A few weeks back, we looked at the script for “Battle of the Bastards,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season 6, and examined how it compared to the final product. Now it’s time to look at the script for “Mother’s Mercy,” the season 5 finale, which is available on the Emmy website.
Scripts form the basis for the episodes we see on television, but budget, shooting conditions, and director’s prerogative can all lead to changes. The season 5 finale was chock full of major events, from Stannis’ defeat at Winterfell to Cersei’s walk of atonement to Jon Snow’s murder, but all of them played out like they did on paper. Let’s look at the differences.
Like “Bastards,” “Mother’s Mercy” was written by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss. David Nutter directed this one.
We begin in Stannis’ camp, the morning after Shireen has been sacrificed to melt the snows.
Much of this is the same as in the episode — Benioff and Weiss make much of the fact that Stannis won’t look at Melisandre as he puts on his armor, since “He does not want to think about the price he paid for his incipient victory.” We also get some insight into how Stannis’ loyal followers feel delivering the string of bad news. For example, the general who delivers the news about Melisandre fleeing the scene “now wishes he died in his sleep” — no one wants to deliver that kind of news to Stannis Baratheon. Despite the litany of misfortunes, Stannis presses on:
Stannis walks back in the direction of camp, leaving the doomed general and the doomed soldiers staring after their doomed king.
Not exactly hopeful.
In Jon Snow’s chambers, we pick up with Jon and Sam discussing the Massacre at Hardhome. This scene is pretty much what we get on the screen, except for this quote from Sam, which seems to have been omitted.
I found an account of the Long Night that spoke of a hero killing Walkers with a blade of “dragonsteel.”
Jon also mentions a few characters who didn’t make it out of the massacre: “Skillan didn’t. Tom Dunn didn’t either.” Perhaps the Thenn who took on the White Walker and a brother of the Night’s Watch, respectively? Finally, Sam’s request to become a maester remains the same, although the script adds a note about how Jon views Sam and Gilly:
Maybe Sam’s love story isn’t doomed, unlike Jon’s own. Maybe he can still save someone.
Queue the feelings.
At Winterfell, there’s a brief bit that didn’t make it into the script where a bunch of Bolton soldiers walk by Sansa after she breaks out of her room but don’t recognize her “[t]hey’ve got a battle to worry about…One of the upsides to being locked away: few people have gotten a good look at you.” Otherwise, Sansa’s section is largely the same.
We also get some insight into Stannis’ nihilistic thoughts as the Bolton army advances toward him.
Stannis is ready to hang the man on general principles for this comment, until he turns to look at what the man is looking at: The BOLTON ARMY in full force, thousands of cavalry coming up over a rise, charging forth from Winterfell. Stannis watches his own end roll toward him, a wave of horseflesh and steel, feels it rumbling in his feet. He looks to his weary men. Time for one last speech? No. Fuck this world. He draws his sword.
After the battle, Stannis fights with a pair of Bolton infantrymen, named in the script as Gordy and Simpson. There are some big changes here.
First, Gordy and Simpson have a full-blown conversation about Stannis, deducing his identity before attacking the wounded king. After scoring several hits on Stannis, the duo decide it might be in their best interests to bring Stannis to Roose Bolton alive for flaying. It’s quite a bit more elaborate than the simple look we see Stannis exchange with the pair on screen. In both versions, Stannis comes out on top.
As we discussed yesterday, Stannis’ execution at Brienne’s hand is also different. In the script, we get a full blown speech from Stannis. In the show, he’s pretty stone-faced. Here’s his original dialogue.
BRIENNE: “Do you have any last words?”
STANNIS: “Do you believe in the life to come?”
STANNIS: “I don’t. But if I’m wrong, and you’re right… tell Renly I’m sorry when you get there. I don’t imagine I’ll see him wherever I’m going. (beat) And my daughter. Tell her… tell her…”
“Sorry” doesn’t begin to cover what he feels about Shireen. The thought of it brings tears to his eyes, and he’s not going to die weeping in front of a woman he doesn’t know.
After that, there’s a bit more dialogue from Myranda, Ramsay’s girlfriend, regarding what Ramsay plans to do with Sansa’s “parts.”
Then he’s got incredible plans for those parts. Things no one has ever done before, things no one has ever thought before. If I’m very good, he’s going to let me watch.
Gross. We’re not sad that line was cut. Also, note that this line is included right before Theon and Sansa jump off the Winterfell ramparts: “A deep snowdrift is piled up against the outer walls of Winterfell below.” I don’t know if that really came across.
Off to Braavos we go for Arya’s horrific execution of Meryn Trant. The script points out that Trant hits Arya “just like he once did to Sansa,” so the parallelism was definitely on their mind. Arya pounds that home with some dialogue that got cut from the show, dialogue she delivers after turning the tables:
ARYA: “Do you know where my sister is?”
More murmurs. She pokes a hole in his back. Between the screams and the hyperventilating, he’s close to passing out.
ARYA: Sansa Stark. My sister. I haven’t seen her for a long time. Do you know where she is?
She pulls the rag from Meryn’s mouth. He gasps for air.
ARYA: “My sister.”
TRANT: “Don’t know. Nobody… gone. Left King’s Landing. Don’t know.”
The scene between Arya, the Waif and Jaqen H’ghar is the same, and then we’re off to everyone’s favorite vacation spot: Dorne.
The scene on the dock is largely the same, “bad pussy” and all. The scene between Jaime and Mrycella in her cabin is slightly longer, though. Myrcella is mildly disappointed to find that it’s Jaime, rather than Trystane, entering her cabin. She also offers him a drink and relays Trystane’s embarrassment about being knocked out by Bronn.
The script notes that, when Jaime and Mrycella hug, Jaime “knows the joy of fatherhood for the first time in his life. And it’s a pretty damn good feeling.” Ouch.
Next, we jump over to Meereen. The scene where the characters debate how to proceed in Dany’s absence is largely the same, although Daario’s argument for why Grey Worm should stay behind is longer, and references Grey Worm’s past as a slave. After Jorah and Daario depart, we are left with a typically impish script note from Benioff and Weiss:
Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm are alone and in charge in the seat of Meereenese power.
What the fuck do they do now?
Interestingly enough, in the script, Daario and Jorah do not leave Meereen alone, but rather take a contingent of Second Sons. There’s also more dialogue between Tyrion and Varys’ as they stand on the balcony.
VARYS: “I hear you had many adventures without me.”
TYRION: “Someday I’ll write an account. Travels Through Essos: a Lannister Abroad.”
VARYS: “That will be a great delight for tens of readers.”
Har har. Next up, we check in with Daenerys, who’s attempting to coax Drogon to take her back to Meereen. Dany seems to understand Drogon needs to heal, but is a bit more irritated with Drogon on the page.
Drogon lies down, curling his head into his wings. Instantly, he is asleep. Dany stares at him. She sighs. Fucking dragons.
Dany’s capture by the Dothraki remains the same, and the script notes that Dany drop her ring “because she’s very smart.”
From one to queen to another, we jump back to Westeros and Cersei’s walk of atonement.
Cersei’s confession to the High Sparrow differs only in that the High Sparrow proclaims that Stannis has taken up with a “red demon, and his false faith has no place in these Seven Kingdoms.” The High Sparrow comes off a bit more of a jack wagon in this scene, though, as he “smiles down at [Cersei’s] confused face” after announcing her atonement.
Cersei’s walk of atonement is described as something the people of King’s Landing will “tell they’re [sic] grandchildren about.” Too harsh? Just like on screen, the scene escalates quickly as the citizens of King’s Landing begin hurling verbal and physical abuse Cersei’s way — there is much throwing of rotten vegetables. The remainder of the scene is the same page as screen.
As this monstrous, silent knight carries her away, we see a spark in Cersei’s eyes. A spark that the septas and the High Sparrow and hunger and humiliation could never extinguish.
It’s a spark that says: Vengeance will be mine.
And last but not least, we have Jon Snow’s death scene. But before that, Melisandre’s returns and implies and delivers the news of Stannis’ defeat to Jon and Davos.
DAVOS: “Shireen. The princess…”
Melisandre bows her head. The woman who used to stare at him mockingly cannot even hold his gaze. Inside Davos, something dies.
Heading into the final scene, the script mentions “[a] signature Robert McLachlan shot, a thing of beauty, showing that night has fallen on our grim little castle.”
McLachlan is a long-time cinematographer on Game of Thrones, although this exterior shot didn’t make it into the final episode. We cut straight to Jon’s chambers, where he is reviewing rejection letters from the houses in the North.
The scrolls bear the wax seals of various Northern houses: Hornwood; Karstark; Dustin; Umber; Cerwyn. We might catch a glimpse of a few phrases in these scrolls:
We hold the Night’s Watch in great esteem but have no men to spare…
War has ravaged our House and those who survived are needed at home…
Perhaps when winter has come and gone we shall send a few orphans…
Even if we can’t read these phrases we can tell from Jon’s reaction that the scrolls offer no support. He exhales and breaks open another sealed scroll.
Then Olly enters to lure Jon outside. We hate Olly. Anyways, Jon’s murder plays out pretty much as written, although he gets stabbed one more time on page than on screen before Olly delivers the fatal blow. Did we mention we hate Olly? He’s crying in the script.
And then the script ends on this downer:
The brothers retreat, leaving Jon to die alone on the ground, bleeding out. The light goes out of his open eyes as we fade on Season 5.