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Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards” Review

"Game of Thrones" - Battle of the Bastards - Review

‘Battle of the Bastards’ Lives Up to Bastard Bowl Hype

SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES DOWN BELOW

After six seasons, it’s practically like clockwork for the ninth episode of a Game of Thrones season to deliver the goods in some epic form. Two massive battles, the Red Wedding, a public execution and last season’s skermish with dragons, the stakes are growing higher and higher as the seasons progress. Last night’s episode, Battle of the Bastards is no exception, living up a season’s worth of anticipation.

Battle of the Bastards was expected to be this season’s Blackwater or The Watchers on the Wall – a entire episode dedicated to planning, strategy and ending in a full-on battle. For the most part, that’s what the episode by Miguel Sapochnik (Hardhome) is aiming at, but breaks tradition by taking a few detours to Meereen to catch up Dany’s battle with the slave masters.

While Meereen in under siege, Dany (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) discuss what they should do with the slaver’s fleet laying waste to the city. Bringing out her inner Mad King, she insists on destroying all the slave cities. Tyrion isn’t thrilled with the idea, reminding her of the innocent lives in the those cities if they turn to toast. He even bring up that her father hid wildfire around King’s Landing, demonstrating to what extent her father would go to. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t foreshadowing in the King’s Landing subplot next week. Anyways, she’s always had that Targaryen ruthlessness in her, but it’s never gotten as terrible as her father or her brother. Could the winds of the change be blowing very soon?

Instead, she offers a surrender with slave masters. They automatically assume that she’s surrendering to them and that the Unsullied Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and translator Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) will be recaptured. But of course, Dany has her ace in the hole as Drogn arrives and burns the enemy ships to the ground. Dany’s other two dragons, Rhaegal and Viserion, who have been trapped in the catacombs since last season break out and join in on the attack. Due to their season-long captivity, they’re much smalller than Drogon, but the trifecta of dragons is still a force to be reckoned with.

After the victory, the Ironborn siblings Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Theon (Alfie Allen) plead their case for an alliance, stating they’ll back the Dragon Queen if she gives them back the Iron Islands. She agrees after learning of their uncle Euron’s plan to marry her and betray her for power. There’s certainly an understanding between Dany and Yara and almost a hint of flirtation. But the deal is sealed when the Greyjoy siblings agree to her terms of ending raping, pillaging and their way of life.

There’s not much time spent in Meereen, but with next week’s Season Finale being loaded to the brim with payoff after payoff, it’s completely understandable why they would’ve tacked on this battle in Battle of the Bastards. Ultimately, it doesn’t take away from what’s happening in Winterfell and provides an occassion diversion to an already concentrated battle.

So, here we are at last – Bastard Bowl 2016. Before the battle of the bastards, Jon (Kit Harington), Sansa (Sophie Turner), Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) meet up with the sadistic Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), hoping that it won’t come to an actual battle. Ramsay spells out his terms of surrender, demanding his wife back and is willing to pardon Jon for abandoning the Night’s Watch. Jon is willing to fight Ramsay one-on-one in an old-fashioned showdown rather than shedding more bloodshed than what’s needed. Always thinking one step ahead, Ramsay doesn’t play Jon’s game and it’s war.

In the camp, the commanders discuss battle plans and Sansa is frustrated with Jon for going to war much sooner than what they were prepared for. She refuses to be taken back by Ramsay and will even kill herself before being back in his clutches. You can see both arguements Jon and Sansa make about if this was the right time to strike. But there’s no turning back right now.

Later on, Jon commands Melisandre (Carice van Houten) to not bring him back a second time from the dead. It’s pretty obvious that this won’t be Jon’s last stand, but this is Game of Thrones after all. After nearly a season of not doing much of anything since his resurrection, it’s a joy to see Jon actually doing things once again in Battle of the Bastards, proving that he’s still the warrior he’s always been. Meanwhile, Davos wonders around the camp, glimpsing the remains of Shireen’s execution last season. Finally aware what role Melisandre played in her death, expect those two to clash next week. And to think, for once they were finally on the same page.

The morning after, the Bolton army and the Stark army meet on the battlefield. Ramsay puts Rickon (Art Parkinson) out on display, then cuts him loose to return him to the Starks. Technically he’s still the biggest threat to Ramsay’s legitimacy over the North. Jon is just a bastard. Sansa is a woman, who could claim the Queen of the North title. But has there been any precedent for it? But with Rickon, Ramsay plays a game with him, telling him to run to his family. He walks, unsure what Ramsay is playing at, but ends up running as arrows go flying and keep missing him. Eventually one does and down goes another Stark.

The battle begins and the way its shot, there are many times we feel right in the midst of it. It’s a dehumanized bloodbath and the longer it goes on, the more brutal it becomes. Towards the end, Jon’s face is a crimson mask as are the rest of the Wildings who have come to his aid. There’s not much focus on the other houses who joined and even little Lyana Mormont shows up for a brief second. No clue where her 62 men are in the midst of all of this.

The Boltons end up surrounding the Stark troops, pushing them more and more inwards until the Knights of the Vale fly onto the scene and start dominating. With the speculation going around, this turn of events was fairly predictable since many figured out Sansa was writing that letter to Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) a few episodes ago. The last minute save certainly has that Lord of the Rings vibe, providing the heroes a last second save.

The battle shifts to within the walls of Winterfell. The giant Wun Wun crashes through the gates, but is taken down so many arrows one loses count. Another fave goes down. First Hodor, now Wun Wun, the writers kill off some of our favorite big guys. Jon finally gets his revenge on Ramsay, beating him to bloody pulp. But when he glimpses up at Sansa, he doesn’t finish the job, coming to terms that his death belongs to her.

It’s no surprise at this point that Ramsay finally gets his. What does, however, is how he goes out, because we’re expecting poetic justice. So either’s he’s going to be castrated like he did to Theon or eating alive by dogs. The result, dogs.

Well that’s it. Battle of the Bastards was everything we could have hoped it to be. The Stark have finally reclaimed Winterfell after how many seasons and there’s an endless amount of satisfaction seeing Ramsay meet his bloody end. Now with Joffrey and Ramsay now gone, who’s going to take up the mantle and be the new villain in Westeros? Does it even matter at this point setting up a new baddie with the White Walkers on the move?

Next week’s Season Finale, The Winds of Winter has major shoes to fill, wrapping up all the storylines of the previous nine episodes. We’re on the home stretch and something major is definitely going down next week.

Next Week’s Preview:

10
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Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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