had plenty of plot twists and shocking moments to keep even the most casual viewer coming back for more. But after a few re-watches, even more layers of the story come to light. Here’s a spoiler-free look at all the references, callbacks, and Easter eggs you might have missed from “The Winds of Winter.”
What a Shame: Cersei mockingly calling out the “shame” refrain to her tormenter Septa Unella was a pretty obvious callback, and you
didn’t miss the enormous bell crashing into the streets of King’s Landing, but hopefully you caught the fact that it landed
about where Cersei took her walk last year. So much for bells and Septas. As for what the Mountain was doing to the Septa to make her scream out so violently? Well, remember that the Mountain was the one who savagely raped and murdered Oberyn’s sister, Elia, and allow yourself to fill in the blanks.
The True Believers: If Tyrion’s pledge of loyalty to Daenerys sounded familiar, that’s because he basically cribbed it from a Season 5 Jorah speech. But, hey, if he wanted to sound committed, there is no better source than Ser Jorah. The bigger question is whether Tyrion was talking about himself here when he told Daenerys she would be loved again.
He might have been. There seemed to be a mix of paternal pride and romantic yearning on his face. (Once again, stolen from Jorah.) But most book readers assume that the great love yet to come in Dany’s life is her nephew (yep!), Jon. Hey, weirder things have happened in the Targaryen family.
The Library: Many were quick to point out the similarity between Sam gawping at the Citadel library and Belle seeing the Beast’s book collection for the first time in the 1991 Disney animated film. But if you follow Sam’s gaze up, you’ll see something even more fun.
Hanging from the ceiling are several fixtures that look like the gyroscope/orrery that features in the show’s opening credits. Speaking of the opening credits, hopefully you noticed that the Stark direwolf was back where it belonged on the model of Winterfell. The Bolton sigil had been there for
long. Next season, we might see the sigil over King’s Landing change for the first time in the show’s history. Bye, Baratheon stag; hello, Lannister lion.
And since we’re in the library section, we might as well mention a few lovely book nods in this episode. Wyman Manderly—the Northern Lord who dishes up some Frey pie in the books—made a cameo. Arya, however, stole his triumphant vengeance and Lyanna Mormont got his coolest line: “The North Remembers.” And way down south, Olenna mentioned something about 100 red scorpions killing a Tyrell in Dorne many years ago. Here, we’ll let Oberyn tell it. From
When the Young Dragon conquered Dorne so long ago, he left the Lord of Highgarden to rule us after the Submission of Sunspear. This Tyrell moved with his tail from keep to keep, chasing rebels and making certain that our knees stayed bent. He would arrive in force, take a castle for his own, stay a moon’s turn, and ride on to the next castle. It was his custom to turn the lords out of their own chambers and take their beds for himself. One night he found himself beneath a heavy velvet canopy. A sash hung down near the pillows, should he wish to summon a wench. He had a taste for Dornish women, this Lord Tyrell, and who can blame him? So he pulled upon the sash, and when he did the canopy above him split open, and a hundred red scorpions fell down upon his head. His death lit a fire that soon swept across Dorne, undoing all the Young Dragon’s victories in a fortnight. The kneeling men stood up, and we were free again.
Brush Up Your Shakespeare: The story of the Frey pie in the books goes a little differently, but the end result is the same. As many eager English majors will point out to you, this story mirrors Shakespeare’s
where Titus and his daughter Lavinia cook up some murderous rapists and feed them to their unsuspecting father. But versions of this gruesome story stretch all the way back to Greek mythology (if not farther) with characters like Tantalus (cursed forever in the Tartarus to be just out of reach of food and drink), who served his son up to the gods to test their omniscience. The cannibalism cycle of abuse continued down the generations of
Anyway, in George R. R. Martin’s books there’s the Rat King, a vengeful cook who killed a prince and baked him into a pie he then serves to a king. In the books, a bard sings the song of the Rat King as the Freys and Boltons chow down on Frey pie. In the show, Bran told that story to his traveling companions back in Season 3.
And while we’re on the subject of Walder and Arya, this was a particularly nice bit of framing. Also worth noting that she slit his throat so he died the same way her mother did: gurgling.
The Great War to Come: This oft-repeated phrase was split over two characters in the season finale, but it has still cropped up enough this year to become an unofficial Season 6 motto.
So, we get it, a Great War is coming and it will probably have nothing to do with Iron Thrones. Both Melisandre and Benjen seem to think they’ll have a role to play in the battle of Ice (White Walkers) and Fire (dragons), but we’ll see who even makes it to that final stage in one piece.
Azor Ahai: We’re pretty sure Jon’s going to make it, and here’s why. He is the prince that was promised. As Melisandre put it in
, “It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” Most assumed the bleeding star was a reference to the red comet that showed up in Season 1 (and in the books) and was basically abandoned after. But what do we see at Lyanna’s deathbed? Arthur Dayne’s sword, Dawn, which legend has it was forged from the heart of a fallen star. On the pummel is a sun (which, yes, is a star) and underneath we see a good deal of blood. Is this the bloody star Jon Snow was born under? Could be.
A Stark Contrast: Jon got another nickname in this episode. The Northern Lords named him the White Wolf, which is a fun nod to Ghost, but also might bear some fruit, sigil-wise, next season. What, you don’t care about sigils? Come on. Jon belongs to
sigil, and according to heraldic tradition, bastards do not have the right to use their family’s crest. They
, however, “take the coat of arms of their fathers with the colors reversed.” That means Jon’s sigil would be a white direwolf on a grey background. If Ghost ever comes out of hiding, they’ll make a dashing pair.
And speaking of Jon’s coronation, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said they wanted to make sure it was demonstrably different from Robb’s: inside versus outside; kneelers versus lifted swords. But there is a striking similarity. When he’s overwhelmed by his men’s cheers, Robb looks to his mother and she gives him a tight, wary smile.
looked to Sansa, who gave him a warmer (but still slightly conflicted) smile.
Of course, Jon’s not the only one to make progress. In keeping with the female-positive theme of the season, Sansa got to relive her Season 4 moment at the Eyrie where Petyr planted a kiss on her. Only this time she got to say “no.”
Gold Their Shroud: That caption up there? According to director Miguel Sapochnik, that was the actual direction written in the script. Cersei’s plot was rife with tragedy, including the fulfillment of the prophecy about her children’s deaths. “Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds,” Maggy promised Cersei. Tommen indeed was wearing a golden crown, robe, and necklace when he took a flying leap and made King’s Landing a more literal name than Cersei probably wanted it to be.
It’s also worth noting that the giant, green, conflagration we saw in Bran’s vision earlier this season
a flash forward to Cersei’s scheme. So, in case you had any doubts (and you shouldn’t), Bran can see the future as well as the past. The implications for
Joanna RobinsonJoanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for VanityFair.com.
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