Game of Thrones Episode 6.9 “Battle of the Bastards”
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Starring Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Carice van Houten, Alfie Allen, Natalie Dormer HBO
Air date: June 19, 2016
WARNING: Spoilers for HBO’s Game Of Thrones….
On last week’s Game Of Thrones, we found out what happened to the actress Lady Crane as well as the end result of Arya’s intense internship at the House of Black and White; Jaime Lannister met the Blackfish of House Tully at Riverrun, where he also said farewell to his unlikely friend Brienne, as she returned to her Lady Sansa; Cersei chose violence when dealing with the Faith Militant, although the High Sparrow had a leg up on her when he convinced her son, the King, to ban Trial by Combat, which means she’ll have to face trial by the Seven; the Hound got his revenge on the Brotherhood members who slaughtered his people; and Meereen was under attack by the Masters.
While this week’s episode, 6.9 “Battle of the Bastards,” did return to Meereen, where its queen, Daenerys, was ready to fight back, the bulk of the story centered on the title battle for Winterfell between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton.
When last we saw Meereen it was under attack by the former Masters, who arrived by ship to take back their slaves and usurp Daenerys, who they believed to still be away. The surprise attack went against a peace agreement they had recently made with Tyrion. But little did they know that not only had Daenerys just returned to Meereen, but she did so with her dragons and an army of Dothraki bloodriders. Lest we forget that Daenerys is also the daughter of the Mad King — the Westerosi sovereign who ordered Kings Landing burned to the ground with wildfire — the Mother Of Dragons tells her advisor Tyrion her plan to crucify the Masters, kill their soldiers, and burn down their cities to the ground. But, Tyrion has a better idea: go meet with the Masters about the terms of surrender.
Daenerys and her advisors go on to meet with the Masters, who offer up their conditions for surrender. They want their city back, their slaves back, and subjugation by Daenerys, her people, and her dragons. Daenerys, of course, scoffs at them. It’s the Masters who will surrender. Still clueless of what’s to come, the Masters tell the queen, “Your reign is over,” and replies, “My reign has just begun.” Then out come the biggest dragon, Drogon, who Daenerys mounts and flies over the city with, scorching the some Masters’ ships in the harbor. On the ground, the Sons of the Harpy soldiers, who had been terrorizing the city for the Masters, are met by the Dothraki bloodriders. This turns out to be a pretty easy win for Daenerys. Now back to the Masters, who realized they have been easily beaten. Tyrion says that for betraying their peace agreement, one of the three must die. Two of the men immediately point at the third man, saying that since he is low-born, it should be him. Of course, the low-born is the one who gets to live, and Tyrion tells him to go home and let his people know that he lives by the grace of Her Majesty and what will happen to them if they go up against Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons. There’s no question now who reigns.
Oh, and before Daenerys even jumped on her dragon, she and Tyrion meet with… the Greyjoys! Yes, Theon and Yara and their men from the Iron Islands have arrived in Meereen with their 100 ships to forge an alliance. In what was undoubtedly the best conversational interaction of the episode, Queen Daenerys and Yara Greyjob talk female leadership in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Tyrion remembers Theon from long ago back when he was a cocky ward of Winterfell (who still had a cock) who thought it fun to mock the Lannister lord for being a dwarf. Theon, who is clearly a changed man now, says that was a long time ago. Tyrion presumes that Theon wants them to back him as King of the Iron Islands, but nope, he wants them to back his sister Yara instead of their Uncle Euron, whose grand plan is to come to Meereen to marry Daenerys to get her backing. But their uncle is a cutthroat man who will likely kill his new bride as soon as she conquers Westeros. Daenerys asks if the Iron Islands have ever had a queen, and no, they haven’t, but neither has Westeros, Yara reminds her. This yields a raised eyebrow from Daenerys, who does it again after Yara says she wouldn’t be averse to marriage with her. Yep, the women have the best dialogue in this episode, and this banter is tops. In the end, Daenerys and Yara agree to back each other, but there will be no more reaving, roving, raping, or raiding for the Ironborn, and then the women seal the deal with a forearm handshake. Watch out, every man in this universe, because the women are going to fucking crush you!!!!!!!! Just ask, Sansa Stark, who did some crushing of her own during the episode’s epic battle.
So, about that battle of the bastards: Here, Ramsay Bolton, former bastard of Roose, and Stark bastard Jon Snow finally face off. First, the two men and their entourages meet: Ramsay says Jon should surrender and get his back his little brother Rickon, who Ramsay has captive. Jon, with Sansa on horseback next to him, says they should skip the battle and fight one-on-one. A coward like Ramsay would never go for that, but Jon just wanted to rile him up. This was a great meet up of these two powerhouses, and even better, little 10-year-old Lady Mormont is there too to back up Jon. Oh man, she’s so badass.
On the eve of war, Jon Snow meets with his advisors, who talk typical strategy, but Sansa knows Ramsay and knows he’s not going to fight the way they expect. He lives to play games, he likes the hunt, he like to see suffering. While Jon wants to figure out how to rescue Rickon, Sansa knows that their little brother is already lost; they will never get him back alive. Sansa warns that Jon should not fight as Ramsay expects. She also declares that if they lose, she will not return to her cruel husband Ramsay alive. While her brother Jon swears to protect her, Sansa knows that no one can protect her. “No one can protect anyone,” she says.
Also before the battle, Jon goes to see Melisandre, the red priestess who resurrected him earlier in the season. He asks, and then commands her not to bring him back if he falls in battle. She replies that that she doesn’t take orders from him — she serves the Lord of the Light, and if the Lord wants her to bring him back, she will. She’s also convinced that the Lord has a purpose for him, even if it’s just to play a small role and then die again soon. “What kind of god would do something like this?,” Jon asks. “The one we’ve got,” she responds.
Meanwhile, Ser Davos tells the Wildling leader Tormund that he always walks the encampment and beyond before the eve of battle until he gets far enough away so no one can hear him shitting his brains out. (Remember how Davos has previously said he’s not really a fighter.) “Happy shitting,” Tormund wishes him before departing. As he wanders far from the other men, what does Davos come upon in the snow? The little stag toy he gave to Shireen, who we all know was burned at the stake as an offering by her father Stannis Baratheon to the Lord of Light, as prompted by his zealot wife Selyse and his advisor Melisandre. A look of realization comes upon his face as the sun begins to rise and he sees the remnants of the pyre. He already knows that Melisandre was fond of using royal blood as an offering to the Lord of Light to help Stannis in his war to win the Iron Throne. Does he realize that young Shireen was sacrificed? I do believe so.
And now it’s time for war to begin in the North. The battlefield is already decorated with Ramsay’s flare: flayed men crucified upside down and burning. Ramsay then comes forward with Rickon. At first, it appears that Ramsay will stab the youngest Stark sibling, but instead, he sets the boy free to run to his brother. The viewer knows Ramsay well enough to know that this is a game that he plays with his victims before he kills them. As Rickon runs, Ramsay shoots arrows at him, purposely missing. Jon rides to try to save his brother, but of course, he cannot save the boy. As Jon gets to him, Ramsay’s arrow penetrates Rickon, killing him instantly, and also leaving Jon out in the open separated from his men. Instead of returning to his soldiers, Jon foolishly charges the Bolton army, falling right into Ramsay’s trap.
The Lord of Light surely must be protecting Jon Snow because somehow he’s not trampled to death by the Bolton calvary and his men arrive in time to fight for him. The battle is chaotic, terrifying, and bloody, as arrows fly through the air, swords clash, and the dead bodies pile up to form corpse mountains. Though Jon, on foot, kills plenty enemy soldiers, it seems as though no one is actually directly fighting him; it is similar to the battle in Highlander where no one would fight Connor MacLeod because the Kurgan wanted to be the one to face him. Here, though, I figured Ramsay would be too chickenshit to face Jon, though perhaps he wanted to have him alive as a captive at the end.
Outnumbered to begin with, Jon and his men find themselves flanked by a phalanx of Bolton soldiers. The giant Wun Wun does plenty of damage throughout the battle for Jon’s side, but he’s slowed down by arrows. Tormund and his Wildlings will not lay down and die though; they throw their bodies at the Bolton shields and even break through some of the ranks. But after a while, it’s clear that their enemies are crushing them. At one point, Jon gets trampled and it seems as though this is it, this will be his true death. The sequence is horrifying as we get his point of view of being trampled on and buried beneath other soldiers as he gasps for air. Thankfully, he’s able to break out of his premature burial to get air, but he and his men are being crushed by Ramsay’s forces, and Tormund is getting his ass kicked by that turncoat Lord Umber. It seems like all is lost, but then a horn sounds in the distance…
Now, let’s remember how Sansa previously sent a raven to Littlefinger asking for help with her and her brother’s battle to regain the North. This was a last resort for Sansa, as she knows that Littlefinger’s help comes with a price. So, for the entire battle, I was like, please, where is Littlefinger and his Knights of the Vale already!!?!?!??!?!?! Cue the horn, because the Knights have arrived!!!
As Jon climbs to the top of one of the corpse piles and sees in the distance his sister Sansa beside Littlefinger, the Knights of the Vale destroy the Bolton army. Ramsay, meanwhile, retreats with a small crew back to Winterfell, where he believes he can hole up and wait everything out.
The giant Wun Wun is at the gate and he’s breaking it down, allowing Jon and a few of his men to penetrate Winterfell. Ramsay immediately kills Wun Wun!!!!!!! (Damnit, Wun Wun was awesome!). Here’s where coward Ramsay suggests he and Jon try out that one-on-one combat that Jon previously suggested, and of course, Ramsay fights dirty, shooting arrows at his opponent. But Jon with a shield makes his way to Ramsay and beats the shit out of him with his bare hands! Oh, what a lovely moment. But then Jon stops, looking over at Sansa. Perhaps there’s a better way to handle Ramsay.
In the meanwhile, the Bolton banner is taken down, the Stark banner is raised as it should be, and Jon orders that Rickon, who’s body was retrieved from the battlefield, be buried in the crypt next to their father, Ned Stark. But Sansa wants to know where they’ve taken her sadist husband. Turns out, they put him in the most appropriate place: the kennels.
The kennels hold a special place for Ramsay Bolton. His girlfriend was the kennel master’s daughter, and he spent a lot of time training the dogs to help him torture people on his hunts. He also lured his stepmother and baby half-brother down there to be devoured by the ravenous dogs at his command. And now here he sits, bloody-faced, tied to a chair, his loyal yet ferocious dogs near by. He tries to taunt his wife, but she is calm and steady when she responds to him. “Your words will disappear, your house will disappear, your name will disappear, all memory of you will disappear,” she tells him, as his ravenous hounds approach him. He thinks his animals won’t hurt him because they’re “loyal beasts,” but Sansa clears up the confusion — they were loyal to Ramsay, but then he starved them for seven days. As the dogs begin to sniff their master, Ramsay commands them to sit. Nope! These hungry beasts are way too interested in him. “Down,” he tells them, “Down,” to no avail, until one bites his face and all the dogs join in to devour their cruel master! Sansa turns to leave, but turns back to face the scene of her horrific husband’s fitting end at the jaws of the same hounds he had used to torture and kill his victims. Eventually, Sansa does turn to leave and them gives a small smile as the sounds of Ramsay’s screams sound in the distance.
This was a clear victory for Jon Snow and for House Stark, as they’ve finally regained their ancestral home. But, they unfortunately had to lose Rickon in their fight. But, unbeknownst to Jon and Sansa, Arya and Bran are still alive and making their way back home, too. House Stark is clearly set to rise again as the true Wardens of the North that they are. But, what role will Jon Snow now take? And what about Sansa? What price will she have to pay to Littlefinger for his help? My bet is that he’ll want to take her as his bride to gain Winterfell for himself, since as a bastard, Jon cannot rule there. Plus, Littlefinger seems to be transferring the love he had for Catelyn Stark onto her eldest daughter, Sansa.
Also, while in the kennels, Ramsay said something revealing to his wife: “Our time together is about to come to an end. That’s all right. You can’t kill me. I’m part of you now.” Is he referring to the damage he did to her through his abuse? OR, is Sansa pregnant!?!??!!? The first clue of a Sansa-Ramsay baby came a few episodes ago when Sansa tells Littlefinger that she can still feel what Ramsay did to her inside of her. That could be taken as if she still vividly remembers and “feels” the pain he inflicted on her when he brutalized and raped her on a daily basis. But, it could also mean he impregnated her and she can feel their baby growing inside her. And how would Ramsay even know his wife was pregnant with their child? Likely because he’s assuming this because of how many times he raped her. So far, Sansa isn’t showing, but there’s a good chance that, yes, she is pregnant.