- This article is about the episode. For the battle itself, see "Battle of the Bastards"
"Battle of the Bastards" is the ninth episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. It is the fifty-ninth episode of the series overall. It premiered on June 19, 2016. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
In MeereenDaenerys and Tyrion discuss a plan to deal with the Slaver fleet as the pyramid is bombarded with flaming cannonballs. Dany wants to slaughter their army but Tyrion suggests talking to the masters about terms of surrender, reminding Daenerys about her father's plan to destroy King's Landing using Wildfire and the consequences when his brother Jaime Lannister killed the Mad King. Daenerys, Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm meet with the masters: Razdal mo Eraz of Yunkai, Belicho Paenymion of Volantis, and Yezzan zo Qaggaz of Astapor. They tell Dany that they will let her and Tyrion leave the city if they hand over the Unsullied and Missandei to be resold into slavery, and her dragons to be slaughtered. She tells them that she had agreed to meet with them as she was offering them a chance to surrender as Drogon flies up to meet them. She rides Drogon into the bay as Rhaegal and Viserion break free from captivity beneath the Great Pyramid to join them and they begin to burn the attacking fleet. Meanwhile, Daario arrives at Meereen with Daenerys's Dothraki horde and rout the Sons of the Harpy at the city gates. The Masters' soldiers abandon them at Grey Worm's invitation, and Tyrion gives an ultimatum that one of the three masters must die, as punishment for their disobedience. Yezzan, the lowest of the three, is immediately scapegoated by the other two for not being highborn, and as he kneels and begs Grey Worm not to kill him, this gives Grey Worm an opportunity to instantly slit Razdal and Belicho's throats instead with one slash of his dagger. Tyrion tells Yezzan to share what he had seen and what Daenerys is capable of.
In the aftermath, Dany and Tyrion meet with Theon and Yara who have arrived in the city. They offer Dany their fleet of a hundred manned ships if she will help them deal with Euron and support their claim to the Iron Islands. Tyrion is wary of Theon based on what he saw of him at Winterfell and of his crimes against the Starks, but Theon insists that he has paid for what he has done. Daenerys agrees to support an independent kingdom of the Iron Islands, on the condition that the Ironborn will cease all raiding, reaving, pillaging, and raping. Yara balks at this, but Daenerys says their fathers – Aerys, Tywin, and Balon – all left the world worse than they found it, but Dany, Tyrion, Yara and Theon are going to leave it better than they found it. Swayed, Yara agrees and the queens-in-waiting seal their pact.
In the NorthJon, Sansa, Tormund, Davos, Lyanna, and the other Northern lords that declared for House Stark have a parley with Ramsay, Harald Karstark, and Smalljon Umber before they commence battle. Ramsay offers surrender terms, saying he will pardon Jon for deserting the Night's Watch and the Northerners in Jon's forces for rebelling against him if Jon hands over Sansa. Jon offers Ramsay a chance to settle their dispute in one-on-one combat, which Ramsay refuses, noting that while he doubts he can best Jon in a duel, he is confident his numerically superior forces will triumph in battle. Jon counters that Ramsay's men may not want to fight for him if he will not fight for them, but in response, Ramsay threatens Rickon. Jon and Sansa are wary of whether Ramsay actually has their brother to which Umber throws out Shaggydog's head as proof. Sansa refuses the terms of surrender and tells Ramsay he will die the following day before riding off.
After a meeting where Jon discusses the battle plan with Tormund and Davos, Sansa admonishes Jon for attacking too early, insisting that they should have gathered more men. Jon, however, retorts that this is the largest army they could possibly gather. Sansa, knowing Ramsay the best, warns Jon of his cunning and cruel nature, but Jon assures her that he has faced worse. In the end, he promises to protect Sansa from Ramsay, to which she cynically replies that no one can keep anyone safe.In the camp, Davos and Tormund discuss their time serving both Stannis and Mance respectively, with both acknowledging that they may have been serving the wrong king. After parting ways, Tormund goes to drink and Davos takes a walk. As the sun rises, he comes across the pyre on which Shireen Baratheon was sacrificed, and in the remains, finds the wooden stag he carved and gave to her the last time they were together. He finally realizes how she died. Meanwhile, Jon meets with Melisandre and orders her not to bring him back if he should fall in the battle. Melisandre contends that she will try anyway, and that it was not her gift that has brought Jon back but the Lord of Light's, and that only the Lord of Light can decide Jon's fate. Melisandre ponders that the Lord of Light may have brought Jon back to only die in the battle.
The armies gather the following morning as Ramsay brings out Rickon. After menacingly raising a knife, he cuts Rickon's bonds and tells him that they are to play a game. The only rule is to run towards his brother. As he does so, Ramsay pulls out a bow and nocks an arrow, prompting Jon to hastily ride out on a horse to try to save Rickon as Ramsay fires arrows at him. Ramsay appears to have no intention of hitting Rickon with his first shots but, just as Jon approaches his brother, Rickon is struck in the back with an arrow and killed. Enraged at losing another brother to the Boltons, Jon charges at Ramsay, forcing the Stark cavalry to follow him. The Bolton archers fire at Jon and strike his horse. With Jon now defenseless in the middle of the battlefield, Ramsay orders the Bolton cavalry to charge at him.
As Jon brandishes Longclaw and prepares to fight to the death, the Stark cavalry smashes into the Boltons, narrowly saving Jon from being trampled, as Davos eventually sends the archers forward realizing that they are of more use in the middle of the battlefield. The Bolton soldiers eventually surround the Stark forces in a horseshoe formation as Smalljon leads a group of soldiers over a large pile of corpses to attack them from behind. While Wun Wun is able to kill a few Bolton soldiers, it is not enough to break their phalanx, and Tormund sends the wildlings backwards towards the pile.
Jon is trampled by his own forces, nearly suffocating under a group of men crawling on top of him, but is eventually able to get back to his feet. As it appears the Stark forces are about to lose, a horn sounds out in the distance as Sansa and Littlefinger arrive with the Knights of the Vale waving flags bearing the Arryn sigil. On horseback, they begin to cut down the Bolton soldiers from behind. Smalljon, momentarily distracted by the arrival of the Arryn forces, is killed by Tormund who bites out his foe's throat and stabs him several times. As Ramsay sees his soldiers being cut down, he decides to retreat inside Winterfell, but Jon, Wun Wun and Tormund begin to give chase. His general insists the battle is lost but Ramsay assures him they still have Winterfell, and the Stark Army is too weak for a siege (despite the Vale reinforcements). Wun Wun, however, is able to break down Winterfell's gates allowing wildling archers to pour into the castle. The giant is nevertheless overwhelmed by arrows and finally killed by Ramsay's shot. Despite the defeat of his army, he taunts Jon, saying he has reconsidered the option of one-on-one combat. As Jon approaches, Ramsay fires three arrows at him with his bow but Jon blocks them all with a Mormont shield that he picked up from the ground. Before Ramsay can fire a fourth arrow, Jon gets close enough and smacks the bow out of Ramsay's hands before striking him in the chest with the shield with enough force to send Ramsay down. Before Ramsay can stand up, Jon pounces on him and proceeds to savagely beat him with his fists. Though it seems as if Jon will kill Ramsay, he stops upon noticing Sansa, realizing she has as much right for revenge as he does, and subsequently orders Ramsay locked up as a prisoner.
The Bolton banners on Winterfell are torn down and the Stark banners are raised. Melisandre looks over the courtyard while Davos glares at her from below, clutching Shireen's burned stag. Jon orders Rickon's body to be buried next to his father in the crypts as Sansa asks him where he is keeping Ramsay prisoner. Sansa goes to visit Ramsay in the kennels that night. He goads her by telling her how she will never be rid of him because he is "part of [her] now," but then realizes that his hounds are approaching him, Jon having deliberately left the kennel doors open. At first, Ramsay is in denial, claiming that his dogs are loyal and ordering them to heel, but after a week without food, they begin to tear him apart as Sansa walks away, smirking with dark satisfaction.
- Belicho Paenymion, throat slit by Grey Worm
- Razdal mo Eraz, throat slit by Grey Worm
- Prince Rickon Stark, shot with an arrow through the chest by Ramsay Bolton
- Lord Jon Umber, throat ripped open and stabbed repeatedly by Tormund
- Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, shot with an arrow through the eye by Ramsay Bolton
- Lord Ramsay Bolton, devoured in dog kennels by his own hounds
- 12 of 28 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand), Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Conleth Hill (Varys), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Jerome Flynn (Bronn), Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Jonathan Pryce (High Sparrow), Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H'ghar), and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Kit Harington is credited before Emilia Clarke when he was credited after her when they last appeared together in "The Door" and the entirety of the series before.
- Liam Cunningham and Sophie Turner are credited before Aidan Gillen and Carice van Houten, respectively as the former were credited after the latter when they last appeared together in "The Door" and the entirety of this season.
- This episode is the final appearance of starring cast member Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) due to the death of his character.
- This episode focuses on only two storylines: the North and Meereen. The storylines involving Bran north of the wall, Arya Stark, Sam and Gilly, Dorne, The Wall, King's Landing, The Riverlands, and the Iron Islands do not appear in this episode. Yara and Theon's story has now merged with Daenerys's while the Vale storyline has now merged with the Northern arc.
- The episode title refers to the showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton, the eponymous bastards who clash in battle for control of Winterfell and the North.
- With a 60 minute runtime, this is one of the longest episodes in the TV series.
- This episode includes one of the very few times slow-motion has been used in Game of Thrones, when Rickon Stark is killed and Jon's reaction. The only other rare times it was used were Ned Stark's execution in "Baelor", the arrival of the Tyrell and Lannister reinforcements in "Blackwater", and Ygritte's death in Jon's arms in "The Watchers on the Wall". All of these episodes are ninth episodes in its seasons.
- For the first time on the show, two major battle sequences take place and come to a conclusion in the same episode.
The Lost Original Ending of the Battle of the Bastards
According to director Miguel Sapochnik in subsequent interviews, the original version of the battle that Benioff and Weiss intended was unfilmable, and changed significantly by the final version. The showrunners ignored all of his repeated warnings across several months that filming such a complex fight sequence with 70 live horses would take a large amount of production time - on the scale of two to three times longer than they had budgeted for filming it. As Sapochnik predicted, filming ran overtime, and the final three days' worth of filming from the original script had to be abandoned.
The showrunners had also taken the unusual step of insisting that the battle be filmed in chronological order, explicitly to serve the performance of the actors. It is more common for films and television to film battle scenes out of order, leaving important scenes for last, in case they run overtime (and in this case, Sapochnik specifically warned the showrunners that it would blatantly run overtime, but they ignored him). The result was that three full days of scripted scenes which composed the original climax of the battle were abandoned. Afterward, with extending the filming schedule an impossibility, the production team quickly assembled a new ending by artfully re-editing together the existing footage they already had. Then they filmed a few pick-up shots here and there (involving two or three characters talking, not giant army shots) to try to smooth over the change:
- First, the showrunners told him their initial unscripted ideas for the battle, and they asked Sapochnik to give them a ballpark estimate of how many days it would take to film a battle scene on the scale they envisioned. After several hours and guesswork, Sapochnik estimated around 28 days. Benioff and Weiss responded that they had already budgeted only 12 days for it. Most hour-long TV drama episodes only take about 10-12 days to film one entire episode. Sapochnik was annoyed by this, given that Benioff and Weiss displayed the same lack of resource management awareness when he filmed "Hardhome" and they didn't learn from it: in that case they also wrote a battle on such a massive, sweeping scale that it blatantly could not be filmed, even on their expanded movie-level budget. This was all before they even gave him their finished first draft script - which was even longer, and with something more solid to make an assessment on, Sapochnik estimated it would take at least 42 days to film as written. Months later, they settled on 25 days (including the parley scene, and all scenes in Winterfell in the aftermath).
- As Sapochnik said, despite how excited Benioff and Weiss were to film with 70 live horses, they didn't seem to understand just how much of a complex drain on resources this would actually present. In the first draft script, the double-envelopment by the Bolton forces would have been carried out by their cavalry, not the subsequent infantry charge. This idea survived to the first draft script, even though Sapochnik had already made them aware that they needed to start scaling it back. Working out how to shoot and choreograph the horse double envelopment, keeping the dying horses and men consistent from shot to shot in close combat, would have been far too difficult to actually film, so they later switched to using the Bolton infantry making a shield wall.
- On top of this, they didn't realize that because the horses were being filmed in snow, the fields had to be brushed over and reset between every take, so the reset wouldn't be obvious in the final version. Resetting the snow took 25 minutes for every take - when the actual cavalry charge lasted only a tenth that long. This was very limiting and Sapochnik said they actually had to carefully weigh how many cavalry charges they could physically do on each filming day, given how much time they had to budget in for every reset.
- The schedule got so rushed by the end that for the last three days Sapochnik's crew simply filmed without a script (not using the script Benioff and Weiss wrote), after getting their permission via e-mail (they were in Los Angeles at the time). Because the showrunners had insisted on filming in chronological order to enhance the actor's performances, this meant that 3 full days of filming from the climax were cut. Instead of filming the original ending, Sapochnik filmed pick-up shots of Jon and other soldiers crawling through the mud of the rain-soaked field - when Jon is almost buried alive by the stampede of wildlings getting crushed, then pushes his way back out.
- According to Dan Weiss in the Inside the Episode featurette, the original draft of the episode had Jon's final confrontation with Ramsay occur on the battlefield, once he penetrated to the very rear of the Bolton lines where Ramsay was. In subsequent drafts they decided that it had more dramatic resonance for Jon to actually confront (and then pummel) Ramsay inside the courtyard of Winterfell itself, given that this whole battle is about the Starks fighting to retake their home - thus the final confrontation occurs within their home castle.
- In the novels, the Bolton army is supplemented by forces from the Northern vassal Houses that only grudgingly serve them, such as House Manderly and elements of House Umber, but these vassals are actually planning to betray the Boltons when a crucial moment presents itself (i.e. by changing sides mid-battle). Even in this episode itself, Jon Snow emphasizes at the pre-battle war council that Ramsay Bolton's army only serves him out of fear, don't like or respect him, and would abandon him if the opportunity presented itself. Ultimately all of this has absolutely no impact on the final version of events in the TV episode: Smalljon Umber actively fights for Ramsay, never betrays him, and dies fighting in the battle. Also, when Ramsay flees back to Winterfell, the small force left in the castle doesn't betray Ramsay or try to hand him over to the Starks to save themselves, despite it being clear that they're vastly outnumbered and the battle is lost. Even after Wun Wun breaches the castle gate and they cannot hope to mount a siege of any kind, the Bolton guards literally keep fighting to the death instead of just surrendering and letting them take Ramsay.
- Season 5 even began to set elements of this up, when Ramsay flayed the lord of House Cerwyn alive in front of his son, and was impressed with himself that this cowed the Cerwyns into obedience in the short term - only for his father Roose to be critical of him that such overt brutality would lead to only short-term gains while earning the long-term enmity of the Cerwyns. Oddly, this had no payoff in Season 6 as the Cerwyns did not fight for House Stark. The only Northern Houses who join with the Starks against Ramsay were the Mormonts, Hornwoods, and Mazins.
- In the books, another major point is that as Ramsay rapes and abuses his wife (Jeyne Poole, not Sansa) her screams are so loud that they echo through the castle down to the wedding feast, which makes the assembled lords of the North there become increasingly outraged at Ramsay - reaffirming the determination of many of them that they need to turn on the Boltons. In the TV version no other lords of the North are present for Ramsay's wedding, he marries Sansa instead of Jeyne, and the narrative is focused on Sansa's personal revenge against Ramsay.
- The only hint of this thematic point is when Sansa later points out that Ramsay starved and mistreated his hunting dogs so much that they will eat him, even though he blindly insists that they are "loyal" to him.
- There are even some issues with this point: Sansa left the pre-battle parley before Ramsay said to Jon that he had been starving his hunting dogs for seven days in anticipation of feeding Jon to them. It's possible that Jon or Davos simply told Sansa about this at some later point - possibly even after the battle, when they put the unconscious Ramsay in the kennels, when she would probably have asked what state the dogs were in.
- Essentially, the TV version omitted the subplot about all of the Northern lords seeking revenge on the Boltons for their crimes and refocused it on a personal revenge between Sansa Stark and Ramsay - even though Sansa never even met Ramsay in the books.
- Another habit of Ramsay's comes to fail him in a small way in this episode: Jon and Sansa don't believe him for a moment at their parley when he says he'll let Rickon live if they surrender - given that in the past he has repeatedly broken his word to people who surrender to him and tortured them to death anyway (at the Fall of Winterfell and the Fall of Moat Cailin). Of course, there's no indication that even Ramsay seriously thinks they will take him up on his offer to free Rickon, or if he's just gloating at them.
- It is a confirmed fact that large portions of the Battle of the Bastards existed in the first draft script but could not possibly have been filmed on their shooting schedule, despite the repeated warnings of director Miguel Sapochnik - who also confirmed that at least several parts of the final draft script had to be abandoned. This may be the explanation behind several major plot threads which were left dangling and unaddressed in the final aired version. Numerous critics predicted that House Umber was only feigning loyalty to the Boltons, in order to turn on them at a critical moment in the middle of the battle - which is apparently what's going to happen in the next book. In the novels, House Manderly and half of House Umber grudgingly march under the Boltons at Winterfell, but Wyman Manderly secretly tells Davos that they plan to betray them at a key point, because the Boltons have mistreated the northern Houses, while the Starks' honorable conduct earned them the undying loyalty of their vassals. Even in the TV series, this was a thematic point that Roose kept trying to warn Ramsay about: that his brazen, sadistic actions had earned him a bad reputation. Roose even stated they couldn't easily hold the North if every vassal House rebelled against them at the same time.
- Other points offer clues that perhaps this was the showrunners' original intention, but they abandoned it due to poor time management:
- When Smalljon Umber aligned with the Boltons earlier this season, he made it a point not to swear an oath of fealty to Ramsay, because that didn't matter much to his father Roose when he killed Robb Stark - going both ways, that also meant Smalljon wouldn't be considered an oathbreaker if he turned on Ramsay. Moreover, several critics questioned if Shaggydog actually died, or if Smalljon tricked Ramsay by passing off a regular wolf's head as his; even the director of that episode remarked in interviews that he thought the prop direwolf head was unusually small.
- On top of this is Jon's comment, incongruously left in the final version, insisting that Ramsay's men will turn on him as soon as he is losing - perhaps meant to set up the original draft in which the Umbers actually did turn on Ramsay. All of these unaddressed plot points may ultimately stem from the fact that the production team had 25 days to film a script which, in Sapochnik's own assessment, would have taken at least 42 days to shoot.
- Sapochnik said that putting battles on the scale of both the Battle of the Bastards and the Second Battle of Meereen in the same TV season was also a drain, because they were directly competing with each other for resources of budget and time. Actually, Sapochnik said that in some ways the Battle of the Bastards was easier to film, given that live-action actors can just fake their way through a fight scene without a script, while every action of the CGI dragons has to be planned out (they can't just put a camera on them).
- Sapochnik said that "The strategy and tactical aspect was a key thing for David and Dan. They wanted to specifically focus on that so that we could really see the way Ramsay ensnares and outguns Jon in the almost exactly the way the same way Davos had planned to defeat the Bolton army. I also did a bunch of research into Alexander the Great who was legendary in his strategic battle prowess."
- The initial draft ideas for the battle actually drew more inspiration from the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 between the English and French. Apparently this drew inspirations from the lines in Henry V in the battle describing how men were crawling over heaps of dead soldiers - as Jon Snow crawls through a human crush in the battle. But Sapochnik said that "as needs changed, as did budgets, it became more like the Battle of Cannae between the Romans and Hannibal in 216 BC." The showrunners pointed out the Cannae reference in the Inside the Episode featurete for the episode. In that battle, Hannibal's smaller army totally surrounded the slower Roman heavy infantry, until thousands of Roman soldiers were standing in a giant circle literally being crushed into each other, shoulder to shoulder: the men on the edges being killed by enemy spears, while the men in the middle were totally trapped by the great press of the human wall and unable to move. Similarly, when the Stark forces are surrounded by the Bolton shield wall in this episode, they are totally crushed against each other, and Jon has to struggle to fight his way up just to breathe.
- The Romans at Cannae were caught in a classic double envelopment (also known as "pincer movement"). Jon Snow himself mentions this maneuver by name in the episode, and indeed his plan was similar to Hannibal's: have the center of their line make a feigned retreat to allow their flanks to circle around the enemy's sides (though it became a common goal for tacticians ever since Hannibal). Jon hoped to anger Ramsay enough to attack him head on to lure him into this. As the episode demonstrates, Jon doesn't understand that Ramsay has a great low cunning when it comes to laying traps for other people, and Ramsay ends up luring Jon's army into a double envelopment by killing Rickon in front of him.
- Sapochnik said he did heavy research on not only real battles but on depictions in cinematic history. He felt that aerial shots were unrealistic because that isn't how men on the ground experienced them, with chaos and mud on the ground, i.e. how the camera is just over Jon's shoulder level with him as the cavalry approach. Sapochnik said his main cinematic influence was the main battle scene in Akira Kurosawa's Ran.
In the North
- Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton meet face to face for the first time in the episode, even though they share little screentime together. In an interview, actor Iwan Rheon claimed that ever since being cast as Ramsay, he had wanted to shoot a scene with Jon Snow, given that they are both Northern bastards who are very similar (each being the bastard son of a powerful Northern lord) but very different (due to their contrasting personalities and treatment they received from their fathers), and have now both risen to powerful political positions (Jon briefly became the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, while Ramsay is now the Warden of the North). Despite not sharing scenes until this episode, Kit Harington and Iwan Rheon have been close friends since the series' fourth season. Rheon, along with Alfie Allen (Theon) and Joe Dempsie (Gendry), originally auditioned to play Jon Snow in the first season.
- In the novels, it is hinted numerous times that most of Ramsay's actions and ambitions revolve around his intense jealousy of Jon. One notable point is Ramsay's version of the story of his birth: he believes that Roose Bolton fell in love with a woman and they conceived him together, which is precisely what people claim Ned Stark did and is what led to Jon's conception with Wylla, even after Ramsay learns that he is the product of a violent rape and not a beautiful romance. Though Jon and Ramsay have not yet met in the novels, Jon knows of Ramsay's actions and greatly dislikes him. Jon begins to grow particularly angry with Ramsay in the fifth novel, A Dance with Dragons, where he hears of Ramsay's marriage to "Arya Stark" (who he does not know is a disguised Jeyne Poole) and his repeated abusive behavior towards her. After "Arya" escapes and Ramsay sends the letter to Jon demanding his wife's return on threat of death, it serves as the final straw for Jon, who instead decides that he will seek out and kill Ramsay himself, which is what leads to the Mutiny at Castle Black.
- The production team was very excited that the "Battle of the Bastards" featured in this episode is the largest on-screen battle they have ever been able to depict, due to a significantly increased budget from HBO over the years - in contrast with how they originally intended to depict the Battle of the Green Fork on-screen in Season 1, but later found that they simply didn't have the budget at the time so they had to leave its events off-screen. Even the budget for Season 2 averaged about $6 million per episode, and the showrunners infamously had to beg HBO for an additional $2 million to complete the Battle of the Blackwater sequence that year. While exact budget figures for Season 6 are unclear, it is known that the budget now averaged about $10 million per episode - $100 million for a 10 episode season. Of course, the budget probably wasn't evenly distributed across the whole season, and a considerable amount was spent realizing the Battle of the Bastards.
- Director Miguel Sapochnik said of filming such a large-scale battle for the TV series: "David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] wanted to do a thing of spectacle, a strategic pitchfield battle they hadn't had the resources to do back in season 1 or 2. I was particularly interested in depicting both the horror of war and the role of luck in battle."
- Miguel Sapochnik previously directed Season 5's "Hardhome," featuring the Massacre at Hardhome sequence, which is why the showrunners felt confident putting him in charge of such a major battle sequence in this episode.
- The Battle of the Bastards required 600 crewmembers to film (from cameramen to props masters to the costumes department), 500 extras, and 65 professional stuntmen (for close-up shots). Four separate camera crews were filming simultaneously.
- Another element that the production team was very happy about is that this is the first battle in the TV series which actually depicts cavalry columns charging on-screen (previously they were only mentioned as occurring off-screen). Using large numbers of horses to film cavalry charges is very expensive, particularly for TV shows instead of feature films. For filming the Battle of the Bastards, no less than 70 horses were used on-location: they didn't simply use only a dozen horses then digitally double them up seven times over - 70 live horses actually appear on-screen. Another complication is that heavy rains in Northern Ireland made the ground at the filming site too muddy to charge on, so the production team had to lay about 160 tons of gravel over the field to give the horses some traction.
- During the melee sequence in the first phase of the battle, the camera follows Jon Snow around through the chaos of the battle in a tracking shot that lasts for an uninterrupted 60 seconds (though there are a few split-second moments when horses run in front of the camera which may have been used to hide shifts between different takes).
- While planning for the battle, Tormund expresses concern at facing Ramsay's mounted cavalry, citing the wildlings' encounter with Stannis Baratheon following the Battle of Castle Black, where he essentially cut through Mance Rayder's army with little effort. Though Tormund states that he has seen what mounted knights can do, since Stannis and Davos "cut through us like piss through snow", Tormund was actually not present for that phase of the battle and did not witness Stannis defeat the wildlings and arrest Mance, as he had already been injured and taken into custody by the Night's Watch. It is possible that the surviving wildling prisoners told Tormund about what happened. The Battle of the Bastards is the first time Tormund himself faces mounted knights, as there were no horses at Castle Black or Hardhome.
- Ramsay Bolton never actually fights with a sword in the entire battle - he only uses a bow and arrow to toy with his enemies. This is in line with a point from the novels: Ramsay has absolutely no military training, and isn't actually a proficient swordsman. He isn't a coward, and he will brazenly charge at enemies, but he has no formal technique, and cannot hope to compare to a formally trained swordsman like Jon Snow. In the novels, Stannis points out that all Ramsay does is sadistically torture prisoners who cannot possibly fight back against him - he's never actually fought anyone in direct combat.
- The TV show invented a scene in Season 4 of Ramsay fighting off a raid by Yara's ironborn on the Dreadfort, bare-chested and wielding daggers, but even this was more of a surprise raid than formal combat, and his guards outnumbered her small raiding force.
- In Season 5, Ramsay is seen killing several of Stannis's men with a sword after the Battle of Winterfell. However, these were more executions than actual duels, as these men were exhausted, wounded, and surrendering.
- Ramsay's proficiency with a bow and arrow in this episode, however, hitting a fleeing person at great range, is consistent with the novels: one of Ramsay's favorite pastimes is turning captive women loose in the woods around the Dreadfort and then hunting them for sport with his bow - thus he does have ample experience shooting at a human attempting to flee. The TV series showing him hunting a girl for sport in Season 4, but the novels make it more clear that this is a frequent hobby of his.
- In the "Inside the Episode" featurette, the showrunners explain a major point about Ramsay Bolton's reactions from when the army of the Vale shows up onwards: Ramsay cannot mentally process that he is losing. This explains his bizarre lack of fear up until almost the moment of his death: he is so used to sadistically torturing people he has complete control over in his dungeons that when a situation finally goes beyond his control, he cannot mentally accept the reality of what is happening - instead he just continues to hold on to the confidence that somehow, he'll be able to employ cunning and tricks to get out of this, until it becomes an outright break with reality:
- When Ramsay's army gets caught out of formation and totally destroyed by the knights of the Vale, he tries to wave it off by saying that he still has Winterfell and it can withstand a siege - even though the army of the Vale, tens of thousands strong, is at the least going to besiege the castle, this makes him look weak enough that the rest of the North will rise up against him, and there is no hope of the Lannisters sending him any aid. His remaining general realizes that all is lost even if they still have Winterfell for the moment, but Ramsay seems almost glib about it.
- Ramsay seems almost serious, not sarcastic, when he tells Jon he now "accepts" his offer of personal combat - despite being surrounded by Jon's soldiers with arrows pointed at him, Ramsay is still smiling at the situation as if this isn't the end.
- This episode marks the first time Ramsay is struck in the series. The first who attempted to fight Ramsay was Theon Greyjoy, who was so weakened from captivity and starvation that Ramsay sent him down with one strike. Jon first smacks the bow and arrow out of Ramsay's hands and strikes him in the chest with his shield with enough force to knock him to the ground. Of note, as Jon gets closer to him, Ramsay becomes more and more uneasy, since it is the first time that his actions have actually enraged someone rather than frightened them, and he is now facing an opponent skilled enough to turn the tables and possibly kill him.
- In an interview, Kit Harington mentioned that he did actually punch Iwan Rheon twice by accident, first by hitting him in the chin with the shield and then punching him across the face. Though Rheon was not seriously hurt, Harington reportedly bought him a pint of beer as a sign of apology.
- Ramsay continues to grin as Jon beats him to a pulp - apparently because he thinks Jon is venting his anger but won't actually kill him. Even at this point Ramsay is still totally confident that he'll get out of this somehow, and does not fight back.
- The Inside the Episode featurette directly states that the reason Jon does not kill Ramsay outright is not out of some sense that sparing him is the honorable thing to do, but specifically because he looks over at Sansa and realizes she has more right to kill Ramsay than he does, meaning that essentially, Jon is the one who defeats Ramsay, but he leaves it to Sansa to deal the deathblow. Ramsay apparently continues to smirk through this because he incorrectly interprets this as that the Starks are going to spare his life.
- Even when Ramsay is tied up in a chair in the kennels, he is still filled with his habitual confidence that he can just trick his way out of this somehow, that for whatever reason the universe won't let the Starks kill him now. He seems outright surprised when Sansa points out that his own dogs will indeed devour him because he starved them for a week. Only at the moment that the dogs start biting him, for a precious few seconds before he dies, does Ramsay knows fear and realizes he isn't going to survive this.
- Director Miguel Sapochnik explained some of the character moments they intended for Jon and Ramsay in the battle: they didn't want to portray Jon beating up Ramsay as a stereotypical "hurray" moment victory, but tragically - Jon beating up Ramsay is supposed to play like an "empty victory" due to the fact that the Starks lost so many men and no matter how much Jon punches Ramsay it won't bring Rickon back to life. This is one of the reasons they just show Ramsay smiling even as Jon is pummeling him: they felt that if they gave the satisfaction of seeing Ramsay afraid, it would in some ways ignore that Rickon died when this isn't really a happy moment for Jon.
- Sapochnik noted that there's a moment when Rheon doesn't even brace for the punches anymore but just relaxes into them, disturbingly - this wasn't done with CGI, but was purely Rheon's acting.
- Sapochnik explained that basically the arc they envisioned for Jon across Season 6 was that he had his faith in humanity shattered by the mutiny, he doesn't know what he's fighting for anymore, and for the Battle of the Bastards to be a climactic rebirth when he rediscovers his desire to live, the literal "rebirth" shot when he crawls out of the pile of dying men.
- At one point, Sapochnik "kind of wanted people to start to feel for Ramsay" when he died, but Benioff and Weiss were clear that there shouldn't be an ounce of sympathy for Ramsay and shot down that suggestion. Sapochnik ultimately agreed, this wasn't a time to be morally ambiguous.
- As Sansa walks away from Ramsay being attacked by the dogs in the kennel, the sound effect that can be heard is of a squealing pig; according to Sapochnik this sounds very close to the actual sound when someone's wind pipe is ripped open while they're still alive and gasping for air. Ramsay didn't die quickly but kept instinctively trying to breathe after the dogs ripped out his throat, which only served to draw out his agony longer.
- According to Sansa, House Bolton died with Ramsay. No other relatives or cousins have been mentioned in the novels either, so if Ramsay indeed kills Roose (and Walda's baby) in the next novel, this would apparently make him the last living Bolton - directly because he killed all the others.
- It is unknown what exactly Ramsay meant by saying "I'm part of you now" to Sansa. Some reviewers feared this implied that Sansa was pregnant with his child, though subsequently production sources categorically denied this. Apparently he just meant this poetically, some last ditch attempt at saying she couldn't kill all the pain he caused her. It is unknown if the showrunners initially toyed with the idea of making Sansa pregnant, but ultimately abandoned it - no evidence suggests this other than the line.
- Additionally, it is unknown if there are other members of House Umber in the TV continuity now that Smalljon Umber is dead (there were other sons and uncles in the novels). The fate of House Karstark is unknown, as it is unclear if Harald Karstark survived the battle.
- With the death of Wun Wun, it's possible that the race of Giants is now extinct. The HBO Viewer's Guide listed him as "the last of the giants" in its recap for this episode.
- Since the events of "Home", Maester Wolkan has not been seen and it is unknown if he is still at Winterfell, given that he was shown to be visibly uncomfortable with Ramsay's actions. Given Wolkan's generally peaceful and harmless nature, and that he is to return in Season 7, it is possible that Jon Snow will appoint him as the new maester for House Stark to replace the deceased Luwin. Maesters are considered politically neutral and are bound to serve the lords of castles whether they like them or not; though Wolkan appeared to have respect for Roose Bolton, he displayed fear in Ramsay's presence, so it is likely he will be far more comfortable serving Jon Snow and House Stark.
- Davos Seaworth finds the burned wooden stag he made for Shireen Baratheon, next to an old pyre, and realizes that Melisandre burned her alive. On set, Liam Cunningham (Davos) actually let Kerry Ingram (Shireen) keep that specific carved stag - this burned one must be a duplicate prop.
- In Season 5's "The Gift" Mellisandre told Stannis that she saw a vision of herself on Winterfell's ramparts and Bolton banners burning. That vision partially comes true in this episode, as Melisandre is seen standing on Winterfell's ramparts as Stark banners are draped on the walls after the Bolton's defeat - smiling to herself that her vision came true. The Bolton banners aren't burned, however, they're just ripped off the walls and piled up. Although, it could be that the piled banners were burned off-screen.
- With the death of Ramsay and extinction of House Bolton, it is unclear what will happen to the lands the Boltons already possessed, such as the Dreadfort. It is possible the the Starks will gift the Dreadfort to their allies for supporting them during the Battle of the Bastards, such as House Mormont or Hornwood, or perhaps the surviving wildlings.
- Jon Snow's direwolf, Ghost, does not appear in this episode. This seems curious at first, given that Robb Stark himsef used his own direwolf Grey Wind (Ghost's brother) as a war dog that accompanied him into battle. Jon also had Ghost fight during The Battle of Castle Black. The episode's director Miguel Sapochnik, however, explained Ghost's absence in an interview with Business Insider: Ghost was in there in spades originally, but it's an incredibly time consuming and expensive character to bring to life...Ultimately we had to choose between Wun Wun [the giant] and the direwolf, so the dog bit the dust." Also, Davos Seaworth actor Liam Cunningham gave an in-universe explanation to Tech Insider, that leaving Ghost behind was premeditated by Jon: "Obviously a big battle like that is no place for a direwolf. They’re not gonna last very long — I mean look at what happened to Wun Wun, the last of the giants." This is entirely logical: Robb Stark used Grey Wind to harass enemy cavalry or in surprise ambushes (enemy horses were terrified by such a giant wolf), but he never used him against fixed enemy positions in a pitched battle. Also, during the Battle of Castle Black, Ghost was fighting in a chaotic, cramped courtyard, ambushing wildlings as they fought the Night's Watch. Ghost would not have lasted long against sustained Bolton arrow fire from behind a shield wall.
- We have no idea if Rickon Stark will actually die in the next novel, or if this is a condensation of the TV adaptation. In the books, Rickon is hiding out on Skagos, a remote island off the northeast coast of the North itself, and has not been captured by the Boltons - though it is always possible that he may be captured at some point in the next novel, or perhaps be killed by someone else (not necessarily in this fashion).
- On the other hand, the fact that George R.R. Martin named Rickon's direwolf "Shaggydog" may have been a clue all along that even in the books, Rickon isn't going to live to be the heir to Winterfell. A "Shaggydog" is a literary term for a long-running and seemingly significant plot thread which ultimately doesn't go anywhere, subverting audience expectations (the opposite of a Chekhov's Gun). By the end of the fifth novel, it appears that Bran Stark will stay north of the Wall with the Children of the Forest, and that Rickon is going to return to rally the Northern Houses against the Boltons. It would be in keeping with Martin's penchant for unexpected plot twists if in the next novel, it turns out that Rickon actually dies, and - as in this season of the TV series - Bran Stark will actually head back south of the Wall again.
- Rickon Stark had no speaking lines in Season 6. He hasn't had any since he separated from Bran Stark in the Season 3 finale. Of the youngest child actors introduced in Season 1, however, only Art Parkinson (Rickon) and Lino Facioli (Sweetrobin Arryn) have stayed with the TV show all the way through Season 6. Two of the other very young children from Season 1 were Tommen Baratheon and Myrcella Baratheon, both of which were later recast (their original actors only recurred through Season 2).
- Jon says they will bury Rickon in the crypts beneath Winterfell, next to their father Eddard Stark. In the books, Tyrion agreed to send Ned's remains back North as a sign of good faith, but the Northmen envoys taking them back up the Kingsroad never arrived at Winterfell - they may be trapped somewhere in the Riverlands. Similarly, in the TV version Catelyn is seen receiving Ned's bones in Season 2, sent by Tyrion as a sign of good faith, but it is unclear if they were successfully transported back to the North in the middle of the major front in the war.
- Sansa Stark never even met Ramsay Bolton in the novels, much less married him. This was a heavy condensation of the TV series with a different character, Sansa's best friend Jeyne Poole, who was passed off as Arya so Ramsay could claim the North through her (the Boltons and Lannisters didn't know what happened to either of the Stark girls). As such, Sansa probably won't directly oversee Ramsay's death in the books like this - though even in the books it may turn out to be poetic justice that he will ultimately die when someone feeds him to his own starving dogs (the Bastard's girls), given how infamously he has used them to kill dozens of his victims and hunted girls for sport with them.
- This episode of course confirms that the letter Sansa was writing two episodes ago in "The Broken Man" was to Littlefinger and the Vale's army at Moat Cailin. Earlier in Season 6, she sent Brienne of Tarth south to try to connect with their Tully allies at Riverrun - Brienne objected that they could try just sending a messenger-raven, but Sansa insisted that they couldn't risk Ramsay intercepting the message, so Brienne had to deliver it in person. Sansa's earlier concern was contradicted when she later outright sent a messenger-raven to Littlefinger at Moat Calin. The out-of-universe explanation is that the narrative had to have some reason to send Brienne back to the Riverlands, which is where she was in the novels (she never met Sansa in the books and never went to the North). In-universe, she might have thought there wasn't enough time for a messenger to reach Moat Cailin by horse.
- There are other contradictions in Sansa's story arc across Season 6: after receiving the threatening letter from Ramsay in episode 6.4 "Book of the Stranger", she insisted to Jon that they had to go to Winterfell and fight him because, "A monster has taken our home and our brother. We have to go back to Winterfell and save them both" - yet at the beginning of this episode, she insists that there is no possible way they can save Rickon, because Ramay knows he can never let a legitimate Stark son escape his grasp. It is unclear at what point Sansa is supposed to have changed her mind about Rickon, but it is entirely possible that she said this about Rickon in the heat of the moment while she was worried about him, and the horrible truth later dawned on her that Rickon, as the last known legitimate son of Ned Stark and greatest threat to Ramsay's claim to the North, was doomed anyway.
- An op/ed article in The Week criticized the changes to Sansa Stark's storyline in the TV series and pointed out that instead of Sansa heroically saving Jon through her actions, one of two scenarios has occurred:
- 1 - Sansa had no idea if Littlefinger would be able to bring the Vale army to Winterfell in time, and never heard back from him, in which case she didn't tell Jon to wait before charging into the battle while badly outnumbered simply because she had no active control over the arrival of the Vale's army. In which case, Sansa had no real "agency" in achieving the victory at all, it was totally dependent on begging Littlefinger to come and help them - nor did Sansa really "defeat" Ramsay and achieve revenge on him: Jon was going to beat Ramsay to death and allowed Sansa to be the one to personally turn his own dogs on him.
- 2 - The alternative is that Sansa did know that the Vale's army was coming, was in contact with Littlefinger, and was actively involved in orchestrating the events of the battle - in which case she knowingly sent Jon and his army into a potential deathtrap that resulted in many of them being slaughtered, risking Jon's own life and guaranteeing Rickon's death.
- There is no possible scenario in which Sansa could both be acting nobly and also actively shaping the events of the battle. If she had any information about the arrival of the Vale's army she could have told Jon to wait but didn't, while if she had no control over the arrival of the Vale's forces she really had no impact on the victory whatsoever, but was purely a "damsel in distress" that Littlefinger came to save. In the season finale, the matter is addressed and seems to point more toward the second scenario, which she apologizes to Jon for. In her defense, the situation she put Jon in only became deadlier when Jon did something that Sansa specifically warned him not to do during the meeting before the battle, which was charge at Ramsay's army first in outrage at Rickon's death, which gave the Boltons the advantage. Had Jon refrained from doing this, then his army would have held the advantage until the Vale's forces arrived.
- During the live Q&A section at the Game of Thrones panel for San Diego Comic Con 2016, Sophie Turner was directly asked why Sansa doesn't tell Jon about the Vale army. She bluntly admitted that she had no idea and the writers never told her, and she guessed it was just to set up the last minute rescue of Jon by the Vale army, in order to make it "more dramatically satisfying" to build up the tension. Benioff and Weiss were also on the panel but announced at the beginning that they were too drunk to answer questions and didn't respond to any for the rest of it, nor did they intervene to provide an explanation to help Turner in that moment. There is simply no in-universe reason why "Sansa" the fictional character didn't tell Jon about the Vale army.
- Sansa Stark didn't actually do anything to "defeat" Ramsay Bolton in the TV series. She executed him at Jon Snow's order - but by the same logic, Ilyn Payne "defeated" her father Ned Stark, when really he only executed him at the order of Joffrey Baratheon. Otherwise she had little impact on events in Season 6. At the subsequent San Diego Comic Con 2016 panel, both the showrunners and Sophie Turner seemed convinced that Sansa played an instrumental role in "defeating" Ramsay, fixating on that she killed him at the end - not on how he reached a point where he was already "defeated" and tied to a chair in a prison cell, waiting for her to execute him. Otherwise, whatever promises were made about Sansa being an active political leader and getting revenge on Ramsay for her rape in Season 6, by process of elimination she didn't do anything to result in his army being destroyed and the Starks recapturing Winterfell:
- In the books, many of the Northern lords (such as the Manderlys) who only have small home garrisons left nonetheless want to fight the Boltons to the death to avenge his brutal treatment of his new bride, Ned Stark's daughter (who is actually Jeyne Poole being forced to pretend that she's Arya). In the TV show, none of the Northern lords ever say they're fighting to avenge Sansa's mistreatment.
- Sansa was never shown successfully rallying any of the Northern lords either. The Glovers outright rejected them, and when they visited the Mormonts, neither Sansa nor Jon succeeded in winning them over - only Davos when he pointed out the threat of the White Walkers. In the Inside the Episode featurette for that episode, the showrunners even focused on Jon's interaction with Lyanna Mormont, not even mentioning Sansa's presence.
- Sansa didn't actually play any active role in the knights of the Vale coming to defeat Ramsay. In the books, Sansa remains in the Vale, and is actively helping Littlefinger politically manipulate the Vale lords so she can eventually take control by marrying Sweetrobin's cousin Harry. In the TV version, Sansa never did anything to "manipulate" Littlefinger into sending the Vale army: Littlefinger suggested it to her, she rejected him, then later grudgingly wrote a letter to accept an offer he had already made.
- When Littlefinger first met Sansa again in Season 6 at Mole's Town in "The Door", the first thing he said to her was that he had already sent the Vale army to Moat Cailin in anticipation of invading the North to attack the Boltons. Sansa then angrily refused to accept any help from him.
- Two episodes prior in "Book of the Stranger", before even meeting Sansa, Littlefinger even got permission to send the Vale army to Moat Cailin from Sweetrobin in order to save his cousin Sansa who had recently escaped Winterfell - making it at best Littlefinger trying to rescue Sansa, at worst Littlefinger using her escape as an excuse to attack, but in either case, not Sansa herself actively manipulating Littlefinger politically.
- For that matter, Littlefinger was already shown planning to attack the Boltons back in Season 5: after parting with Sansa, he was called back to King's Landing by Cersei, and presented Ramsay Bolton marrying Sansa as an excuse to attack them, tricking Cersei into giving him permission to invade the North's with the Vale's army. The Littlefinger-Cersei scene in which he said he was going to attack the Boltons occurred in "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" - incidentally the same episode that Sansa married Ramsay and was raped by him, which combined with the distances involved meant that Littlefinger couldn't even plausibly have known that Ramsay was mistreating Sansa, so his intention to invade the North couldn't have been out of some desire to avenge Sansa's rape. Also, Littlefinger's stated purpose in the TV version when he convinced Sansa to marry Ramsay in the first place is that he wanted to help her destroy the Boltons (and she would somehow manipulate the Boltons from within to speed this along). Therefore Sansa didn't really influence Littlefinger to send the Vale's armies.
- Sansa wasn't even presented as being in control of the Vale army coming: by Turner's own admission, they played up the tension that Sansa didn't know if the Vale army would even come - to artificially make it more "dramatically satisfying" when the Vale army suddenly arrived at the last minute to rescue Jon's army. Sansa was simply left hoping Littlefinger would accept her plea that she finally accepted his offer - which wasn't presenting it as Sansa being in control of the situation. If anything, logically, Jon would be thanking Littlefinger for offering to send the Vale's armies on his own initiative.
- The showrunners don't seem to realize this, because in the Inside the Episode featurette for the next episode, they genuinely act as if Jon should be "grateful" to Sansa for bringing the Vale army - even though in the events as presented, all she did was accept Littlefinger's offer. Nonetheless, at the SDCC 2016 panel, the writers seemed convinced that they had given Sansa a strong revenge storyline in which she was directly responsible for defeating Ramsay, and that this made up for the invented rape of Sansa by Ramsay in Season 5.
- "Battle of the Bastards" was the sole episode from Season 6 which showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (also scriptwriters for this episode itself) submitted for nomination at the 2016 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, which they subsequently won.
- The Second Siege of Meereen appears to be playing out slightly differently than this in preview chapters from the unpublished sixth novel. The Unsullied and Second Sons counter-attack against the slaver-alliance from within Meereen (as in the episode). Daenerys Targaryen hasn't returned on her dragon yet (to attack the slavers from the air), nor has she brought the Dothraki horde to Meereen, though this will probably occur. One element curiously omitted from the TV version is that in the books the Greyjoy fleet arrives right in the middle of the battle, attacking the slaver-alliance's fleet from behind, pinning them between two fronts. Thus, it appears that in the book version, the slaver alliance is going to be boxed in from four directions: the Unsullied/freedmen/sellsword army coming out of the city, the Dothraki mounted horde coming out of the mountains to the east, Daenerys on her dragon from the sky, and the ironborn fleet arriving from the west. The TV version doesn't mention the arrival of the Greyjoy fleet, they simply appear in the next scene in the throne room having already arrived in the city - it's possible that with all the other battle scenes in this episode there simply wasn't enough budget and time left to show yet another major army entering the fray.
- In the books, Volantis joined the coalition Yunkai has formed against Daenerys, but so far has not taken an active part in the siege and subsequent battle. A massive fleet, consisting of between 300-500 dromonds, is on its way from Volantis to Meereen. The besieged and Victarion Greyjoy know that once the Volantene fleet arrives the Slaver's Bay, Meereen will not stand a chance against them. Therefore, the besieged forces inside Meereen launch an attack against Yunkai's army without delay, not waiting for Daenerys to return, while Victarion uses a dangerous shortcut in order to reach Meereen before the fleet.
- According to the released sample chapters, Daenerys's loyalists and the ironborn seem to have the upper hand in the battle against Yunkai. By the time the Volantene fleet arrives, the battle may be decided in favor of Daenerys's forces - in which case Daenerys may return with her dragon to save both the Unsullied and the ironborn (we'll only know for sure when the next book is released). It's also possible the Volantene fleet will simply give up and turn back after they arrive at Meereen and see the large coalition now following Daenerys (similar to the Second Sons and the Windblown).
- Director Miguel Sapochnik explained that putting the Battle of the Bastards and Battle of Meereen in the same episode meant that they were constantly competing for resources. The Battle of the Bastards was actually more easy to fake on a tight schedule, however, because it used actors - but they can't just have the dragons film without a script, they need to plan out every shot of the dragons when they're created with CGI.
- Sapochnik tried to film the dragons as realistically as possible, filming their aerial moves like World War II fighter planes, etc. A major visual trick he pushed for was also to keep the dragons slightly "off frame" in most shots: it makes it look more real, as if a nature photographer took quick footage of a fast-moving tiger in the jungle before it disappeared again, and didn't have time to frame the shot utterly perfectly. They're so big and fast it would be hard for a cameraman to keep up with them if they were really there. This is a small camera tweak but Sapochnik feels it makes the dragons feel drastically more real.
- On-set, the stand-in for the dragons is just a 14 foot high green pole with a ball on top, so the actors can keep the proper eye line for where the dragon's head will he added in later digitally. Sapochnik remarked on how amazingly weird it was that, whenever this prop appeared on-set, the hundreds of assembled extras (no matter what country they were filming different segments in) would always get very excited because it meant they were "acting" opposite a dragon for the finished episode - even though they could see that in real life it was literally just a 14 foot high green pole.
- In the "Inside the Episode" featurette, the showrunners point out that while they play it for comedy, Tyrion Lannister's botched attempt at an explanation to Daenerys upon her return to Meereen is meant to be accurate: he did do a good job of stabilizing rule over the city, and if he hadn't there would have been nothing left but ashes by the time she came back; indeed the whole reason that the slaver alliance is launching a full scale attack is because his rule of Meereen was going so well that they were feeling truly threatened by it. The joke is that it's difficult for him to summarize an entire season's worth of subplot that Daenerys wasn't present for in just a few sentences, so when it comes tumbling out of his mouth all at once it seems incredulous at first.
- The other slave-masters say that Yezzan zo Qaggaz is lowborn compared to them - he is an aristocrat and a slave-owner but apparently not a very high-ranking one. In the books, Yezzan was actually one of the lead Wise Masters from Yunkai, but the TV version drastically condensed this and basically just re-used the name. It isn't even clear which of the slaver-cities TV-Yezzan is supposed to be from: in the books he was from Yunkai, but he is only seen at Meereen in Season 5 (though Yunkish slave-masters do trade in Meereen), then in Season 6 he apparently fell into representing the newly reconstituted slave-masters in Astapor. Apparently the TV version of Yezzan is a low-ranking slave-master who just travels between the three cities buying and selling, not a member of one of the old and powerful aristocratic families that is rooted into one place (as he is in the novels).
- Ironically, while TV-Yezzan is the only one of the slaver leaders to live, the book version of Yezzan actually died before the battle began, when an epidemic of bloody flux (dysentery) swept through the camps of both armies. Tyrion actually thought that despite book-Yezzan being the slave-master who bought him at auction, he was a more or less fair and rational man, and during the later political negotiations he was actually one of the slaver leaders who most strongly urged for a truce instead of risking their own destruction by attacking Daenerys again, or perhaps because he wanted to prevent unnecessary bloodshed.
- In the backstory from the novels, there have been several naval battles in the past during which dragons were deployed against enemy ships - given that all ships in this medieval era are made of wood, and therefore flammable, these generally tended to be one-sided affairs. A single dragon can wipe out an entire fleet. During the Targaryen Conquest, Visenya Targaryen used Vhagar to destroy the entire fleet of the Vale on her own. The largest naval battle in the Dance of the Dragons, the Battle of the Gullet, involved a massive fleet sent by an alliance of the Free Cities against Dragonstone, but two thirds of the fleet was destroyed by a force of five dragons and their riders.
- Tyrion Lannister accurately recalls to Theon Greyjoy that they previously encountered each other at Winterfell, back in Season 1 episode 4 "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things". Incidentally, their scene in that episode was also the only time that the existence of Theon's uncle Euron Greyjoy was alluded to in the TV series before Season 6, though Tyrion phrased it vaguely by referring to Theon's "uncles", but not naming them.
- Theon didn't actually make any insults to Tyrion about being a dwarf on-screen back in Season 1, though given that they were both present during the feast at Winterfell it could plausibly have happened off-screen. But during an sexual encounter Theon had with the prostitute Ros he spoke jokingly about Tyrion and his manhood. Because she went to King's Landing a short time later and met Tyrion, she could have told him Theons opinion and jokes about him.
- Tyrion seems to note with some sympathy now that Theon was an outsider amongst the Starks - alluding to the fact that Tyrion was always considered an outsider among the Lannisters.
- Daenerys asks Yara Greyjoy if the Iron Islands has ever had a queen, and she responds no more than all of Westeros ever has (on the Iron Throne). Technically this is true: the only woman who ever tried to claim the Iron Throne in her own right was Rhaenyra Targaryen, who lived 170 years ago, but her younger half-brother usurped the throne ahead of her (claiming that male heirs always take precedence over female ones), leading to the disastrous civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. As part of the peace agreement between the two factions at the end of the war, it was ruled that Rhaenyra would retroactively not be included in the official list of monarchs but be considered only a rival claimant (even though Rhaenyra actually sat the Iron Throne for about half a year). Thus, in the present day, there has never officially been a ruling queen on the Iron Throne.
- Daenerys non-verbally reacts with surprise when Yara's brother Theon voluntarily admits he's not fit to rule and want to support his sister's claim (not just because he's a eunuch and can't further their bloodline but because he's realized he's not a great commander). Daenerys's confused reaction seems to be based on her own past experience with her brother Viserys Targaryen - she's never encountered a brother-sister pair who actually have a mutually supportive relationship.
- Tyrion points out that Yara and Theon's fleet contains 100 ships, but the "Iron Fleet" should have more ships in it than that - and they explain that their uncle Euron has taken over the rest of the Iron Islands. This is a little more complicated in the books: the "Iron Fleet" is the national fleet of the Iron Islands, sworn directly to the ruler of all the isles, but each of the major vassal Houses have their own local fleets. The Iron Fleet in the novels in fact consists of about 100 ships at any given time, but they are the best ships and crews in the islands - three times the size of their normal raiding ships. When Yara and Theon fled with the ship captains loyal to them earlier this season, it was remarked that they "took our best ships". Thus there are in fact only about 100 ships in the "Iron Fleet" itself (large and elite ships), but "all the fleets in the Iron Islands" number considerably more ships - though they are not considered to be part of the "Iron Fleet". The line of dialogue here is using the term loosely.
- When seizing the slaver-alliance's surviving ships, Tyrion remarks that "our queen likes ships" - echoing the same line that Daario Naharis gave back in Season 4, when he said the Second Sons had captured Meereen's local fleet. At the time, he said they captured 93 ships - which is exactly how many ships in the Iron Fleet are heading to Meereen throughout the fifth novel (though nearly half of them are lost on the way). This was therefore taken as a hint at the time that the TV series might be omitting the Greyjoy subplot entirely, as Daenerys already had the same amount of ships. Subsequently it was confirmed that the TV show would in fact last through Season 8, not only Season 7, and the Greyjoy Kingsmoot subplot was put back into the TV adaptation for Season 6 - hence why the Meereenese fleet which Daenerys acquired in the TV version only was abruptly burned by the Sons of the Harpy in early Season 5, to make the arrival of the Greyjoy fleet necessary again.
- In the books, Yara and Theon don't go to Slaver's Bay at all - their other uncle, Victarion, was sent east by Euron. Victarion hates Euron and plans to seize Daenerys for himself and overthrow Euron when he returns to Westeros - the TV series condensed this by omitting Victarion entirely and giving his subplot to Yara and Theon (albeit they are related subplots). Instead of secretly planning to betray Euron once making an alliance with Daenerys like Victarion did, this was simply changed to Yara and Theon openly turning against Euron, fleeing with the Iron Fleet to Meereen and hoping to return to overthrow him.
- Meanwhile, in the novels, Theon and his sister are both currently prisoners in Stannis Baratheon's army camp, though it is unknown what their future actions will be in the next novel.
- Daenerys says that even if she accepts the Iron Islands' independence - which she hasn't yet - the ironborn must promise to stop raiding and reaving along the coasts of Westeros. Yara protests that it is their way of life, but Daenerys insists they can't keep doing it. Actually, Daenerys's own Targaryen ancestors made Yara's Greyjoy ancestors stop reaving after they came to power, and the ironborn remained forbidden from raiding ships in Westeros's own home waters as long as they were subject to the Iron Throne, even during Robert Baratheon's reign. A major tenet of the order and stability brought by three centuries of Targaryen rule is that they kept the ironborn in line and put a firm end to their raiding of the shipping lanes. The Targaryens did allow the ironborn to raid foreign waters, but that meant having to sail far away from home, against dangerous foreign fleets in the Free Cities and Slaver's Bay. The ironborn saw these restrictions on their sacred cultural customs (reaving, pillaging, and stealing on the high seas) as "mainland tyranny" that they were chafing under. Thus while reaving and raiding is the ideal of the ironborn way of life, they hadn't actually been doing it against the mainland for centuries, until Balon Greyjoy declared them independent again.
- Yara gives up her defense of ironborn reaving and "the old way" to Daenerys without too much protest. As seen at the beginning of Season 6, she implored her father that if they keep antagonizing the mainland with raiding they'll eventually push them too far and suffer heavy retaliation. The books take more time to clarify her position: unlike her father she realizes that the Iron Islands will only survive if they enter into alliances with mainland powers, and her proposal at the Kingsmoot also mentioned that she wanted to ally with the North against the Lannisters, because they are both pursuing local independence movements (it's what Balon should have done at first).
- A point comes up regarding Yara's sexuality: two episodes ago Yara was kissing a female prostitute in Volantis and said she was going to have sex with her. When asked, George R.R. Martin directly confirmed that she actually isn't bisexual in the books, nor has she ever experimented with women - though she is very sexually adventurous with men, unusually for a highborn woman (outside of Dorne or at least in the public), fitting her overall tomboy persona (her father raised her as a surrogate son). Several female characters in the novels, however, actually did experiment with having sex with other women: Cersei had sex with one of her handmaidens in a drunken fog (and didn't really enjoy it) and later with Taena of Myr, while Daenerys herself had sex with her handmaiden Irri at one point, apparently experimenting with it.
- It is therefore unclear if the TV series is trying to add some subtext to how Daenerys is impressed with Yara in their scenes in this episode: Daenerys is bisexual (or at least "experimenting") in the novels, and while book-Yara isn't bisexual, TV-Yara has been directly established as bisexual. Yara's response to Daenerys's question about marriage alliances is that she is "up for anything", either implying that she is willing to have sex with Daenerys herself without marrying her, or that she will simply marry any man who Daenerys offers her. The possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand: in the behind the scenes featurettes, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) does remark that "there's mild flirtation, which is exciting to say the least" (it is uncertain if she was being serious).
- In season one's "The Kingsroad", Daenerys has her handmaiden Doreah teach her how to pleasure her then-husband, Khal Drogo. In the process, they touch each other and have simulated sex while still fully clothed, and Daenerys is visibly aroused to the point that she forces herself on top of Doreah and leans closer, apparently to kiss her, but stops at the last minute. This may or may not have been intended to reference Daenerys's bisexuality from the novels.
- Tyrion rather prominently brings up again the revelation Jaime gave in Season 3 that her father, the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, actually planned to spite the rebels when he was losing Robert's Rebellion by burning King's Landing down with caches of wildfire he had hidden throughout the city. In the books, when Jaime told Brienne about the Wildfire plot while they were in Harrenhal was explicitly the first - and only - time he ever told anyone about it (he never even told Cersei). In this episode, Tyrion says that Jaime told him about it at some point - probably just to reintroduce this to the audience, though it's plausible that after making the big move of his first confession to Brienne, and still deeply shaken by losing his sword-hand, he later told Tyrion about it at some point off-screen in Season 4.
- Bran Stark's visions earlier in Season 6 included a shot of a large underground store room filled with barrels of wildfire exploding. In the previous episode, Jaime remarked that Cersei would burn a city to ashes for her children, while in that same episode Qyburn told Cersei that his spies confirmed an old rumor she inquired about. It seems highly probable that this is all setup that Cersei actually found some of the old wildfire caches and intends to detonate them to destroy the Great Sept and core membership of the Faith Militant.
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 70, The Queen's Hand: Rhaegal and Viserion are loose in Meereen.
- The episode is adapted from the following sample chapters of The Winds of Winter:
- Theon I: Ramsay's former victim warns his would-be-opponent that Ramsay should not be underestimated.
- Victarion (serial number unknown): The ironborn arrive at Meereen.
- Barristan II: The battle between the defenders of Meereen and Yunkai. The ironborn attack the slavers. A Yunkai lord is killed.
- Tyrion II: The dragons participate in the siege of Meereen.
- The massive battle between Jon and Ramsay, and Ramsay's violent death, may also be adapted from The Winds of Winter.
Ramsay Bolton: "My beloved wife. I've missed you terribly. Thank you for returning Lady Bolton safely. Now, dismount and kneel before me, surrender your army and proclaim me the true Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. I will pardon you for deserting the Night's Watch. I will pardon these treasonous lords for betraying my house. Come, bastard, you don't have the men, you don't have the horses, and you don't have Winterfell. Why lead those poor souls into slaughter? There's no need for a battle. Get off your horse and kneel. I'm a man of mercy."
Jon Snow: "You're right. There's no need for a battle. Thousands of men don't need to die. Only one of us. Let's end this the old way. You against me."
Ramsay: [Chuckles] "I keep hearing stories about you, bastard. The way people in the North talk about you, you're the greatest swordsman who ever walked. Maybe you are that good. Maybe not. I don't know if I'd beat you. But I know that my army will beat yours. I have 6,000 men. You have, what, half that? Not even?"
Jon: "Aye, you have the numbers. Will your men want to fight for you when they hear you wouldn't fight for them?"
Ramsay: "He's good. Very good. Tell me, will you let your little brother die because you're too proud to surrender?"
Sansa Stark: "How do we know you have him?"
[Ramsay nods to Smalljon Umber, who tosses out Shaggydog's severed head.]
Ramsay: "Now if you want to save..."
Sansa: "You're going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton." [Ramsay's jaw drops.] "Sleep well."
[Sansa rides off, leaving Jon and Ramsay with their respective retinues.]
Ramsay: "She's a fine woman, your sister. I look forward to having her back in my bed. And you're all fine-looking men. My dogs are desperate to meet you. I haven't fed them for seven days. They're ravenous. I wonder which parts they'll try first. Your eyes? Your balls? We'll find out soon enough. In the morning, then, bastard."
Ramsay: "Do you like games, little man? Let's play a game. Run to your brother. The sooner you make it to him, the sooner you get to see him again. That's it. That's the game. Easy. Ready? Go. No, you have to run remember? Those are the rules."
Smalljon Umber: "Who owns the North?!"
Bolton infantry: "We do!"
Smalljon: "Who owns the North?!"
Bolton infantry: "We do!"
Smalljon: "SHOW ME!"
Razdal mo Eraz: "Your reign is over."
Daenerys Targaryen: "My reign has just begun."
Ramsay: "You suggested one-on-one combat, didn't you? I've reconsidered. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea."
Ramsay: "Hello Sansa. Is this where I'll be staying now? No Our time together is about to come to an end. That's all right. You can't kill me. I'm part of you now."
Sansa: "Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear."
Ramsay: "My hounds will never harm me."
Sansa: "You haven't fed them in seven days. You said so yourself."
Ramsay: "They're loyal beasts."
Sansa: "They were. Now they're starving."
Ramsay: "Sit! Down! Down! Down! Down! Down! Ahhhhhhh!"