Where do we possibly begin? Easily one of the show’s most superior cinematic achievements, “The Battle of the Bastards”, brought us the season’s bloodiest and most progressive episode yet. If you haven’t caught up yet, you should probably do so and meet us back here… for this post is dark and full of spoilers.
As is now a well-known tradition, the penultimate episode of a GoT’s season usually serves as the most eventful. Every year, episode #9 generally concludes all the vengeful, hate fuelled storylines via violent conflict all over Westeros and Essos. Season one saw Ned meet his demise, season two saw Stannis’ fleet pulverised by wildfire, season three audiences had to endure the Red Wedding and, well… you get the point. The acclaimed current season refuses to break pattern, providing viewers with an even bloodier climax than seasons past. Before we dissect the cinematic win that was the battle of Winterfell, let’s take it back to the episodes start, where Khaleesi (Emilia Clarke) was obviously saving her best for last.
While show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are probably extremely selective when involving appearances from the shows dragons (CGI is certainly not cheap), HBO loosened the reigns with the generosity afforded this week. Apart from having the Dothraki and Unsullied by her side, the Breaker of Chains now has near total control over her dragons. It took six years of trial and error, but Daenerys Stormborn can finally summon her fiery offspring whenever she pleases. Free are Rhaegal and Viserion, finally escaping the pyramids depths to join Dany and their brother in roasting their enemies. The wise, or should we say un-wise slave masters, should have known better than to oppose Daenerys’ reign, and their underestimation of her has cost them. Courtesy of the same man who shot season five’s insane “Hardhome” battle, Miguel Sapochnik prospers unbridled, capturing Meereen’s magnitude effortlessly all while Drogon and his siblings fly around cooking crispy snacks.
We loved the scenes between Dany and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), and honestly still aren’t over their coming together. As was seen, Tyrion does the most to provide his new queen with political expertise, while Dany seems to own an unwavering sense of assurance since her return from Dothraki captivity. Something else we would’ve never guessed – the Greyjoy’s finding their way to Essos. While we feel the bland thematic of the Iron Islands clash with the warm aesthetic of Meereen, Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Daenerys’ back and forth was definitely a highlight: “I imagine your offer is free of any marriage demands” Kahleesi states, “I never demand, but I’m up for anything really.” Yara responds suggestively. Warming to her more each week, Gemma Whelan’s portrayal of Yara only has us loving the character more and more. Theon (Alfie Allen) in Meereen? We can’t process this just yet, we’ll give it a go next week.
Void of appearances this week are almost everyone. Arya (Maisie Williams) is en route to Westeros. Cersei (Lena Headey) is busy choosing violence and Tommen (Dean Charles Chapman) remains influenced by the faith, all stories we’ll surely see progress in next week’s finale. It’s unlikely we’ll see Dorne again this season, though perhaps season seven holds a meatier story for the sun soaked realm. Leaving Daenerys and her grip on Essos behind, we cross the narrow sea and head north to where it all began – Winterfell. Outsiders looking in might not understand the significance of this battle, but the rest of us know this was a long time coming. Enduring Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) sadistic ways all of last season, Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) return home finds herself hardened and almost emotionless to the imminent battle. This isn’t including all she’s had to endure from Joffery, Cersei and Petyr (Aidan Gillen) over the years.
It was in the making from the get go, and while we would have preferred to have it happen sooner, Sansa takes that final step, graduating from a naïve victim of war into a tactical warrior. She’s certainly earned her stripes. Sophie Turner continues in her flaw free portrayal of the eldest Stark girl.
Elsewhere, speaking on his resurrection, Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) informs Jon (Kit Harrington) she remains just as much in the dark as he is when it comes to his new life, giving us no more information on the existence of the gods than we had before. Later, coming face to face with Ramsay once more, Sansa, Jon and Davos (Liam Cunningham) face off with the charismatic Bolton bastard – played by Iwan Rheon. Far removed from the timid character he portrayed on E4’s Misfits, Ramsay and his forces confidently prepare for conflict.
Jon Snow proves his worth this episode, though we’d still like to have seen his meaner streak sooner. Perhaps season seven will see Kit Harington ascend the indecisive persona in favour of a more ruthless, authoritarian figure. Again, thanks to the talent of Sapochnik, “The Battle of the Bastards” is easily one of televisions greatest feats, conveying the brutal picture of war at its bloodiest. Gone are the fiery yellows of Meereen, here holds the gritty steely thematic of Winterfell. Rarely does a scene feel so personal, and with the involvement of the youngest Stark, Rickon, things do truly become personal for audiences. After twenty minutes of pure premium standard television and with assistance from a smirking Petyr and the Vale’s forces, it seems as though Winterfell has fallen back into the hands of its rightful heirs.
The flayed man is no more, breaking under the relentlessness of the Direwolf. While it seems the North has been restored to the way it once was, the high octane battle wasn’t without loss. Down are the Bolton banners and up are the Starks. Though victorious, it still remains a poignant time for the north with the loss of many. “You’re going to die tomorrow” is what Sansa told Ramsay at the episodes start, and with that overwhelmingly satisfying conversation between the two at the episodes end, for Ramsay, some things prove worse than death.
Next week will see Game of Thrones’ sixth season come to an end, and with it no doubt an infuriating cliff-hanger. With this week’s episode, frankly we’re already dubbing 2016 as a resounding success for the show. George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song Ice of Fire’ was certainly destined for the small screen and with it being arguably the world’s best TV show, he’s no doubt rolling in it. And rightly so, since he’s created a universe that can give most fiction writers a run for their money. Starting our journey in Winterfell with the Starks six years ago, this week saw their journey finally come full circle. The North Remembers.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays 9pm on HBO (US) & Mondays 9pm on Sky Atlantic (UK)