Game of Thrones recap: Season 6, Episode 9, “Battle of the Bastards”

Game of Thrones recap: Season 6, Episode 9, “Battle of the Bastards”

Photo by Helen Sloan | HBO

This week’s episode was the most thrilling Game of Thrones episode we’ve had lately, that is a fact. Rumor has it, it might even be considered the show’s best episode, but if we’re being entirely honest, it’s too soon to process that possibility.

In fact, there’s a lot still left to process about this episode, given that all 60 minutes of it were packed with thrill and suspense, keeping us at the edge of our seats, praying to all the gods that the North will prevail.

And indeed, “Battle of the Bastards” gave us just about everything we wanted, am I right? Well, unless you were, for some inexplicable reason, rooting for the sadistic one out of the two bastards. But episode 9 wasn’t just about seeing who will be left standing after the epic battle. It’s the journey that matters, they say, not the destination – and this episode was the perfect illustration of that saying.

 BRACE YOURSELVES, SPOILERS ARE COMING! From here on out, you’ll come across spoilers from episode 9 and the upcoming season finale.

So what was this epic journey about? Well, it implied a lot of teasing, at first. About 15 minutes of it. As if we hadn’t waited enough already. The episode starts off in Meereen, where we find out that the clash between the two bastards and their armies isn’t the only clash going on in all Seven Kingdoms. As you’ll recall, in the previous episode, Daenerys had just returned “home”, looking quite pissed at what mess the “kids” had made of things.

As their city is being attacked by the former masters, Dany and Tyrion try to come up with a plan to save the situation. Her initial idea, to dragon-nuke the other Slavery’s Bay cities whose masters are attacking Meereen, sounds badass enough, but also quite worrisome. So Tyrion points out that her idea is merely another variation of her father’s memorable “kill them all” outburst, and suggests an “alternate approach”.

They meet a trio of masters that arrogantly assume she’s trying to surrender. Hell no seems to be her answer, as she tells them “My reign has just begun”. She then climbs on top of Drogon and proceeds to burning the attacking ships, as Gray Worm slays two of the arrogant masters.

Later on, the Greyjoys pay them a visit, asking that Dany supports Yara’s claim to the throne of the Iron Islands, and pledging their fleet to her. They spend some time bonding over their late, terrible father and finally, a deal is struck.

Interesting as these first 15 minutes might be, it’s high time we moved on to the major drive of the episode, the epic battle of the two bastards. Their initial encounter outside of Winterfell, as well as the battle that follows just a day later, is a fantastic action spectacle that could’ve just as well been the plot of a blockbuster feature film.

Outside of Winterfell is where Jon finally gets the chance to take a good look at his enemy, Ramsay Bolton. Even though no fighting occurs during this encounter, their dialogue alone is nail-biting suspenseful.

Ramsay jokingly suggests that Jon should hand Sansa back to him, which is obviously a trap. Jon comes with a counter offer, attempting to play with Ramsay’s ego and bait him: he suggests a one-on-one fight, like in the old days. Ramsay takes a second to consider it but ends up refusing the offer. Predictable.

Sansa is the one who gets to have the last word in this prologue to the epic battle. “You’re going to die tomorrow Lord Bolton, sleep well.”, the lady says, and we want to believe her so hard.

Later on, back at their camp, Jon, Tormund and Sir Devos discuss strategy. Sansa watches them closely and after she catches Jon alone, she wastes no time in getting him to listen to her advice. “He’s going to play games with you. Whatever it is he wants you to do, don’t do it”, Sansa warns. “What have I been doing all my life, playing with broomsticks?” Jon shoots back.

Jon then moves on to Melisandre and asks her not to bring him back again in case he dies in the battle. She seems more morose than him at this point, and tells him he is not the boss of her, the Lord of Light is. Her only advice to Jon is “don’t lose”. Very helpful.

Next morning, we move right onto the battlefield, where Ramsay has crucified and set some people on fire just for effect. And then he reveals the ace up his sleeve, Rickon Stark. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a surprise nor a secret, we all knew (Jon included) that Ramsay was gonna use Rickon as bait to taunt Jon.

It surely works. Jon disregards all rules of good strategy as Ramsay released Rickon and sent him running towards Jon, while at the same time shooting arrows at him. Sadly, the young Stark dies pierced by one of (eventually many) said arrows just a couple of meters away from Jon.

What is exceptional about the action sequence that followed is that, as opposed to many such scenes we get in action films, that are chaotic and extremely hard to follow, this one stayed character-oriented and completely coherent all the way up to the end. Kudos to the director and all the crew involved in the production of this episode!

As opposed to a scene-by-scene narration, we figure it would be best to go over a bunch of highlights from the battle sequence, so here they are:

Jon Snow’s single-shot against Ramsay’s army  a truly symbolical, memorable shot.

The Bolton pincer moment – basically the Game of Thrones equivalent of the Star Wars trash compactor scene, only far more bloody.

Jon’s rebirth scene – emotions ran high when our favorite bastard got trampled on during the pincer movement chaos and was about to be buried alive. Thankfully, he finds the way to fight his way out and live.

When just about all hope seems to be lost, the Knights of the Vale come in and save the day. Predictably enough, Sansa finally made a deal with the devil aka Littlefinger and agreed to have the Vale fight for her brother’s army.

Realizing he’s seriously outnumbered now, Ramsay cowardly runs off back to the castle, where he thinks he’ll be safe. But he couldn’t be more wrong. Team Snow’s giant, Wun-Wun, dismantles the gate in no time, and the rest of his army rushes in to kill off every Bolton soldier left. Unfortunately, we lose Wun-Wun shortly after for having taken one too many arrows.

And then it’s just Ramsay. Running out of moves, he sarcastically tells Jon he now reconsiders the one-on-one combat offer, and the two start to fight. What follows is as satisfying as it is bloody. Jon outplays Ramsay and then proceeds to beating him to a pulp. We get the feeling he wouldn’t stop (we wouldn’t either), except Sansa shows up and Jon understands this is her fight more than it is his.

Every final minute of the episode is more gratifying than the last. In the last scene, Ramsay is shown in a cell, tied to a chair, still as arrogant as ever. Sansa appears and we just know it’s sweet revenge time. “You can’t kill me, I’m part of you now,” he tells her, a line which we found deeply disturbing. Could that be true? Let’s hope not.

“All memory of you will disappear,” Sansa promises. Surely, Ramsay’s hungry hounds could help with that. He’s confident they’re loyal to him and won’t attack, but he’s oh-so-terribly mistaken. One thing is certain – his hounds won’t starve again anytime soon. Rest in pieces, Ramsay Bolton. You won’t be missed.

As we’re still recovering from this action-packed episode, we find out from the trailer that the much expected season finale, “The Winds of Winter” will be much a more sombre affair. So many loose ends to be tied, so many theories. All we can do now is wait.