Game of Thrones: Season 6 Episode 9 Review – Battle of the Bastards
Episode 9, in every Game of Thrones season, always features the primary grand, epic, set piece of the season. If there is to be a huge battle in a given Game of Thrones season, then it will usually always feature in episode 9. With that in mind, the show tackles perhaps not its grandest battle yet (that goes to the battle on the Wall), but certainly something that comes very close. Below you will find our spoiler-heavy review of last night’s episode.
In effect, this episode provided not one grand battle, but two. For it opened in the East, with Daenerys showing exactly what she can do when challenged. Not only did Daenerys ride Drogon but this time Rhaegal and Viserion accompanied the onslaught. After they broke free of their confinement, all three dragons brought death and fury to Daenerys’ enemies and it was a glorious sight to behold (as was the quality of the CGI, as always). Although both the books and the show have waited too long to see Daenerys bring her wrath to Westeros, at least here we got a glimpse of what that might look like when it does finally happen.
A pleasant surprise too was Yara (Asha) and Theon Greyjoy arriving to beseech the aid of Daenerys, especially given that in the books it is their Uncle (and now enemy) Euron who aims to use the tactic of siding with Daenerys (which Yara did mention here, too, amidst her jest about marrying Daenerys herself). So we kind of love that Yara and Theon beat The Crow’s Eye to it and not only that – Daenerys accepted their offer of alliance, albeit with her own usual stipulations of removing cruelty where she can.
We were then treated to interesting interactions between the characters in the North, which shed light on how they view and prepare on the eve of battle. Davos looks upon the eve of battle with trepidation and is content to use a black humour about the situation (his joke to Tormund about his walks). Jon expressed to Melisandre his wish of not being brought back from the dead, which is a very intriguing and telling choice. It speaks of a man who is tired; tired of his duty, of fighting and of finding himself back in the same place after he thought himself free of this world.
You could call it a selfish request, but it’s important to remember that, according to the lore of the books, those who are brought back from the dead lose a little more of who they each upon each and every instance of being brought back. Although Jon does not likely know this, he certainly knows that it is an unnatural thing to be brought back, so we’re very pro his choice to remain dead. And you also cannot begrudge a man his fatigue when the man has accomplished as much as Jon has.
Melisandre refuses Jon, however, stating that she only serves The Lord of Light. This seems a bit contradictory to us, because Melisandre once thought that Stannis was Azor Ahai and she served him just fine (although, granted, she was often the one manipulating Stannis). She has since stated that she suspects Jon to be Azor Ahai instead, so why not serve Jon? We realise that she’s still a little lost and forlorn, but it seems odd for a servant of the Lord of Light not to stand by the wishes of the man that she thinks is Azor Ahai.
Then the battle commenced and it was a glorious, bloody and brutal affair. Really, it is battles just like this – on land, with two armies colliding – that are closest to the kinds of battles seen in England within the War of the Roses, which is what George R. R. Martin took a lot of his inspiration from for his series. So it makes sense that we are finally given a battle that is as typical to real life as we’re bound to get (bar Wun Wun stomping around).
The episode is titled ‘The Battle of the Bastards’, meaning Jon Snow and Ramsey Bolton, and the show did a great job of showing the stark contrasts between the two men. Where Jon is bold and brave and throws himself into harm’s way and the midst of battle, Ramsey is instead cowardly, refusing Jon’s challenge of a one on one fight, sitting back away from the battle, and fleeing when he sees that he has lost.
We did find that the battle was full of very expected turns. It was clear that Ramsey would probably sacrifice Rickon (though we liked the manner in which he did so), that Wun Wun would fall and that Ramsey would meet his end by the means by which he murdered others and with Sansa gloating over him (which is again another gratifying sign of her growing strength). Despite the obvious nature of the show’s choices, seeing them play out anyway was certainly gratifying.
Last season’s battle was actually shown on the big screen in certain cinemas and was said to play really well on a cinematic scale. We’re positive that this battle would do just as well on a the silver screen, if it was to be given the same treatment. One thing that Game of Thrones does very well is bring a grand, operatic and epic quality to its battles.
Only one episode now remains this season. Episode 10 in each and every season is renowned for being a calm, come down of sorts, after the exciting events of episode 9. So we’ll see what the season’s final episode has in store, but we image it will be slow and conclusive. And talking of the episode structuring, according to the show runners this will be the final season that uses the 10 episode structure, with Seasons 7 and 8 holding shorter episode counts and being the final seasons for the show.
This is a smart move. When shows decide upon an end date and have something to work towards, it’s a positive methodology, and a briefer episode count also assures that those episodes will be filled with only the most crucial of story lines.
Image credits: HBO