This week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Battle of the Bastards,” may be one of the best episodes in the show’s run. We knew that was a possibility after the producers submitted it for five Emmys, but even that couldn’t prepare us for the greatness we witnessed Sunday night. With two massive battles that had everyone’s hearts racing, we figured you may have missed out on some of the details and historical parallels cooked into the episode. Here’s what you may have missed.
Taking A Page Out Of History
The Game of Thrones producers drew inspiration for the unfolding of the Battle of the Bastards from actual military history, originally planning to mirror the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, where a smaller English force defeated the French with the use of longbows. In the end, they decided instead to use the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, where Hannibal used a similar shield wall to encircle the Roman army he was fighting and slaughter them. There was no surprise army to save the Romans as the Vale did for Jon Snow, and historians estimate that more than 50,000 Roman troops died on the battlefield that day.
Cruel And Cunning
Ramsay Bolton set burning pyres with flayed men across the battlefield, no doubt to intimidate his enemies and let them know what would happen to them if they were defeated. But those pyres also served another more strategic purpose: as distance markers for his army’s archers. It also allowed him to toy with Rickon, knowing exactly when his prey was almost out of range before finally putting an arrow through his heart.
Bodies Piled High
The carnage shown during the Battle of the Bastards was extensive, to the point where there were massive wall-like piles of bodies impeding the movement of troops. And while this may have seemed unrealistic, it turns out military history is quite clear on the point that corpses would often pile up as tall as a man during battle, and tactics were devised to deal with the issue. The inspiration for piles of corpses the show’s producers drew from was from accounts of the American Civil War.
Reflections Of Doubt
When Jon Snow visits the Red Priestess Melisandre before the Battle of the Bastards, you can see the same burnished copper mirror in her tent that we saw at the end of the first episode of the season — the one that revealed her true age. This prop use served a double purpose of reminding everyone about Melisandre’s nature, but also showing that she still carries deep doubts about the Lord of Light’s plan, where in the past she was so certain.
A Prophecy Fulfilled
Speaking of Melisandre and her prophecies, she said this to Stannis in season five, episode seven: “I have seen myself walk along the battlements of Winterfell. I have seen the flayed men banners lowered to the ground.” At the time, she thought this meant Stannis was destined to win his battle against Ramsay Bolton. But as usual, Melisandre saw the vision right but read the meaning wrong. We may not have remembered this prophecy, but based on the satisfied and reassured look on her face at the end of the episode, you can bet Melisandre did.
Jon Snow Spoilers Debunked
As you may remember from the lead up to the season premiere, eagle-eyed fans noticed a few frames in the show’s trailers that seemed to show Jon Snow riding a horse into battle? One fan even broke down the moment frame by frame, noting how the editors seemed to cut out a few frames where the Jon-like horse rider’s face may have been visible. But now we know that Jon never rode his horse into battle, meaning that mysterious dark haired rider was just some random extra. Not the first time an extra has led us astray!
Shifting across the Narrow Sea to Meereen, Tyrion noted after the battle that Daenerys had control over many of the Masters’ fleet, implying Daenerys didn’t have to burn them all to defeat their army. So how exactly did that come to pass? Take a closer look at this shot of Dany burning that one ship to a crisp. Now look at the other ships in the background.
There go all of the Masters’ soldiers, jumping into the water and swimming away. Not a bad choice when you’re floating in a giant pile of matchsticks and facing a fire breathing dragon. Thanks for the ships, suckers!