20 Jun 2016

Game of Thrones "Battle of the Bastards" Review

This post includes spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards".


The penultimate episode of Thrones always tends to be the most exciting. Episode 9 has brought us heartbreakers such as the Red Wedding or Ned's death. For this episode, we got to witness two exciting battles; one of ice and one of fire. Let's divulge this. As always, I shall split up my review by focusing on each location/storyline.


Meereen

The Battle of Meereen occurs, after the siege began in the last episode. This scene was more of a warm-up for the Bastardbowl. We got see Daenerys be awesome on her dragons, and was also treated to a Grey Worm double kill. Interesting to see that Drogon is almost twice the size of the other two, which proves an earlier point someone made that captivity is bad for them. That was the reason the last dragons were only the size of cats, so it's good to see that they're free doing what they were born to do; viciously burning the enemies of their mother. Yep. Dany has got full control of them once again, so it'll be neat seeing her use them to conquer Westeros.

With the Greyjoys suddenly popping up, it's exciting to learn that Dany might actually go back home now. It's an appropriate time to anyway, what with all the war and poverty occuring. What problems could a Dothraki horde, three dragons and a Greyjoy fleet cause for them? I'd like to see more of the political ramifications of this. Moving forward, Daenerys is going to have to cope with the tabletop politics that the Iron Throne brings. It's not quite the same as burning masters and freeing slaves, so I'm not sure if she is going to be able to adapt to it perfectly.


Winterfell

The second battle of Winterfell, which I'm guessing the in-universe name will be 'Battle of the Bastards' (but for us fans will only know it as Bastardbowl), this storyline has reached a thrilling conclusion. So we begin with Jon meeting Ramsay outside of Winterfell. There's an interesting power struggle between the two men in this debate, as Jon makes smart remarks about the loyalty of Ramsay's men, who then threatens them by using Rickon.

Poor Rickon, just an innocent young boy used as a plaything for the higher lords. In an earlier episode, I theorised that the Umbers were handing Rickon over so they could trick Ramsay to later betray him. That's how it may still go down in the books, due to the presence of the Manderlys, but unfortunately not something that has happened in the show. I can't help but think Rickon's death could have been avoided if he'd just zig-zagged - but whatever. A shaggy dog story is a joke that has no punchline, and Rickon named his direwolf Shaggydog, so it's an entirely appropriate ending to the character.

Also notice how Ramsay set up Rickon as the ultimate trap for Jon. It forces Jon to ride out into the field to get him. This gives Ramsay the perfect opportunity to get Snow into a vulnerable position. Remember those flayed men structures out on the battlefield? Distance markers. That way, Ramsay can use them as reference to hit Rickon. He knows that when he eventually does, Jon will be in range of his archers. It's the perfect plan, really. So I admire Ramsay for his intelligence in strategy. And Jon falls for it. His horse falls and he finds himself alone, unable to get back to his army. Bolton men are approaching, so he has only one choice. He draws his sword, he's calm and serene. He's known death before, so he's ready for it again. The music builds up, and Ramsay's army approaches. Jon prepares... and then. Chaos ensues. Both armies meet. There's no more music, just the sound of steel-on-steel. A bloody battle, confusing and violent. It's the reality of war. We are treated to a visual masterpiece of a minute-long single take of the battle; just Jon trying to survive amidst the turmoil. It was a beautiful scene; just the use of music (or lack thereof), cinematography and actors really showed just how brilliant the director is.


Let's not forget the other MVP's of the episode. Tormund took a page out of Rick Grimes' book and bit of the Smalljon's ear. Ouch. It was a fight we didn't know needed to happen. As much as my heart was tensed up for Jon, I also poured a lot of my hopes on Tormund surviving. Davos was another figure of this calibre, but did anyone else find it strange how he basically disappeared after marching into the battle? He did a Blackwater on them, just not being that present during the fight. I think him finding the remains of Shireen's pyre made him reel from this realisation, and going into the battle he had nothing to lose. She was like a daughter to him, and she died in vain for Stannis' failed siege. I was actually expecting him to die this episode, so that was also another pleasant surprise. Nobody of value was lost (expect poor Wun Wun).

The Umbers perform some shield-gating on the Stark army, and in what may be one of the most memorable scenes of this season, Jon gets trampled by panicking wildlings. Watching him struggle beneath it all, with the sad music ramping up. It made me doubt my expectations that he would make it through this. It's an incredibly powerful, emotional sequence. What's even more amazing is that this scene was basically improvised. So, kudos to that. Just as all hope is lost, who should roll in but Littlefinger with Sansa at his side. Probably the only time I've been happy to see that guy arrive. In season 3, I think, Varys mentioned that all Littlefinger needs is an army and then he'd be the most dangerous man in the Seven Kingdoms, so it'll be exciting to see what he plans to do now that he's helped Sansa and Jon take back Winterfell.


Ramsay realises he's fucked, and flees behind the gates of Winterfell. Unfortunate for him, Wun Wun manages to smack open the gates and Jon storms the castle. And then the poor giant meets his tragic end with an arrow through the eye after being made a porcupine. He was the last of his kind, all the giants are gone. It's very sad for a very minor character. 

The last duel (which wasn't really a duel to be fair) of Jon and Ramsay was the kind of ending I was hoping for. You can see after Ramsay fires that last arrow that he understands how he done goofed. There's no cliché epic battle in the snow between two swordsmen, but rather just a bloody beating. It's a very Martin-esque way of ending the episode. I'd like to take a moment to applause Iwan Rheon for his portrayal of Ramsay. He was one of the best performances this season, and of the previous seasons too. He managed to pull off this psychotic villain-piece which was a hole that had been needed to be filled ever since Joffrey's death. In the end, the fans of the show chewed him up just as his dogs did.

Kit Harington too, also managed to lead the show tonight. Every time he was on screen, you got an authentic feel for what Jon was feeling. Before the battle, you totally see how he's cornered and turns to despair. His eyes become zoned-out where all he can focus on is the violence and murder. During the battle, he's desensitised to seeing the men of his army perish in battle. He's desensitised. In the claustrophobic crushing scene, you felt his desire to give up, to let death take him away. He's seen three major battles in his time, and each time it just gets more and more resigning for Jon. When Ramsay flees the battlefield, you feel that sheer determination in Jon for his need to kill. They follow him like a predator chasing it's prey. I'm actually struggling to write this paragraph because the performance was just everywhere. I'm speechless. Just give Kit the Emmy already!

Summary

After a nice warm-up of the battle in Meereen, we were treated to a stellar example of performances, visual effects both practical and special, music and sound design, cinematography, writing and directing at Winterfell. This might have been my favourite episode of the entire series. It was unbelievable. It's going to be really hard to top this next week, but I'm sure they will find a way. See you all for the season finale!

Overall I'd give this episode a 10/10.

In Memoriam

Wun Wun (MVP)
Rickon Stark
Smalljon Umber
The two Yunkish masters
Lord Ramsay Bolton (not poisoned by his enemies)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Additional Links