Well, they say the 9th episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ is usually the best of the season, and ‘Battle of the Bastards’ certainly did not disappoint. Everything fans have been waiting for this season (and longer) came to fruition, and then some.
Starting off, we have a humorous scene of Tyrion attempting to explain the current state of Mereen to Daenerys, trying to convince her that things are better than when she left, and surprisingly, she seems to understand his points, even if they are currently still under siege by the Masters’ forces. She immediately declares that she is going to use her dragons to burn down the Masters and their cities, which worries Tyrion as it is a little too close to the Mad King’s plan to burn King’s Landing and all his citizens during the Lannister siege during Robert’s Rebellion. He suggests a different plan of action, which finds Dany, Missandei, Grey Worm and Tyrion meeting with the 3 head Masters to discuss surrender, the Masters assuming they are talking about Dany’s surrender. She informs them that her rule is just beginning as Drogon lands behind her, cowing the Masters. Grey Worm speaks to their troops and says they can go back to their families now if they simply put down their weapons, and the Masters’ guard flees. Dany takes off, gathers her other two dragons, and has the dragon’s burn the enemy fleet, while her Dothraki horde enters the city and massacres the army of the Sons of the Harpy. Tyrion berates the Masters for breaking their deal, and Grey Worm kills the two masters who try to offer up the third as their sacrifice. The last Master is sent home to give a message to all about what happened to the forces that went up against Daenerys.
Once the battle is won, the Greyjoys arrives with their own fleet for Dany, which she definitely sees the possibilities for. They warn her of their uncle Euron’s advances, and that he will demand marriage, but Dany does not seem likely to go along with the man’s plan. Tyrion is still unsure of Theon though, as he remembers the cocky little punk he met in Winterfell (you know, back when Theon had a…. you know what I mean). Yara convinces Dany that they have similar goals, both wanting to become Queens in lands where no queen has ruled before, and they all commiserate over their terrible fathers. So Dany ends up making a deal with the Greyjoys, but not before demanding that they stop raiding and raping, which Theon is fine with but Yara has some momentary hesitation. She eventually relents, and we finally has a fleet for Dany to send her troops home aboard.
Just outside Winterfell, Jon Snow, Tormund, Sansa, and Davos meet with Ramsay and his men to negotiate, and Jon Snow offers Ramsay a one-on-one duel to settle things, so thousands of men do not have to die. Problem is, Ramsay has done his research on Jon, and knows he is a great swordsmen, and he does not see the sense in battling Snow when his army can easily take the man’s forces. Furthermore, Ramsay taunts Jon and his men by saying he has been starving his dogs for 7 days, so they will be good and hungry when he feed them the corpses of Jon and his men. Sansa, still disgusted with her former husband, tells him to sleep well, as he will be dead tomorrow. Jon and company ride back to their encampment for a war council, where we learn from Davos that Jon’s forces will need to be patient, and force Ramsay’s army to charge at them, thus allowing Jon’s men to have the upper hand and set up a pincer movement (I think). Sansa is annoyed that she is not being consulted about Ramsay as she knows him best, and warns that he likes to play games, and get into people’s heads. She tells Jon not to do what Ramsay wants him to do, and Jon takes offense, claiming that he has fought worse than Ramsay and can handle himself, all of which makes Sansa very nervous. Jon goes to see Melissandre, who skipped the war council, as her new humble persona is well aware that she had little to contribute, as she can barely make out the future. Jon orders her to let him stay dead should he not survive the battle, and she tells him she does not take orders from him, but will do what the Lord of Light desires. Davos meanwhile, after turning down an offer to have a pre-battle drink with Tormund, goes for a walk (apparently it is his tradition before a battle), and discovers the pyre where Stannis burned Shireen last season. He finds the Stag toy he gave the girl, and begins to connect the dots on what exactly happened to Stannis’s daughter, and what Melissandre’s part in it was. He knows he needs to table the issue for now, as he looks at the horizon and sees the sun is coming up. The battle will begin shortly.
The ensuing battle is a masterpiece of cinematic warfare, with a quality and intelligence never before seen on television. Words cannot describe everything that happened during the Battle for Winterfell, but I will give you the highlights. It starts with the armies facing off, with Ramsay holding Rickon out before him. He tells the boy to run to Jon across the empty field, and begin lazily shooting arrows at Rickon as he runs. Jon, terrified for his brother, does exactly what Sansa warned him not to do, and rides out to save Rickon, which is just what Ramsay wanted. Just when Jon reaches his brother Ramsay shoots Rickon through the heart, and Rickon is dead, and Jon is now horribly exposed far ahead of his army. Jon, in a rage, makes another stupid move and charges Ramsay’s army alone on his horse, while Ramsay’s men start launching arrows at him. Davos, aware that Jon is going to die, and of how this will ruin their plans, orders his men to charge anyway, and catch up to Jon, throwing out all of their plans for patience and strategy. Jon is knocked off his horse which is killed by an arrow, as just as Ramsay’s army is about to run him down, his own forces catch up and crash into Ramsay’s army, and the true battle begins. Ramsay and his greater number of men clearly have the advantage, especially as Ramsay has his archers continually rain down arrows on the battle, killing friend and foe alike. Eventually, he sends in his flanking force to encircle what remains of Jon’s army, and they are trapped between Ramsay’s shielded men, all of whom have spears out and are crushing in on Jon’s army. As things get tighter and tighter Jon is eventually trampled and buried under a mound of corpses, and he has to struggle to get out, a scene many are calling his rebirthing scene, as he has to decide to live and fight for that light, coming out of the mound with a new resolve. And just in time too, as in that moment Littlefinger arrives with the Vale army (having been called their by Sansa’s letter a few weeks ago), mowing down the neat little lines of Ramsay’s army and claiming the day for Jon Snow and his forces. In typical Ramsay fashion, he flees back to Winterfell, saying they can hold up in the castle and withstand a siege with the few men they have left. Unfortunately for him, Wun Wun the giant is still alive following the battle (though just barely), and his final act in life is to smash down the main gate of Winterfell, allowing Jon and his men access inside. Ramsay’s final despicable win comes when he shoots an arrow through Wun Wun’s eye, ending the life of the giant, and then telling Jon he is ready for that one-on-one combat now. He takes aim at Jon who grabs a shield to block, and after 3 arrows which Jon catches on the shield, Jon tackles Ramsay and begins beating him, his punches smashing into Ramsay’s face. However, Sansa arrives, and Jon realizes Ramsay is not his enemy to finish.
Later, Ramsay awakens in cell, with Sansa watching him. In his arrogance he still thinks he can survive the day, and tells Sansa that she will never be rid of him, that he will always be in her head. She responds by telling him that his legacy will vanish, his family name will be erased, and no memories of him will survive. We then realize that Sansa has let Ramsay’s hounds into the cell, and Ramsay claims his dogs would never hurt him. Sansa reminds him that they have not been fed in 7 days, and are clearly hungry. They attack, starting by ripping off Ramsay’s face, and after watching for a moment, Sansa walks away, a subtle smile crossing her face at the sweet revenge.
GAME OF THEORIES:
– Anyone else worried about what Littlefinger is going to demand in return for the Vale’s help in winning this battle?
– Could Daenerys be at long last leaving for Westeros next episode, now that she has ships and command of Slaver’s Bay?
– Where was Brienne during the battle? Have she and Pod not returned from Riverrun yet? How did Jon know the Blackfish would not be coming then? (granted, she may have sent a raven, I might have just missed that part)
Such a satisfying way to destroy Ramsay and his plans, a great conclusion to the Slaver’s Bay storyline, and a pair of amazing battles, this will long be debated as one of the greatest episodes ‘Game of Thrones’ has ever released. I am so excited for the epic 69 minute finale next week, and to see what amazing surprises the show has left for us before the season is over. See you back here next week!
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter.