In “Battle of the Bastards,” the House Stark reclaimed the North while Sansa decided to embrace the darkness that now lives inside her. It was the most triumphant Game of Thrones episode since the last season and — being a battle episode — it also featured several visual callbacks, Easter Eggs, déjà vu moments and parallels with both the show and the books.
Let’s take a look at five of the best references you may have missed while “Bastards” took your breath away.
1. Yara and Dany Just Brought A Whole New Kind Of Ship To Essos
Dany has been in need of ships for awhile now, so it’s lucky for her that Yara Greyjoy just showed up with her pet brother Theon in tow and, more importantly, a whole bunch of ships to get the last Targaryen back to Westeros. Yara had arguably the line of the episode…
…and, as the words left her mouth,
Although Dany most recently hooked up with Daario in the show, in the books she does share some intimate history with a handmaiden, even though there’s nothing to suggest that said encounters were born out of sexual desire, rather than mere circumstance.
Basically, while she’s not gay, a little light flirtation with a member of the same sex is nothing new for Daenerys, so it was cool to see the show pick up that thread and tease us with it.
2. Robert’s Touch Of Death
This one might be my favorite. Remember when, in the first episode of Season 1, Robert Baratheon arrived at Winterfell with Cersei and Jaime in tow? The King greeted four members of the House Stark with a shake of the hand or a physical touch: Ned, Catelyn, Robb and Rickon.
Rickon’s tragic death in “Battle of the Bastards” (which could probably have been avoided if he’d, y’know, run in a zig zag like somebody with an ounce of sense) now means that those four Starks are all dead. The four Robert didn’t greet physically are still alive. Touch of death, much?
3. Lady War Is Watching
Another callback to the very first episode: When Ned took his sons and Theon Greyjoy out to witness the execution by beheading of Will, a member of the Night’s Watch who deserted his post after allegedly laying eyes on a White Walker. Ned tells Bran he must watch the deserter’s head roll.
Although not an Easter Egg or even an intentional callback to that, there’s a kind of thematic echo in the final scene of “Bastards.” After setting the hungry hounds on Ramsay, Sansa turns to leave — but then lingers a moment longer to feast on the gruesome sight of her tormentor being eaten alive by his own dogs.
It’s a darkly delicious moment that signifies just how much Sansa has changed, while also bringing her to a place where, like her father, she’s not afraid to look away from death. For Sansa now, it’s become a fact of life.
4. A Late Ace In The Deck
My favorite moment of the episode came with the ominous sound of horns in the distance. When the Knights of the Vale rode over the brow and into battle at precisely the right moment to stampede on the Bolton army, watched over by the newly-reforged alliance of Littlefinger and Sansa, I got chills.
I’m not sure why it felt so satisfying, considering this is pretty much Game of Thrones‘ most-favored party trick. In the stunning Season 2 episode “Blackwater,” Tywin Lannister’s cavalry shows up at the perfect moment to launch a deathly blow to the Baratheon army lead by Stannis. If it still felt like a surprise even now, chalk it down to how engrossing the battle was.
This time was even more epic, though, because I didn’t particularly want the Lannisters to emerge victorious from Blackwater, whereas this time the stakes were considerably higher — and now, the Starks owe Littlefinger big time.
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire
This one needs no commentary — the parallels between fire and ice, Targaryen and Stark (or, ya know, Targaryen and Targaryen), are crystal clear.
If you’re the kind of person who spends hours looking for hidden meanings and proof that every fan theory you bought into in the past five years is totally on, this is about as much as you need to confirm that Jon Snow are Dany are Thrones‘s two Messiah figures, and will probably be the ones to share the Iron Throne when it’s all over (and Sansa Stark is spending her days prowling the North in that fur jacket, generally being the baddest bitch in Westeros).
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.