While this is the first episode to show Tyrion speaking High Valyrian, it was implied earlier in Game of Thrones: High Sparrow (2015) that he had some understanding of the language, as he was able to understand portions of the Red Priestess' sermon in Valyrian.
When Daenerys is stranded in the Dothraki Sea with Drogon, it can be seen that she is wearing riding leggings. While some television viewers called into question the probability that Daenerys would have been wearing riding leggings while attending the opening of the fighting pits in the preceding episode, Michele Clapton, the costume designer of the series, explained Daenerys always wears riding leggings under her gowns out of habit, because throughout her life she had to be prepared to escape at any moment from assassins sent to kill her.
According to the show's linguist David J. Peterson, when Tyrion says "Apologies, my Valyrian is a bit nostril", he confuses the Valyrian word "puñilla" (rusty, obsolete) with "pungilla" (nostril), an easy mistake to make for someone not fluent in the language.
During Cersei's confession with the High Sparrow, he dismisses the charges that her children were not fathered by King Robert and are actually the products of incest with Jaime. In the novel, the High Sparrow's decision was explained in more detail, that if Cersei's children were determined to be bastards it would make Stannis Baratheon the rightful claimant to the Iron Throne, who is no longer a follower of the Faith of the Seven but of the Lord of Light, which the High Sparrow considers a false faith to a red demon.
The leadership of Meereen in the novels runs a different course after Daenerys disappears with Drogon, as Hizdahr zo Loraq and Ser Barristan Selmy are still alive. After Daenerys disappears, Hizdahr declares himself King of Meereen as he had recently married Daenerys, but is shortly thereafter deposed and imprisoned by Ser Barristan, who believes Hizdahr collaborated with Daenerys' enemies the Sons of the Harpy and the Yunkai Wise Masters. Ser Barristan remains the Queen's Hand and rules in Daenerys' stead with a council that includes Grey Worm and Daenerys' loyal subordinates. Daario, Jorah, and Tyrion are not members of the council because Daario is being held hostage by the Yunkai, while Jorah and Tyrion have not met yet with Daenerys.
In the books, Sam did want to be a Maester when he was younger, but his father Randyll was horrified by the idea and essentially tortured and abused Sam by chaining him up (like a Maester's chains) until Sam swore to never consider the idea again. So, when Jon tells him to go to Oldtown to become a Maester, he's very much against the idea and begs and pleads not to go as he is still traumatized. Jon sends him anyway. In the show, this is completely changed as Sam himself is the one to ask to become a Maester and be sent away, while Jon initially protests.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming (2011), Ned Stark told his sons that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. All three Starks who followed that rule so far - Ned, Robb and Jon - were killed in the same season they performed the execution: Ned - season 1; Robb - season 3; Jon - season 5.
The face Arya wears while pretending to be a prostituted child in order to ambush and murder Meryn Trant, belonged to Ghita, the terminally ill girl who came to the House of Black and White to be euthanized earlier in the season in Game of Thrones: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (2015).
HBO ran into difficulties shooting Cersei's walk of penance as Dubrovnik's Catholic Church of St. Nicholas, which stands in for the Great Sept of Baelor, refused to allow filming of nudity on their property. The show eventually built facades of the interior and exterior of the church for the scene.
As preparation for filming the final scene where Jon is betrayed and assassinated by the officers of the Night's Watch, episode director David Nutter had the actors playing the mutineers recite the Night's Watch vows together, off-camera. He did this because he wanted the actors to understand that they were killing Jon because they truly believed that he had betrayed the Watch. He wanted their performances to reflect the solemnity of men who believed they were doing their duty, even if it meant murdering their commanding officer.
The casting notice for the male extra who exposes himself to Cersei during her walk of penance leaked online shortly after the episode's airing. The part was cast only one day in advance and the offered payment was £900.98 (or roughly $1,430). Apparently, there were some concerns on set before filming, because the actor who was hired was circumcized; this was something never seen before in the show, as no major culture in Westeros practices circumcision. In the end, however, the shot of the man exposing himself was too brief to make it out.
HBO went to great lengths to prevent any leaks during the shooting of Cersei's walk of penance. Reportedly over 200 security guards were hired to keep paparazzi away from the set. Cast and crew were banned from having cell phones on set and were required to sign confidentiality agreements threatening fines of $250,000 for leaking any images or information about the scene. The Daily Mail did obtain one paparazzi photo of the backside of Lena Headey or her body double covered in filth.
The walk of penance is the first nude scene for Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), though a body double was also used for the scene in the series. While Cersei is nude several times in the novels, Headey said that this was avoided in the series from the very beginning, to establish clothing as a symbol of pride for the character, and make the disrobing all the more painful for the character. She said in an interview with Blastr, "I've been very adamant about keeping [Cersei] kind of clothed because I think that's part of her power. And she can still be sort of sexual and weird and female, but she doesn't have to be naked. And I think it makes for a more shocking disempowering moment when this happens." One scene modified to adhere to this mantra was the final scene of Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming (2011) when Bran discovers Cersei and Jaime in coitus; they are naked in the book but clothed in the series. This was filmed in 2010 before "A Dance with Dragons", the novel that contains Cersei's walk of penance, was released.
The death of Stannis in this episode renders all branches of House Baratheon extinct de facto. Stannis' wife and daughter are also deceased, as well as his brothers Robert and Renly, neither of whom had any legitimate children. King Tommen is legally considered a Baratheon, but has no biological relationship to his supposed father King Robert, as he is actually the product of incest between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. At this point in the series, King Robert's bastard Gendry is the only person with Baratheon blood known to be alive.
Many of the full body shots of Cersei (Lena Headey) during her walk of penance were filmed with actress Rebecca Van Cleave serving as a nude body double. Headey had previously done nude scenes in other media, but she feared that being naked among all those spectators would visibly affect her performance. Although she was asked to help with the casting of the body double, she declined, saying that she would applaud anyone brave enough to do this. Many shots were filmed twice, once with Headey wearing a body stocking, and again with Van Cleave copying Headey's movements while nude. Headey's face was then superimposed onto Van Cleave's body in post-production. Several television writers criticized the use of 27-year-old Van Cleave, who is fourteen years younger than Headey, as a key part of the humiliation Cersei suffers in the novel was the common people mocking signs of aging and three pregnancies visible on her naked body. However, the makers insisted that out of the seven finalists for the role, van Cleave was selected because she most closely matched Headey's body frame.
When Stannis is informed that half of his men deserted in the night, in actuality over 75% of his total army had deserted, or half of his Baratheon men and all of the sell-swords. Roose Bolton stated his scouts estimated Stannis' army at 6,000 after being bolstered by sell-swords, who populated half of his army. When Stannis' army reaches Winterfell, the wide shot shows he has approximately 1,300 men left.
Originally, Stephen Dillane had several lines in the scene when Brienne takes her revenge on him, but they were all cut when his performance carried it all. "Go on, do your duty" is the only one he needed. The makers reportedly didn't show his death on-screen to prevent it from becoming gratuitous or longer than it needed to be.
In the books, Jon whispers "Ghost..." before losing consciousness. Curiously, Robb's last words were "Grey Wind". The fact that each of them muttered the name of his direwolf before collapsing, led to a fan theory that they warged into the direwolves. Robb had no chance of survival since Grey Wind was killed shortly after his death, but it is not the same case with Ghost, who was not around when Jon was stabbed: Jon might have warged into him and survived that way.
The three servants who give Stannis increasingly bad news in a short period of time is extremely similar to biblical story of Job, who was informed by several servants in a matter of moments of the deaths of all his livestock, servants, and children.
George R.R. Martin stated that Cersei's walk of penance is based on a similar punishment inflicted on Jane Shore, a mistress of King Edward IV of England. After Edward's death, his brother and successor, King Richard III, punished Shore for her promiscuous behavior and charges of conspiracy by forcing her to walk through the streets of London barefoot in her undergarments while crowds taunted her.
The new member of the Kingsguard that carries Cersei away after her walk of penance is referred to by Qyburn as "Ser Robert Strong" in the novel, though several characters, including Kevan Lannister, as well as many readers, suspect he is actually a reanimated Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane. HBO confirmed this assertion by casting Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, who played Clegane, in the role, as well as identifying the character as Clegane in the episode viewer's guide. In the novel, Strong/Clegane wears a visored helmet with no part of his face visible, and it is speculated he has no head, as Qyburn claims Clegane had died, and his skull was sent to the Martells by Ser Balon Swann.
Near the end of Cersei's walk of shame, when she gets close to the gates of the Red Keep, a few bars of "The Rains of Castamere" can be heard in the score. This may foreshadow Cersei's revenge on the Sparrows.
Numerous television critics and writers have compared the death of Jon to the assassination of Julius Caesar by the senators of Rome. Both were ambushed and stabbed by their subordinates after making a controversial decision, with the final blow coming from a trusted friend and protectorate, Jon by Olly and Caesar by Brutus. Jon's last word is to call out to Olly, and while Caesar's last words are lost to history in the popular Shakespearean version of events his last words are to call out to Brutus.
Selyse Baratheon is the first prominent character to commit suicide. The only other named character to cause their own death was Maester Cressen in Game of Thrones: The North Remembers (2012), but his death was not an intentional suicide but the result of an assassination attempt on Melisandre gone awry.
This is the first time Benjen Stark's name is even mentioned since Season 1. It was thought that the character would make a return as, in the books, there is more background to his disappearance, whereas in the show, the last hint of his whereabouts was the return of his horse to Castle Black in Game of Thrones: You Win or You Die (2011).
In the books, it is explained that the khalasar that surrounds Daenerys is in fact an offshoot of the khalasar previously led by Khal Drogo. This offshoot is led by a man named Khal Jhaqo, one of Drogo's former bloodriders. On the night Drogo died, all three of his bloodriders dispersed, taking a portion of Drogo's 40,000 strong khalasar, leaving Daenerys with the old, the crippled, and those too young to ride. This resulted in her seemingly endless struggle across the Red Waste on the way to Qarth.
The episode title refers to the Mother, the aspect of the god in the Faith of the Seven symbolizing mercy. Those accused by the Faith of the Seven may seek the Mother's Mercy prior to their trials if they confess their sins. The title has further meaning as almost every parallel storyline includes a character receiving judgment and punishment for a transgression: Stannis is executed by Brienne for his murdering his brother Renly; Arya gets her revenge on Meryn Trant and is blinded by the Faceless Men for taking his life; Cersei is forced to complete a walk of penance for her confessed adultery; Jon is stabbed by the Night's Watch mutineers for allowing the Wildlings through the Wall.
This episode revealed the outcome of Stannis' siege on Winterfell before it occurred in the book series. In the most recent book "A Dance with Dragons" Stannis is three days away from Winterfell, and the battle has not begun yet. George R.R. Martin stated that the siege on Winterfell will occur early in the sixth book "The Winds of Winter".
Nell Tiger Free said that Myrcella's death was originally much more graphic. She was given blood-colored mashed bananas to couch up, which she assumed were meant to be her brains. In the end, the makers decided that her character deserved a more subdued death.
In the books, Selyse, Shireen, Stannis, Ser Meryn Trant, and Myrcella are all still alive, though it should be noted the Northern story line extends beyond what has hitherto been published. Jon is stabbed in the end of the fifth book, but his fate is unknown.
After the attempt to take Winterfell from the Boltons, Brienne finds Stannis wounded in the woods. It appears that she beheads him and the producers of the show stated that Stannis was very dead. But the author of the books, George R.R. Martin, has stated - "Stannis is very much alive... At least in the books."
In the books, the conversation between Jaime and Myrcella does not occur. Myrcella never says that she suspects Jaime is her father. In the fifth novel, Jaime contemplates about revealing that to her, but he is uncertain if this is a good idea.
In the books, Melisandre does not see any visions of Stannis defeating the Boltons, and does not accompany him and his army on their march to Winterfell, opting to remain at the Wall because her powers and visions are stronger there. When Melisandre attempts to see visions of the Lord of Light's chosen warrior in the flames, she is only given visions of Jon Snow, some of him surrounded by skulls and others of him surrounded by enemies with daggers.
In the books, Theon and Jeyne Poole (replaced by Sansa in the show) escape from Winterfell before Stannis faces the Bolton army, with the help of a bard named Abel and six women (actually, Mance Rayder and six spearwives). They are eventually brought to Stannis' camp, and Stannis takes Theon prisoner, planning to execute him for his crimes, to appease the Northerners, as Theon is believed to have murdered Bran and Rickon Stark.
In the books, the steward Wick Whittlestick is the first to stab Jon. Bowen Marsh is the second, sobbing as he stabs Jon. Jon collapses after being stabbed for third time, and does not recognize the other attackers. Olly is not among them because his character does not exist in the books.
In the books, Sam does not ask Jon to send him to Oldtown. Jon commands him to travel there with Gilly, Maester Aemon and Mance Rayder's baby, because he fears Melisandre will sacrifice Aemon or the baby for their royal blood. Sam objects, but Jon insists.
Jon is told of Stannis' defeat under much different circumstances in the book: instead of Melisandre arriving and confirming the defeat of Stannis' army by the Boltons, he receives a letter supposedly written by Ramsay Bolton, popularly referred to by fans as the "Bastard letter" or "Pink letter", which claims Stannis and his supporters are dead. George R.R. Martin has indirectly implied the letter is false, as he stated Stannis will encounter the Boltons in the forthcoming sixth book, and in August 2015 that he was "Alive, beyond a doubt" in the published books when asked by a reader. The letter prompts Jon to announce he will break his Night's Watch vows and march on Winterfell, and results in his assassination.
In the books, Cersei denies that she ever cheated on Robert. She claims that she has slept with Lancel and the Kettleblack brothers after Robert's death, but denies the more serious charges: that she cheated on Robert while he was alive; her incestuous affair with Jaime; that her children were born of incest and adultery; Robert's murder; the murder of the previous High Septon (who was killed by Osney Kettleblack at Cersei's command); her plot to have Margaery convicted with false charges of treason and adultery.
In the books, Daario and Jorah Mormont do not go to seek Daenerys. Daenerys' bloodriders Aggo and Rakharo and most of Daenerys' original khalasar go to look for her. At that point, Daario is held captive by the Yunkai, while Jorah is imprisoned at Yezzan's camp.
In the books, Brienne has not encountered Stannis since she attended the parley between Stannis and Renly in the second book. She and Podrick are not in the vicinity of Stannis' host when he advances on Winterfell.
In the novels, Meryn Trant is still alive and never left King's Landing. Arya's murder of Meryn is a composite of two other murders she commits in the novels: the first murder Arya commits in Braavos is of Dareon, a Night's Watch deserter, and is later punished for it by the Faceless Men with blindness; later she murders Rafford "Raff the Sweetling", a Lannister soldier from King's Landing, who is on her death list for murdering her friend Lommy, while the show changed Lommy's murderer to Polliver whom Arya had already killed. Meryn's pedophile tendencies in the show are also drawn from Raff.
In the books, Varys never appears in Meereen. Around the time Daenerys' disappears, Varys makes a brief appearance in King's Landing. This is his only scene in the fourth and fifth novels "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance with Dragons".
In the books, Stannis has not yet hired any mercenaries. At Jon's advice, he enlisted about 2,500 men of the Northern mountain clans, and after he successfully liberated Deepwood Motte, destroying nearly all Asha (Yara's name in the books) Greyjoy's troops - many survivors from northern houses joined him, increasing his host to more than 5,000 soldiers. During the march to Winterfell there are reports of missing men (about eighty), but not so much to weaken his host significantly.
In the books, Myrcella has not returned yet to King's Landing. Doran Martell intends to send her with Nym and Tyene, but without Trystane. According to the second of Arianne Martell's sample chapters of "The Winds of Winter", Myrcella, Nym and Tyene are on the way to King's Landing, while Trystane remained in Sunspear.
In the novel, Daenerys spends several days in the Dothraki Sea before she is discovered by the khalasar, during which time she is severely ill and has several hallucinations. Drogon eventually kills a horse for food which Daenerys also consumes. When the khalasar finds her, she is with Drogon.
In the books, Jeyne does not attempt to escape on her own. When Theon and the spearwives come to rescue her, she objects, thinking it is one of Ramsay's vicious games. They barely manage to make her cooperate.
The novels reveal that another character, the unnamed mistress of Tytos Lannister, the father of Tywin and Kevan and grandfather of Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, and Lancel, was also forced to make a walk of penance. The novels explain that Tytos, after the death of his wife Jeyne, was dominated by the low-born woman, who helped herself to his late wife's clothing and jewelry and commanded his household servants. After Tytos' death, Tywin forced the woman to undergo a walk of penance nude through the streets of Lannisport for two weeks and exiled her.
Cersei's walk of shame sequence was voted by fans as "One of the most satisfying moments of the series". On The Huffington Post website on 5/11/2014, Cersei was officially called "The Most Hated Character on 'Game on Thrones'." The character is mostly hated due to her lifetime of cruelty to others. In Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter (2016), Cersei commits mass murder, killing Queen Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, Kevan Lannister, Lancel Lannister, the High Sparrow and many others.