out, saying he will await King Tommen's own instructions - at Casterly Rock.
Further north in the Crownlands at Castle Stokeworth, Bronn is spending time with his somewhat vapid betrothed Lollys Stokeworth. They seem to get on relatively well, but when Lollys reminds Bronn that her older sister will get the castle when their mother dies, he wryly assures her that mean people like her sister usually get what's coming to them, clearly setting his sights on the castle. Jaime finds the couple, and reveals to Bronn that Cersei has reneged on her deal and offered Lollys's hand to Ser Willas Bracken instead. Bronn is understandably furious about the change of arrangements until Jaime tells him that if he helps rescue Myrcella from Dorne, Bronn will receive a much better girl than Lollys, who has rights to a much better castle.
In DorneIn the Water Gardens of Dorne, Ellaria Sand rudely demands an audience with Doran Martell, the ruling Prince of Dorne. His bodyguard, Areo Hotah, blocks her path, yet Doran tells him to let her pass. She wants to take Princess Myrcella, who at that very moment is enjoying Trystane Martell's company, so that she can send the princess piece by piece to Cersei as revenge for Oberyn Martell's murder. Doran refuses, reminding her that Oberyn had participated in a trial by combat, and therefore his death was legal, and not murder. He states Dorne will not stoop to the level of mutilating children while he rules, even if the Sand Snakes are siding with Ellaria. Sneering, Ellaria asks how long he expects to rule for and storms out. Hotah and the Prince exchange a look as she departs, the former meaningfully indicating his axe, but Doran shakes his head and returns his attention to the Water Gardens as he contemplates his next move.
In the Vale
Brienne mentions her sworn vow to Sansa's mother Catelyn, while Littlefinger points out how she was accused of murdering Renly Baratheon and how both he and Catelyn are now dead. Sansa denies Brienne's request and Littlefinger urges that she stay at the inn as the road is not safe, and seeing this as a trap, Brienne escapes with Podrick on the horses they take. They are chased through a forest as Brienne fights the men and Podrick is thrown off his horse. Reuniting, Podrick mentions how both Stark girls denied her request for protection, but Brienne retorts by doubting Sansa is safe with Littlefinger. Brienne tells Podrick to get his horse as they attempt to further pursue Sansa and Littlefinger.
In MeereenDaario and Grey Worm find a house belonging to a Son of the Harpy allegedly responsible for White Rat's death. Daario explains that he has been using the Second Sons as spies throughout Meereen, since they are far less conspicuous than Unsullied and can indulge in the same vices as their informants; Daario indicates his men's effectiveness by stabbing his dagger through a false wall, seriously injuring the man hiding behind it.
Back at the Great Pyramid, Daenerys and her council debate executing this Harpy's Son, but the debate devolves into a shouting match between Mossador and Hizdahr zo Loraq. After the rest leave, Ser Barristan tells her about her father, and confirms that, contrary to what Viserys told her, the Mad King was indeed quite mad, citing how his crimes against House Stark ultimately led to the rebellion that all but destroyed the Targaryen dynasty. Mollified by the revelation, particularly that her crazed father always thought his atrocities were serving justice to his enemies, Daenerys promises Ser Barristan that there will be a trial for the accused. Before the trial begins, Mossador kills the Harpy's Son. Daenerys, hoping to preserve the integrity of law, has Mossador publicly executed, causing the freed slaves to hiss at her and throw rocks at her as she leaves, along with a riot between the former slaves and masters breaking out.
Later that night, Daenerys dismisses her council and goes outside. To her relief, Drogon, now the size of a small house, has alighted just above her balcony. Drogon sniffs her outstretched hand, and though he doesn't attack, he flies away again, leaving his mother alone.
At the Wall
Shireen Baratheon teaches Gilly how to read in Castle Black's library, apparently to Sam's chagrin. Gilly asks about Shireen's Greyscale scars, revealing that the wildlings don't really have a word for it and that two of her sisters contracted and were driven mad by the disease, before Craster put them out of their misery. Queen Selyse interrupts the proceedings and dismisses Sam and Gilly. She lectures Shireen on the dangers of spending time with any wildlings, since they could conceivably use Gilly to harm Stannis through Shireen. Shireen, however, doubts that that's how things will go.
Stannis himself, meanwhile, discusses Jon Snow's recent defiance. Stannis shows Jon a message he received from Lady Lyanna Mormont in response to the demand that House Mormont pledge itself to Stannis's cause. The note refuses, saying that the Mormonts know only one king, the King in the North, and will only follow a Stark. Jon tells Stannis that, like the Wildlings, the Northerners will only follow one of their own. Realizing this is true, Stannis makes Jon an enticing offer: if he leaves the Night's Watch, Stannis will use his authority as king to officially legitimize him as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, so he can rally the North to Stannis's side and resume the fight against the Boltons, Freys, and Lannisters. Jon is visibly moved at the prospect of having his lifelong dream finally come true, but he later admits to Sam that he plans to turn Stannis down: he is a man of the Night's Watch.
The election for the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch commences, overseen by Maester Aemon. Janos Slynt nominates Alliser Thorne. Another brother names Denys Mallister, Commander of the Shadow Tower. The vote almost begins before Sam interrupts to put forward a third nomination: Jon Snow. When the votes are cast, a tie is called: Snow and Thorne have garnered an equal number of votes. With a wry smile, Maester Aemon casts his own vote for Jon Snow. The black brothers hail Jon as the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
- Captain Areo Hotah
- Ser Denys Mallister
- Prince Doran Martell
- Prince Trystane Martell
- Lollys Stokeworth
- Joffrey Baratheon
- Tommen Baratheon
- Oberyn Martell
- Margaery Tyrell
- Catelyn Stark
- Lyanna Mormont
- Renly Baratheon
- Aerys II Targaryen
- Obara Sand
- Nymeria Sand
- Tyene Sand
- Tywin Lannister
- Mance Rayder
- Falyse Stokeworth
- 19 of 27 cast members for the fifth season appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Carice van Houten (Melisandre), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon), Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Indira Varma and Tom Wlaschiha are both added to the main cast with their names appearing in the opening credits, starting with this episode. They both previously appeared in recurring roles, Varma in the fourth, and Wlaschiha in the second season.
- The episode title is a reference to the House of Black and White, the headquarters of the Faceless Men in the Free City of Braavos.
- Almost every major faction in the TV series appears in this episode, except for House Bolton, as well as House Frey (who have not appeared on-screen since Season 3), House Tully (Brynden and Edmure, more of an extension of the Starks, but not seen since Season 3 either), and House Greyjoy (whose subplots from the fourth novel were pushed back to Season 6). The producers already confirmed that Bran Stark and his associated storyline will not reappear until Season 6. Mace Tyrell does appear, representing House Tyrell, though Margaery, Loras, and Olenna do not appear.
- This episode marks the return of Cersei and Jaime's second child and only daughter, Myrcella Baratheon. She was last physically seen back in Season 2 episode 6, "The Old Gods and the New," when she sent off on a boat to Dorne. Myrcella was originally played by Aimee Richardson in Seasons 1 and 2, but after a two season absence, the producers decided to recast the role now that Myrcella prominently features in Season 5, and the role is now played by Nell Tiger Free.
- This episode marks the first time that Dorne has been seen in the TV series, and the introduction of much of the rest of House Martell, after the first view of them given when Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand visited King's Landing in Season 4. This episode marks the introduction of Doran Martell, Oberyn's older brother and ruling Prince of Dorne - played by Alexander Siddig, known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- Dorne in the novels was loosely inspired by Moorish Spain, and by the time that the narrative was going to show it in Season 5, the unprecedented success of the TV series convinced HBO to invest the extra budget to actually film Dorne scenes in Spain, in the very medieval Islamic palaces which inspired the fantasy counterpart.
- Jaime euphemistically says that Dorne is "as far south as south goes." Way back in Season 1, Osha said that her goal after getting past the Wall was to go as far south as south goes, and whether or not she knew of Dorne, it is indeed the farthest south one can go in Westeros.
- It took fifteen attempts for the Dornish "gift" box sent to Cersei to open properly (all the sides falling away at the same time to reveal the dead viper inside).
- In the novels, Cersei does not receive any token of threat from Dorne, nor any report that Myrcella is in danger. She sends Ser Balon Swann to bring Myrcella (who was sent to Dorne against Cersei's will) back because she feels the Dornishmen cannot be trusted; in her eyes, all Dornishmen are snakes, and the Martells are the worst of them. The fact that a Dornishman served as her hateful brother's champion increased the loathing she felt toward Dorne.
- Unbeknown to Cersei, at the time she sends Ser Balon to Dorne, Myrcella is in danger, though the Sand Snakes and Ellaria do not mean to harm her: Doran Martell is aware that many of his subjects want to get even with the Lannisters for his brother's death, and may seek to kill Myrcella as a payback or in order to push Dorne into war (or for both reasons). Therefore he warns Ser Arys Oakheart of the danger, and takes steps to prevent his nieces from stirring troubles.
- Jon Snow has been elected as the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
- The voting scene is significantly condensed from how this played out in the novels. Indeed, Jon's storyline is actually relatively behind several others. Unlike how Bran Stark's storyline caught up with his material at the end of the fifth and most recent novel, the Night's Watch election occurs at the end of the third novel, right after the Battle of Castle Black. This got pushed into the beginning of Season 5, because the battle was used as the climax of the season in episode 9, so there wasn't enough time left over - though the producers have frequently said that they feel they are adapting the story as a whole, and have been willing to let parts from one book spill over into earlier or later seasons, instead of forcing the pacing by trying to make them neatly match up.
- In the novels, every member of the Night's Watch gets to vote - and there are about 600 men left alive in the Night's Watch at this point. Not all of them can come to Castle Black, but their commanders report how each garrison votes. The tally mechanism in front of Aemon visibly doesn't have nearly that many tokens in it. Moreover, it is impossible for there to be a tie in the novels, as such, because the office is won by a two-thirds majority. If no one candidate gets a two-thirds majority, voting just continues until a clear front-runner gathers enough votes, and other minor candidates drop out. Samwell shouting out Jon's name is fully within the rules: any black brother can put forward himself or another as a candidate (officers just stand a more realistic chance of winning than a stable boy). The production team apparently just wanted to make it visually clear how the voting went (long tallies of numbers would be more difficult to process). It is the equivalent as if Jon was one vote short of that two thirds majority, and Aemon added his vote to put him over the top.
- The animated Histories & Lore video in Season 5's Blu-ray set titled "The Lord Commanders" describes how the elections work in the TV continuity, confirming that it has been changed from the books to be a simple majority, instead of a two-thirds majority. The video also confirmed that, as in the novels, votes from the other castles along the Wall were reported in by messengers (the TV episode just didn't make it very explicit).
- Stannis offered that he would make Jon the new Lord of Winterfell and release him from his oath to the Night's Watch, but Jon tells Samwell that despite how much he wants to he will not, because his vows to the Watch were taken for life. Neither Jon nor Stannis were being unreasonable in this matter: Martin has said that there have been several times throughout history when men were legally released from their vows to the Night's Watch, often when they are in positions like Jon, when no other male heir is left to continue their family. On the other hand, while this has happened, the vows are taken very seriously, meant to be taken for life, and the handful of times that a few men were released from their vows over the centuries have always been very controversial. It was therefore not unlawful for Stannis to offer it, but at the same time, Jon was not being unreasonably stubborn by declining to be released from his vow. As Jon himself says in the episode, if he reneged on his vow of life-long service to the Night's Watch, many people would not take any future oath seriously that he made as Lord of Winterfell.
- Earlier in the novels, Robb Stark planned to legitimize Jon and make him his heir should he die without issue, believing that Bran, Rickon, and Arya were dead and having learned that Sansa had been married to Tyrion Lannister, essentially handing the North to the Lannisters. He reasoned that the Night's Watch could be convinced to release Jon from his vows if he offered them 100 men in his place. However, the Red Wedding took place soon after and no more was said of it.
- Ser Denys Mallister was played by actor J.J. Murphy, who died only four days after filming his first scenes, at the age of 86. Co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have announced the character will not be recast as Murphy "was a lovely man, and the best Denys Mallister we could have hoped for. And now his watch is ended." It is unknown if he finished every scene they intended to film with him, but apparently all or at least most of Murphy's primary scenes were already finished (it is possible that a few scenes were rewritten to work around his absence, i.e., in the preceding episode Samwell describes Mallister even though he is not present). Ultimately Murphy gave no speaking lines in the finished episode. In any event, in the novels Denys returns to the Shadow Tower after the election.
- Denys Mallister's supporter says that he joined the Night's Watch as a boy, and has served through ten winters: this cannot literally be true, and is either a dialogue error or his supporter should be understood as just speaking loosely (as if he said "a dozen" but was rounding). In Season 1, Tyrion stated that he has lived through nine winters, the longest of which was the three year winter his was born during - placing that ninth winter about 36 years ago (less in the novels, as Tyrion is a little older in the TV series). Mallister's supporter could not have meant that he "commanded the Shadow Tower through ten winters", because in the previous episode Samwell said that Mallister has commanded it for twenty years - which would contradict Tyrion's statement that there have only been nine winters in nearly forty years. Mallister is stated to have joined the Watch as a boy, and rounding that to 16, he was serving at the Wall for about 70 years: given the rough rate at which the multi-year seasons occur in Westeros, there had to have been more than one other winter between when Mallister joined the Watch seventy years ago, and when Tyrion was born nearly forty years ago. The summer that ended when King Robert died lasted ten years, and was stated to be the longest in living memory: seasons don't normally last that long, and given that Tyrion said in Season 1 that there were 9 winters in the 33 years he'd been alive, there had to have been other winters in that time period.
- Stannis Baratheon shows Jon Snow a letter he received from Bear Island when he asked for the allegiance of House Mormont. He says he received a defiant reply from Lyanna Mormont, the ten year old Lady of Bear Island, saying "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is Stark." In the novels, Lyanna was similarly identified as the Lady of Bear Island to Stannis, though inwardly Jon thinks to himself that she actually isn't because she has older sisters, and wonders why she would be identified as such in the letter. As Jon says, Lyanna Mormont is the niece of Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, through his sister Maege Mormont - who was last seen in Season 1 (without speaking lines), and who was the ruler of House Mormont and Bear Island at the time. In the novels, Maege is still alive, and was not present for the Red Wedding because Robb sent her on ahead to the Crannogmen of House Reed in the Neck, to prepare them for a push to retake Moat Cailin from the ironborn. Her whereabouts after the Red Wedding are unknown. Lyanna is actually the youngest of Maege's five daughters, and her eldest daughter Dacey was a member of Robb's personal bodyguard who was killed in the Red Wedding. The exact situation in the TV series is unclear, but this doesn't necessarily mean that Maege died off-screen in the TV version: simply that Lyanna is the acting Lady of Bear Island because she was physically left in charge there, just as Bran Stark was the acting "Lord of Winterfell" during Season 2 due to Robb's absence.
- In the books, Lyanna apparently has changed her mind about supporting Stannis, for a Mormont force led by Alysane (Maege's second daughter) assists him to liberate Deepwood Motte. Stannis writes Jon about that: "we had other help, unexpected but most welcome, from a daughter of Bear Island. Alysane Mormont, whose men name her the She-Bear, hid fighters inside a gaggle of fishing sloops and took the ironmen unawares where they lay off the strand." That Mormont force joins Stannis in his campaign against the Boltons.
- Alysane comments that her sisters Lyra and Jorelle are with their mother. Hence, by default, Lyanna is acting "Lady of Bear Island", while her mother and older sisters are away, similar to how Bran Stark was the acting "Lord of Winterfell in Season 2 when his older brother Robb was not physically present to rule.
- Even though Shireen Baratheon was first introduced in Season 3, this is actually the first time that any explanation has been given on-screen for why half of her face is heavily scarred: she had the dreaded disease known as Greyscale when she was an infant. Against all odds she was able to be cured and survived, though it left half of her face disfigured. This is also the first time that "Greyscale" has been mentioned by name in the TV series. It is a leprosy-like disease found across both Westeros and Essos.
- In the novels, Mance Rayder's sister-in-law Val (omitted from the TV series) later sees Shireen and warns that the girl is "unclean": Gilly loosely takes Val's place in this regard, though her reaction is much more sympathetic. The wildlings actually call it the "grey death": Gilly probably doesn't know this because she doesn't know much in general about the culture of other wildlings outside of Craster's Keep. The TV series also invented the detail that two of Gilly's sisters once caught greyscale and died, though this could have happened. Gilly says that Craster quarantined the girls in a hut, but when they were completely covered in greyscale and no longer coherent, he dragged them out into the woods by ropes to kill and possibly burn them. This is also not particularly more harsh than how those with greyscale are treated in centers of civilization like King's Landing or Pentos: those with greyscale are often mercy-killed, or burned to halt the spread, or exiled to essentially leper-colonies in the ruins of Valyria (Chroyane in the books.)
- This is actually the first episode in which Shireen has ever interacted with her mother, Queen Selyse Baratheon. Kerry Ingram (Shireen) only had scenes with three people in Seasons 3 and 4: Stannis, Davos, and Melisandre, and only in her chambers set. In fact, Ingram said that she never even met Tara Fitzgerald (Selyse), until they both appeared in the Castle Black set for the funeral pyre scene in the Season 4 finale.
- Shireen mentions that she was taught to read by old Maester Cressen - who was introduced as the maester at Dragonstone in the Season 2 premiere, "The North Remembers", and died in the same episode.
- Although unmentioned when all three of them are in a scene together, Shireen, Samwell Tarly, and Selyse are all related. Selyse was born into House Florent, and Samwell's mother - born Melessa Florent - was Selyse's first cousin, making Samwell and Shireen second cousins.
- This episode also marks the first full-scale introduction of the Free City of Braavos. It was previously seen for the first time in Season 4's "The Laws of Gods and Men", but other than a wide-shot of the Titan of Braavos and the city, that episode focused on just the interiors of the Iron Bank. For Season 5, the production team built expansive, fully realized sets of the streets and buildings of Braavos.
- Captain Ternesio Terys tells Arya that in the old days of Braavos, according to legend, the Titan statue would walk out into the ocean to rain down fire on attackers. The statue can't actually do this, but there are some elements of truth behind it: the Titan is not merely a decoration, but is a stylized fortification that commands the only major passage into the harbor, and the statue is filled with murder holes from which the defensive garrison can rain down fire and burning oil on enemy ships that try to pass.
- It isn't clear why no one in Braavos speaks Braavosi Low Valyrian, but even a gang of street toughs apparently speak in the Common Tongue of Westeros. Representatives of the Iron Bank such as Tycho Nestoris know how to speak the Common Tongue because they are used to dealing with foreigners, as are sailors such as Ternesio Terys (who brought Arya to Braavos), and also the Faceless men assassins. The Common Tongue is a major world language, and Braavos is extensively involved in international trade, so it is not implausible that perhaps the street toughs recognized that Arya was Westerosi by her clothing and appearance, and thus knew to speak to her in the Common Tongue. In the novels, Arya has to spend some time learning Braavosi Low Valyrian.
- Arya was last seen hunting pigeons in Season 1's "Baelor", when she was hiding out in the slums of Flea Bottom in King's Landing.
- Arya's kill list doesn't mention Ilyn Payne though due to the actor's pancreatic cancer it is unclear if he will return to the show in the future, even though it is stated that Ilyn Payne is still alive. In the novels, Arya didn't include people she didn't know about, and by the time she left Westeros information was still unclear on the role that House Bolton played in betraying her family, so she didn't include them. It is commonly known that House Frey betrayed her family because the Red Wedding happened in their own castle. In the books, Arya doesn't include Walder Frey, however, or any Freys - though she gives the explanation that the only reason she doesn't include them is because it would take too long to recite the names of the over 100 living members of House Frey, all of whom she wants to kill. She also didn't include Theon Greyjoy because she wasn't aware of his capture of Winterfell at first, and by the time she left Winterfell reports were that the Boltons had retaken the castle and captured Theon, so Arya thought Theon had been dealt with. Arya briefly added Melisandre and the Brotherhood Without Banners to her list in Season 3 because she was angered that they sent Gendry away - a change from the novels, where she never meets Melisandre and Gendry remains with the Brotherhood - but apparently she simply removed them after a while (it wasn't nearly on the scale of what Cersei did to her, and though she didn't know it, Gendry came to no lasting harm).
- In the novels, the member of the Faceless Men that Arya meets at the House of Black and White can't be the real Jaqen H'ghar, because he's still pursuing his original assignment in Westeros. Arya nicknames this other man as "the Kindly Man". In the TV series, a longer amount of time has passed, and Jaqen's other subplot seems to have probably been omitted. Therefore it isn't clear if in the TV continuity, it has been changed so that he actually is the original man that Arya physically encountered at Harrenhal, or, if he is just another shapeshifter who can take on the same appearance. Indeed, there never was a "Jaqen H'ghar", it was just a fake persona that the Faceless Man that Arya encountered happened to be using. Another factor is that the Faceless Men practice extreme self-abnegation, describing themselves as "no one", and basically consider each other to be interchangeable (if you aid one Faceless Man, you aid all of them, if you harm one, you harm all of them).
- In an interview with Vulture.com, when asked about the return of actor Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen), and whether this was the Kindly Man taking on the face of Jaqen, or if the TV show changed it so that this really is the same Faceless Man that Arya encountered in Westeros, writer Bryan Cogman sidestepped the issue by chuckling and responding: "He is no one. There is no Kindly Man. There is no Jaqen H'ghar."
- Jaqen gave Arya Stark his special coin back in the Season 2 finale, identifying her as a friend of the Faceless Men, in gratitude for saving his life. She carried it around for two years before finally using it in the Season 4 finale to obtain passage to Braavos.
- Freeze-framing when the Faceless Man shapeshifts, as the camera swings behind Arya's head, reveals that he didn't simply wave his hand in front of his face and instantly turn into Jaqen's face once his hand had moved. Rather, he visibly pulls off the Old Man's face like a mask, as if it were a wet cloth sticking to his face.
- The actor who plays the old black man that Arya first meets at the House of Black and White is officially credited simply as "The Old Man".
- The Old Man raises another point: Braavos was founded by escaped slaves fleeing from the Valyrian Freehold, who killed the masters commanding a fleet of slave ships they were being transported in and sailed as far away from Valyria as they could. The original slaves were from across the world, from Andals (like the people who live in southern Westeros) and Rhoynar (like the Dornishmen, to Ghiscari (from Slaver's Bay), and also from the Summer Islands and Naath (like Grey Worm and Missandei), and even peoples from further east. As a result, there is no set "Braavosi ethnicity" whatsoever. Braavosi can be Northern European in appearance like the Lannisters or Baratheons (such as Tycho Nestoris), or they can be Mediterranean-Greek in appearance (like Syrio Forel), or they can be sub-Saharan African-black in appearance. The Braavosi are a cosmopolitan culture, not an ethnicity, and Braavosi people can be any ethnicity in the world.
- Cersei says that she recognizes the Lannister lion pendant sent from Dorne stuffed in a dead viper's mouth to be her daughter Myrcella's, because there are only two pendants like it in the world: the one Cersei herself wears, and the one Myrcella has. Other Lannister lion pendants have actually appeared in the TV show other than these two: Joffrey gave one to Sansa in Season 1, and in Season 2, it became a minor plot point that Tyrion gave lion pendants to both Ros and Shae - which led Cersei to mistakenly imprison Ros, thinking she was Tyrion's long-term lover. What Cersei apparently means in this episode is that the pendants she and Myrcella have are exact copies, i.e. she recognizes the maker's mark, and on a finer detail than the camera can see. Surely, the Lannisters have been putting lion sigils on their jewelry for generations: the idea itself is not unique, and there would be a wide variation on this design, but Cersei recognizes this as the specific Lannister lion pendant that belonged to her daughter.
- In the novels, Jaime Lannister did not personally go to Dorne, this is a condensation of the plotlines involving Myrcella. Instead, Jaime went to the Riverlands to take command of the ongoing siege of Riverrun, whose garrison (commanded by Brynden Tully) had been completely surrounded by the Freys but defiantly continued to hold out for months after the Red Wedding. Bronn did not accompany him, but remained at Castle Stokeworth.
- Although it is difficult to tell from the prop, the severed dwarf's head that is presented to Cersei appears to be the dwarf who played Joffrey in the mock joust during the Purple Wedding - who was credited simply as "Dwarf 1". In the novels, hunters actually did behead one of the dwarf actors from the wedding, though the scene of Cersei being presented with a head involved a different dwarf that Brienne had met (Cersei does mention that she has been brought numerous dwarf heads by hunters who want the reward). Note that, as in the novels, the hunters crudely made a large slash along the dwarf's face to make it look more like him - though it isn't very convincing, because Tyrion's wound was scarred and this wound is obviously fresh.
- If you look closely during the scene in Qyburn's lab, off to the side a large body is completely covered by a white sheet - apparently Gregor Clegane, whom Qyburn is still attempting to heal after he was poisoned with manticore venom (the very next episode after this confirms that Gregor is under the sheet).
- Lollys Stokeworth was first mentioned in Season 4's "Mockingbird", when Bronn explained that Cersei bribed him with a marriage into the nobility - albeit to a younger daughter - if he would not be Tyrion's champion in the trial by combat against Gregor Clegane. Bronn accepted, because even if he wasn't bribed, he doubted he could defeat such a monstrously large and strong opponent as Gregor. Tyrion described her at the time as "dim-witted", though in the novels it isn't clear if she is meant to actually be a "lackwit" (i.e. has some sort of diagnosable mental handicap), or if she is just quite simple-minded and not very intelligent.
- Lollys's gown features embroidery in the center with the heraldry of House Stokeworth: a white lamb holding a golden cup, on a green background.
- There was some concern back when "Mockingbird" aired: within the same episode, Oberyn Martell said that his father took him on a trip to Casterly Rock when he was young, where he encountered the newborn Tyrion, and also, Tyrion explained that Lollys's older sister Falyse would inherit Castle Stokeworth when her father died - when in the novels, Oberyn's mother was the previous ruler of Dorne, who led him on a journey to Casterly Rock, and Lollys's mother is the current head of House Stokeworth. This led to some fears that female inheritance in Westeros, and the fact that sometimes Houses end up being headed by women, had been cut from the TV series. Apparently, however, the TV producers simply used condensed dialogue at the time because they felt it would take too long to explain the intricacies of Westeros's inheritance system. Later, in the Histories & Lore animated featurettes included in the Season 4 Blu-ray set, Oberyn made it clear that his mother was actually the previous ruler of House Martell. In this episode, Lollys also confirms that her mother (whose name is Tanda Stokeworth) is indeed the current head of House Stokeworth, not her father. In-universe, Tyrion may simply have been mistaken and assumed her father was still alive when he explained this in Season 4.
- House Stokeworth is the first major House to be introduced in the TV series from the Crownlands. This wasn't directly explained in TV episodes, but there are actually nine administrative regions within the "Seven Kingdoms". The bulk of Westeros, south of the Wall, used to be divided between seven large and independent kingdoms. The Riverlands were the borderlands in the middle of the continent, constantly fought over by the others. After the Targaryen Conquest, the new Targaryen kings elevated the Riverlands to be a new administrative subdivision, functionally the "eighth kingdom". Also, the Targaryens founded a great new capital city on the east coast of the continent, King's Landing. To directly supply armies to the Iron Throne and to support the new capital, the Targaryens also carved out territory and lordships from the surrounding kingdoms to make "the Crownlands" - functionally a ninth "kingdom", not subject to one of the other Great Houses but sworn directly to the Iron Throne. After the Targaryens were overthrown the Crownlands continued to be directly ruled from King's Landing by Robert Baratheon. The TV series has not extensively shown before that there are more locations within the Crownlands besides King's Landing itself - on the mainland, that is; Dragonstone is technically also part of the Crownlands but has a special status as a large island in Blackwater Bay. Dontos Hollard was also from the Crownlands but he had no extensive lands.
- The Small Council was gutted after the loss of Tywin Lannister, Tyrion, Littlefinger, and Varys. Of the original Small Council when Joffrey seized power, only Pycelle still remains. In the novels, Cersei's takeover of the Small Council and stacking it with sycophants was a major running plotline affecting politics in the capital city. The TV version significantly condenses this, though keeping the general thematic points the same:
- In the novels, Cersei appointed Harys Swyft (Kevan's own father-in-law) as the new Hand of the King, Orton Merryweather as Master of Laws, Gyles Rosby as Master of Coin, and Aurane Waters as Master of Ships. She appointed Qyburn as the new Master of Whisperers (spymaster) in both the books and TV series. Mace Tyrell was the Master of Ships under Tywin (because after the Royal Fleet got destroyed at the Battle of the Blackwater they need the Tyrell's large fleet), but Cersei grew so distrustful of the Tyrells that she removed him from the office and sent him to besiege Stannis's remaining garrison at Storm's End.
- Given that these characters were not introduced in the TV series before and the audience wouldn't be familiar with them, Cersei's reshuffling of the Small Council in the TV version is condensed: Cersei isn't bothering to name a new Hand of the King at all, shockingly leaving the office vacant while functioning ruling over the council. In the novels, Cersei is technically still Tommen's Regent - but in the TV version, Tommen has apparently passed the age of legal majority in Westeros by this point, and she is no longer his regent: Kevan specifically says that she is only the Queen Mother, and makes no mention of being a regent. A Queen Mother has no right to sit on the council if not a regent (though a king can in theory invite any advisors he wants onto his council - but Tommen isn't even present). Mace Tyrell is retained, and simply made both Master of Ships and Master of Coin. Qyburn is the new Master of Whisperers, and Pycelle remains Grand Maester. As Kevan was apparently going to point out, as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, her brother Jaime is also supposed to be a member of the Small Council, but he has left the capital (though as it turns out, he volunteered to leave, to deal with events outside the city).
- In the novels, Tywin made his brother Kevan Lannister the new Master of Laws (which was Renly Baratheon's position back in book/season 1). In this episode, Kevan makes it clear that he was not made Master of Laws "off-screen" in the TV version, but was commanding armies in the field and only just returned to the capital city for Tywin's funeral - meaning that in the TV version, the office has apparently been simply left vacant since King Robert died, and it remains vacant.
- There is no such thing as a "Master of War". The crown's armies are commanded by the "Protector of the Realm" (usually the king, unless he is underaged), who in turn commands the four Wardens. This reflects a more complex development in the novels, in which Cersei basically starts making up titles on the Small Council, at her whim (which she technically doesn't have the right to do either). In an act of petty resentment, she comes to loathe the idea of anyone else calling himself "master" in his title on the Small Council, feeling this means a loss of control. Therefore, she picks new names based on a few titles from the Free Cities: the Master of Coin is renamed the "Lord Treasurer", the Master of Ships is renamed the "Grand Admiral", and the Master of Laws is renamed the "Justiciar". She did try to make Kevan the new Hand of the King, but he bluntly refused her, openly told her that she completely failed as a mother to raise Joffrey, and demanded that she yield over custody of Tommen. She refused, and he returned to Casterly Rock. Essentially the same plot development happens here, though significantly condensing these characters and plotlines.
- In the books, Robb Stark also creates a new title - Warden of the Southern Marches, for his great-uncle Brynden Tully. Unlike Cersei, Robb has the right to create a new title since he is a king, and he does not do it as a whim: in case Robb runs into troubles, the new title will give Blackfish the authority to act as a supreme military commander without hesitation or power struggles with other lords over command of the army.
- Cersei made the mistake of assuming that her uncle Kevan was her father's loyal lackey. Kevan makes it more explicitly clear in the novels that he really wasn't Tywin's puppet - he just happened to agree with his brother almost all the time, because Tywin was a political and military genius.
- Pycelle accurately points out that a Grand Maester has been selected to also serve as Hand of the King on multiple occasions throughout history. Combined with the fact that he is the longest serving member of the council - indeed the only remaining one from King Aerys's, Robert's, or Joffrey's reigns - his request to be made Hand is entirely reasonable. Pycelle's disgust with Qyburn was previously explained in Season 4: he conducted human experimentation and vivisected living men in the pursuit of medical knowledge, for which he was expelled in disgrace from the Order of Maesters (headquartered in the Citadel). Cersei emphasizes that she is making Qyburn the new Master of Whisperers based on loyalty, saying that Varys was disloyal - though in such a way that it seems almost a jab at Pycelle's loyalty. This is bizarre, and Pycelle takes it as such, given that he has been nothing but loyal to Cersei. In Season 2, Tyrion discovered that Pycelle was actually her spy on the Small Council, aided her against both Jon Arryn (to his death) and Eddard Stark, and even spied on Tyrion for her, for which he was briefly thrown into the dungeons.
- Pycelle recounted in Season 1's "Baelor" that Daenerys's father King Aerys II Targaryen, known as "the Mad King", was actually a normal and even charming man in his youth - and also lamented how his insanity was a late-onset and progressive condition, and how horrifying it was to watch as his friend gradually melted away before his eyes until after many years nothing was left of him but a raving lunatic.
- The Targaryen madness, the noted strain of insanity that ran in their bloodline, was the result of multiple generations of heavy compound inbreeding, incestuously marrying brother to sister to "keep the bloodline pure". Based on the example of her father and others, there is actually no guarantee that Daenerys (who is nearly 20 years old in the TV series) will not also suddenly and without warning turn violently insane twenty or thirty years in the future.
- Speaking privately with Jorah Mormont in Season 3 "Kissed by Fire", Ser Barristan openly described King Aerys as "a lunatic". His comments about how Aerys had men burned alive with wildfire and laughed, and had sons killed in front of their fathers, also refer specifically to how the Mad King killed Eddard Stark's father Rickard and his older brother Brandon. In the throne room itself, he had Rickard held aloft by chains while burning him with wildfire, and had Brandon dragged in front of him, attached to a torture device consisting of a noose around his neck, arranged in such a way that the harder he pulled on it the tighter it constricted. Brandon strangled himself to death trying to break free and save his father, while Rickard was cooked by flames so hot that the gold from his stirrups melted onto the floor. No one has mentioned which of them died first, though certainly, Aerys brought Brandon in to let both of them know that he intended to kill each of them.
- Jaime Lannister also remarked to Eddard Stark himself on encountering him in the Red Keep's throne room, back in Season 1 episode 3 "Lord Snow", how odd it must be to stand in the very room where the Mad King had his father burned to death. Eddard points out that Jaime did nothing to save them, to which Jaime said that a room full of five hundred other men were too scared to do anything - and that when he ultimately drove his sword into Aerys at the end of the rebellion, his thoughts were of how the Mad King had laughed hysterically while Eddard's father burned alive.
- Daenerys's decision to execute Mossador is similar to Robb Stark's decision in Season 3's "Kissed by Fire" to execute Rickard Karstark. In both cases it was punishment for killing a hostage, and the sentence could have been considered as just punishment, but it was unwise politically: Rickard's death sentence cost Robb the Karstark troops, while his position had already deteriorated as a result of the ironborn's invasion and the departure of the Freys; Daenerys's rule is unstable since she has many enemies among the former slave-masters in the region, and Mossador's public execution angered many of the ex-slaves who once fervently supported her.
- The incongruous graffiti "Kill the Masters" last seen on a wall in Season 4's "Oathkeeper" is seen again in this episode, when the Son of the Harpy's corpse is left next to it. Again, even linguist David J. Peterson was confused why slaves in Meereen would write graffiti in the Common Tongue of Westeros, not in the Ghiscari Low Valyrian spoken in Meereen, and suspected that it was simply because the executive producers wanted the audience to be able to read it without resorting to subtitles.
- Sansa Stark's storyline has been drastically changed from the novels and all of the scenes of both Sansa and Brienne of Tarth in this episode have no real equivalent in the novels. Very loosely, they seem to be heavily condensed from Sansa's future storyline in the unpublished sixth novel - but just as Brienne never actually met Arya Stark in the novels, Brienne never found Sansa Stark either. Instead, she continued to wander through the war-torn Riverlands desperately hunting for the girls, and witnessing first-hand the utter devastation caused by the war - entire swaths of the region reduced to burned out ruins, and even with the war technically over, it would take a full generation to recover. Brienne's comment at the end that she saw Sansa traveling with Littlefinger on the Eastern Road indicates that they are still in the Vale in this scene.
- Gwendoline Christie (Brienne) explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that a very important non-verbal instruction was in the script: Sansa is not in a position to accept Brienne's offer because she realizes she is still Littlefinger's glorified captive, so the script instructed Sophie Turner (Sansa) to shoot Brienne a look telling Brienne to "get the fuck out of Dodge". That is an American euphemism: basically the script specifically said that even as Sansa is verbally rejecting Brienne's offer, non-verbally she is trying to shoot Brienne an imploring look with her eyes to convey "I want to accept your offer, but get the hell out of here before Littlefinger has his guards kill you." Fundamentally, this is the same reason that she rejected Sandor Clegane's offer to flee King's Landing with him during the Battle of the Blackwater - she didn't think she could successfully escape with him, so she chose to bide her time.
- Notice that Brienne's sword cuts one of the guard's swords completely in half. Brienne's Oathkeeper is made of Valyrian steel which, as explained in Season 4, is incredibly strong and incredibly sharp.
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Storm of Swords:
- Chapter 71, Daenerys VI: Ser Barristan Selmy tells Queen Daenerys the truth about her father —that the stories his enemies told are not false and he was in fact mad.
- Chapter 76, Jon XI: Though Jon insists on his vows to the Night's Watch, Stannis offers to legitimize him as "Jon Stark" and make him Lord of Winterfell if he bends the knee, lays his sword at the King's feet, and pledges himself to his service.
- Chapter 78, Samwell V: With Aemon's aid, Sam argues for Jon to be chosen as Lord Commander.
- Chapter 79, Jon XII: Jon wins the election and becomes the Lord Commander.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Feast for Crows:
- Chapter 2, The Captain of the Guards: At the Water Gardens, a Sand, enraged by the murder of her loved one, Oberyn Martell, arrives to call on Prince Doran. Areo Hotah, the Prince's bodyguard, blocks her passage, yet Doran tells him to let her in. She tells him everyone in Dorne is asking what the Prince intends to do to the Lannisters in retaliation for his murdered brother, yet Doran says Oberyn was lawfully slain during a trial by combat. Angered by Doran's inaction, she storms out.
- Chapter 5, Samwell II: At the library of Castle Black, Sam learns that the youngest Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Osric Stark, was chosen at the age of ten.
- Chapter 6, Arya I: Arya arrives in Braavos, awestruck by the Titan. Its blast announcing their arrival startles her, but she convinces herself she is not afraid. Captain Ternesio Terys has her rowed through the city to the House of Black and White, where he told her Jaqen H'ghar might be found. Arya finds the temple's door locked, and begs to be let in, as she has had to cross the Narrow Sea. When a robed old man receives her, she shows him Jaqen's coin and asks for him, but the old man claims not to know Jaqen. She swears to have no place to go, yet he tells her that this is no place for Arya. However, when she proves she is not afraid, the Faceless Man accepts her as an apprentice.
- Chapter 7, Cersei II: Kevan Lannister spurns Cersei's offer of a position in King Tommen's small council, unmoved by her attempts to convince him by appealing to Tommen’s need of him.
- Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight: Princess Myrcella and Prince Trystane are getting along nicely.
- Chapter 16, Jaime II: Kevan returns to Casterly Rock in anger. Bronn now resides in Castle Stokeworth.
- Chapter 17, Cersei IV: Cersei is presented with a dwarf's head that is not Tyrion's, yet decides not to punish the hunters, as it would dissuade others. She walks with Qyburn to meet her new small council. She makes up new titles at her whim. Qyburn's appointment as Master of Whisperers infuriates Grand Maester Pycelle. Cersei sends a Kingsguard to Dorne in order to bring Myrcella back.
- Chapter 21, The Queenmaker: A Dornish suggests to kill Myrcella. A Martell refuses to harm her.
- Chapter 22, Arya II: The Faceless Man tells Arya she must become "no one."
- Chapter 24, Cersei V: Cersei plots to undermine Bronn and his position at Castle Stokeworth.
- Chapter 26, Samwell III: Arya encounters two Bravos and chases them away.
- Chapter 27, Jaime III: Cersei sends Jaime on a mission away from King's Landing. He recruits his sword partner to accompany him.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 1, Tyrion I: When Tyrion learns that Cersei has offered a lordship to the man who brings her his head, he points out she should offer her sex as well; "the best part of me for the best part of her."
- Chapter 3, Jon I: Having demanded the loyalty of the northern lords, Stannis shows Jon the laconic reply of the ten years old Lady of Bear Island, Lyanna Mormont: "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK."
- Chapter 5, Tyrion II: Tyrion is smuggled out of Pentos inside the litter of Illyrio Mopatis, and he and his companion head to Volantis, in order to sail from there to Meereen.
Samwell Tarly: "Whilst Lord Janos was hiding with the women and children, Jon Snow was leading. Ser Alliser fought bravely, it is true, but when he was wounded, it was Jon who saved us. He took charge of the Wall's defense, he killed the Magnar of the Thenns, he went north to deal with Mance Rayder, knowing that it certainly meant his own death. Before that, he led the mission to avenge Lord Commander Mormont. Mormont himself chose Jon to be his steward. He saw something in Jon and now we've all seen it too. He may be young, but he's the commander we turned to when the night was darkest."
Arya Stark: "Well, who are you then?"
Jaqen H'ghar: "No one, and that is what a girl must become."
Arya Stark: "Nothing's worth anything to a dead man."
Tyrion Lannister: "We've already got a ruler. Everywhere's already got a ruler. Every pile of shit on the side of every road has someone's banner hanging from it."
Cersei Lannister: "They blame us for the death of Oberyn, and his sister, and every other tragedy that's befallen their cursed country! I will burn their cities to the ground if they touch her!"
Jaime Lannister: "Softer!"
Jaime: "Not so loud."
Cersei: "Our daughter's in danger, and you're worried I'm speaking too loudly?!"
Jaime: "The world can't know she's our daughter."
Cersei: "Then don't call her your daughter! You've never been a father to her!"
Jaime: "If I was a father to any of my children, they'd be stoned in the streets!"
Cersei: "And what has your caution brought? Our eldest child murdered at his own wedding, our only daughter shipped off to Dorne, our baby boy set to marry that smirking whore from Highgarden!"
Jaime: "I'm gonna make things better."
Cersei: "You've never made anything better."
Jaime: "I'm going to Dorne, and I'm bringing our daughter home."
Ellaria Sand: "Your brother was murdered, and you sit here in the Water Gardens, staring at the sky and doing nothing."
Doran Martell: "Oberyn was slain during a trial by combat. By law, that is no murder."
Ellaria Sand: "Your brother!"
Doran Martell: "You don't have to remind me! He was my brother long before he was anything to you."
Ellaria Sand: "What will you do about his death?"
Doran Martell: "I will bury him, I will mourn for him."
Ellaria Sand: "And then?"
Doran Martell: "You would have me go to war?"
Ellaria Sand: "The whole country would have you go to war."
Doran Martell: "Then we are lucky the whole country does not decide."
Ellaria Sand: "The Sand Snakes are with me. They have the love of their people. They will avenge their father while you sit here in your chair, doing nothing. Oberyn is dead and this Lannister girl skips about the Water Gardens, eating our food, breathing our air! How many of your brothers and sisters do they have to kill? Let me have her. Let me send her to Cersei, one finger at a time."
Doran Martell: "I loved my brother, and you made him very happy. For that, you will always have a place in my heart. But we do not mutilate little girls for vengeance. Not here. Not while I rule."
Ellaria Sand: "And how long will that be?"
Barristan Selmy: "Your Grace? A word, please, I beg you."
Daenerys Targaryen: "About what?"
Barristan Selmy: "About your father. About the Mad King."
Daenerys Targaryen: "The Mad King? You're here to remind me of my enemies' lies? Consider me reminded."
Barristan Selmy: "Your Grace, I served in his Kingsguard. I was at his side from the first. Your enemies did not lie."
Daenerys Targaryen: "Go on."
Barristan Selmy: "When the people rose in revolt against him, your father set their towns and castles aflame. He murdered sons in front of their fathers. He burned men alive with wildfire, and laughed as they screamed. And his efforts to stamp out dissent led to a rebellion that killed every Targaryen. Except two."
Daenerys Targaryen: "I'm not my father."
Barristan Selmy: "No, your Grace. Thank the Gods. But the Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved, and each time, it made him feel powerful and right. Until the very end."