Game of Thrones: The Battle of the Bastards Review

So long Wun Wun, the last of the Giants. And so the Directors of Game of Thrones continue their slaughter of the expensive CGI creatures. If I was Dany I would be worried for the safety of my dragons…

Occupying the penultimate position in Game of Thrones‘ sixth season, “The Battle of the Bastards” had five tough acts to follow: the death of Ned Stark, the Battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding, the assault on the Castle Black and the “Dance of Dragons” in Meereen. When it comes to violence, this matched anything we had seen before, but sadly it lacked the shock factor that has made Game of Thrones the show it is today.

jon snow sad game of thrones

Director Miguel Sapochnik previously wowed us with “Hardhome,” last season’s out of nowhere confrontation between the Night’s Watch and the wildlings on one side and the White Walkers and their zombie army on the other. Unlike “The Battle of the Bastards,” which has been built up for weeks and referenced in the episode title, that supernatural slaughter beyond the Wall came as a total shock to viewers — even book readers, since it was effectively the show’s invention. The element of surprise played strongly in its favour, giving each moment an “oh shit, what now?” quality that the chaotic choreography only enhanced. Sadly the same can’t be said for tonights episode, as we all knew the Starks would win, we knew Jon would survive, and we knew Littlefinger would ride to the rescue.

Game of Thrones

But before we get to the battle, we had some unfinished business in Meereen.

The city is still under attack by the slave masters, and Tyrion’s deal with them is under intense scrutiny from the freshly returned Daenerys Targaryen. He defends it fairly well, but Dany just wants to burn all her enemies down. She’s got a look of regal madness in her eyes, even as Tyrion warns her of how her father sought to burn down Kings Landing with vast stores of wildfire (another nod to the theory that Cersei is going to use that said wildfire).

She relents, for a moment at least. Dany, Tyrion and crew parley with the masters, who demand all kinds of things. Dany isn’t taking it, though. “My reign has just begun,” she says, as Drogon swoops in and perches beside her. She climbs aboard and together they soar off with the other two dragons following, while the Dothraki army swarms  the streets of Meereen and butchers the Sons of the Harpy. The dragons set the masters’ fleet ablaze, Tyrion and Grey Worm give the masters’ negotiators their final marching orders, and, like that, the battle is won. In fact, that whole set up could have filled an entire episode, and in times gone by it would have, but the show we have now is flying at a break neck pace.

Michiel Huisman as Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones

Speaking of speed, Yara and Theon Greyjoy suddenly arrive in Meereen and stand before Dany and Tyrion. Like seriously, how do some people travel so fast when it took Bran seasons to reach the wall. Tyrion is reminiscing about how mean Theon was to him back in season one. He has a better memory than me. On the other hand, Dany and Yara hit it off, as they’re both strong independent women with designs on taking thrones in Westeros. There are 100 ships from the Iron Fleet, and they’ll go along with whatever ships are left from the masters. Why shouldn’t Dany decide to go with Euron Greyjoy, however? Yara quickly knocks down that question by saying he would want to marry her. Dany is bringing a different vision to Westeros, and that means listening to requests for independence, particularly Yara’s. In exchange, Yara, as leader of the Iron Islands, agrees to back Dany’s claim and give up the Ironborn way of acting like glorified pirates.

So, back to the main event.

Before the battle, Ramsay and his backers ride to negotiate with Jon and Sansa. “Get off your horse, kneel,” Ramsay says. “I’m a man of mercy.” Yeah right. In return, Jon offers to fight him one-on-one in a bid to prevent the slaughter of thousands. Ramsay doesn’t take the bait, instead, he taunts them with Shaggydog’s head, a reminder that he has Rickon Stark. “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,” Sansa tells Ramsay before she rides off effectively ending the discussions.

When they talk strategy, Jon is reasonably confident heading ahead of the fight, but Sansa warns him about how Ramsay is  clever, how he can see traps coming from miles away and how is always one step ahead. Sansa has conceded Rickon’s life because she expects Ramsay to kill him no matter what and warns Jon he must do the same. She also warns Jon that she won’t go back to Ramsay alive. He vows to protect her, but she’s heard that before: “No one can protect me.”Sophie Turner and Kit Harington in 'Game of Thrones.'

 

Tormund and Davos share a fantastic scene, too, where they consider their troubles from following kings. “Maybe that was our mistake,” Davos concedes. Ah, but Jon Snow isn’t a king. That reminder brings a glimmer of a smile to both their faces before Tormund goes to drink and Davos goes to take a long, thoughtful shit walk before battle.

Jon pops in to Melisandre, ordering her not to bring him back again if he falls in battle. She says she takes orders only from the Lord of Light, and that she might have to bring him back if the god demands it. Then again, maybe he brought Jon back just to die again, she allows. “What kind of god would do that?” Jon asks. “The one we’ve got,” she answers, perhaps not in the most hopeful tone.

Out on his walk, meanwhile, Davos comes across a scene of a burning. It’s where Shireen Baratheon, was burned to death (as we got a helpful reminder of in the “previously” section). Just as it dawns on him what happened, the horns sound. It’s game time.

From 'Game of Thrones'

There’s an eerie calm over the battlefield. Ramsay rides to the front of his lines, leading Rickon by a rope. He brandishes a blade, holds it aloft, and then cuts his ropes. “You like games, little man? Let’s play a game,” he tells him, ordering him to run across the battlefield. As he prepares to fire an arrow at Rickon, Jon rashly mounts his horse and rides out to collect his little brother. You can’t help but think that this is what Ramsay wanted all along. Just as Jon is about to reach him, an arrow pierces the boy’s heart. Now the leader of what remains of House Stark’s hopes has seen enough. He charges forward while the Bolton forces unleash their first arrows.So Sansa’s speech the night before was a waste of time, the plans are out the window and #TeamSnow charge. You know nothing Jon Snow.

Jon loses his horse along the way, and it’s all going as Ramsay had planned. The Bolton forces charge, and Jon draws Longclaw. It looks like the bastard of Winterfell’s last stand, but then his cavalry slams into the Bolton army, and he’s spared a trampling. Ramsay orders his archers to fire, even if it puts his soldiers at risk, while Davos declines to do the same on his side. Whose strategy will pay off?

Ramsay Bolton and Rickon Stark battle Game of Thrones

In one of the best scenes in GOT history, carnage is everywhere, and Jon  cuts down all comers. Men are slaughtered left and right, horses fall, mud flies, blood spurts, heads are smashed, hearts are pierced.Its epic, and you feel like you are in the midst of the battle. There are literally mountains of bodies, but the fighting isn’t done. Davos and the remaining Snow reinforcements charge, and then Ramsay sends in a phalanx, which surrounds Jon, Davos, Tormund and the rest of the fighters. The Bolton forces inch in with their shields and spears, and its a methodical slaughter. More men climb over the mountain of bodies to cut off any escape route.

The Battle of the Bastards on Game of Thrones

#TeamSnow’s forces then refuse to take it, and they push back. More blood spurts, guts are spilled. Wun Wun rips a man in two. There’s no place to fall back to, though, so Tormund orders his men to rush the mountain of bodies and fight their way out that way. Jon is in the process of being trampled as Tormund faces what looks like his fate. All appears lost. Jon finally rises to the top of the sea of bodies and observes a hopeless scene.

Then, a horn sounds. It’s Gandalf and Eomer Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale who ride in and mow down the Bolton forces. It does seem a bit sad that if Sansa told Jon about her letter to Littlefinger a lot more lives could have been spared. I don’t really see the sense in keeping this such a secret.

We now see Ramsay stands nearly alone, and Jon Snow, having emerged from the pit of death spies him. Ramsay turns tail, so Jon, Tormund and Wun Wun pursue him to Winterfell. Ramsay is prepared to wait out a siege, but you can’t do that when there’s a giant a knocking. He smashes through the gate but he just has too many arrows in him to live,and is finally felled by Ramsay’s arrow.

Ramsey decides he has changed his mind, and does want that one on one battle now. Great to see he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. After fending off Ramsay’s arrows, Jon pounds his face in over and over again, but he decides to leave him there as Sansa looks on.

So finally, the Stark banners fly at Winterfell. Jon orders Rickon buried in the crypt, next to their father, Ned Stark. Sansa, meanwhile, wants to find Ramsay Bolton for one last chat. He is bloodied and bound to a chair behind bars in the kennel where he keeps his dogs. She informs him that everything about him will disappear. Just then, his hounds creep out of their cages. He had been starving them for days to prepare them for the battle’s aftermath, and hunger trumps loyalty. The hounds tear him apart — in a surprisingly, and satisfying way, while Sansa looks on and then turns away, a faint smile on her lips.

So long Ramsey, you really were a Bastard!

Ramsay Bolton and Rickon Stark battle Game of Thrones

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