Episode 9 in Game of Thrones has always had a history. We’ve lost some of our favourite characters to that episode, and we’ve seen some amazing battles in that episode. So to say that the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ had a lot to live up to is an understatement. However, David and Dan delivered, and today we got arguably the best episode of season 6. The biggest Game of Thrones production to date, which had hundreds of extras and spent millions to make, gave us the largest battle sequence in the history of television. The Battle of the Bastards was truly a joy to watch, and though quite predictable, it was directed and written in a way that made me sit on the edge of my seat the whole time.
I was initially surprised when the episode started with the Masters assault on the city, since I expected the whole episode to revolve around the battle in the North. However I wasn’t disappointed, as we got some of the best Daenerys scenes in a long time. The initial meeting with the Masters was great, the way they tried to intimidate Daenerys until Drogon arrived. It seems like they’ve finally gotten the dragons right! The CGI was impressive, and not wasted like earlier this season when Daenerys climbed on top of Drogon just to give a speech. This time there was purpose in her actions, as she flew over the Masters fleets and burnt them to a crisp. with the help of her two other forgotten children, who are finally out of their dungeon. It was amazing seeing all three dragons in action, working in unison to burn their Mothers enemies to the ground.
Another surprise was the Greyjoys arriving. Seems like they borrowed Littlefinger’s teleporter and arrived just after the battle. The North isn’t the only one who remembers, as Tyrion reminisces about the time when he first met Theon in Winterfell, where the now cockless man mocked him about his size. It’s bittersweet when you think about how confident and cocky Theon used to be. He’s a changed man now, which he tries to convince Tyrion of. Though it’s nice seeing these two men see each other again, the real interaction that stole the scene was the one between Daenerys and Yara. Now I haven’t really enjoyed Dany’s scenes this season, but this episode was a real standout, and I loved the conversation between these two women. They clearly have a lot in common, and I loved that every time Danaerys questioned Yara, the latter responded with sassy comeback which would always relate herself to Dany. The two also got a bit flirty, and from what we’ve seen from previous episodes, in the show at least it seems Yara is either a lesbian or bisexual. Though Daenerys has only been with men in the show, in the books she also had sexual relations with her Dothraki handmaidens. It will be interesting to see how these two interact in the future, as the Greyjoys have become the first of Daenerys’ allies from Westeros. In exchange for their ships and support to her claim, Daenerys agrees to award Yara the Kingdom of the Iron Islands. However, in doing so, the Ironborn must reject their way of life, which means no more pillaging and raping. Being handed your kingdom isn’t really paying the Iron Price, so I don’t think the Ironborn will be too eager to accept Yara as their queen, especially if it means giving up on their culture and heritage.
Battle for Winterfell
The battle of the North started with a battle of words and wits, as the Starks and Boltons had a confrontation prior to their fight. Ramsay and Jon finally met, as Snow tried to anger the former bastard by offering to end this war in the form of a duel. Ramsay mocked Jon’s offer, but it was Sansa who had the final words, promising Ramsay that he’s going to “die tomorrow.”
As Jon and his advisors prepared for the upcoming battle, Ser Davos noted that the key to victory would be patience, and the only way they would win was if Ramsay came to them. After they left Jon, Sansa confronted her brother, telling him not to take Ramsay lightly as he didn’t know what he was up against. It’s interesting to see how the dynamic has changed between these two, Jon is the one who’s usually in charge and Sansa is the one who usually follows orders. However since escaping Wintefell, Sansa has become much stonger and colder, while Jon has taken the backseat since being resurrected. But it’s hard to watch Sansa stand there and lecture Jon about their lack of men when she;s the one hiding an entire army! I had hoped this episode would explain why she was so reluctant to give Jon this information, but it really doesn’t make any sense. If Jon had known that he could expect support from the Vale, his tactics and strategies would have changed accordingly, yet she still refrains from telling him. She does warn Jon that Ramsay won’t fall for any traps, as he’s the one who lays them, and that he shouldn’t do anything Ramsay wants. She also quite directly tells him that they won’t be able to save Rickon, so Jon shouldn’t let his emotions take hold of him.
Obviously Jon totally forgets all this advice the moment he reaches the battlefield. Ramsay rides out to the front pulling along the young heir of Winterfell, Rickon Stark. He cuts him free and tells him to run towards his brother. This is an obvious trap, but the moment Jon sees his little brother, who he hasn’t seen in almost six years, run towards him, he wastes no time in getting on his horse and galloping forward to meet him. We haven’t had a Stark death in a while, and this one was just as tragic as the other three. Ramsay pulls out his bow and starts shooting arrows towards Rickon, purposely missing as the distance between the two brothers diminishes. We all knew what was coming, but seeing Rickon sprint across that open field. seeing Jon’s outstretched hand, almost made me want to believe that something would happen. Something did happen, though it wasn’t what I wanted. All I could do was shout “zigzag!” Or “serpentine!” But it was no use. Jon watched Rickon fall a few feet ahead of him, as he took an arrow to the chest. Sansa knew, Davos knew, Tormund knew, but as we all know, Jon Snow knows nothing. Ramsay had baited Jon perfectly, and without a second thought Jon raced towards the Bolton army. As arrows hailed down around him and killed his horse, Davos unleashed the Stark cavalry. Their plan had been to let the enemy come to them, but the actions of their commander forced them to abandon all logic and rush towards the enemy instead. As Jon realised his mistake, standing in the open field with the Bolton cavalry charging towards him, he accepted his fate and raised Longclaw one last time. Or so he thought. This was definitely my favourite scene from this season, as the two opposing armies met around Jon, and the following choreography that saw Jon fight off half a dozen men.
As epic as that scene was, it would result in a heavy defeat for the Stark loyalists, who were soon surrounded by a shield wall. As the men began to panic and rush towards an escape, Jon is pushed to the ground and severely trampled on by his own men. I almost thought this was the end of our favourite bastard, none of the good characters ever die in a dignified way, so Jon being crushed by his own men wasn’t too hard to believe. Luckily he manages to pull himself up, while Tormund takes a tumble as he fights the Smalljon Umber. Just when it looks like Tormund is about to meet his end, Littlefinger arrives with the Knights of Rohan – I mean the Vale. With Sansa watching from afar, the knights smash the Bolton forces and free the Northerners. Tormund uses the diversion to bite off a part of Smalljons face and finish him off with a knife. Jon wastes no time, going after Ramsay who is already heading back to Winterfell.
At the castle, as Ramsay prepares for a siege, Wun-Wun the giant breaks through the doors, not before being wounded by several arrows. As the Wildlings pour in and finish off the remaining Bolton men, Ramsay kills Wun-Wun by shooting an arrow in his eye. Jon is there to witness this, and now that he’s the only one remaining from his side, Ramsay accepts Jon’s offer to a duel. As the others watch on, Ramsay draws his bow again, but Jon picks up a shield and manages to deflect all the incoming arrows. Now for someone who managed to kill Rickon from a hundred feet away with bow, Ramsay sure finds it difficult to navigate around the small shield Jon is holding. I don’t understand why he didn’t pull out his sword when Jon was right at his face, but it would have ended in the same way, with Ramsay on the ground and Jon atop of him, bashing his head in with his fists. I loved this scene, I loved how brutal it was. Jon stops only when he sees Sansa watching, maybe realising that she’s the one who deserves revenge, that she should be the one to decides how he dies. Sansa gets her wish soon after, as she confronts Ramsay while he’s tied up in the kennels. He still has a smile on his face, and tells Sansa that he will always be a part of her. I don’t know whether he means the vile and cruel acts he did to her will always stay with her, or that maybe she’s pregnant with his child. Probably the former, since Sansa would be the first to know if she was pregnant and nothing on the show has indicated that she is. As Sansa tells him “your words will dissappear, your house will dissappear, you will dissappear,” Ramsay’s hounds enter his cell. Though he is adament his dogs are loyal, Sansa reminds him that they haven’t been fed in a week, and as Ramsay fails to make them listen to him, one rips into his jaw and begins devouring him. We’d been waiting for Ramsay to get a piece of his own medicine, and while I’d have preferred if he was flayed, this still works well. I liked how Sansa is about to turn away, but then continues watching the dogs feed on him. When she does leave, she’s got a smirk on her face. The Starks are back!