Stannis marches. Dany is surrounded by strangers. Cersei (Lena Headey) seeks forgiveness. Jon is challenged.
Icicles melt in Stannis’s camp, bringing a smile to Melisandre’s lips. She leaves her tent to see a camp bustling with activity, and continues to Stannis’s tent where he is arming himself. She tells him that the Lord of Light has fulfilled his promise, making the way clear. Stannis tells her that they will ride for Winterfell, and she claims he will take it because the Lord of Light showed her a vision of Bolton banners burning. However, without a word he pulls away from her and departs. She seems troubled, and follows him out.
Stannis then recieves an urgent report from one of his commanders, informing him that many of his men had deserted before dawn—nearly half of them, all the sellswords and with all the horses as well. Stannis looks at Melisandre, who’s struck silent. Then another soldier appears, with more to report. Stannis tells him to speak up, that it “can’t be worse than mutiny.” We see him walking with soldiers into a wood near the camp… and there he sees Selyse’s body hanging, as she could not live with herself after the sacrifice of Shireen. Stannis orders her to be cut down.
As she is, the commander appears to tell Stannis that Melisandre was seen riding out of the camp. Stannis considers that in silence, and then bluntly tells the soldiers into marching formation, as he will continue to march on Winterfell.
At Castle Black, Jon Snow recounts what happened at Hardhome to Samwell, finishing with the Night’s King raising his arms and turning the dead into his wights. “Tens of thousands of them,” Jon claims. Samwell asks what Jon will do, and Jon says he hopes they don’t learn to climb the Wall. He drinks from a cup, and Samwell brings up the dragonglass. Jon says that it’s lost, and in any case they would have neeed a “mountain” of it. Samwell points out Jon killed a White Walker, but Jon explains he did it with Longclaw—other steel weapons shattered like glass against the White Walker’s weapon, but not Longclaw. Samwell guesses that it’s because it is Valyrian steel, and wonders how many Valyrian steel weapons there are in Westeros. “Not enough,” Jon replies.
Jon then remarks on his status as the first Lord Commander who sacrificed men of the Watch to save wildlings, and wonders how Sam feels about being friends with the mosted hated man in Castle Black. Samwell answers that Jon was his friend when he first arrived. Jon offers a toast to their friendship, and they drink. Then Jon notices Samwell seems to want to speak, and he prods him. Samwell asks to be sent to Oldtown to become a maester, and to have Gilly and her child sent with him. Samwell feels he was meant to be a maester. Jon insists he needs Sam at Castle Black, that he’s the only person left to give him advice he trusts. Samwell suggests Dolorous Edd could advise him, but Jon seems dubious.
Then Samwell argues that he’d be more use as a maester, bow that Maester Aemon was dead. With all the learning of the Citadel available to him, he could learn about history, strategy, healing, and more, all of which could help when the White Walkers come. Samwell adds that if Gilly stays she and her baby will die, and that he’ll die as well trying to protect them. He confesses that in that case the last thing he’d see would be Gilly’s disappointment when he failed to save her, and that he’d rather see “a thousand White Walkers” than face that.
With a sigh, Jon nods his head and gives Sam his permission. Sam thanks him, but Jon adds that the Citadel will make him swear off women. Sam retorts that they can “bloody well try”. Jon stares at him, and then realizes what that means. He says with surprise that Sam had just been beaten half to death, so how could he manage to sleep with Gilly? “Very carefully,” Samwell admits. Jon says he’s glad the end of the world is working for someone. Then Samwell promises he’ll return, and they drink a toast to that.
Later, Samwell takes the reins of a horse, seated in a wagon with Gilly and her child beside him. They ride out of Castle Black, after a last farewell between Samwell and Jon.
The remains of Stannis’s army approaches Winterfell on foot, with Stannis at its head. The men struggle through the cold, but get within sight of the castle. In the castle itself, Bolton men prepare for battle. One man passes Sansa’s room, just as she uses the tool she stole from the battlements to unlock the door. Wearing a hooded cloak, she walks out into the castle’s yard. At the same time, outside the walls, Podrick Payne spies Stannis’s army while carrying firewood and some rabbits. He drops the items and rushes to find Brienne, who stares at the castle. She tells him that Stannis Baratheon and his army are approaching. When she asks how she knows it’s Stannis, he tells her of the fiery heart banner from the Blackwater.
Brienne looks at the broken tower of Winterfell, at the same time that Sansa prepares to climb it. Brienne finally decides to go face Stannis, and Podrick takes up his axe to follow her. As they walk away, the candle is lit in the tower’s window, but there’s no one to see it.
Stannis gives orders to his men, preparing their camp and telling foragers to find supplies for the siege. But then his commander tells him that there won’t be a siege, and directs his attention towards the castle. Cresting a hill is a enormous force of men, all mounted, far larger than the force remaining to Stannis. Sansa, from the broken tower, sees the battle that follows as Stannis draws his sword and leads his men into battle. They are disorganized mass, many of them fleeing, while the Bolton cavalry is very disciplined and envelops them. Sansa turns away, unable to look.
In a wood, the last of Stannis’s men are dying. There are scores of dead around the king, but he lives, though injured. Using a sword to prop himself up, he tries to walk away as two Bolton men approach. One murders one of his woundered. He turns to face them, and without a word they fight. Stannis kills both of them, and then falls in pain, propping himself up against a tree. He bleeds heavily from a leg, and groans before his attention turns to the footsteps approaching. He sees Brienne of Tarth, and questions where Bolton has women fighting for him.
Brienne tells him that she doesn’t fight for the Boltons. She tells him her name, and the fact that she was Kingsguard to Renly Baratheon. Stannis says nothing when she says she was there when Stannis murdered Renly with a blood magic, sending a shadow with his own face to kill his own brother. He admits that he did murder him. Brienne steps forward and partially draws Oathkeeper as she announces that in the name of Renly Baratheon, First of His Name, the rightful king, she sentences Stannis to die. He stares in silence. When she asks for his last words, he tells her, “Go on, do your duty.” She brings Oathkeeper the rest of the way from its scabbard, and after a moment to prepare herself she brings the sword down, killing him.
Amidst a snow-and-body strewn battlefield, an unarmored Ramsay Bolton cuts down one of Stannis’s men. A companion holds his horse for him as Ramsay says it seems they’re done and prepares to go… until he hears the groans of a wounded soldier crawling away. The man cries out that he surrenders as Ramsay approaches, and Ramsay informs him that he accepts his surrender before he runs him through with his sword. He tells his companion that they should return to Winterfell, as his wife must be lonely. The view changes to show hundreds of dead in the snow.
In Winterfell, Sansa crosses the yard and climbs steps. She turns when a man approaches, trying to find a way out of the castle when she runs into Myranda waiting for her, a bow with a strung arrow in hand and Reek behind her. Myranda informs her she’s come to escort her back to her chamber, and Reek tells her to go with her. Sansa refuses, saying that she knows that Ramsay is a monster and what he’ll do to her for trying to escape. “If I’m going to die,” she tells them, “let it happen while there’s still some of me left.” Myranda is amused by that, and tells her that no one said anything about Sansa dying—after all, her father was Warden of the North and Ramsay needs that connection. Then Myranda supposes that in fact Ramsay won’t need all of her, just “the parts he’ll use to make his heir” and perhaps a boy or two more. Then, she tells Sansa as she readies her bow, Ramsay will likely have incredible plans for those parts. She wonders if they should wait for him, or begin immediately.
Sansa is silent, and Myranda takes this as assent. She’s about to loose an arrow when Reek suddenly grabs her and then flings her off the parapet to her death. Sansa and Reek stare down and then a horn sounds, the gates opening to let Ramsay’s troops of horse back into the castle. Theon grabs Sansa’s hand and leads her away, until they come to a point of the wall above deep snow drifts. They look one another, hold hands, and then leap.
In Braavos, Ser Meryn Trant holds a switch in his hand as he examines three girls. Two of them tremble in terror, and cry out as he beats one after the other. The third girl is utterly silent, however, even when he beats her. He moves to face her and strikes her again, and still she says nothing. He breaks the switch with a third strike, but she says nothing still. He tells her that he sees he has his work cut out for him, and orders the other two girls to leave. The one remaining pulls back her hair to reveal her face—that of the sickly girl that Arya Stark convinced to drink from the poisoned pool in the House of Black and White. She stares at him, and then Trant punches her in the belly, forcing her to gasp for breath as she falls.
But then she touches her face, and looks up to reveal her true face. Arya lunges at him with a knife, stabbing it into his eye and making him fall as he screams. She stabs his other eye, blinding him, and then stuffs his shirt into his mouth to muffle his screams before repeatedly stabbing him in the chest. He groans and rolls over as she stands over him and tells him that he was the first person of her list, for killing Syrio Forel. She supposes he doesn’t remember Syrio, as she walks around him as he kneels in groaning, blind agony. She tells him she’s “gotten” a few of the others on the list, and that the Many Faced God stole a few others as well, but she’s glad he’s alive so she can have her revenge on him. She kneels beside him, and asks if he knows who she is.
She says she can’t hear him and stabs him in the belly before standing over him, and tells him that she’s Arya Stark. He seems to respond and she stabs her knife into his back. Tearing the cloth from his mouth, she asks if he knows who he is. Trant can only groan in pain and says nothing when she tells him that he’s no one and nothing, and then slowly proceeds to slit his throat.
Returning to the chamber beneath the House of Black and White, Arya attempts to return the face she stole to commit her revenge killing. However, after placing it in its alcove, Jaqen H’ghar appears with the waif and says that “a girl” has taken a life, but it was the wrong life. The waif adds that she was right about Arya, and Jaqen agrees. The waif tells Arya that she was not ready, and then seizes Arya and brings her before Jaqen. He tells her that Trant’s life was not for her to take, and that she stole from the Many-Faced God and this leaves a debt. He lifts up a small bottle, and the waif pushes her closer and grabs her jaw to hold her mouth open. Jaqen uncorks the bottle and says that only death can pay for life… and then proceeds to drink from it himself.
He falls down dead, and Arya screams, rushing to his body and telling him he can’t die. The waif asks why she’s crying and she says Jaqen was her friend. The waif says he wasn’t, and wonders if she didn’t listen. Then suddenly Jaqen’s voice speaks, telling her that he was no one: where the waif stood, now stands Jaqen. Arya wonders who the dead man is, and Jaqen says that he was no one at all, just as Arya should have been. Arya reaches for the body’s face and pulls it away to reveal one face she does not recognize after another, again and again, until suddenly she sees her own face. Jaqen tells her that the faces are “as good as poison” to a person who is still someone. Then Arya cries out, as her eyes cloud and she is left blind. She screams, asking what’s happening, but there is no answer.
In Dorne, Myrcella, Prince Trystane, Ser Jaime, and Ser Bronn prepare to depart by boat to a waiting ship. Myrcella takes her farewell from Doran, and with a look Doran has Ellaria say her farewell to Myrcella as well. Ellaria wishes her all the happiness in the world, and then plants a kiss on her lips. They depart to the boat, while Bronn tells Tyene Sand that he may come visit her some day. Tyene retorts that she may visit him instead, but he tells her not to wait as he has a noble woman waiting for him to wed. Tyene steps close and whispers in his ear that he may want a good girl, but he needs “the bad pussy” before she bites at his ear. Bronn joins the others when Jaime says that to “my lord” that they’re ready to leave.
Aboard the ship, Myrcella holds the necklace that had been stolen from her, and Jaime tells her not to lose it. She puts it on and promises to never take it off again. Then Jaime informs her that he’s aware she didn’t want to leave Dorne, but he’s glad that she’s coming home and Cersei was desperate to see her. He then adds that he’s glad Trystane is joining them, as he seems like a “nice boy”; he tells her that she’s lucky, that arranged marriages are rarely so well-arranged. When Myrcella asks if Cersei will like him, Jaime hesitantly replies that if Cersei sees that he makes Myrcella happy, that Cersei will like him. Myrcella laughs and wonders if he really believes that. Jaime then asks if she’s known her mother to like anyone beside her own children, and Myrcella notes that she likes him. Jaime admits he’s not so certain of that anymore.
Awkwardly, he sits down and informs her that he wanted to tell her something, something that he should have said long ago. He starts to tell her that she now starts to know how complicated people can be, pointing out that the Lannisters and Martells have hated one another for years, but then she fell in love with Trystane. He muses at the improbability of it, of falling in love with someone you were arranged to marry—and Myrcella giggles at that. He goes on to tell her that you don’t choose who you love, and that it’s beyond a person’s control. Awkwardly he then stops, saying he sounds like an idiot, but Myrcella tells him he doesn’t. He gets up to try and get to the point of what he means to say, when Myrcella stands as well and tells him that she knows very well that he wanted to admit of his relationship with Cersei, and the fact that she is his daughter. She admits some part of her always knew, and in the end she’s glad that he is her father.
She embraces him, and Jaime seems stunned. They hold one another, and then she pulls away to smile at him …. when blood starts to run from her nose and she begins to gasp. Jaime calls to her, as she falls and he bears her to the ground. He calls her name again and again… as on the docks, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes watch the departing ship. Blood drips down on the ground, and we see it’s from Ellaria’s nose. Tyene, seeing it, goes to her mother and gives her a cloth with which to clean herself up. Ellaria tosses the kerchief away, opens a small vial in her necklace, and drinks the antidote for the poison she used to murder Myrcella Baratheon.
In the throne room of the Great Pyramid in Meereen, Tyrion, Daario, and Jorah sit on the steps in silence, contemplating what’s happened. Tyrion breaks the silence by remarking, “You love her, don’t you?” He notes it’s hopeless for both of them: a sellsword from the fighting pits on the one hand, a disgraced knight on the other, neither of which are suitable consorts for a queen. Tyrion recognizes that men always want the wrong woman. Daario asks Jorah if Tyrion always speaks that much, and Jorah nods mutely. Then Grey Worm enters with the help of Missandei. Grey Worm says that Jorah should not be there, but Daario says that he is. Grey Worm persists regarding Daenerys’s orders that he be exiled, but Daario argues that without Jorah Daenerys would be dead.
Missandei supports him, telling Grey Worm in Valyrian that it is true, and then admits that she would have been dead as well if it were not for the “little man”. Tyrion corrects her in halting Valyrian, saying “dwarf” is the word, then accidentally says that his Valyrian is “nostril”, which Missandei corrects to “rusty”. He thanks her for the correction. Grey Worm speaks in the Common Tongue, apologizing for not having been there in the pit to fight for Daenerys. Daario tells him he missed a good fight, but Jorah tells them that they’re wasting time while Daenerys is in the wilderness. Tyrion points out that the dragon headed north, and that’s where they need to go. “We?” Jorah asks, pointing out that Daenerys intends to remove the Lannisters from power. Tyrion retorts that he means to help her do it.
Jorah, unphased, wonders how many Tyrion has been present in Meereen, because he himself has fought for Daenerys for years. Tyrion notes he betrayed her, and that she exiled him—twice, in fact. Jorah responds that the second time was because of Tyrion, but Tyrion angrily tells the knight not to blame him for his crimes. Daario stands and says they are both right: Jorah was exiled, but Jorah also saved Daenerys. No one will know how Daenerys feels about Jorah until they ask. Tyrion conceeds that Jorah can join them… so long as he swears not to kill him in his sleep. Jorah warns him that Tyrion’s eyes would be wide open if he killed him.
But then Daario wonders why they would bring Tyrion, ascertaining that he’s never tracked animals in the wilderness and isn’t a skilled warrior or horseman. “So mainly you talk,” Daario notes, and Tyrion adds, “And drink!” Then Tyrion points out that he had survived so far. Daario says he respects that, but it’s not help for the expedition…. but Tyrion would be of great help in Meereen, given his experience in running a city. He tells the Imp that he can prove his value to Daenerys in the city. Jorah is skeptical, wondering why the Meereenese would listen to a foreign dwarf that barely speaks Valyrian, but Daario says that they would listen to Grey Worm.
Grey Worm steps forward, declaring he wishes to join them in the search for Daenerys, but Missandei argues that he’s not strong enough. Grey Worm insists, and Daario remarks he’s the “toughest man with no balls I’ve ever met,” but that he still can’t go because the people know him and know that he speaks for the queen. Missandei agrees with Daario, noting that if Grey Worm and the Unsullied leave, the city will tear itself apart. Then Daario tells her that Daenerys trusts no one more than Missandei—certianly not him—and he thinks that she, Grey Worm, and scarred, foreign Tyrion can run the city. He wishes them good fortune, telling them not to ruin Meereen, and then tells Jorah that they’ll go find good horses and have a great deal to talk about. Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei are left alone in the throne room.
Later Tyrion stands on the walls, watching Jorah and Daario riding away from the city, when Varys greets his “old friend.” Varys accuses Tyrion of abandoning him, and when Tyrion asks, he says that the birds “sing” in the west and the east and he knows how to understand them. Then Varys informs him that he’s been told Tyrion already found favor with Daenerys. He admits she didn’t execute him, and now the “heroes” are off to find her while he’s left to try and stop the city from falling into civil war. He asks for Varys’s advice, and Varys tells him that he needs information: the strengths and strategies of his enemies, or which of his friends are not truly his friends. Tyrion muses, asking rhetorically if he only had a friend with a vast spy network. Varys smiles and then remarks that it’s a grand old city choking on violence, corruption, and deceit… and then equally-rhetorically wonders who would have experience enough to manage such an “ungainly beast”.
The two exchange a look, and Tyrion admits he missed Varys. Varys says he knows.
In the wilderness north of Meereen, Daenerys stands atop a high, craggy hill. She turns to see Drogon on the ground, the remains of some dead animals about it. She tells him they have to go home, but he seems exhausted. She calls him her sweet thing and asks if it hurts, but then repeats they must return but he ignores her. She rubs his head and wonders how far he carried her, but he turns away to lick at the wounds on a wing. She tries to climb aboard his back again but he refuses to let her and turns to lie down and rest. Unable to move him, Daenerys remarks there’s no food and wishes he’d at least hunt for supper; he sleeps instead.
She makes her way down to the valley below, when she sees a horseman—a Dothraki—crest a hill. Seeing her, the Dothraki pauses. More Dothraki appear, and Daenerys carefully takes off a ring and drops it on the ground. More Dothraki appear, and yet more, hundreds and thousands, a whole khalasar on the move. A group of them start to ride around her, shouting victoriously.
Beneath the Great Sept, Cersei cowers in a corner, fighting tears. The septa enters to tell her to confess, and repeats the command. Cersei stares at her silently… but seems to give in, because we then see her before the High Septon. She claims she now sees her sins, that she was blind for too long, and that she wishes to be clean and absolved. She starts to continue, speaking of the Crone, when he asks her if she wishes to make a confession. Cersei asks if she’ll be freed once she confesses, but he only says she’ll be dealt with as she has sinned. Calling on the Mother’s mercy, she admits she slept with Lancel Lannister outside the bounds of marriage. She claimed she was lonely and afraid, and when he notes she had a husband, she angrily answers that her husband whored every chance he could. He responds that Robert’s sins did not pardon her own.
She asks for forgiveness. Then he asks if there were other men, and she absolutely denies it. He warns her that speaking falsely would be a great crime, then notes the claims that her children are incest-born bastards. Cersei says it’s Stannis’s lie, to try and get Robert’s children out of the way. She firmly denies it, and he nods his head, pleased. Then he tells her that despite this, the charges are terrible, and the realm must see what truth there is to them. He tells her that if she gives honest testimony, her innocence will be clear at her trial.
At that, she’s shocked and says that she’s confessed. He admits she has—to one sin, but she’s denied the rest, and the trial will reveal truth from falsehood. She’s forced to “bow” to his wisdom, but begs for a drop of the Mother’s mercy so that she can see King Tommen. He responds that she’s taken the first step to righteousness, and so he’ll permit her a return to the Red Keep. She thanks him, and he says the Mother is merciful, and that it’s her she should thank. She says she will. He stands, and she asks if she’s free to go. He tells her that she can, after her atonement.
In her cell, Cersei is stripped naked and thoroughly washed by septas. Then she is made to sit as they take a razor to her long hair. They cut it away roughly as she sits in silence. They cut her in the process, and when they leave her her hair is cropped very short. Then she is brought out to the steps of the Great Sept, and sees a huge crowd in the street below. The High Sparrow announces that a sinner has come before them. He says she has confessed falsehood and fornication, and has begged forgiveness. He goes on to say that to prove her repentance, she’ll cast aside all artifice to present herself as the gods made her to the citizens of King’s Landing, that she’ll walk naked in the sight of gods and men to make her atonement.
The septas come forward and strip the gown from her, leaving her nude. There’s a gasp. A septa rings a bell and starts to repeatedly intone, “Shame. Shame. Shame.” Cersei walks in silence through the crowd, sparrows flanking her and parting the crowd. There are murmurs from the crowd, and then one man curses at her. More follow, calling her a whore and dirty, but she walks on despite the abuse. Rotten vegetables are thrown at her, and a prostitute flaunts herself and claims she’s had half as many men as the queen has had. More abuse follows, and Cersei’s pace grows faster as men and women expose themselves at her, mocking her, spitting on her, and more. Some are brutally beaten by the sparrows.
The abuse begins to weigh on Cersei, whose face begins to show her fear and shame, but she walks on. She stumbles and falls, but looking up at the Red Keep she stands on bloody feet and presses on as the crowd roars its hatred. She finally reaches a line of the Lannister guards and city watch, and makes her way onto the bridge leading to the gates of the Red Keep. She weeps aloud as the journey comes to an end, but keeps walking until safely within the walls. There the doors are closed. Ser Kevan stares at her, as does Grand Maester Pycelle, while Qyburn rushes up to cover her nakedness with a robe and tells her that it’s good to have her back. He says he’ll look at her feet, when she hears a heavy footstep.
Qyburn’s gaze follows hers, and he introduces her to the newest member of the Kingsguard, a giant of a man called Ser Robert Strong. His helm completely encloses his face, but the flesh about his eyes seem strangely blue. The knight lifts her up and easily carryies her, as Qyburn informs her that the man has sworn a vow of silence until all of the king’s enemies are dead. Cersei’s expression becomes hard at that.
At Castle Black, Jon Snow exits the winch cage with Davos, who is arguing with Jon about Stannis. Ser Davos reminds him that Stannis helped the Watch, and it was their turn to help him. Jon says they don’t have enough men to make a difference, but Davos replies that the wildlings are numerous enough. Jon turns on him, telling him that they’ll never fight for Stannis, but Davos retorts that Jon saved their lives, implying that they owe him; and moreover, if they are now going to live in the Seven Kingdoms with the Wall to protect them, they should fight for it. Jon angrily says it’s not their fight.
Then the gates are opened, and a sole rider enters. Both men look to see Melisandre. Jon goes to her first, while Davos hesitates before approaching. Jon asks after Stannis, but she says nothing; she looks stunned. She tries to move past Jon but Davos steps in front of her, stopping her and he asks about Shireen. Melisandre slowly meets his gaze, and Davos knows that Shireen is dead. Silently, Melisandre stumbles past them.
That night, Jon looks at messages and letters alone. He throws one aside, and seems troubled by the weight of his responsibilities to the Watch and the realm. Then Olly bursts in, telling Jon that a wildling says he knows Benjen Stark and that he’s still alive. Jon stands and asks if he’s certain he’s speaking about Benjen, and Olly replies that the man said he was First Ranger. Jon rushes past him and down the steps as Olly says that the wildling claims to know where to find him. At the bottom of the steps, Ser Alliser Thorne joins them and says the man claims Benjen was at Hardhome during the last full moon. Jon remarks he could be lying, and Thorne admits that’s true, but there are ways to find out. Jon asks where he is, and Thorne directs him to where a group of the Night’s Watch are gathered around, looking at someone …
… or something, as it happens: a sign carved with the word, “Traitor.” Jon turns, to find Thorne in front of him—and then Thorne stabs a blade into Jon’s belly. “For the Watch,” he says. Another man does the same, and then another, and two more after. Jon gasps and groans, and falls to his knees. Then Olly comes forward, as others make way for him. Jon stares at him in silence, and Olly stares back. “Olly,” Jon gasps… but Olly too stabs Jon, saying, “For the Watch.”
Jon gasps for breath and then falls back to the ground. The men disperse. Jon stares up with sightless eyes as his life bleeds out of him across the snow.