Battle of the Bastards

A recap/review of Game of Thrones S06E09

The scale of this battle was amazing!

It has been a long time coming, but was it any good? The episode starts off beautifully, taking us back to the battle at Meehreen and shows a very (or rather somewhat) angry Daenerys Targaryen berating Tyrion Lannister for bungling the management of the city. Tyrion is able to convince her to use quiet power as sometimes, pure brute force (she wanted to wipe out the entire cities under the Slave Masters) would only do more harm than good as had happened with her father. She listens to him and what ensues has got to be one of the best battle scenes ever orchestrated on TV (albeit one-sided) and all this within the first ten minutes! You never mess with the Mother of Dragons, you would have thought her enemies would have learned this by now.

We move next to the North were Sansa Stark, Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth are meeting up with Ramsay Bolton. What ensues is a pretty tense conversation between the two parties and it draws to a close with Sansa saying: “you’re going to die tomorrow Lord Bolton. Sleep well." She says this so quietly and “matter-of-factly” that it’s almost scary; you have to wonder if this is the same wimp of a character we saw back in the very first season. Ramsay then jests that his hounds are ravenous and he hasn’t fed them for seven days.

We have to admit that Iwan Rheon is a pretty good actor. He gives his character such a fearsome personality that sometimes I wonder if he’s really that scary in person. He always has such a twinkle in his eyes when he’s about to do something really despicable.

Smug, charismatic and the coolest villain of Game of Thrones; Ramsay Bolton

During the meeting of the war council, Sansa once again shows her worth. She’s the only one who truly understands Ramsay and his motives, she’s the only one who truly has an understanding of what he can do and how he manipulates people and she tells this to Snow; “I know how he loves to hurt people”. It ends on a pretty emotional note with the two siblings talking but it is worthy of note that Sansa never lets on that she has a trump card. Why did she do this we don’t know but as with Game of Thrones, we know that it is a deliberate move on their part and the end game will be revealed in time.

It is at this point that Davos discovers what happens to Shireen Baratheon and how that plays out in the next episode or in the future as the case may be, will be interesting to see. A couple other things happen before the battle begins but the most noteworthy is the alliance formed between Theon Greyjoy, Yara Greyjoy and Dany on the other side of the ocean.

Now we come to the main part of the episode that gives it its title. First off, we have to remember that this is television. We have to remember that this isn’t a big budget epic movie with 3D and all the works and yet, it is so beautifully done in all it’s gory fantastic detail that you have to wonder how much was spent on the thirty minutes. It starts off with the death of Rickon Stark (they just keep falling like flies don’t they?). For two seconds, I thought he was actually going to make it. In my naive mind I forgot how evil Ramsay is and that he has not a single iota of mercy in him. This is the same man who killed his father, killed his father’s wife and his half brother and broke Theon. I finally remembered what Sansa said; that they were never getting him back and when that arrow went through his heart, I felt what Jon Snow felt as he watched his brother die in front of him. At this moment, I am sure he understood what Sansa meant about Ramsay being the one who plays with people and all the carefully laid battle plans went out the window.

For two seconds, I thought he was actually going to make it. In my naive mind I forgot how evil Ramsay is and that he has not a single iota of mercy in him

The battle is glorious and Jon Snow is saved by the skin of his teeth when his cavalry charges in. What follows is a beautifully shot gut wrenching long take as we watch Jon Snow battle through the field, carving foe after foe. It shows us war in its darkest state; guts, blood, heads flying all over while the battle rages on. There is no beauty here, only chaos. Screams and chaos and madness happening all around. All the while Ramsay tells his archers to loose their arrows upon the field, killing both ally and foe alike. The mountain of bodies is sickening and you see soldiers fighting for what they believe in even when they know they will very well die for it. A lot of them do die and at one point you feel that in classic Game of Thrones style, Ramsay will win. Enter Sansa with her trump card. She rides in with Petyr Baelish leading the army of the Vale and Ramsay is forced to flee back to Winterfell knowing the battle is lost.

Sansa Stark has come into her own at last

It is very satisfying to say the least. Sansa has learned to play the game well and keeps her cards close to her chest because she now realises that information is power. If Jon knew that the army of the Vale would appear, he may have done things differently and played right into Lord Bolton’s hands. This way, no one saw it coming and Sansa is fast realising that to ensure no one can take advantage of you, you constantly do the least thing they expect you to do. The defeat of Ramsay Bolton and his entire army has got to be the most satisfying end of to a villain that we haven’t seen since the death of Geoffrey Baratheon in Season Three.

Daenerys Targaryen looks absolutely bad ass next to Drogon

As always with Game of Thrones, the quality is superb and I suggest seeing this in at least 720p. It deserves nothing less! The creature design for the Dragons is the best use of sfx I have seen on television and it’s outstanding just how incredible they look. The soundtrack is absolutely rousing and wells up deep emotions for hardcore fans of the series. The costume design and attention to detail is incredible.

That’s not to say the episode isn’t without it’s flaws of course. Here are a list of things I didn’t like:

  • How did Daenerys Targaryen get the message to the Slave Masters on their ship with the battle still hot?
  • Why was it that the two Dragons still within the Pyramid only broke out when Dany mounted Drogon and flew over were they were? Can they read her mind now?
  • Why didn’t the soldiers on the ships of the Slave Masters try to defend themselves while the Dragons decimated them?
  • Why didn’t Rickon Stark zigzag and/or duck as he ran forward to meet Jon Snow?
  • Why didn’t Wun Wun wield a weapon during the battle? I’m sure it would have come in handy when the army found themselves boxed in by Ramsay Bolton’s army.
  • How come the hounds didn’t attack until after Sansa Stark had finished speaking with him (Bolton)? How come they never strayed out of their pen the entire time the two humans were both talking? This irked me above anything else.

This episode belonged entirely to the two strongest women in the series. Who would have thought Sansa would rise up the ranks so quickly? In the previous seasons, she was by far my worst character but here she really comes into her own and steps up like you wouldn’t believe. Personally, I think this episode should have been titled “The Rise of the Fair Folk”. Corny I know and without the gravitas that “The Battle of the Bastards” brings. In the end though, it was a beautiful episode with a satisfying conclusion and I whooped as the the first hound took that delicious bite and Sansa gave her wicked smile. What a way to end the penultimate episode of a really good season.