This blog is published after the ‘Game of Thrones’ simulcast. Do not read ahead unless you have seen season six, episode nine, ‘Battle Of The Bastards’, or want to find out what happens. It contains lots of spoilers etc.
We’re all talking about
When Game Of Thrones is bad, as we’ve seen with so many storylines this season – Arya, Dorne, Daenerys – it’s slow and sluggish. When it’s good, such as this thrilling episode, it’s incredible.
Battle Of The Bastards, then. Snowbowl. The Battle Of Winterfell. Stark V Bolton. Whatever you want to call it, this is what this season, and in fact, many things since the Ned and his family departed their home in the north back in the first season, has been leading up to. And without too much hype, it’s up there with the show’s very best episodes. The battle scenes were sensational. With a budget north of $10 million, you’d expect it to.
We began with Jon and Sansa confronting their enemy. He taunted them, and Jon rose to his bait. He may be good with that fancy sword of his, and he may be the Prince That Was Promised, but Jon Snow does seem a bit thick. Despite Sansa’s best warnings of Ramsay’s character, Jon didn’t listen. The plan had been to wait it out, draw Ramsay’s charge and hit them on the counter. But no. Jon rode out to rescue his little brother and the battle was as good as lost from that moment on. The Stark’s only hope was that Ramsay’s archers might mow down enough Bolton men to even out the sides.
Farewell poor Rickon, the battle’s first victim. Perhaps if he’d understood the concept of running diagonally, he might have enjoyed his freedom for a bit longer.
We then saw some of the best-shot scenes in Game of Thrones history, fully capturing the hopelessness, gore and frantic, breathless nature of combat. The scene where Jon gasped for breath was difficult to watch, and the grim, sinking feeling watching Smalljon Umber and his men marching in and surrounding our heroes was almost too much to bear. Good riddance to Smalljon. Internet conspiracists has long believed his allegiance to Ramsay was some sort of double bluff, but no. As he stood, headbutting Tormund into next week, I was fearful for the great beard, but if anyone was going to have a secret sharpened tusk to ram into an enemy’s eye, it was going to be Tormund and he’ll live to fight another day. Maybe he’ll even live to woo Brienne when she returns.
Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun was less fortunate; slain by archers – all of the archers – a final shot coming from Ramsay, who, even in defeat was capable of delivering one final blow. As promised, the Knights Of The Vale rode in when it mattered to win the day, and it looks as if Season 7 will feature Littlefinger, absent for most of this run, with his feet back under the table.
Ramsay’s death was suitably gruesome, fed to his beloved hounds. There was a lesson in there, too, that if you treat people terribly, they eventually bite back. It could apply to so many in Westeros, but it was Sansa, dishing out the punishment, to whom it best applied. She has her vengeance, Ramsay – one of this season’s weakest characters – is no more. But it still doesn’t justify Sansa’s gratuitous, torturous time at his hands.
But Winterfell was won back. Just the small matter of reuniting the North to contend with. And one Red Priestess, likely to be thrown from the parapet next week now Davos has finally put two and two together about Shireen’s death.
What else happened?
Given the name of the episode, it was expected no other storyline would get a look in this week, but after a stagnant series for Daenerys, she literally and figuratively released the dragon.
Last week, the Targaryen queen didn’t have two boats to rub together. Now, with the slavemasters’ kind donation of a fleet and the Greyjoy’s arrival and promise of their boats, she’s swimming in ships. Tyrion was due a little retribution for the things Theon said to him all those years ago, but it’s the women who now run things. Yara and Daenerys were evenly matched, have similar histories – bad dads, weak brothers, renowned uncles – and will make a formidable pair. Euron, rumoured to be the big bad in the next series, doesn’t stand a chance. Especially not now the Dothraki have finally arrived.
What does it all mean
The world is smaller than it was. One of the best things about this series has been the way several storylines have converged and numerous characters have crossed paths. Yara and Daenerys’ alliance could shape the future, while a combination of dragons, Dothraki and negotiation has brought peace, however fragile, to Meereen, Volantis and the rest of Slaver’s Bay, leaving Daenerys free to make her move on Kings Landing.
The Starks retaking Winterfell restores some of the order from the days before Robert Baratheon’s death. The Wildlings, what’s left of them, have legitimised themselves, and have completed their mission of making it south of the wall.
The whole of the battle was wonderfully shot, from Jon riding out to Wun Wun’s fall, but the scene of Jon gasping for air deserves special mention. If there was an award for best individual shot, it would go to Davos, cape blowing in the breeze as the sun rose behind him. This series of Game Of Thrones has looked brilliant, none more so than that frame.
Predictions for next week
We have to catch up with Bran next week for some more visions – how did Jaime kill the Mad King? Was the king actually that mad? And how does his promise to ‘Burn them all’ fit in with Cersei’s plans?
My prediction is we’ll see some high-profile deaths in the final episode – with Varys, Jaime and Davos on the end of the daggers.