Breathtaking television. Incredible, awe-inspiring, breathtaking television
The latest episode of Game Of Thrones offered cinema-quality action on a level unheard of for a TV show, surpassing even the series’ own Hardhome, Blackwater and Battle Of The Wall in the combat stakes.
The Battle Of The Bastards was brutal. It was nail-biting. And it was truly epic. If you’re still shaking from the adrenaline – you’re not alone.
Warning: Major spoilers for the entire GoT saga up to Season 6, episode 9
Dany destroys the slavers
So gripping was the showdown between Jon and Ramsay in the North, it’s easy to forget that the episode actually kicked off with an entirely different conflict over in the East.
With her city besieged by the treacherous Masters, it was so, so satisfying when Dany once again turned the tables on her foes: “We’re not here to negotiate my surrender – we’re here to negotiate your surrender.”
Cue the Targaryan Queen clambering aboard Drogon, her other two dragons breaking free, and the most gloriously silent of ‘oh shits’ as a masked Son Of The Harpy turned around to find a charging horde of very eager Dothraki coming their way.
What followed was a soaring, thrilling action sequence of the highest order, full of top-notch CGI and aerial extravagance, as Dany led her trio of ‘children’ on a ship-burning exercise that soon had the slavers’ fleet and army surrendering to her will.
When Theon and Yara later turned up to negotiate an alliance, it was all jarringly sudden (did they just teleport into Meereen?), but the exchange that followed brought a smile to the face; particularly when Dany and Yara – would-be first female monarchs of their line – found common ground.
We wonder what Euron will have to say about that?
Jon and Ramsay’s parlay
Everything about this exchange was the perfect prelude to the storm to come. The tension was palpable; the mind-games fierce.
As the Stark loyalists and Bolton alliance met for a bit of a chit-chat, Ramsay’s attempt to play the magmanimous gent fooled no-one, but was a fascinatingly sly tactic nonetheless.
Countered by Jon’s offer of one-on-one combat, and resulting demonstration of Ramsay’s personal weakness, the scene was set for some theatrics to come.
Still, Tormund’s obvious lack of strategic awareness, and Jon’s lack of understanding of just what he was up against, left a palpable sense of dread hanging in the air.
You sensed that Sansa was right to warn and castigate Jon for his assumptions – and to accept that Rickon’s days were sadly numbered.
And so it proved. Poor old Rickon got a brief stay of execution – only to be pierced by Ramsay’s arrow as Jon rode desperately and helplessly to try and rescue him (fans of the film Apocalypto were no doubt screaming for the youngest Stark to run in zig-zags rather than straight ahead – but alas).
Caught out in the open, the Stark battle plan of holding a defensive position and not getting flanked soon went to hell as the entire army was forced to charge in to save their commander.
What a charge it was too. The clash of horses was catastrophic; the ensuing carnage and sheer pandemonium of battle almost unbearably intense.
A special shout must go to the sensational tracking shot of Jon slashing, brawling and staggering his way through the mayhem, blood-soaked and dazed as friend and foe alike fell gorily around him.
An interesting, telling moment was Ramsay ordering his archers to fire on the melee – slaughtering most of his own cavalry in the process – while Davos stayed his hand.
With the Onion Knight and his reserves also choosing to wade in, it all became an intoxicating, maddening bloodbath.
The phalanx closes in
A dazed and disorientated Jon trampled into the dirt by a hundred desperate boots. Tormund and his Wildlings frantic and fearful as the enemy spears veered ever closer. A literal wall of dead providing a grisly barrier to escape, as men on both sides literally climbed a mountain of corpses to fight for their lives.
What an image. What a moment.
Here was despair not seen since The Red Wedding. Heart-pounding in the extreme, it was nail-biting stuff as Jon fought to free himself from the dirt, Tormund reeled under a flurry of punches from the SmallJon Umber, and utter desolation of the Starks and their allies seemed assured.
Jon and Sansa re-take Winterfell
…the Knights Of The Vale rode in to the rescue.
Littlefinger’s possible arrival had been telegraphed previously, so you might have seen this coming, but it was wonderful to see the look on Ramsay’s face as certain victory turned to utter defeat in an instant; the sight of blue banners in the breeze as the riders swept through the Bolton lines as sweet as Ramsay’s fear and confusion.
What followed was gloriously apt. Tormund hacked (and bit) the Wildling-hating SmallJon to pieces, a battered, filthy Jon raised himself to aim vengeful eyes at his enemy, and before long the Bolton bastard’s reckoning was at hand.
Cheers as the trusty giant hammered down Winterfell’s gate turned to sorrow as he fell to a hail of arrows – the last delivered by Ramsay himself – but we all knew it; the sadistic, would-be Warden’s days were numbered.
For one horrifying moment we all must have thought Ramsay would be granted a quick, if brutal, death via Jon’s fists. But if Jon’s hot-headed nature almost cost his side the battle, Sansa’s startled gaze at least gave him pause in this instance.
Tied to a chair, and fed to his own ‘loyal’ hounds, Ramsay got a truly fitting, gruesome demise. Can you hear that Ramsay? Can you? That’s irony having its wicked way with you.
It was almost as pleasing a sight as Stark banners being hoisted onto the walls, and presumably back onto the opening credits too.
For now, we all probably need to go for a quiet walk and calm down. Later, there’ll be time to reflect on what Littlefinger will be scheming for the North, what Davos is going to do now he’s worked out what happened to Shireen, and what surprises Jon might find in Winterfell’s crypt, when he goes to lay Rickon to rest.