- 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 offering terms of surrender, telling Daenerys about her father's plan to destroy King's Landing using Wildfire, that being the reason why his brother Jaime Lannister killed him. 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 then 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, and Davos meet with Ramsay, Harald Karstark, and Smalljon Umber before the battle. Ramsay offers surrender terms saying he will pardon Jon for breaking his Night's Watch vows and the Northerners in Jon's forces for rising against him if he will hand Sansa over. 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 notes 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 criticises Jon for attacking too early, insisting that they could 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 brings out a bow, 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. With Jon now defenseless in the middle of the battlefield, Bolton archers fire volleys of arrows in his direction with the Bolton cavalry charging at him as well.
The Stark cavalry begin their charge to meet the Bolton cavalry, 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 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. One of the Bolton soldiers 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, he takes shots at him with his bow, all blocked by a Mormont shield Jon picked up from the ground, until Jon overwhelms him and beats him almost to death. He stops himself after noticing Sansa, realizing she has as much right for revenge as he does. Jon subsequently orders Ramsay locked up as a prisoner.
The Bolton banners on Winterfell are torn down and the Stark Banners 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 his cell 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
- Razdal mo Eraz
- Prince Rickon Stark
- Lord Jon Umber
- Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun
- Lord Ramsay Bolton
- 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' 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.
In the North
- 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 entire Battle of the Bastards sequence took 25 days to film (including not just the fight scenes but all major character interactions in that subplot). Most hour-long TV drama episodes only take about 10-12 days to film one entire episode. Four separate camera crews were needed.
- The Battle of the Bastards required 600 crewmembers to film (from cameramen to props masters to the costumes department), 500 extras, and 25 professional stuntmen (for close-up shots).
- 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).
- In the Inside the Episode featurette, the showrunners state that one of the visual cues they incorporated into the episode was taken from the real-life Battle of Cannae between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginians under Hannibal. 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.
- 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 of executions than actual duels, as they 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 novels, though, there is no mentioning that Ramsay ever shot even one single arrow.
- 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 bows pointed at him, Ramsay is still smiling at the situation as if this isn't the end.
- 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.
- The Inside the Episode featurette directly states that the reason Jon stops before he can beat Ramsay to death with his bare hands 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. Ramsay apparently continues to smirk through this because he incorrectly interprets this as that the Starks are going to spare him.
- 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.
- After four seasons, Ramsay is finally killed. In his very first (offscreen) appearance, Season 2's "Valar Morghulis", Ramsay infuriates Theon Greyjoy by blowing a horn all night to keep him awake, leading Theon to shout out numerous times that he will kill Ramsay once he gets the chance. It is currently unknown if at this point, Theon knows that Ramsay is dead, or how Theon will react when he learns of it.
- The final scene between Sansa and Ramsay is also apparently meant to emanate the one between Robb Stark and Jaime Lannister in Season 2's "The North Remembers". Both Ramsay and Jaime are taken prisoner by the Stark army, beaten and then locked inside uncomfortable quarters. Also, Sansa and Robb are briefly mocked by Ramsay and Jaime, respectively, though their confidence fades when they are faced with hungry dogs, the only difference being that Robb merely intimidates Jaime with Grey Wind, while the Bastard's girls, who had been uncaged in the kennels, actually devour and kill Ramsay.
- 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.
- 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. However it is unknown what exactly Ramsay meant by saying "I'm part of you now" to Sansa but it could incline that either Sansa is pregnant with Ramsay's child or that she has now inherited part of Ramsay's personality. According to Iwan Rheon, when Ramsay refers to him "being part of her", he was referring to his treatment of her during their marriage. Similar to how Theon will always have a piece of Reek with him, Sansa will always have a piece of Ramsay's sick personality with her. In fact, this is shown when Sansa smirks at the sound of Ramsay's brutal death.
- With the death of Wun Wun, it's possible that the race of Giants is now extinct.
- 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.
- 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) has stayed with the TV show all the way through Season 6. The other two 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.
- 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 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.
- When Smalljon Umber first meets with Ramsay, he flat out refuses to say his oaths and pledge loyalty to Ramsay. Smalljon states he only fights with the Boltons to defeat the Wildling army that Jon let through the Wall before they threaten Last Hearth. As for the Karstarks, Harald Karstark stated to Roose Bolton that his house will never fight for House Stark again after Rickard Karstark was executed by Robb Stark. Thus, House Karstark doesn't fight for the Boltons out of loyalty, but simply for revenge against House Stark.
- 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.
- One element of the battle does showcase Ramsay's short-sighted cruelty, and that he directly pays for it. At the beginning of the season, his father Roose Bolton angrily tried to explain to him that he can't just focus on the battle in front of him, but needs to worry about preserving his resources for fighting new wars in the future. Roose directly warned Ramsay that he was too focused on attacking the Starks, when he needed to worry about what the Lannisters would do when they found out he married Sansa Stark instead of turning her over to King's Landing - which, as it turned out, was to send the full army of The Vale of Arryn to invade the North. In the battle, Ramsay orders his archers to shoot at the melee between both armies, knowing he will be killing many of his own men as well, because he is overconfident that his 6,000 man army outnumbers the Starks by over two to one - even though Roose tried to warn him that he actually cannot afford to waste any men in the long term, because their army isn't big enough to hold the entire North if every vassal House rebels against them. The result of Ramsay killing his own cavalry in the crossfire is that he doesn't have any cavalry left to counter the knights of the Vale when they attack. On top of this, he didn't plan to leave any rearguard, so that the only men he had left were a handful of guards in the castle itself - despite his desperate claim, it's possible that he didn't even have enough men left to defend against a major siege.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- 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/sesllsword 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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, 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), 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. 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).
- 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 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 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?"
Smalljon Umber: "Who holds the North?!"
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!"