Jump to: Spoilers (3)
The first time that Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) has had a costume change since the end of Season 1. Williams said that finally getting new clothes and throwing away the old ones on the show felt very cathartic.
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The Red Priestess in Volantis is the first person of Yi Tish origin seen in the series. Yi Ti is a region in the far east of Essos, which is the counterpart of real world Asia.
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Dean-Charles Chapman went on record in an interview that he found the sex scene between Tommen and Margaery disturbing, because Tommen is only a boy, and Margaery is an adult woman. However, Chapman was mistakenly (but understandably) under the impression that Tommen was 12 years old on his wedding night, based on an error made in Game of Thrones: The Wolf and the Lion (2011) four years earlier, where Loras stated that Tommen was 8 at the time; in Game of Thrones: The House of Black and White (2015), it was mentioned that Tommen no longer needed a regent, which would make him at least 16 years (the legal age of adulthood in the novels). In medieval times, it was actually legal for boys to marry at 14 and girls 12, and in the case of higher nobility - many were betrothed as babies. However, the marriage was considered legal once it had been consummated.
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According to George R.R. Martin, the Sparrows are based on the medieval Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation.
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The high-angle shot of Tyrion urinating from the brothel is framed identically to the high-angle shot of Tyrion urinating off the Wall in Game of Thrones: Lord Snow (2011).
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The episode title is a reference to the the leader of the Sparrows, a religious movement formed during the War of the Five Kings in the wake of brutalities committed against people sworn to the Faith of the Seven. In the books, the Sparrows featured much earlier in the timeline, and were already actively involved in the King's Landing riots (depicted in season2's Game of Thrones: The Laws of Gods and Men (2014)).
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In the books, Tommen and Margaery sleep in the same bed but there is no sexual intercourse between them, since Tommen is only nine years old at this point in the story.
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First appearance of Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow. No one knows the High Sparrow's real name. In fact, none of the High Septons of the Faith are given names.
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In the books, Arya hides Needle in a hole under the steps of the House of Black and White. After she disposes of her possessions in the canal, she returns to the House of Black and White completely naked; this couldn't be done on the show since Maisie Williams was only 17 when the episode was shot.
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The first episode which adapts material from the sixth unpublished novel "The Winds of Winter": Littlefinger instructs Sansa to charm the man to whom he plans to wed her (in the novels - Harrold Hardyng, in the show - Ramsay), and a character named Myranda is jealous of her.
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The episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More).
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In the books, Lancel Lannister becomes pious and joins the Warrior's Sons instead of the Sparrows. The Warrior's Sons is one of two religious military orders, and is made up of knights and nobleborn. The other group is called the Poor Fellows, which consists of poor commoners. The show combines the two groups under the name 'Faith Militant', an order closely allied with the Sparrows.
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In the books, Tyrion is not accompanied to Volantis by Varys, but by a group consisting of Jon Connington, a disgraced knight and sellsword; his ward, Young Griff; a healer named Haldon Halfmaester; Ser Rolly Duckfield and Septa Lemore. Tyrion's head is not rubbed by a brothel guard, but one of the city guards; Haldon translates the man's words. Although Tyrion is eventually kidnapped by Jorah Mormont in the books, this happens in a brothel in Selhorys (a city near Volantis) following an arduous journey by boat down the Rhoyne river; Jorah kidnaps Tyrion in full view, threatening to kill anyone who interferes.
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There is a scene in this episode where Tyrion politely refuses free sex offered by a cheerful prostitute in a Volantene brothel. This is a stark difference from Tyrion's much darker book counterpart, who, in the same situation, pays to have intercourse with a sex slave despite feeling guilty about it and realizing the girl (who doesn't speak the Common Tongue) is in distress; however, he picks her because the others are quite old.
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In the books, Jon does not give Alliser Thorne any promotion. Shortly after the election, Stannis informs Jon that Thorne and Janos Slynt are already trying to sow discord among the Night's Watch over the supposedly fraudulent manner of Jon's election, so Jon gives Slynt a new position far away, and one night to accept. When Slynt refuses to leave at breakfast, Jon first orders him hanged, but then changes his mind. Slynt seems relieved, until he realizes that Jon will behead him instead; Thorne briefly considers interfering, but changes his mind, much to Jon's disappointment. Jon later sends out Thorne and eight other rangers beyond the Wall on a scouting mission to find Tormund. This angers Thorne, who believes that Jon does this in the hope that he will either refuse (giving Jon a reason to execute him, much like Slynt) or die beyond the Wall. He accepts the mission, but vows to return to settle their differences, either alive or as a wight.
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Jon and Stannis' relationship is more tense in the novels. Stannis has much less respect for Jon's decision to stay with the Night's Watch and defend its political neutrality, and repeatedly insinuates that he can have him executed and the Watch drafted into his own army, but Jon is not intimidated. He advises Stannis to try and get some of the North's lesser houses and the mountain clans to support him, and use them to retake some of the smaller castles from the ironborn first, before marching on Winterfell; Stannis accepts the advice. It is not Davos (who is at White Harbor looking for allies) but Melisandre who tells Jon how to deal with Stannis.
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In the books, Margaery never calls Cersei "mother".
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The first appearance of Mishaël Lopes Cardozo. Together with Carice van Houten, Michiel Huisman and Allon Sylvain, he is the fourth Dutch actor in the show.
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The prostitute dressed up as Daenerys is from the books, where she is sitting on Jorah Mormont's lap when he spots Tyrion. Her attire started out as a joke: costume designer Michele Clapton made it on a dare by the showrunners to make the most outrageous costumes possible, and after everyone had a good laugh over it, it was decided to be perfect for the brothel scene. The original costume would have actually exposed both the actress' buttocks and genitals, which was felt to be too much, so a version was made with only the back out.
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Some of the people involved in the episode, including Kit Harington, were a bit disturbed by the beheading scene, especially because at the time, videos of beheadings in the Middle East were frequently dispersed over the internet. However, as it was also described like this in the book (which had already been published long before in 2000), everyone agreed that it had to be included to stay true to the drama, given that Jon has been raised by Ned Stark with the rule that "the man who passes the sentence swings the sword".
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In the books, Littlefinger has no idea that Stannis is in Castle Black, or about his intentions to fight the Boltons.
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In the books, it is not the High Septon but Septon Ollidor (who was being considered for the position in the wake of the previous High Septon's death) who is found in a brothel by the Sparrows and paraded naked through the streets.
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In the books, Jon's steward is an Oldtown boy named Satin, not Olly (who does not exist in the books).
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In the books, Roose Bolton never sends Ramsay to collect taxes. However, the scene where Ramsay feasts on a copious plate of meat despite a possible food shortage in the coming winter may refer to a passage in the books where Ramsay stops at House Stout on his way to Winterfell. He demands that the local lord hold a feast for him, even forcing him to slaughter what little breeding stock they had kept for next year. Ramsay greedily feasts on the meat, apparently indifferent to the fact that the lord now lacks the means to rebuild his herd, and won't be able to supply both himself nor Winterfell next year. Both the book and the series make it clear that Ramsay never considers the long-term consequences of his impulsive actions; his constant flaying of people, especially after he has promised them freedom, makes people fearful and cooperative, but breaking his word again and again doesn't earn him any loyalty in the long run.
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In the books, no Cerwyn is flayed alive by Ramsay. Lord Medger Cerwyn is severely injured at Battle of the Green Fork, and dies later of his wounds while being held captive at Harrenhal; Lord Cley Cerwyn is killed by the Dreadfort soldiers when he comes with Ser Rodrik Cassel to liberate Winterfell from the Ironborn, but not personally by Ramsay, and his body is not flayed.
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In the books, Brienne muses about the time that she danced with Renly from her POV, but she never speaks aloud with Podrick about him.
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In the books, Cersei does not send any messages to Littlefinger. There is a very little correspondence between them: Littlefinger reports Cersei offhandedly that the lords of the Vale oppose him, but is unconcerned and does not ask for help from King's Landing.
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In the books, Cersei first meets the High Sparrow in the Great Sept of Baelor, and not in the streets of the city. By that time, he is already High Septon, as angry Sparrows had previously stormed the Great Sept and forced the corrupt Septons to name the High Sparrow their leader. He makes the meeting a show of power: Cersei's Kingsguard isn't allowed into the Sept, and he makes her wait until he finishes his prayers. He also makes it clear that all her cronies within the Faith have been stripped of power, and berates her for several of their grievances with the Crown, such as Ned Stark's execution on holy ground.
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Tyrion remembers Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye), another Red Priest. Thoros was actually sent to King's Landing years ago to convert King Robert Baratheon to the Lord of Light, but as Robert was more interested in drinking, hunting and whoring, Thoros gave up and also succumbed to the same lavish lifestyle.
The prostitute dressed up as The Stranger in the King's Landing brothel and the one dressed up as Daenerys in Volantis are both played by Samantha Bentley, who had already played one of the bathhouse prostitutes in Game of Thrones: The Laws of Gods and Men (2014). She also plays another prostitute in the next episode, Game of Thrones: Sons of the Harpy (2015).
The signs under the severed hands in Volantis are High Valyrian words denoting the crime of the victim (e.g. marauder, betrayer), and one street sign which states "Qringaomio" means 'evildoer'. However, most other signs written in foreign scripts in Volantis are gibberish. According to the show's linguist David J. Peterson, the art department invented them for decoration, but these writings do not represent the Valyrian writing system or any other language that he invented for the show.
The Faceless Men worship the Many-Faced God; when Arya states that she recognizes several effigies of gods as deities of other religious (the weirwood gods of the North, the Drowned God of the Iron Islands), Jaqen H'ghar claims that they are all the same god with whom she should be familiar. Although he doesn't name this god, it is the God of Death, whom they believe manifests himself in different shapes to different people; Arya is indeed familiar with this god, as her sword fighting teacher Syrio Forel in season 1 mentioned that "there is only one god, and His name is Death".
Slaves in Volantis have facial tattoos that indicate the kind of labor they perform, a detail already mentioned by Talisa Maegyr, who was from Volantis, in Game of Thrones: The Prince of Winterfell (2012).
First appearance of Volantis, the last of the three Free Cities of Essos to appear after Pentos and Braavos. Because so many new sets had to be constructed for season 5 and Volantis would only be featured in this episode, the production team re-used existing sets and costumes as much as possible. The sets of Moat Cailin, Harrenhall and the Mole's Town brothel were modified to serve as interiors, and the Roman Bridge of Cordoba in Spain was filmed and digitally altered to serve as the Long Bridge of Volantis.
Although Brienne of Tarth angrily dismissed Jaime's claims that Renly Baratheon was a homosexual in Game of Thrones: Dark Wings, Dark Words (2013), she makes it clear here that she was well aware of that fact. She also mentions she was her father's only living child; the books mention that she had an older brother who drowned at age 8, and two younger sisters who died in infancy. Her backstory of how she got to know Renly is actually from the second novel, but wasn't included in the second season due to time constraints.
Podrick's backstory is from the first novel, 'A Game of Thrones', but it wasn't included in the first season because Podrick wasn't introduced on the show until season 2's Game of Thrones: The Prince of Winterfell (2012), and didn't become prominent until season 4.
While listening to the Red Priestess' sermon in High Valyrian, Tyrion clearly understands what she is saying. High Valyrian is the old language of the extinct Valyrian Freehold (similar to Latin spoken by the Roman Empire), and is only used in daily practice by the clergy and maesters. However, it is still taught to members of noble houses, although not everybody is equally experienced in it. For example, Arya had some basic lessons from Maester Luwin, but not enough to follow the Valyrian conversation between Thoros and Melissandre in Game of Thrones: The Climb (2013). In contrast, Samwell Tarly knows it reasonably well, and Tyrion knows enough to understand it, but too little to engage in full conversation himself.
When the servant tells Sansa that "the North remembers", this marks the first episode where the phrase is actually spoken aloud. It was previously paraphrased only, and served as the title of Game of Thrones: The North Remembers (2012). It is both a warning and a promise that Northmen will always get even with those who did them wrong, even fellow Northmen. In the book, none of the servants at Winterfell offer their support.
Littlefinger makes it clear that a marriage that is not consummated can be automatically voided. In the books, this is certainly grounds for annulment, but it still requires a High Septon or a council of the faith to officiate the procedure.
Note that in Winterfell, the Boltons have smashed the faces of all direwolf statues and frescoes, in an attempt to wipe out the memory of House Stark.
First appearance of Faye Marsay as 'the Waif', even though she is never referred to by that name on screen in the series. In the books, it is the name given to her by Arya, due to her pale face, small stature and bony appearance, the result of a stunted growth from an attempt at poisoning once.
Jon gives Janos Slynt command of Castle Greyguard, which is one of the 16 abandoned castles along the Wall (due to dwindling numbers of Night's Watch members, only the Shadow Tower, Castle Black and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea remain manned). Greyguard is the fourth castle when counted from west to east, and far enough west from Castle Black to make Slynt's complaints somewhat understandable.
In the books, it is not Sansa but her best friend Jeyne Poole who is forced to wed Ramsay Bolton. Jeyne accompanied Sansa to King's Landing; after the Red Wedding, Littlefinger kept Jeyne in one of his brothels in King's Landing, and took Sansa to the Vale as his bastard daughter under the alias of "Alayne" (as happened in the show). He then agrees with the Lannisters to form an alliance with the Boltons, by marrying Jeyne off to them while she has to pretend to be Arya Stark (who is at that time presumed dead). Even though the Boltons suspect that Jeyne is not Arya, they agree to maintain the ruse, as this marriage solidifies their hold on the North and very few people know what Arya looks like anyway. Sansa remains in the Vale, where Littlefinger intends to wed her to Harrold Hardyng, the closest living relative of Robert Arryn (Robin in the show). Littlefinger had specifically manipulated Lysa Arryn into keeping the Vale out of the war; expecting that the sickly Robert will die soon, with the Vale at full military strength and Harrold as the new Lord, he can take back the North from whoever is still standing. The showrunners have stated in interviews that it was already carefully planned to condense the Jeyne and Sansa subplots into one during the writing of season 2, as the Vale plot was relatively small, and they wanted to keep Sansa involved in the events in the North. Although Jeyne plays a major role in the books, her presence in the series was limited to an uncredited extra in Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming (2011) (she is one of the girls in Sansa's needlework class, who later laughs when Arya flicks food in Sansa's face) and a brief mention in Game of Thrones: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things (2011).
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As Janos Slynt is being dragged to the chopping block, he again rants about having "powerful friends" like he did in Game of Thrones: The Night Lands (2012). He was probably referring to Cersei, who had made him a lord but did not intervene when Tyrion demoted him to the Wall, so this is again mostly an empty threat. Slynt's death is small justice for his involvement in the betrayal and execution of Ned Stark. Although in the books, Jon is aware that Slynt was partially responsible for this, Kit Harington has stated that he was unsure of how much Jon knows in the series.
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In the book, the second High Septon (the successor of the High Septon killed during the King's Landing riots) is not disgraced by the Sparrows and then imprisoned by Cersei; he is smothered with a pillow on her command by Osney Kettleblack, since she believes Lancel told him the truth about their affair and about Robert's murder. It is his intended successor who is paraded naked on the streets for visiting a brothel.
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