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REVIEW: Game of Thrones 6×09 “The Battle of the Bastards”

Written by Grace Davis

So I need a word that is like intense but way more intense than that because that’s how intense this episode was. Maybe uber-intense?

Let’s take a few moments to deal with everything that wasn’t Bastardbowl first; we’ll build up to it. Ok. Meereen not doing so well, great shot of a projectile’s POV to emphasise that fact. Tyrion looks rather nervous as he faces Daenerys, like a supply teacher that failed to instil any obedience in their pupils. Luckily Daenerys has a plan – oh no wait, that plan is batshit insane and totally the sort of thing her dad would have done. Thank goodness she has Tyrion there to remind her of that, and to come up with a more measured plan. Thus follows an awesome bit of dragonage – so rare to see all three of them together blazing through stuff, it was joyous! It’s also great to see that Daenerys is still capable of listening to other people and choosing the path of somewhat less bloodshed – I have hope for her yet. Anyway, all that Meereen stuff got sorted pretty sharpish, just in time for the Greyjoy siblings to appear – how awkward if they’d been half an hour earlier, you know like when your friend comes round early and you meant to hoover before they got there but you haven’t? Like that.

Anyway. Oh man, power couple Daenerys and Yara, yes please! They definitely had chemistry – and they’ve got so much in common, they can totally bond over their murdered crap-king dads, and their ability to cut through other people’s bullshit. Yara is so clearly on board with this, she is after all ‘up for anything really.’ YES. (Although I can’t really see the Iron Islanders being thrilled with the terms she has agreed to so this may not last).

Alright. We’re here. How nice of Ramsay offer a peaceful surrender – LOL NO. No thank you. Jon and his army of approximately 12 people are going to kick your ass. To be honest, even though I knew Ramsay wasn’t lying when he said he had Rickon, I still feel that wolf head is a bit small to be a direwolf. Am I now a conspiracy nut? I guess so. I loved Sansa’s icy ‘Sleep well’; she has become so incredibly steely of late. I mean, it’s sad too – her simple acceptance that Rickon is probably not coming back alive was kind of heart-breaking. Anyway, she’s not wrong about much: Ramsay is totally unpredictable and he doesn’t fight with any kind of honour. Jon has never seen anything like this! It was around this point that I started to feel they were trying to build up our confidence that Team Stark could win, and so it was also this point that I became certain they would lose. Also Tormund has zero time for military fancy words, especially not when he’s got some lovely sour goat’s milk waiting for him. Yum. Davos is less keen and also totally unable to sleep before a battle. I fully understand, I am just the same – battles, job interviews, exams. It’s all the same. Unfortunately his late night stroll takes him past the scene of the horrendous burning of Shireen. I have a feeling this is going to come up again later… (But, have to mention: gorgeous shot there of Davos silhouetted against the first light of dawn).

Dawn continues to rise and we see that the Boltons have been busy: who have they even flayed this morning? Why do they have time for that?! My notes hereafter contain a lot of desperate but ultimately useless advice for the characters, such as: RUN, DUCK, MISS, HELP, SHIT (ok, that one wasn’t advice so much), PLEASE STOP. It was emotional. Rickon, predictably, is murdered by evil Ramsay because even wonderful Jon can’t make his horse go that fast (but could the giant have made it if he ran? Just wondering). I question why Jon just left Rickon’s body there to be utterly trampled by the rest of the entire army but I guess he wasn’t thinking straight (no chance of a bit of Lord of Light magic for mini-Stark?!)

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This battle was so beautifully, amazingly shot. From the moment Jon looks up at the Bolton army, to him charging alone towards them, to every moment of the camera following him through the frenzy of battle, it was stunning. I don’t suppose anything can really recreate what being in battle is like, but I felt like here I got a sense of it: there was so much going on, and just this lone figure to follow and desperately cheer for. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. Of course there were plenty of great shots of other things – Wunwun the giant causing havoc, Tormund being the ferocious glorious beast he is, Davos being sturdy and determined once more in the face of death. Man, this was emotional – and very, very brutal. I hated Ramsay even more for hanging back:  he was the pure opposite of Jon, completely clean and out of it all. As the battle raged on, two things became apparent to me: Wunwun was going to die and Littlefinger’s arrival was their only hope. But this was Game of Thrones. Likely as not, Littlefinger got bored and ran off to Dorne to meet the bloody Sand Snakes.

Imagine my relief, when this did not transpire. After a very confusing time during which the entire army stood on top of Jon and no one took my advice to nip in between the spears (what are they gonna do then? Nudge you with them?), finally, finally the Arryn banner appeared over the hill. Their army looked like avenging angels, with their clean, bright blue and white colours. Someone has designed this production incredibly well!

After that it was all kind of over – Ramsay laughably believed a siege was an option, despite the other side having a giant to whom that door may as well have been made of toothpicks. Of course, Wunwun did die, robbed of dignity by the vile Ramsay and his bastard bow. Let’s just have another moment of love for Jon storming his way towards him with a Mormont shield breaking Ramsay’s volley of arrows. And another for Jon punching the hell out of the Bolton piece of shit. I really thought he was going to ask Sansa if she wanted a go – that would have been weird I guess. Anyway, she had other plans: hungry, hungry hound plans. I guess there couldn’t have been an ending with more poetic justice than that. Bye bye Ramsay. But wow, Sansa is so hardened to brutality now: that makes me sort of sad, somehow. On the plus side, the Stark banner flies once more from Winterfell. Maybe we can relax a bit now…?

Final grade: A+

Extra thoughts:

  • Is a constant diet of human flesh actually good for dogs? I feel like maybe not. Hmm, things you never thought you’d wonder about.
  • Some of Daenerys’ line delivery when talking about crucifying the Master really me made feel like she was trying to do an impression of Cersei. Freaky.
  • I am still surprised and sceptical about the Dothraki uniting under Daenerys so quickly and easily but ok, I guess I’ll go just with it.
  • As a friend pointed out to me, the Iron Islanders must have been SO bummed that the name ‘Iron Throne’ was already taken. Who wants a crappy old Salt Throne?
  • Daenerys’ hair was looking particular wiggy today. Spent too much of the budget on dragons, guys?
  • I swear Jon would have struggled to start a football team with the number of people in his army. Now Littlefinger has to be his best mate, forever.

About the author

Grace Davis