The ‘Battle of the Bastards’ has just took a big swing at Season Five’s ‘Hardhome’, but did it live up to hype?
During Season Six we have been used to episodes full of different storylines and locations. Some rotate each week, some become weekly features. But in Episode Nine, the story focused on two stories in particular, that of fire and ice.
The primary focus fell on Daenerys in Meereen and Jon Snow at Winterfell, where two very different battles were being fought.
In Meereen, Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei meet with The Masters, who demand that they surrender the city and give them back their slaves. You could tell from her first glance that Daenerys was in no mood to submit to these small men, and she soon showed them who holds the power when Drogon appeared by her side.
She mounts her largest dragon and flies off towards The Masters’ fleet of ships. In another pleasing panning shot, we see her two other dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, breaking free from their cell (good job Tyrion unchained them right?). Now the three dragons and their mother ride in to battle and lay waste to one of The Masters ships. Instantly the fleet surrenders, and Grey Worm expertly reduces the number of Masters from three to one.
The Sons of the Harpy have been plaguing Meereen for a while now, but as a group of them slaughter civilians, Daenerys’ Dothraki army charge and massacre them. Hopefully that should be the last we’ve seen of them!
With the Harpys and Masters defeated, Daenerys has seemingly won the day and can finally turn her focus to Westeros. But despite acquiring The Masters fleet of ships, they still lack the numbers to transport both her Dothraki and Unsullied across the sea. Enter Yara and Theon Greyjoy!
Yara and Theon put across their case in the throne room to Daenerys. They warn her about their uncle’s offer, and propose that they can help her instead. All they ask in return for use of their ships is that they are allowed to reclaim the Iron Islands.
In an interesting, and teasing exchange, Yara and Daenerys notice similar qualities and goals in each other. Yara certainly acquired an appetite for the Mother of Dragons, and while any possible romance will need to be save for fan fiction, it was a pleasing exchange all the same.
The theme of changing the ‘old ways’ has been at the forefront of a lot of character’s storylines this season, none more so than Yara and Daenerys. Why should there be Kings when you have Queens ready to take command?
This season has been heavily focused on its female characters. In an earlier review we stated that “All men must die, all women will rule”, and that is pretty much the case with a lot of the female characters. Even young Lady Mormont has managed to become a character of power in her short time on the show.
It’s clear that next season Daenerys will finally reach Westeros, but will she be the same character as she is now? Will the producers take a bold move and make her a future villain by having her lay waste to some of the show’s favourite, big name characters? Will this lead to a run-in with Jon Snow and find them on opposite sides? Could the fan base be split in two? All interesting and exciting questions that are just waiting to be answered in Season Seven.
Now as if Daenerys and her dragons weren’t enough, we also had the small matter of the ‘Battle of the bastards’ to deal with.
Jon and Sansa meet Ramsay on an empty battlefield to discuss terms. Jon makes the bold move to spare thousands of lives, and have a one-on-one fight to the death. Winner takes all. Ramsay refuses, and despite some harsh words by Sansa, no terms are agreed. To battle it is! This is the first and only time Jon and Ramsay have met, and the chemistry between the two was very natural and believable. Iwan Rheon was brilliant here, but he always is.
Back at camp, Jon, Davos and Tormund go through a strategy meeting. Tormund’s grasp of flanking added a little comedic relief to a very tense moment.
Sansa enters, and tells Jon that all his planning is pointless, as Ramsay won’t fall for the traps, he is the one who sets them! There has been an undercurrent of tension between the two since their reunion and it is now starting to show in a very real way. Jon admits he should have asked for her advice, but Sansa has yet to tell Jon about her secret plea to Littlefinger. Both did not help the situation, but Sansa’s refusal to share vital information and with her hard-line approach to her younger brother Rrickon’s welfare, there is definitely a new side to her character. And it might not be a good thing.
The two armies line up, and Ramsay walks out on the battlefield with Rickon tied up. He releases him and tells him to run to Jon. Given that Ramsay had a bow glove on it was clear what was going to happen next. As Rickon runs towards Jon, Ramsay keeps firing arrows and missing on purpose. Jon charges out and just as he reaches him, Rickon is killed by an arrow.
Now, here’s the thing. The memes and ‘people of the internet’ are all talking about ‘zig-zagging’. Do you honestly think if he had ‘zig-zagged’ he would have survived? He had to die to trigger Jon’s solo charge and the collapse of their battle plan. It would have made no difference, and yes it’s a bit of fun, but some are acting like it would have genuinely have made a difference. Come on people, he was dying not matter what!
Memes aside, what followed next was one of the most memorable images in Game of Thrones history. Jon, standing there with his sword out, with his back to camera as the Bolton cavalry charged at him. The composition, the music the editing…everything about this scene was perfect. You will struggle to find a better visual on TV. It was a masterpiece of a shot.
Speaking of shots, we also got treated to an epic long shot following Jon as the two armies clashed. It felt like the shot was going to last forever, before it got broken up with a hidden cut. This whole fight scene felt massive, and you truly felt like you were witnessing a moment of TV history.
As the bodies mount up, Jon and the remaining survivors are trapped. All looks lost until a horn is heard in the distance. But that was no orc orn, it was the horn of the Knights of The Vale. While many credit Sansa for this rescue, surly Littlefinger gets some of the kudos? They are his men after all! It’s also worth noting that if Sansa had mentioned this to Jon the night before thousands of men would not have had to die. First her brother, now the men that fight for her. Another sign that Sansa is showing some ‘Ramsay’ characteristics?
As the Knights of The Vale dispose of Ramsay’s forces, Jon charges forward with Wun Wun and Tormund. Ramsay fleas, hoping to fend off his enemy by holding up inside of Winterfell. He seemed to forget one thing, they have a giant with them. And just like the door at Castle Black, Wun Wun brakes through, but this time he takes a barrage of arrows. Ramsay fires an arrow in to Wun Wun’s eye, killing him. (At this point, there was real world tears). What is it with giants, doors and dying in Game of Thrones?
Surrounded by Jon and his men, Ramsay takes Jon up on his previous offer of one-on-one combat. Ramsay grabs his bow, and Jon grabs a shield. Ramsay fires three arrows with Jon blocking each time. Jon hits him with the shield and begins to pummel his face in with his fists. He stops when Sansa arrives.
While this whole scene was satisfying, it was also confusing. We’ve seen Ramsay fight off Yara and her men previously. Ramsay is good at melee combat. So why did he just keep firing arrows at such close range? It made no sense. He had a sword, and a sword fight would have been much more logical than what they ended up doing.
The show ends with Ramsay tied to a chair in his own kennel. While he is confident that his dogs won’t harm him, Sansa reminds him that he has starved them for seven days. The first hound rips in to his jaw, and the feeding frenzy begins. Sansa walks off smiling to Ramsay’s screams.
Love him or hate him, Ramsay Bolton was a compelling and great TV character, played expertly by the very talented Iwan Rheon.
Sansa getting the final say on Ramsay’s fate makes perfect story sense. It also serves the fans who also wanted him dead. It all works out nicely for everyone. However…
There is maybe too much joy in his demise. Yes you’re supposed to hate him, but there is no other antagonist like him on the show now. Cersei is supposed to be an evil character, yet because of her current situation everyone is routing for her. Guess they have forgotten everything she has done previously to everyone’s favourite characters? But that’s the problem now that Ramsay has gone. You can’t just bump up someone like Littlefinger, he pulls the strings from behind the curtain. It would make no sense for him to suddenly be thrust in to the Ramsay/Joffrey role. The only hope, is that starting from Season Seven the threat becomes solely the White Walkers. That has to be the main focus of the story now.
With only seven episodes in the final two seasons they have little time to waste on filler now. Every episode going forward needs to be at a ‘Hardhome’ or ‘Battle of the Bastards’ level of intensity and storytelling.
The ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was the best episode of the season so far, and that is high praise given the quality of episodes in Season Six.
With the season finale next week, let’s hope that it can reach similar heights and sign off on a high, on what has been one of the best seasons of Game of Thrones to date.
What were your favourite parts of the episode? What do you think will happen next week? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.