Game of Thrones, Season 6, Ep 9 “Battle of the Bastards”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Meereen: Daenerys and Tyrion take some time to discuss plans before they launch into battle to save the city from the bombardment of the Slave Masters’ fleet. This seems like a bit of a waste of time when urgent action is required, and feels like a stupidly slow start to the episode. I’d expected it to open with Daenerys riding Drogon through the air and blasting the ships with fire. But instead here we have them disagreeing with one another while the city burns around them.

Underscoring this, a window of the Pyramid throne room is shattered by a catapult blast, which finally spurs them into action!

Or does it? No, it spurs them to call for a meeting with the Slave Masters. Yawn…. what an anticlimax.

Three slave masters face off with Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei on a neutral space, backed up by their respective guards. Daenerys says she wants to discuss terms of surrender. Very well, say the Masters, if you surrender Meereen to us, and all your servants, we’ll sell Grey Worm and Missandei to the highest bidders and let you go back to Westeros. Daenerys says, oh no… I’m here to discuss the terms of your surrender.

Hah ha! The Masters start laughing. They stop pretty quickly when Drogon appears, flying over them and landing behind Daenerys. She climbs on his back and takes off. Drogon’s calls spur the other two dragons to emerge from their underground cell and take to the air too. The three of them set about burning the slaver fleet.

Back at the parley area, the Masters are shocked. Grey Worm says to the Masters’ guards, “If you leave Meereen now, you can go home.” They immediately drop their weapons and run away. Missandei tells the Masters that Daenerys has ordered that one of them is to be executed, and that they are to choose which one. The Masters start cowering and looking at one another. One pushes another one forward and says kill him, he’s a foreigner anyway. The foreigner collapses to his knees, blubbering and pleading. Grey Worm walk up… and does an awesome double strike with his knife, cutting the throats of the two standing Masters. Tyrion walks up to the cowering Master and says, “Go home. Tell everyone what you’ve seen here today. Tell the other Masters this is what happens if you defy Daenerys.”

While Daenerys and the dragons destroy the attacking fleet, some soldiers and Sons of the Harpy are fighting Meereen citizens on land. The Dothraki arrive, led by Daario, and make short work of the slaver forces. Well, okay, we got there in the end! This is the battle we wanted to see.

Some time afterwards, it seems Yara and Theon have arrived, as they stand before Daenerys inside the Pyramid. The offer their fleet of a thousand ships to help Daenerys take Westeros, in return for returning the Iron Islands to Yara’s rule. Daenerys is sceptical. They talk a bit about their fathers, both of them admitting that their father was a terrible man. Daenerys says if Yara gets the Iron Islands, she is not to plunder the mainland. Yara says but that’s their tradition. Daenerys stands firm, and Yara eventually agrees. They seal the alliance with a handshake.

Yay! Daenerys finally has her fleet. Obviously this is setting up for her invasion of Westeros. I can’t wait! Things are back on track, we have dragons laying waste to enemies, we have Slavers Bay and the Dothraki as forces. We have Tyrion’s advice. All the cards are falling into place. The main question now is how Daenerys formulates her invasion plans. Does she attack King’s Landing first? It would be a fine place to start, especially given the mess it’s currently in. Or does she make a beachhead somewhere else and advance across land? So many choices, so much to look forward to!

Winterfell: Jon and Sansa lead their meagre army to Winterfell. They arrange a parley with Ramsay Bolton. They all sit on their horses on a neutral patch outside Winterfell, in an echo of the parley between Daenerys and the Slave Masters. They really love building in echoing scenes across storylines in this show. Which is cool.

Ramsay is his usual snide self, leering at Sansa and calling her his bride. She is stoic and defiant. Ramsay says he has the superior army, and the defensible position. He says there’s no need for thousands of men to die. As Warden of the North he’ll pardon Jon for betraying the Night’s Watch if he hands over Sansa. And he says he has Rickon captive, and produces his wolf’s head to prove it. Jon tells him to shove it, but agrees all the men don’t need to die. He suggests they settle this with single combat. Ramsay is cautious, knowing Jon’s reputation as the greatest swordsman in the North. He says perhaps Jon is stronger, but he doesn’t have a huge army now, so maybe let’s just settle this with our armies then. Jon gets in an insult about how can he be sure his men will fight for him, if he won’t fight for them? Ramsay brushes this aside and gloats that he’s been looking forward to this battle. He’s been starving his hounds for a week so they can feast on Jon and his allies. Oh, and ten year old Lady Lyanna Mormont is there with Jon, looking appropriately defiant.

Back in their tent, Jon talks battle plans with Davos. Davos has good tactical advice. He suggests building trenches so Ramsay’s forces can’t outflank them. Tormund goes “huh?” at the word “outflank”. Davos says so they can’t perform a pincer movement. Tormund goes “huh?” again. Davos says so they can’t attack his men from the sides. Tormund says, “Oh, well that’s good then,” and goes off to order his men to dig trenches.

Sansa talks to Jon and berates him for not asking for advice from the one person who knows Ramsay – her. She warns Jon that Ramsay is devious and tricksy and false, and not to get caught up in his taunts. Jo asks what they can do about Rickon. Sansa pragmatically says Rickon is as good as dead anyway – Ramsay will never let him survive. Sansa says they don’t have enough men to defeat Ramsay, and they need to leave and find more. Jon says battles have been won against worse odds, and they have to do it now. Sansa stalks off, unimpressed. I’m half thinking at this point that Ramsay will attack during the night, to gain surprise. But he doesn’t.

Jon visits Melisandre and tells her if he dies, don’t bring him back again. She refuses to agree, saying it’s up to the Lord of Light. outside, Tormund invites Davos to drink with him, to help them sleep. Davos declines, saying he never sleeps the night before a battle, he walks instead. Later, as dawn approaches, Davos finds the remains of the pyre where Stannis had his daughter burnt on the night before his ill-fated battle with Ramsay. Davos finds the carved wooden deer he made for her.

As light breaks, the two armies face off across a field. Ramsay indeed has a trick up his sleeve, as he orders Rickon brought forward. As Jon and the others watch from across no man’s land, Ramsay frees Rickon, and tells him to run for his life. Rickon starts running. Shocked, Jon rides full tilt out into the field to meet Rickon. Ramsay casually draws a bow and fires an arrow, narrowly missing Rickon. He fires again as Jon and Rickon approach one another. Jon is about to reach Rickon and scoop him up to ride to safety, but Ramsay’s next arrow pierces Rickon’s back and emerges from his chest, killing him.

This is exactly the sort of thing Sansa warned him about, but Jon’s blood is up and he charges recklessly at Ramsay, across the open field. Davos sees and orders the army to charge. Ramsay orders ranked archers to fire, killing Jon’s horse, but Jon manages to avoid the arrows. Jon is left standing unprotected in the field as Ramsay’s cavalry charge at him. Jon faces them down, realising he’s been played for a sucker, and draws his sword. Just as Ramsay’s cavalry reach Jon, his own catch up to him from behind, and the two armies clash. The battle is brutal and bloody. Jon manages to avoid being wounded, but ends up trapped with the wildlings and some other men in a circle of Ramsay’s forces. They set up a circular shield wall with pikes set between each pair of shields, so Jon’s men can’t get at the soldiers. The shields and pikes are then moved inwards slowly, pressing Jon’s forces together. His men start to panic and trample one another, and Jon is partly trampled in the chaos. It looks all over.

But then a horn sounds and, quite literally, the cavalry arrive to save the day. It’s Petyr Baelish and a mounted force of knights, accompanying Sansa! Okay, so Sansa’s note delivered by raven must have been to Petyr. That makes more sense, because Sansa sent Brienne to recruit the Tullys and wouldn’t have needed to send her a note by raven. I’d previously written off the idea that Sansa would be calling Petyr for help, but on reflection he has promised to help her many times. Sansa’s perhaps right not to trust him, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and if he can help, then let him help. So, Petyr saves the day. My only question is: What does he want in return? I’m sure he’s not doing this out of the goodness of his heart, but rather to establish a debt to be used to call in favours in the future.

Anyway, Petyr’s army smashes the Bolton ranks and routs them. Ramsay flees back to the walls of Winterfell, with Jon, the wildlings, and their giant in hot pursuit. Ramsay bars the gates, and declares cockily to his men that they can outlast a siege. But the gate can’t outlast the wildling giant bashing it down. He breaks through, and smashes a few Bolton men before tottering weakly from the dozens of arrows in him. Ramsay puts an arrow in his eye, and the giant falls. The wildlings are about to charge Ramsay, when he says he’s ready to try that single combat thing now. Ramsay points his bow, but Jon grabs a shield and protects himself from the first arrow. Ramsay keeps firing, but Jon interposes the shield each time as he stalks closer. Finally Jon reaches Ramsay and smashes him in the face with the shield, then leaps on him and punches him in the face over and over until Ramsay is beaten senseless on the ground. He’s about to land a killing blow when Sansa walks in. Jon looks at her, and tells his men to take Ramsay away. Winterfell belongs to the Starks once again.

Ramsay wakes up in a cell, tied to a chair. He looks up. Outside the bars he sees Sansa. He’s defeated, but still cocky, and tries to use words to goad Sansa. But she’s hard as steel now, and doesn’t rise to it. She indicates where he is, and Ramsay realises he’s in the kennels, as his dogs start growling. “My dogs won’t harm me,” he says, “They’re loyal.” Sansa wonders if they’ll be loyal to a master who has starved them for seven days. The dogs emerge from the darkness and approach Ramsay hungrily. As they start tearing his face off and Ramsay screams, the camera moves to Sansa, who smiles as she turns and walks away.

Wow. Now that’s a satisfying episode. Finally, one of the truly bad guys gets his just desserts. And Sansa is there to see it. It’s hard not to cheer when Ramsay loses. Rickon’s loss is a terrible price to pay (and Sansa was right about that being inevitable), but Jon and Sansa have their home back.

And you know what? Arya Stark of Winterfell is heading home now. Literally to Winterfell? Will she show up here soon? The reunion of the two sisters would be wonderful. Imagine the stories they could tell to each other.

Jon survived. I’m pretty sure Tormund survived. But I don’t recall seeing Davos after the battle. So I don’t know if he survived or not. Other open questions: What does Petyr want? And what will Melisandre do now? She didn’t really offer Jon much help, maybe because she’s still moping about being wrong about Stannis. Perhaps that will change with this victory against the odds. She does seem a bit of a fair weather friend.

And… this is the second last episode of the season. It feels like a couple of major storylines have reached some sort of intermediate resolution and all is now good for the time being. But what will happen in the season finale? I’m expecting a showdown between Cersei and the High Sparrow in King’s Landing. And something with Bran. And Sam. It should be exciting.

One Response to “Game of Thrones, Season 6, Ep 9 “Battle of the Bastards””

  1. Glen says:

    > devious and tricksy and false


    > I’d previously written off the idea that Sansa would be calling Petyr for help

    This was the surprise that I said you’d be in for (without then being specific about what, naturally).

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