Jump to: Spoilers (56)
The episode title is a reference to the beginning of winter, officially decided by the maesters of the Citadel and signaled by sending white ravens to the castles and cities of Westeros, which has begun when Sam and Gilly reach the Citadel. The episode shares its title with the forthcoming sixth "A Song of Ice and Fire" novel, and is the first to draw its title verbatim from one of the novels. Previously, Game of Thrones: The Dance of Dragons (2015) was worded similarly to the fifth novel "A Dance with Dragons".
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The opening scene of this episode featured the first ever use of a Piano in the show's soundtrack. Composer Ramin Djawadi said he wanted the audience to feel something is out of the ordinary right at the beginning and make them suspicious and pay closer attention to the tension of the scene.
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The maester greeting Sam, as he arrives at the Citadel, is played by Danish actor Frank Hvam, the star of Danish sitcom Klovn (2005). D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are huge fans of this sitcom. Hvam's lines were dubbed over by another actor, as he speaks limited English and has a heavy Danish accent.
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Ramin Djawadi received high acclaim from musicians, critics and fans alike for the score of this episode, mainly for the music "Light of the Seven" and the tracks of the last few scenes. It is believed that the praise for this episode in particular, and reactions to Ramin's previous works on the show on top of that, inspired HBO to grant him his own Game of Thrones Orchestra Live Tour across America and Europe in 2016-2018.
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When Olenna Tyrell meets with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, Olenna addresses Tyene Sand but cuts her off as she is about to speak. As such, Tyene went the entire sixth season without a single word of dialogue, despite being credited as a recurring character.
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The episode held the very rare rating of 10.0 on IMDb for almost 2 months, until it went down to 9.9 with more than 80,000 votes.
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This episode reveals that the burning armillary sphere seen in the opening titles is held within the library that Sam visits.
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The Tyrell lord, whom Olenna mentions in conversation with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, is Lord Lyonel Tyrell, who, 150 years before the events of the series, commanded the army of King Daeron I Targaryen during his conquest of Dorne. After the initial victory, Daeron appointed Lord Tyrell as the governor of Dorne. Lord Tyrell liked Dornish women, and one night he pulled a rope near his bed that would signal for a wench, but instead a hundred scorpions fell from the canopy, killing him. His death sparked new revolts, and the conquest was undone in a fortnight.
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The first time Maisie Williams receives solo billing in the opening credits.
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Many people were surprised that despite iconic tracks like "Light of the Seven" and "Winter has Come" the composer Ramin Djawadi didn't receive even an Emmy nomination for this episode, while it is little known that HBO chose to send the fifth episode, "The Door" as Ramin's submission that year and this episode was never even in the race.
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The opening credits sequence shows Winterfell with the Wolf sigil again, replacing the Bolton's Flayed Man sigil, thus consolidating the fact that the Starks took back control of the castle in the previous episode.
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This episode was Lena Headey's submission in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category in the 2016 Emmy Awards- her third nomination for the show.
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This is the second episode to get over 100,000 votes on imdb. The first was "Battle of the Bastards" with over 140,000 votes.
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In a surprising move that doesn't fit the pattern of previous seasons and other acclaimed shows, HBO didn't send this episode as an option to be nominated for either the writing nor the directing category in the 2016 Emmy Awards, thus it wasn't even in the race.
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For the first time on the show, the official words of House Lannister "Hear me roar!" are spoken on-screen. The phrase is also mentioned only once in the novels, in contrast to the Lannisters' unofficial motto "A Lannister always pay his debts", which is mentioned often both in the show and the novels.
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The last episode of the series with any scenes set in Essos.
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In the novels, Loras Tyrell is not put on trial by the Faith. In the fourth novel he is sent by Cersei to retake Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon's island stronghold, for the crown. He is gravely injured during the battle. By the point the books reached, he is still lying in agony, near death.
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The episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series or Movie.
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In the books, it is Sam who explains that Coldhands cannot pass beyond the Wall because of ancient spells are carved into its foundations. For the same reason he cannot enter the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven.
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In the books, Brynden "Blackfish" Tully is alive. Edmure helped him escape, and his current whereabouts are unknown
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In the books, the Faith Militant were not required to carve the seven pointed stars onto their foreheads. It was sufficient for them to paint the star on their brows or sew a badge of it to their clothes. Only the zealous among them carved the star into their chests, not their foreheads.
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In the books, Ser Barristan Selmy is the Queen's Hand.
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In the books, Loras has given up his title and claim for Highgarden once he joined the Kingsguard. In any case, his elder brother Willas is the heir of Highgarden.
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In the books, Davos, not Lyanna Mormont, reminds Lord Manderly that his son was murdered at the Red Wedding.
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In the books, House Glover always supported the Starks.
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In the books, Tyrion and Jorah have not met Daenerys yet. They are still held at the Yunkai camps.
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In the novels, it is unknown what is under the helm of the mysterious Ser Robert Strong, confirmed in the series to actually be a reanimated Gregor Clegane, as no part of his face is visible. In fact, the novels imply that he may not have a head at all, since in the fourth novel "A Feast for Crows" Cersei sends Clegane's skull to Dorne to confirm to the Martells that he is deceased.
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In the books, Jaime has never visited the Twins, and never met Lord Frey.
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Frank Hvam ( Citadel Master ) is The 5th Danish actor to join The game Of Thrones cast after Nikolaj Coster-waldau ( Jamie Lannister ), Dar Salim ( Qotho ), Birgitte Hjort Sørensen ( Karsi ) and Pilou Asbæk ( Euron Greyjoy )
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The introduction theme and map depiction animation of each episode of Game Of Thrones is now well known for depicting every "city/region" that takes place in said episode. However, unlike the single scene in Dorne, The Citadel setting (and scene crucial to the storyline) is seen in this episode, yet it is not represented in the opening credits.
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In the books, Olenna Tyrell has never been to Dorne, nor has she met Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, or Varys.
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In the books, Jaime has not returned yet to King's Landing and is in the Riverlands. He was last seen riding off with Brienne, and his current whereabouts is unknown.
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In the books, Wyman Manderly declares that he supports the Starks only in private. He agrees to join Stannis, providing that Davos finds Rickon, who went to Skagos and his fate is unknown.
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In the books, Melisandre and Davos have never been to Winterfell.
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In the books, Daario is the commander of the Stormcrows sellsword company, not the Second Sons.
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In the books, it is not Olenna but Arianne Martell who asks her father "What is our heart's desire?". Doran, not Ellaria and Varys, answers: "Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood".
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In the books, Loras never said that Renly was a traitor.
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In the books, after the siege of Riverrun is resolved, Edmure is sent to Casterly Rock, not back to the Twins.
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In the books, Lord Cley Cerwyn was killed by the Boltons during the attempt to liberate Winterfell.
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In the books, Theon and Asha (Yara in the TV Series) are held captives at Stannis' camp.
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In the books, the conversation between Daenerys and Daario does not occur.
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In the books, Sam does not bring Gilly and her baby to the Citadel.
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In the books, Arya is still in Braavos.
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In the books, Varys has never been to Dorne, and has never met Ellaria and the Sand Snakes.
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In the books, Wyman Manderly is described as very obese.
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In the books, Daario is still held hostage by the Yunkai.
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In the books, the conversation between Jaime and Walder Frey does not occur.
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In the books, the battle of Meereen has not begun yet. Daenerys has not returned to Meereen.
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In the books, Sansa never came to the godswood to pray to be somewhere else.
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With Walder Frey's murder, all three orchestrators of the Red Wedding, alongside Tywin Lannister and Roose Bolton, are now deceased. Interestingly, all three were murdered in their own home. Additionally, each was killed in a way resembling the major deaths of the Red Wedding: Tywin was killed by crossbow bolt (Grey Wind), Roose was stabbed at close range (Robb) and Walder Frey had his throat slit (Catelyn).
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This episode confirms the popular theory (known as "R + L = J") that Jon Snow is not, in fact, Ned Stark's bastard son, but the son of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Though the episode did not state Rhaegar is Jon's father, HBO confirmed it the next day in the show's viewer guide. Fans of the novels have speculated for many years, long before the show was released, that Lyanna had died in childbirth at the Tower of Joy, and made Ned promise to protect her son from Robert Baratheon's wrath, who would have demanded the death of any possible Targaryen heir, let alone the son of the man he hated most of all. This was one of the first story points not yet revealed in the novels that George R.R. Martin shared with the show runners during their first meeting planning the series in 2007.
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The irony in Cersei's coup is that she committed the act of horror that her lover and twin brother Jaime killed the Mad King in order to prevent.
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This episode marks the highest number of major or recurring character deaths, with eleven: Pycelle, Lancel, the High Sparrow, Loras, Margaery, Mace, Kevan, Tommen, Walder Rivers, Lothar Frey, and Walder Frey. This breaks the record set by Game of Thrones: Mother's Mercy (2015), which killed off six major or recurring characters.
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In the final scene, Daenerys's fleet can be seen flying Targaryen, Greyjoy, Tyrell and Martell sails.
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While Arya is wearing the face of a servant to ambush and murder Walder Frey, there is a hint to her identity as she refers to him as "my lord". In Game of Thrones: A Man Without Honor (2012), Tywin tells Arya he can tell she is high-born because she refers to him as "my lord", while low-born are usually illiterate and run together the phrase as "m'lord".
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Before the episode aired, Maisie Williams and Michelle Fairley were not shown to be cast in the final episode. In an interview with Sophie Turner, where she played a game called "Two Truths, One Lie", she said "Ramsay dies", "Lady Stoneheart [the reanimated Catelyn Stark] returns", "Arya crosses a name off her list". From the previous episode, we learn that Ramsay does die, meaning that either Lady Stoneheart would return or Arya would cross a name off her list. Due to the fact that neither Williams or Fairley were shown to be cast, Arya's scene in the final episode was unexpected.
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Daenerys names Tyrion her Hand of the Queen. Tyrion's father, Tywin, served as the first Hand to Daenerys's father, Aerys "the Mad King".
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During the scene where Jaime and Walder Frey are speaking, Walder says "The Starks mocked me... where are they now?". Immediately after this sentence, the serving girl is seen walking past in the background, whom the audience later learns to be Arya Stark in disguise.
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This episode continues the show's trend of killing off at least one king per season: season 1 - Robert; season 2 - Renly; season 3 - Robb; season 4 - Joffrey; season 5 - Mance Rayder and Stannis; season 6 - Balon Greyjoy and Tommen.
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The leaders of all four of the Great Houses that make up armies in Daenerys's faction now are women: Daenerys for House Targaryen, Yara Greyjoy and her faction of House Greyjoy, Olenna for House Tyrell, and Ellaria Sand for Dorne. Meanwhile, the Lannisters are now also formally led by a woman, as Cersei has not only killed her uncle Kevan, but openly seized power and declared herself ruling Queen.
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Lena Headey remarked that what Gregor Clegane does to Septa Unella was originally filmed in graphic detail, but in the final cut it was decided to leave it ambiguous.
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Hitherto the longest episode of the series to date, with a run time of 69 minutes, surpassing the 66 minute run time of Game of Thrones: The Children (2014). It was later surpassed by Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall (2017), which ran at 71 minutes.
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As of this episode, Cersei has served as every type of queen: she was the queen consort (wife of a ruling king) to King Robert; after his death she became a dowager queen (widow of a ruling king); she was the queen regent (custodian of a minor king) and queen mother to Joffrey and Tommen; following Tommen's suicide, she claimed the Iron Throne and became the queen regnant (ruling queen) of the Seven Kingdoms.
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Michele Clapton, the costume designer of the previous five seasons, returned for this episode to design Cersei's crown and gown. According to Clapton, every detail of her costume represents something significant: the gown is leather and has squared shoulders to link her to her father, Tywin, and the silver shoulder plates are decorated similarly to Jaime's gold hand. The dark gray shade of the leather represents mourning and "a deadness inside her-the overwhelming desire for power at any cost." Her crown is the Lannister lion sigil with its mane extending out, like the Iron Throne.
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This is the second time a character played by Dean-Charles Chapman is killed off. He was first killed in Game of Thrones: Kissed by Fire (2013) while portraying Martyn Lannister, the son of Kevan Lannister and younger brother of Lancel. While a captive of Robb Stark, he and his brother are murdered in their cell by Rickard Karstark. Robb later beheads Lord Karstark for the boys' murder. Chapman was later recast as an older Prince Tommen in season 4. Coincidentally Tommen, Kevan, and Lancel all die in same episode.
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Every man that Margaery has wed (Renly, Joffrey, and Tommen) is dead.
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In the Tower of Joy flashback, Lyanna whispers into Ned's ear but it is not audible. Many fans speculate it may be Jon's true name, and though lip reading and other techniques indicate she says "Jahaerys", one of the many recurring royal Targaryan given names. In the context of the books, the last person with that name was Jon's great-grandfather.
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Miguel Sapochnik modeled the opening scene leading up to Cersei's destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor after the famous baptism sequence in The Godfather (1972), as well as several James Bond films.
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This episode marks the extinction of all branches of House Baratheon. At the beginning of the War of the Five Kings the house had split into two branches, House Baratheon of Dragonstone, led by Stannis Baratheon and extinct after his death, and House Baratheon of King's Landing, led by Joffrey and Tommen Baratheon.
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Jonathan Pryce spoiled the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor and the deaths of most of the royal court in an interview with a Polish blog a month before this episode aired. He stated, "When Cersei's trial happens ... [the] High Sparrow and everyone else is waiting in the Sept of Baelor for Cersei to show up. And the High Sparrow is very certain for Cersei to show up and so is everyone else. No one expects that something very unpleasant is about to happen... "[P]eople are speculating that this scene will be like the Red Wedding. The doors to the Sept of Baelor will be locked and while everyone is waiting for Cersei, Qyburn will blow the entire place up with wildfire."
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297 people are mass murdered by Cersei in the wildfire destruction of the Great Sept.
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Some question how Arya has learned how to change faces, which is the trademark of the Faceless Men assassin guild that she recently left. This can be answered with the fact that Arya's ability to swap a face appeared in Game of Thrones: Mother's Mercy (2015), when she stole a face in order to kill Ser Meryn Trant. Her ability to harvest a face was shown in Game of Thrones: No One (2016), as she harvested the face of the Waif, albeit bloodily in order to send a message. With these two skills of both harvesting and applying faces, Arya has become a true faceless (wo)man. However, being able to remove a face does not mean she has the knowledge to make it wearable.
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There has not been a King in the North since the Red Wedding until now - Jon Snow.
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Numerous television critics and writers have compared Cersei's destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in England. The plot was devised by a faction of radical Catholics who, after discovering a cellar running underneath Parliament, hid 36 barrels of gunpowder and planned to detonate them to kill King James and his sons. Unlike Cersei's plot, the barrels of gunpowder were discovered the plot was thwarted.
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Kevan Lannister is the fifth consecutive Hand of the King to the Iron Throne to have been murdered, four of whom were murdered by a Lannister: prior to him were Rossart, the final Hand to King Aerys II ("The Mad King"), slain by Jaime Lannister; Jon Arryn, King Robert's first Hand, poisoned by his wife Lysa; Ned Stark, King Robert's second Hand, executed on the order of Joffrey Baratheon, and Tywin Lannister, Hand to Kings Joffrey and Tommen, shot by his son, Tyrion. While Tyrion is alive, he never served as Hand of the King in his own right, but acted in the place of his father, Tywin, who held the title during Joffrey's entire reign.
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According to several historians and television writers, Daenerys crossing the Narrow Sea to take back the Iron Throne with an army of Unsullied and Dothraki, as well as Tyrell, Martell, and Ironborn allies, bears several resemblances to Henry Tudor's conquest of England in 1485. Henry, after a twenty year exile in France, crossed the narrow English Channel with a French and Scottish army bolstered with Welsh and English defectors.
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Cersei is actually the second woman in the history of Westeros to claim the Iron Throne and hold King's Landing. 170 years before the events of the series, Rhaenyra Targaryen held King's Landing for six months as queen regnant after her father Viserys I died. Her claim was contested by her half-brother Aegon, and he deposed Rhaenyra in the war known as "The Dance of the Dragons", the war Shireen Baratheon read about in Game of Thrones: The Dance of Dragons (2015). Rhaenyra was captured and fed to Aegon's dragon, as told by Joffrey in Game of Thrones: And Now His Watch Is Ended (2013). Her reign was subsequently declared invalid to maintain an all-male line.
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This episode confirms what Littlefinger wants: the Iron Throne with Sansa as his queen. In the novels, he intends to marry her to Harrold Hardyng.
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In the scene immediately following the Tower of Joy flashback, Lyanna Mormont is the first to declare Jon Snow as King of the North. Earlier, in Game of Thrones: The Broken Man (2016), Sansa reveals that Lyanna Mormont was named after Lyanna Stark. In a way, the scene in Winterfell serves as a symbol of Jon's mother, Lyanna, transcending the grave and protecting her son by proclaiming him king, while simultaneously protecting the Stark name.
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With the death of Mace Tyrell, all those who were leaders of the Great Houses at the start of the series are now dead. Jon Arryn, Viserys Targaryen, Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark died in season 1; Hoster Tully died in season 3; Tywin Lannister died in season 4; Doran Martell and Balon Greyjoy died earlier in season 6. Although the Boltons and Freys were not Great Houses in the beginning, they were granted that status in the series, and both Roose Bolton and Walder Frey have also died in season 6.
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With this episode, all three of Cersei's children have met their demise - thus Maggy's prophecy is fulfilled. In the novels, Tommen and Myrcella are still alive.
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Michiel Huisman was asked in an interview with Entertainment Weekly if his character Daario Naharis will appear again in the series and responded, "Yes I do, and I'm not supposed to spoil that", though his statement proved to be false.
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As of this episode, all of Jaime and Cersei's children are dead. Ironically, the High Sparrow stated that Cersei would pay a price for her sins, and he most likely was referring to the loss of her three children in exchange for her incestual sins. Also, since Season 4, one child of theirs has died every season: season 4 - Joffrey, season 5 - Myrcella, season 6 - Tommen. Myrcella and Tommen both died in the finale of their respective seasons.
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The white raven that appears in the preview is the Citadel's way of telling the lords of the Seven Kingdoms that winter has finally come. It is not sent to Winterfell but to King's Landing. Kevan receives it by the end of the fifth book "A Dance with Dragons".
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According to several historians and writers, Cersei's ascension to the Iron Throne bears several similarities to the ascension of King Richard III to the British throne in 1483. Cersei claims the Iron Throne after the suicide of Tommen, her son whom she had acted as regent, while Richard claimed the British throne after the mysterious disappearance of his nephew, 12-year-old King Edward V, whom Richard had been acting as regent for.
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Usually travel time in the series takes a great chunk of the season. However, in this episode, Arya has managed to travel from Braavos to the Twins in 3 episodes; Olenna Tyrell traveled from King's Landing to Dorne in 3 episodes; Varys traveled from Meereen to Dorne in 3 episodes; Jaime traveled from Riverrun to King's Landing in one episode.
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The sixth season features the largest amount of series regulars in the show's history. The first season had 18, the second season had 23, the third and fifth seasons had 28, the fourth season had 27 and the seventh season contained 22. This season contained 29 series regulars (a new record for cable television) and saw the departure of seven series regulars, with the possibility of one returning in future seasons.
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The only episode of the series to include piano in its score, in "Light of the Seven", which plays over Cersei's destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor. Series composer Ramin Djawadi stated piano "is not really in the language of the Game of Thrones score...The piano has this decay and attack at the same time. We even experimented with the harp, but the harp was not as haunting as the piano."
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Although Tommen's heir had been left ambiguous after the death of Myrcella in Game of Thrones: Mother's Mercy (2015), according to an article by MTV News the children of Tywin Lannister would be next in line for the throne, as they are descended from Corwen Baratheon, the great-great-great-great-grandfather of King Robert Baratheon.
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In George R.R. Martin's original outline for the novel series, written in 1993, it is Jaime, rather than Cersei, who is not mentioned in the outline, who eventually ascends to the Iron Throne, "by the simple expedient of killing everyone ahead of him in the line of succession."
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The first and last time that Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) appears in season finale since Season 2.
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After Arya's murder of Walder Frey, her death list only has two names left on it: Cersei and Gregor Clegane ("The Mountain").
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In the novels, Cersei and Qyburn have no involvement in the deaths of Pycelle and Kevan Lannister, both are murdered by Varys. Pycelle's death scene is loosely based on Kevan's death in the epilogue chapter of "A Dance with Dragons": Kevan discovers Pycelle's corpse, his skull having been bashed in, and is then ambushed by Varys and mortally wounded by a crossbow bolt. Varys explains that Aegon, son of Rhaegar and Elia, is alive, and he is to be the king. Varys then has his child spies ("little birds") stab Kevan to death. Most of Qyburn and Pycelle's dialogue in the scene is lifted from Varys and Kevan's dialogue in the novel.
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As of this episode House Lannister is now the de jure royal house of the Seven Kingdoms, though they had been the de facto royal house since King Robert Baratheon's death in the first season, as Joffrey and Tommen had no blood relation to King Robert and were solely descended from Lannisters.
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Eugene Simon stated in an interview that he will deeply miss playing Lancel Lannister in the series. He was not afraid of his character Lancel dying and that if Lancel is going to die, he is going to die and that he hopes that Lancel will go well and dies for the bitter ending for his cause. Lancel is killed in the Wildfire destruction of the Great Sept and is one of Cersei Lannister's victims.
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Cersei is only the second monarch of the Seven Kingdoms to be older than their predecessor, following Viserys II Targaryen who succeeded his nephew Baelor in the year 171, approximately 130 years earlier.
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In the books, the only building that Cersei destroys with wildfire is the Tower of the Hand, shortly after her father, Tywin, was murdered inside, in a planned destruction, and no one is harmed.
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Aisling Franciosi, the actress who plays the older Lyanna Stark on her deathbed, also appeared in the TNT show "Legends" starring Sean Bean (adult Ned Stark).
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Only two of the characters who were killed in this episode - Kevan Lannister and Pycelle - are killed in the books as well. Tommen, Margaery, Mace Tyrell, Walder Frey, Black Walder, Lothar, Loras, the High Sparrow and Lancel are all still alive.
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With the series overtaking the books, the story arc of Sansa in the books has her obeying Littlefinger's plans. He plans to marry Sansa to Harrold Hardyng, a noble from the Vale, while her friend Jeyne Poole (posing as Arya Stark) is married to Ramsay Bolton.
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In the books, the Freys who are killed and baked into a pie are Jared, Symond and Rhaegar - not Black Walder and Lothar. Lord Wyman Manderly kills them and brings the pies to Winterfell to Ramsay's wedding, as a payback for the death of his son Wendel in the Red Wedding. Lord Frey does not eat them, but two of his sons, Hosteen and Aenys. Additionally, three more Freys (Petyr "Pimple", Merrett and Ryman) are hanged by the Brotherhood without Banners. Arya has absolutely nothing to do with the deaths of those Freys - she is still in Braavos at that point.
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This episode marks the death of Grand Maester Pycelle, played by Julian Glover. Glover has played villainous / unsympathetic figures in five major franchises, including, besides Game of Thrones, Indiana Jones (Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) ), Star Wars (General Veers in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) ), 007 (Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only (1981) ) and Harry Potter (Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) ).
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In the books, it is not Lyanna Mormont but Lord Manderly's younger granddaughter Wylla, who declares they should support House Stark.
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King's Landing was a foreshadowing of Tommen Baratheon's death.
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In the narrative behind the final scene, Daenerys is setting off on her crusade to conquer the Seven Kingdoms and to take back the Iron Throne.
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