WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
Remember last week when I lamented the lack of action and disappointing wrap ups to some key story beats? Well, Battle of the Bastards doesn’t fix those mistakes, but it definitely makes up for them. Seriously, this episode was quite possibly the most epic episode we’ve had of this show. As most expected, the penultimate season six episode focused primarily on the first and final confrontation between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton, but we also got some action and necessary story advancement from Dany’s neck of the woods. There were only two concurrent stories this week, so let’s start by talking about Meereen.
I thought last week that the episode ended quite abruptly with Dany’s return, and this episode continued directly from that cliffhanger. Dany was none too pleased with Tyrion’s ability to rule in her stead, but it was also important to see that she didn’t let her emotions completely rule her. Obviously, Tyrion’s slavery gambit did not pay off, but it wasn’t in Dany’s best interest to place all of the blame on him. He is still her main adviser after all, and he’s easily more gifted with negotiation.
It was amazing to see Tyrion scared out of his mind with the masters attacking, and to see Dany as calm as could be. She knew that she had her dragons, and the Dothraki force at her command. It’s great to see her actually execute a plan instead of always driving by the seat of her pants. The Meereen scenes also showed off some impressive visual effects, with flying balls of flame and soaring dragons in the sky. There was an easy moment for Tyrion to have become the second dragon head and ride either Rhaegal or Viserion, but that didn’t happen. I’m still thinking that will eventually happen, or else what was the point of Tyrion’s visit to the trapped dragons earlier this season?
Later in the episode, the Stark/Bolton battle was abruptly broken up by another scene in Meereen after the fallout of the battle. Yara and Theon made it to Daenerys in record time, but I guess it serves the story. This whole scene felt a bit rushed and awkward considering what had just happened in Meereen and what was currently happening at Winterfell, but there wasn’t another solution if the writers are trying to get Dany to make sail by the end of the season. There was a lot of fun back and forth here; both from Yara clearly being turned on by Dany and with Tyrion having very little pity for Theon. This will undoubtedly be a complex alliance, but I’m definitely glad they’ll be able to take out Euron and the other Greyjoys. Now Dany has ships from Yara and from the masters, and she can finally get this show on the road. I’m betting the finale will end with her sailing towards Westeros, her Khalasar, Unsullied, and Greyjoy armies at her back. It’s going to be badass.
Now, for the moment everyone’s been waiting for since Jon came back from the dead. The battle of the bastards, did it disappoint? Hell no, it was amazing. I was reminded of the penultimate episode of season four, “Watchers on the Wall,” when Jon led the defense of Castle Black against the Wildlings. That episode had amazing tacking shots, great stunts and effects, and told a clear, awesome story of a very important battle. This episode was successful for all of the same reasons, with a significant increase in scale.
First, let’s talk about some theories that didn’t come to fruition. I couldn’t have been the only one that thought Ser Davos was going to bite it, especially after the “previously on” where we saw all of his little moments with Shireen. I thought for sure once he dug up that wooden stag, we’d get a shot of him dying, clutching that thing to his chest. I was preparing to cry my eyes out, as he’s been one of my favorite characters since he was introduced a few seasons ago. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and now I’m guessing he’ll have a few words for Melisandre about her burning Shireen alive.
I had also speculated that maybe Brienne and Lady Stoneheart would show up towards the end of the battle. There’s still a possibility that the Brotherhood will capture Brienne in the finale and bring her before Stoneheart, but the chances are seeming less and less likely. The thing I was most disappointed about was that the Umbers weren’t secretly working with Rickon. It seemed like such a cool theory, and even though Osha going out like a moron hampered my expectations a bit, I was still holding out hope. When Rickon was running back to Jon, I thought just maybe SmallJon Umber would do something about it, but it wasn’t to be. Poor Rickon Stark, another pointless character that died in service of the story. I remain frustrated that we didn’t see more of Ramsay this season. I totally understand the writers wanting to give him a break, and that there’s only so much torture that an audience can take, but the impact of Rickon’s death wasn’t really felt because we hadn’t seen him all season. We know that it affected Jon and Sansa, but it definitely didn’t affect me.
Finally, there’s the obvious theory that did come true. Littlefinger came in to save the day. It was the most obvious outcome, but it was still a cool movie moment where the good guys are all but out, only to be saved at the last moment by unexpected reinforcements. This wasn’t quite as epic as Gandalf arriving with the Riders of Rohan to save Helm’s Deep, but it was still cool. The fallout from this fight will surely be huge. Sansa promised Littlefinger basically anything he wants, and we already know that he wants everything. Will he try to marry Sansa? Will he try to usurp Jon and take over leadership? Or will he keep his cards close to the vest and just come on board as an adviser? I’m sure we’ll get answers next week.
I haven’t really talked much about the actual fight between the two armies, and I do have some mixed feelings. I thought Jon acted like a complete punk for most of this. The night before, it was interesting to see the argument between Jon and Sansa. Jon is forever his father’s son: rash, bold, honorable, and tending to underestimate just how terrible other people can be. Sansa, on the other hand, showed the influence that Littlefinger has had over her. She had already resigned herself to the fact that Rickon was going to die, and she was clearly being more objective that Jon. Then of course her advice to Jon went completely out of the window once Rickon was killed, as Jon charged right up the middle and almost got everyone killed. Ugh, it’s incredibly frustrating how stupid some of these heroic characters can be. I didn’t love the moment where Jon was being trampled. That whole section was a bit confusing and hard to follow, but it’s possible they were trying to highlight just how insane and overwhelming battles like this could be. Maybe some parts of the fight just went on too long?
Ramsay was given a fitting end, eaten alive by his own dogs. His delicious screams of agony will sustain me until next week. And poor Wun Wun the giant went out like a complete boss. I also loved seeing Jon wailing on Ramsay, only to stop upon seeing Sansa. If anyone had the right to orchestrate his execution, it was her. And she chose well.
Battle of the Bastards didn’t include as much story as some previous episodes, but we were given yet another epic battle scene to satiate our need to action before the inevitable “aftermath” episode we’ll be seeing next week. I’d guess we’ll get the conclusion to Cersei’s trial, with Jaime arriving after everything happens. I’m going to guess that Tommen will die. The prophecy given to Cersie when she was a girl stated that she’d watch all three of her children die, so I don’t think she’s going to bite it until Tommen goes out. As for everyone else, it’s complete speculation. I personally think we will get Lady Stoneheart, along with The Hound and Brienne meeting back up with the Brotherhood. I’m also curious to see Arya’s next move. It’s likely she’ll just hop on a ship back to Westeros, but hopefully there’s something more interesting to derail her or take her in an unexpected direction. Otherwise, both Arya and Dany will be sailing back separately, and that feels a little redundant.
The biggest question will be what happens in the North. Two of the largest houses, the Umbers and the Karstarks, fought against Jon. I can’t imagine they’ll just get a free pass. I also want to know what Jon and Sansa’s plan will be. Do they gather the northern forces and march on King’s Landing, or do they head back to The Wall to fight the White Walkers? And that brings up Bran, who we haven’t seen in a few episodes. The show was painting his story as completely essential, only to drop him after reuniting him with Benjen. Will we get another vision of the past? Will my theory about Bran causing the Mad King’s downfall come true, or will something else come into play? Will I ever stop asking questions? Find out next week on the season six finale!