ROUND-UP: Game of Thrones – ‘Battle of the Bastards’ (Season 6, Episode 9)

Who’s dead?

Who isn’t? Oh well let’s go for the long list. A lot of the Masters’ soldiers, as well as two masters themselves. A whole battlefield of Wildlings, Boltons, Karstarks, Umbers, foot soldiers, horses and soldiers on horses. Most importantly, Rickon, who was already amongst the ranks of the living dead without being a wight. Also Wun Wun, the sweet, gentle, brave and strong giant. And last, but certainly not least, Ramsay Snow. No, not Bolton. We don’t give a dog’s dinner about your last name, Ramsay. SNOW. DEAD. EATEN. GONE. Bye bye *Sansa smirk*

Most impressive death?

 

Wun Wun being killed by Ramsay’s arrow even though he went on and on breaking down Winterfell’s gates deserves an honourable mention. But of course, Ramsay being fed to his own dogs, that was a seriously memorable and satisfying death!

Gratuitous Nudity?

There was fighting and more fighting. No time for nakedness!

Davos and tormund
Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) backing up Jon at the parlay with Ramsay.
Quote of the Week

Tormund: I need a good drink to help me sleep the night before a fight. You want some? I have a jug of sour goat’s milk stronger than any of that grape water you southern twats like sucking on.
Davos: No, thanks. It does sound delicious, but I better keep a clear head. I can never sleep the night before a battle.
Tormund: So what do you do all night?
Davos: I walk. Think and walk. Think and walk until I’m far enough away from camp so that no one can hear me shitting my guts out.
Tormund: [laughs] Happy shitting.

A Battle of Fire…

Marieke: Where everyone focused on the events surrounding the title of this episode, the resolution to the siege in Meereen was kept under wraps. We saw Dany properly take control, but with a lot of help of her conscience in the shape of the World’s most famous dwarf. At first it seemed Tyrion was going to get it from her, but Dany’s mind was more focused on revenge and murder. Her right hand man, by using her Dad yet again as an example, showed her there is another way. Cleverly they deal with the Masters, by way of the dragons doing some serious ‘dracarys-ing’ and with the strategic killing of some soldiers. It was nice to see Drogon’s brothers breaking out to help their Mother. It was just as pleasant to see Dany’s entourage shaping up. Grey Worm, Missandei and Tyrion got one Master on his knees, killing the other two, making sure he gets back to tell the World: Daenerys is Queen and she has some badass dragons.

Dragons ep 9
Daenerys’ newly reunited dragons, Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal, lightly scorching some of the Masters’ ships and soldiers.

And then there were the Greyjoys. Yara and Dany hit it off quite nicely, right after Tyrion put down poor Theon again. He really has to suffer through all his bad deeds in front of everyone, doesn’t he? But our drinking, knowing Lannister sees he’s not the same. Let’s hope Theon bonds with Grey Worm a little. Yara convincing Dany with her feminist leanings regarding ruling was quite obvious, but I loved seeing it anyway. The Queen looked impressed and Yara just flirted her way to a handshake. I wonder what will happen once Euron will come into play? For now it’s a nice alliance. We have been speculating about the possibility of Daenerys being the evil queen, following in her father’s footsteps. This episode showed that as long as she listens to Tyrion, she won’t take the mad path. Time will tell if the little imp angel on her shoulder will be joined by a devil. Maybe a Euron shaped one?

Danielle: I absolutely loved Dany’s poise in this episode. Let’s face it, she’s walked out of a burning pyre/building unscathed twice now, so things being flinged through her Pyramid’s window don’t really faze her. Meanwhile, Tyrion is desperately asking if they can take cover and urging her to enact revenge on those who’d overthrow her with an ounce more of guile and cunning than her blunt plans to crucify those against her and raze their cities to the ground. As Marieke suggests, they do make a complementary team, and there are echoes of the partnership that used to exist between Dany’s Father, Aerys, and his Father, Tywin, who also used to serve as his Hand before the Mad King went, well, mad. The biggest difference is, for all their undeniable faults, they are better people and are potentially better rulers. Her adviser really could become the difference between her being a Conqueror and a beloved Queen in Westeros.

I also knew that Rhaegal and Viserion had to be freed at some point, and in many ways I’m glad they were able to do it of their own free will to help their Mother, rather than someone else having to roll back the stone and let them out. That, in itself, is symbolic of the renewed bond Dany has with them now that her insecurities about her true purpose seem to be rapidly vanishing. Much like the Unsullied, who were freed and then chose to follow her, even her own beasts are seizing their own autonomy and choosing to aid her autonomously. Aside from anything else, those scenes where she used Drogon to lightly toast a few of the ships in the Masters’ fleet as his brothers flapped around him were a visual feast, and were emblematic of just how much the show has grown, technically and artistically, into the imaginative ambition of its source material.

Dany Yara theon ep 9
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) making a deal with Yara (Gemma Whelan) to give her full control of the Iron Islands if she agrees to stop her people “reeving, raiding and raping” and helps her sail for Westeros, as Theon (Alfie Allen) looks on.

Elsewhere, I also enjoyed the wry humour of the surrender negotiations, and the absolute simpatico confidence of Grey Worm’s execution of two of the Masters as Tyrion lured them to reveal the ugliness of their privilege and push forward their low-born co-conspirator to be sacrificed. Likewise, it seems like Yara is going to fit in with Team Fire rather well, and although the flirting might be considered a little obvious, it’s great to see Dany finally interacting with another woman who’s on a more equal footing. Yara offering her hand, rather than bowing or kneeling before the would-be Westerosi monarch, was yet another example of how a fledgling meritocracy is starting to overthrow the ingrained patriarchy at the heart of this fictional World. Maybe even Theon and Tyrion will learn to get along eventually? Mixing with the Unsullied seems like a surefire way for the once tortured Greyjoy to get his mojo back.

..And of Northern Bastards

Marieke: First things first: yes, in hindsight, the battle was predictable. Did I mind? No, because it was still tense and because the way it was filmed can not truly be described as anything other than epic. Slowly building up to the battle we see Jon challenge Ramsay. Lyanna Mormont’s death stare needs a mention, I hoped her eyes would just should lasers at some point. Sansa is not impressed, or at least making it look like she isn’t, basically wishing Ramsay a happy death day. Don’t we all! The numbers in each of the armies are still a problem when trying to plan the attack. Bless Tormund for not knowing the pincer movement. As long as the horses just do not bother him! He also has a nice light relief conversation with Davos about the biggest battle they’ve ever faced. The latter just walks around and thinks. He doesn’t drink, but does learn something. During his walk he finds what’s left of the stag he whittled Shireen. Uh oh, camping out at Stannis’s old, pre-battle, stomping ground was not a good idea in relation to a certain a certain Red Woman. The lighting when Davos found the stag was gorgeous, by the way. A stand out scene sandwiched between all the black gruesomeness from war, and the white of the snow. This find also secured Davos’s safety, as he obviously has to confront Melisandre. Jon paid her a visit too, explicitly asking her to not revive him if he were to die again. He clearly struggled with his resurrection, you could see him wince every time it was mentioned. Mel did not promise anything to Jon, she only serves the Lord of Light, and secretly she would probably like to beat Thoros’s record. The talk between Sansa and Jon was heated as well. She could have provided information on Ramsay’s ‘foibles’, and she insists on not going back to him alive. Can’t blame her. Jon promise to protect her, to which Sansa replies, “No one can protect me”. Is this a little bit of GRRM moment, and is Sansa unknowingly hinting to us that her little sister is coming to protect her? That would be lovely.

Ramsay Rickon ep 9
Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) instructing Rickon (Art Parkinson) to run towards his half brother, Jon.

Then there was the scene before the battle began. Ramsay playing a game with Rickon, trying to rile Jon up. Succeeding too. I wish I could’ve counted people’s responses during Rickon’s run, because I think there was a collective cry of “ZIG ZAG RICKON!” as Ramsay was clumsily shooting arrows before one made a fatal hit. Even I shouted at the telly. He paid the zig zag lesson price with his death and being trampled on. Oh Rickon, you fool! We never really knew you properly. We only knew you were, inevitably, already dead.

I opened with the battle’s ending being predictable, yes. Although for a second they made me believe we lost Jon in the pile of people. I was holding my breath too. The POV shots served their purpose well. I was gasping when Jon made it out, and everyone knew the knights of the Vale had to come, but I cheered out loud when they did. FINALLY. I could have done without the awful Baelish smirk, but I was happy the Boltons and co were going to be defeated. There was always a sense of “Ramsay is not getting away with this, is he?” Also reading up about the battle, I have become even more in awe than before. Hardly any CGI, lots of extras, many hours of work. It looked absolutely gruesome, as war should. It is confusing, dirty, scary, a mess, bloody, and it is completely worthy of my previous description: epic. Even though it’s only a television show, the battle scenes definitely measure up to the most blood-thirsty conflicts in film. It actually improves on a second viewing. During the first viewing I was afraid for Tormund’s life, but I am glad he made it through. He bit the throat out of the Umber to survive. Quite a picture. Ramsay showed what a coward he truly is. When Stannis attacked Winterfell they were never going to win. Additionally, Ramsay was not the coordinator of that attack. That was his father. Roose Bolton did not like (Ramsay’s) games and was much more level headed when it came to battles than his bastard son. I have no doubt that Ramsay also lost, because playing games were more his thing than going for the win. True, he would not have lost had the Vale knights not arrived, and he did set up dirty tricks that would have won him a victory, but he also believed he would win easily. Never underestimate Starks, Ramsay. (Okay, only Rickon, cause he wasn’t very clever.) Wun Wun opening the gates from Winterfell for Jon and Tormund to enter was glorious. I had hoped he might live with an eye patch. He should have had something like a giant cricket bat to fight with though. The giants in the North die a lot when it involves doors, don’t they? Either way I will miss him. (I am not going to say anything about Brienne and Tormund having to make giant baby warriors now…)

Jon Mormont shield
Jon (Kit Harington) using a Mormont shield to defend himself against Ramsay’s arrows.

Jon picking up a (Mormont!) shield whilst Ramsay relied on bow and arrow was not even half as tense as Jon beating the shit out of Ramsay. I am glad he left Ramsay’s demise to Sansa. She will have some explaining to do as she asked Littlefinger for help (he is going to milk this like crazy). But revenge was hers and it was great to see that Ramsay truly thought his hounds would not turn on him. Always delusional. Certain phrasings made us over at Fezzy towers believe Sansa is pregnant. I hope not, it would certainly complicate things, but at least Ramsay will never know. With a death more satisfying than Joffrey’s, Game of Thrones lost another memorable and much hated villain. Let’s praise Iwan Rheon for being so awful for so many episodes. It will be interesting to see who will take up the gauntlet now. Will someone stand up else stand up to the challenge, or is the King of Salt and Rock, Euron, already wearing it?

Danielle: I’ve got to say, I’ll be pretty p*ssed off on Miguel Sapochnik’s behalf if he doesn’t at least get an Emmy nod for his direction in this episode, not least of all, as Marieke has already mentioned, because he refused to rely on CGI for the bulk of the battle scenes in the North. What an unflinching reflection of the real horrors of war it was, and realistic testament to the luck that differentiates between those who survive the violence in battles, and those who are consumed by it. Almost literally in this case.

Dany jon
The visual parallels between Daenerys’ moment of triumph in ‘Mhysa’ back in Season 3, and Jon’s moment of determination to live in this episode were striking.

As much as Jon does seem to have plot armour since his resurrection, it did feel like a real possibility he was going to be sucked under the pile of bodies and mud that had heaped up on the battlefield. Because of that, his second rebirth, that moment when he gasped a lungful of air after forcing himself through the clutch of his allies as they attempted to avoid being skewered by the surrounding Bolton, Umber and Karstark forces, felt much more powerful than his first. This isn’t the young man who was forcibly pulled back to life by means of the powers invested in Melisandre by the Lord of Light. He took the decision to banish the doubts and depression he’s floundered in since his first return to the land of the living, and suck in that life-saving air for himself, creating visual parallels with Dany’s ‘Mhysa’ moment at the end of Season 3 as she’s encircled by loyal followers, and thematic ones with her triumphant exit from the burning building before the awe-struck dothraki hordes. Like her, even if he’s not completely aware of his true heritage yet, Jon is starting to reach his potential and become the warrior and leader he’s meant to be. The only difference is that he doesn’t have someone like Tyrion, an adviser he’ll actually listen to, to pull him back from the rash, yet honourable, decisions that seem to be ingrained in the Stark genes as much as madness is in those of their Targaryen counterparts. His act of folly to ride out and meet the Bolton loyalists, after Ramsay toyed with and then killed Rickon, ceded the strategic advantage for his own troops and ultimately cost them dearly. If only he’d truly listened to his sister and accepted that their little brother was dead from the moment Ramsay took him prisoner.

Speaking of Sansa, she’s finally stepping up to the plate as a real player. I’m in two minds as to whether or not I’m annoyed with her for not letting Jon in on her plan to enlist the help of Littlefinger and the Vale’s army. On the one hand, an earlier intervention could have saved more lives during the battle and may not have led to her ‘half brother’ nearly losing his life amongst the crush. On the other, she was spot on about Ramsay setting traps and doing the thing you least expect. Jon fell for what his opposite number did to Rickon hook, line and sinker, purely because he always wears his heart on his sleeve and is fiercely loyal to his kin and friends. It’s debatable whether or not her ‘husband’ would have dared to leave Winterfell’s fortified walls if he thought the other side had greater numbers than him. His cowardice was proven once and for all by his refusal to get his hands dirty during the battle and his swift return to the castle when he realised it was game over for him. At the end of the day, she did the one thing Ramsay didn’t expect and used her brains to outmanoeuvre the man who mentally and sexually tortured her, once and for all shrugging off that little girl who only wanted to marry princes and wear pretty frocks when we first met her. (Although that sigil-adorned dress she’s currently rocking is pretty damn badass.)

Ramsay hound
Ramsay being eyed up as a tasty morsel by one of his own hounds.

In relation to Ramsay’s grizzly end, I have seen some people suggest that it was fan-service. I don’t think I could disagree more. There was always a huge amount of hubris clinging to this particular villain’s persona, much as it was to Joffrey. In story-telling terms, and often in real life, eventually this heady mix of pride, cruelty and complacency almost always leads to the rise of a nemesis, and in his case it was his underestimation of the hunger of his beasts and the mettle of his ‘wife’ that lead to his downfall. One bite at a time. Furthermore, having watched the episode a second time, I’m pretty sure his ‘wife’ isn’t carrying his child. Instead, his words about ‘being a part of her’ were meant to denote the indelible mental and physical damage he did to her. In the end she had the last smirk, reducing the evil bastard’s desperation for legitimacy, power and infamy into a forgettable decent into obscurity and the jaws of his own hounds. The power-hungry often get swallowed in Westeros.

With regards to casualties and survivors on the battlefield, I was almost certain Wun Wun was as much of a goner as Rickon, even before those catchy opening credits played in my living room. He was almost too much of an advantage to have on your side. But what a contribution he made, knocking over his enemies like skittles and effectively preventing the need for a siege that could have gone on for months by breaking down Winterfell’s gates and allowing Ramsay to face retribution. I just hope they burn his body, because he’d make one hell of a scary wight. Like Marieke mentioned, on reflection, it seemed certain that Davos was going to make it to the end of the battle, for the simple reason that he and Melisandre need to have a showdown over what she did to Shireen, which is going to be yet another headache for Jon. Similarly, now I come to think of it, I very much doubt they’d have set up this awkward love triangle along with Brienne and Jaime, only for Tormund to die in battle. Props to him for going native on Smalljon Umber though. The treacherous git deserved it. My only hope is that Lyanna Mormont stayed on the sidelines during the violent clashes. As much as I can imagine her happily getting stuck in, the ten year old’s facial expressions are too precious to lose. I almost wish she was the one vying to sit on the Iron Throne!

Our Fezzy Score: rsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fez

So what did you think to the episode? Let us know in the comments…

For more predictions on the (longer!) finale, watch out for our special predictions post. We’ll also end our Game of Thrones Fezzy season with a look back at our first round of predictions before this run of the show started. How right, or wrong, were we?

 

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