And here it is…the episode we’ve all been waiting for. The Battle of the Bastards. Ho-ly crap.
Episode 9 usually contains the most epic battle scene every season, and this did not disappoint. In fact, I feel like it set the bar even higher for the battles to come. This episode was amazing and completely made up for the sauntering storyline in the last two.
I almost always watch the episode on HBO Now, but this week I was in Texas visiting my parents and ended up watching it live on television. Lucky me, because it sounds like HBO web services were having issues for nearly an hour! I would have lost my mind.
I’ve split this recap up by battle, so we can cover them separately.
The first of the two battles I’ll discuss was the less traumatic of the two — the battle in Meereen. Truly, this went pretty easily for Dany; I can’t imagine things will happen the same way in the books. Especially since we’ve been waiting all this time for the Meereenese Knot to untangle itself. Basically, gal comes home from a short vacay to find the place in a complete shambles, thanks to this guy:
Nice one, T. And now he seems to be trying to advise her against going directly into battle with the dudes throwing flaming rocks at her house. Luckily, your girl Dany is pretty forgiving…and also, did he not hear the Fire and Blood thing? Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, taking what is hers with fire and blood, mother of HELL NAW. Seriously, Dany doesn’t do negotiations.
Except when the negotiation is surrender of the offending party. They convene on a mountain top outside the city, and for some reason the Masters seem to be under the impression that they can take down Dany and her dragons. The internet seems to think that this is because they were rather small the last time anyone from Yunkai saw them…but they still managed to win her the entire Unsullied army. Maybe these guys are just cliche dumb villains. Actually, yes, they very much are.
Anyway, dracarys, motherfuckers. Viserion and Rhaegal are BUSTIN OUT (finally…WTF have they been doing in the pyramid since Tyrion unchained them weeks ago!?) and reuniting with Drogon (carrying Dany) for a quick flyover.
And by “quick flyover”, I mean BURN, BABY BURN. *DRAGON INFERNO!*
V & R should be quite a bit smaller than Drogon, considering they’ve been in that cave. It looks like they’re all about the same size here…but I’m just being picky. It’s obvious D&D saved their entire CG budget on this episode, and I sure as hell won’t complain about that. DRAGONS! I’ll take ’em.
They completely torch this ship — but just the one, because she’s going to need a fleet later. In the meantime, the Harpies are taking out what appears to be a bunch of innocent citizens from Meereen, and these guys come flying around the corner:
Dothrakiiiiiii(s?) FTW! Everything’s converging at once, and Dany wins this battle handily. Grey Worm puts a hurtin’ on the Masters that came to negotiate (well, 2 of them) and the end is nigh.
Afterward, Theon and Yara arrive with their ships, and make a pact with Miss D. This is her first Westerosi alliance! A great GIRL POWER scene for Dany and Yara as they are both strong female leaders. This way they’re both safe from Euron; Yara from his murderous ways, Dany from his downstairs bidness. The Iron Islands will be independent-ish and ruled by Yara, but no more pillaging for the Ironborn? Interested to see how this plays out, though instinct tells me it will be great for a while but the peace won’t last for generations.
Overall, a quick and easy battle in Meereen. It wasn’t difficult for Dany — she had the numbers, the dragons, and the city.
On the other hand, things look quite a bit more dire back at Winterfell for ex-Lord Commander Jon Snow.
He and Sansa, along with Tormund, Davos, and lil bb Lyanna Mormont, have a quick chat with Ramsay. Jon challenges him to a duel (yes!) and he declines (no!). Ramsay’s got an ego, for sure, but is cunning enough that he won’t fall for it.
Sansa wishes him a nice evening (“You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.”) and then they head back to their tent to play Tic-Tac-Toe with some X & O rocks. Sansa gets furious because apparently the game is for guys only. I didn’t really get the sense that she was being ignored in the scene, but hey gurl, you do you. Surprised she’s continued to keep her communication with Littlefinger secret at this point; the only thing I can think of is that it’s the only way she feels like she can retain some power.
Here’s a shot of her lookin PIST.
Tormund and Davos have a fun little chat about pre-battle prep. Tormund likes to get drunk, Davos gets diarrhea. Fun for everyone! Davos actually takes a stroll around, and during his walk, finds the little wooden deer he carved for Shireen…in a pile, where she was burned at the stake. He still hasn’t seen Season 5 yet, so he had no idea. But judging from the “scenes from next week” section at the end of the episode, Melisandre is gonna be getting an earful about this. And soon. In the meantime, Jon’s asked her not to revive him if he were to die again. Melly won’t deprive us of that man bun, Jon. Get over it.
Morning of, the troops line up. The silence as they pan over the troops is deafening. As I mentioned earlier, they did such a tremendous job filming this entire battle sequence. The weight of the upcoming scene is not lost on the viewer.
We see the small Northern/Stark army and the much larger Bolton/allies army. One interesting thing they mention during battle prep is that there’s some possibility that some of the Northern houses will turn in support of the Starks, but they don’t. We see them here, behind the Boltons, but that doesn’t change throughout the course of the battle.
Anyhoo, about this time, Ramsay makes his way up to the front lines, a rope in his hands. Guess who’s on that rope? That’s right, it’s Rickon Stark. Sansa and Jon have written him off at this point; she told him back in the tent that Rickon was as good as dead. Ramsay walks him out onto the battlefield.
Here he is freeing Rickon, telling him all he needs to do is run over and reach his brother. Jon, on the other side of the field, starts running at him as fast as he can go on his horse. ZIG, RICKON! ZAG! ANYTHING BUT RUN IN A STRAIGHT LINE! (He apparently didn’t hear me.)
We learn that Ramsay is an insanely skilled archer, and he picks Rickon off just before he gets to Jon. Go back, Jon! Stick to the plan! Make them come at you! Jon lets his emotions take over, unfortunately. Then a volley of arrows takes out Jon’s horse, and he’s left alone on the battlefield as his men rush in. Both armies are charging toward him, where he stands alone. Horses coming in from both sides. (To note — these are real horses, not CG. Insane.) And somehow, as if by some ~*magic*~, Jon remains unscathed.
The battle starts out intense, and just intensifies. Ramsay is firing volleys of arrows in, to the detriment of his own men. This creates an enormous pile of bodies that the men are fighting on and around. Until, that is, the Bolton army begins to surround them.
What’s left of the Northern/Stark army gets completely enclosed — Bolton men on one side, bodies on the other. They line up with their Bolton shields linked together, a move clearly plucked from world history, and start to close in.
The men are being pushed back. More Bolton men are coming over the top of the pile, and Jon turns to nearly face off with one of their old allies until he’s suddenly trampled beneath a wave of moving soldiers.
This is one of the most intense scenes in the entire episode. Jon is physically suffocating, and I felt like I was being crushed too, just on the safety of my parents’ couch under a nice warm afghan blanket. One of the things I like best about the direction here is that they stayed filming from under the pile, so you were missing out knowing the battle was going on in the background. It felt very realistic.
Here’s Davos swimming through the sea of men:
Things start to look dire. Wun Wun is even being backed up into the pile, though he’s doing a pretty good job of tossing folks around. Would have been nice if they’d fashioned him a giant sword of some kind; I think he probably could have done a bit more damage.
Tormund gets himself trapped and is being attacked. I thought for sure they were going to kill him off in this episode, and was so not looking forward to it. I mean, what about his gal Brienne? Not yet officially shipped. Come on. In a last ditch effort, he bites a guy’s throat right out. YAS TORMUND! Look at that magnificent beard!
Things are getting worse and worse. I’d actually forgotten about Sansa’s letter to Littlefinger, I’d become so wrapped up in the fight. We waited for someone — anyone — to come and save these guys. They couldn’t lose, right? I mean, come ON. They’re the Starks. Winterfell belongs to them.
And then, at the last possible moment:
WHO DAT? AWW YISS check dem blue flags w/ birds on ’em. FLYING HIGH! THE VALE! This jagoff!:
Don’t get me wrong. Littlefinger is legit the worst. But if he can save the Starks, I can deal with him (today).
Good call, Sansa. Super glad you waited to tell anyone so like 3/4 of your army was killed when you could have waited a day to make a siege and this whole thing could’ve gone down differently. I’m for feminism as much as the next gal but it’s Jon freaking Snow. Don’t you dare put his beautiful life in danger!
The Knights of the Vale come in and break through the Bolton lines, giving Jon, Tormund and Wun Wun the opportunity to get free. They immediately head towards Ramsay, who’s spent this entire time spectating like this is WWE on Pay-Per-View.
The Bolton Boyz get back inside of Winterfell and board up the doors, because they don’t seem to realize that Wun Wun is literally a giant and can push through ’em. So he does, and after they break in, Ramsay shoots him in the flipping EYE and kills him. Wun Wun is our first *big* (har har) casualty of the night. Unpleasant, yes. But it does save money for CG…which I guess means maybe we’ll see Ghost again? Because it seems like Jon dropped him off at the PetsHotel before this whole ordeal.
Once he’s taken down the giant, Jon is next. But it’s a little late for that now. Jon starts heading right for Ramsay, catching his arrows in a shield. And check that shield out! Recognize the sigil? That’s the Mormont bear. He’s currently carrying a Mormont sword (thanks to Jeor of the Night’s Watch) and a Mormont Shield (thanks to one of those 62 soldiers kween Lyanna provided).
Jon finally reaches Ramsay and starts pummeling the shit out of him, which is probably the best part of the episode. I would literally have watched a full 60 minutes of this by itself. Battle of the Bastards, indeed.
I thought Sansa would finish him off with a sword, but instead Ramsay ends up in the kennels with his starving dogs, one of whom bites off his face. Not punishment enough, but I guess it will do. Would love for Sansa have taken the opportunity to call him a bastard one last time in the conversation we have beforehand, but she’s too busy internally gloating.
And with Ramsay gone, there is finally a Stark back in Winterfell.
It is done.
I have some grandiose theories about next week’s episode — one of them being that Jon may finally get his flaming sword, as per Azor Ahai — but we’ll just have to wait and see. I can’t believe the season is almost over. I do have hope, though, that GRRM’s next book may make it out before next season. I’ll try to read it slowly and savor it. (Won’t happen. They’re too good.)
All images courtesy of HBO.