Big stories, big special effects, big budgets, big battles and big stupid sociopaths getting their big stupid faces eaten, all drive this classically great Game Of Thrones episode. It’s back.
*SPOILER ALERT: May contain traces of spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6, episode 9.
I’m sorry I doubted you Game Of Thrones. I’ve been particularly narky at the last few episodes lack of pace, action or interest, but holy hell did the show bounce back this week. Episode 9 has became the landmark episode in previous Game of Thrones seasons, and this year did not disappoint, although did shy away from having a single story focus as has been done in the past.
The Battle of the Bastards has been hyped all week, and the preview for the episode told us we were finally going to get our Jon Snow vs Ramsay Bolton showdown. But before we got to that, we went to Meereen and while it’s still hard to believe, something finally happened! The Masters attacking Meereen turned out to be the catalyst for Dany and her dragons to finally start laying waste to this horrendously long and boring story line, and get the hell over to the real battle. The special effects for this early part of the episode, particularity with the Dragons, was some of the best in the show’s history. The dragon-fire burned men alive in such a horrific fashion, that it seems unlikely that anybody at all could stop them in the future. The way the ruling team of Tyrion and Dany dealt with the situation was swift and successful, and let’s hope that’s their motto as the head off to take on the rest of the world.
Now time-frames have always been vague in the Game of Thrones universe, and you can never really tell how long a certain event or story has played out over, but it struck me as odd that Yara and Theon had made it all the way to Meereen already. So, I thought I’d hit the interwebz and have a look at the old Game of Thrones map. Here is one below:
So looking at that, it seems almost obscene that it would take Dany five seasons to travel down half a continent, and yet it took the Greyjoys one episode to sail half way around the world. That strange bit of logic aside, the early signs here for the Dany / Tyrion / Theon / Yara dynamic, were very promising, and this will hopefully be a main focus through out the next season. (Also, how was Yara putting the scissor vibes on Dany?)
It was a very successful – if not a little rushed – ending to this long-running Meereen snore-fest, and yet it was merely the encore for the episode’s spectacular main event.
The Battle of The Bastards.
The aforementioned hype surrounding this battle carried with it the possibility of disappointment. Not so much that the episode itself would disappoint, but that we might get yet another unexpected tragic death at this battle. Either Jon Snow or Ramsay was going to die, that seemed pretty clear, but Melisandre even said herself that if Jon dies, she’ll try to bring him back. And really, what would be the point of him coming back to life only to lose horribly and destroy another large chunk of the Stark clan? But you can never tell with Game of Thrones, a curve-ball can always be around the corner, and the good guys rarely win.
The early scene where Jon and Ramsay came face to face to agree on terms, was a cracking little exchange. Sansa also continued to stand tall here, in what must have been a frighteningly difficult situation for her. This scene showed us the Ramsay was fallible, and that his arrogant facade could be shaken, but he still had a very strong upper hand. His army was huge, and Jon’s was pitiful. And then there was Rickon.
Sansa and Jon had clashed several times in the lead up to the battle, yet it was still surprising to see Sansa so cold and realistic about their chances of getting Rickon back alive. When Ramsay finally walked Rickon out on a leash into the battle ground (in one piece too, I couldn’t believe it), it was pretty clear we were going to see him die. What wasn’t clear though, was just how devious Ramsay Bolton really is. I mean, we always knew he was a monster, but his intelligence has often been overlooked. Killing Rickon in such a manipulative fashion was a cruel yet highly effective tactic, and Jon Snow responded exactly how Ramsay wanted him to. Emotionally, rather than tactically.
What happened next, will probably enter television folklore. This was an epic battle scene in every sense of the word, and it was delivered on a scale and in a fashion that massive budget Hollywood blockbusters fail to produce. The sheer brutality and force of each impact, the quick camera cuts, the sound, the mud, the blood… this was spectacular. Jon Snow had his fair share of close calls – too many you could argue – but his fighting was ferocious, and he seemed to take out his fair share of Bolton extras.
The intensity went another level, when the Bolton army surrounded the fledgling rebels and formed a shield trash compactor type arrangement… thing, that proved to be both highly effective and pretty friggin cool. The camera work here was also sublime, and you could almost feel yourself being crushed in that terrifying situation. But just like the last time Stannis came in and saved Jon’s army, or the time Tywin Lannister did for Tyrion’s, the patented Game of Thrones ‘last minute save’ got put into play. Littlefinger and his Knights of The Vale charged in and ended the battle pretty swiftly, leaving only one piece of unfinished business.
I’ve been writing about the death of Ramsay Bolton all season, and when it became clear that it was going to happen, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. “Please don’t fuck this up Game Of Thrones. Please make him suffer.”
And he did.
The demented, sad sack of hate Ramsay Bolton met his demise in the most deliciously (pardon the pun) ironic of fashions, while Sansa watched on a little too keenly. Earlier, when it looked like Jon was going to cave his head in Oberon style, I wasn’t quite satisfied. It had to be Sansa.
Having his face bitten off, and watching him experience and show real terror was about as satisfying an end you as could hope for this brilliantly conceived and portrayed villain, and it’s interesting how little we as an audience seem to care that Sansa just coldly watched a person being torn apart and eaten alive by dogs. Ned probably wouldn’t have signed off on that if he was still around.
This was simply A-grade television.
- I still don’t know why Sansa didn’t mention the whole ‘Oh, there’s a great big army on it’s way if you wait, like, an hour.’ Be interesting to see how that explanation pans out.
- Even when surrounded and defeated, Ramsay still managed to to get in one last dig, as he put an arrow through the head of Andre the Giant.
- Speaking of Andre the Giant… Clear best on ground for him. 3 votes. MVP. Man of the match. All the way.
- I swear there were times when it looked like Jon was slaying guys from his own team. How did they even tell with all the mud?
- Sansa is about to become Queen of the North, as Yara is about to become Queen of the British Islands, and Dany is planning to be Queen of the Universe. You go girls.
- Another Stark died tonight. Farewell Rickon, we hardly knew ya. Oh, and sorry you copped so many arrows in your already-dead corpse. That was brutal.
- Ser Davos found out about Stannis’ daughter’s death… because he had just totally failed to ask before now? Either way, old witch-face is in trouble.