This is a review of Game Of Thrones (GOT) season 6, episode 9.
Be warned though, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
Last week’s siege on Meereen’s port and the bombing of the city by the Masters has intensified. Tyrion is trying to find some positive amidst the explosions and the rubble while Dany, fresh from burning the Khals, plans to burn the masters and their cities to the ground. When Tyrion reminds her that she is behaving like her father the Mad King, she gets worked up and tries to differentiate her approach from Aerys’. Tyrion doesn’t concur. So rather than burning them down to the ground, Tyrion proposes an alternate approach – negotiate terms of surrender with the Masters.
So in the next scene we see Dany, Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm and a few Unsullied meet up with three of the Masters. Those three evidently haven’t learnt the lessons from the show. You insult Dany at your own peril. Once Dany sees there’s no point in negotiations, she telepathically calls Drogon and sets about burning the sieging ships, with help from Rhaegal and Viserion. Easy peasy! The Dothraki army swoops in to finish off the rampaging Sons of the Harpy while Grey Worm slits the throat of two of the Masters in one swift motion. Tyrion asks the last one to go back to his city and never attack again.
Later they are visited by Yara and Theon. Tyrion reminds Theon of how he mocked his dwarfism when they last met,in Winterfell, way back in season 1. He doesn’t shy away from pointing out how times have changed for the two of them. Yara and Dany bond on feminism and promises of a better world amid barbs relating to their respective fathers while Tyrion sympathises with Theon for his confused childhood at Winterfell, “Not knowing who you were. We all lead complicated lives.” Was that another reference by the showrunners to his being a secret Targaryen? Never mind. The siblings pledge their ships in return for Dany’s help in recognising the Iron Islands’ sovereignty and help in defeating Euron, who will have a marriage proposal for Dany. Dany agrees, on the condition that the Ironborn will change their way of life, reaving, raping and all.
This I think finishes off Dany’s arc in Essos. She should ideally be sailing for Westeros by the end of next week. I don’t think there’s anything left for her to do here. Plus, she has a massive army and a fleet of ships too.
The Boltons and the Starks meet up to discuss the terms of surrender. Jon tries to taunt and goad Ramsay into fighting him one-on-one, preventing the unnecessary death of thousands of innocent soldiers. But cunning Ramsay declines. He shows them the severed head of Shaggydog to prove his threat that he has Rickon. He keeps taunting Jon with “Bastard” until Sansa says,”You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Have a good sleep,” and trods off. That was seriously badass.
Later, Jon discusses the plans for the next day’s battle with Tormund and Davos as Sansa stays being a mute spectator. After the other two leave, Sansa corners Jon about his trust in them and his confidence that, with his experience beyond the wall, he can beat Ramsay despite the odds. Sansa’s reasoning is that she knows how Ramsay likes to play people and that Rickon, being the last known trueborn son of Ned Stark, will be a far greater threat to him than the two of them ever will be and hence, will die. For once, Jon stands up to Sansa rather than meekly surrendering. However, Sansa’s predictions seem eerily nihilistic.
Jon goes to Melisandre and asks her not to bring him back if he falls in battle. When she refuses to comply, he proclaims it an order. Cool-as-cucumber Mel says she only serves the Lord of Light and no one else. Her statements now have more of a practical bent compared to the fanaticism she had in seasons past. Blame it on false beliefs.
In an interesting sequence, we have Tormund and Davos discussing their pre- battle night rituals. It is nice to be shown another facet of these characters, particularly Tormund who hasn’t been explored as nicely as some of the other ones. Davos goes to Shireen’s pyre and finds the toy deer she had once. Coupled with how he looks at Mel at the end of this episode and what we’ve been shown in the teaser for the finale, it’s safe to say that Mel is going to be in a tough spot.
On the battlefield next morning, Ramsay uses Rickon for one of his sick games, in an attempt to draw Jon away from his troops and into the jaws of certain death. We know this isn’t going to end happily, at least not for Rickon. As he lies there dying, I couldn’t help feeling how his character was ultimately a total waste. Fans will complain that another Stark death wasn’t what we needed but then, rarely does GOT give us what we need, or want.
The shot where Jon unbuckles his sword’s sheath and gets ready, sword drawn and all like a Samurai, is terrific. So is the next one where horses collide with each other. Too often we see medieval battle sequences that are bland in comparison, horse riders fighting each other on a congested battlefield around foot soldiers. Here, director Miguel Sapochnik and the VFX team come good on their promise that this is indeed the “biggest battle sequence” that GOT has ever had. True, the battle on the wall was beautifully shot and sprawling, but this is much improved, raw and visceral and conveying the enormous fury and wrath of battle better than “Watchers on the Wall.”
“Mad Lord” Ramsay isn’t afraid of killing his own soldiers if it serves the purpose of killing the Stark bannermen. As the number of Stark soldiers deplete, the Umbers join in with the Boltons, packing the Stark men in a tight area where they can’t get out.
As the situation turns dire and Jon is almost stampeded, the Knights of the Vale, led by Littlefinger, come to the rescue. While their arrival is heroic and has been shot in a way that conveys just that ( a bannerman charging on in slow motion with thousands behind him), it didn’t carry the emotional weight it could have as we knew that sooner or later, the Knights were going to join the battle. Sansa has some explanation to do next week to Jon in that she kept that letter to Littlefinger a secret. Had she told him about the Knights, he might have postponed the battle by a day or so, saving countless lives in the process.
Later, as Ramsay flees the battle scene for the safety of the fort of Winterfell, Jon, Tormund and Wun Wun chase him. Wun Wun breaks down the fort’s gate in spectacular fashion before being riddled with arrows. As Jon is about to say goodbye to him, Ramsay shoots Wun Wun in the eye. Adios, dear BFG of GOT. We loved you!
After that it’s all about Jon’s rage and power as he pulps Ramsay before finding Sansa looking at them. Finally, we have a Stark in Winterfell again.
All these years, we have wondered what kind of a death Ramsay will have that would satisfy the protagonists and fans alike. Sansa Stark has the answer to that as she feeds him to his hungry hounds and, to good effect, keeps looking as he is faced with canine fury. Before his death though, Ramsay cryptically says to her, “You can’t kill me. I’m part of you now.”
“Battle of the Bastards”, despite being only the penultimate episode of the season, completes a major arc of the show in bringing a Stark back on the seat of Winterfell. While Littlefinger’s presence does complicate things in a typical way, Ramsay’s demise is a welcome one. The episode also continues the trend of big battle sequences in the penultimate episodes of the even seasons of the show (Blackwater, The Wall and now, Winterfell). Director Miguel Sapochnik has another feather in his cap after last season’s Hardhome. I also feel that as Ramsay said, Sansa has a part of him in her now. She has become much more capable of cruel deeds than the meek, homely girl who left Winterfell for King’s Landing. Yara and Theon teaming up with Dany and co is good news too. Next week’s Cersei’s trial would be explosive in both literal and figurative senses. I predict Tommen’s demise next week, plus a few major characters I guess. And where’s the CleganeBowl? Sigh!
What do you think of the episode? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
Images Credit : HBO.