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Monday, 20 June 2016

Game of Thrones S6E9: Battle of the Bastards.

Game of Thrones
Series 6, Episode 9
Battle of the Bastards.

Speculation was understandably rife that this would be an episode entirely focused on one area, like how Blackwater was focused entirely on King's Landing, and The Watchers on the Wall was focused entirely on Castle Black. I desperately hoped it wouldn't be, because despite the fact that Blackwater remains my favourite episode, this episode just didn't have enough angles to make that same kind of storytelling interesting: Blackwater had Davos and Stannis on the ships, Tyrion leading the defense of the city, and Cersei and Sansa in the Red Keep, and it managed to ramp up tension while also keeping things interesting by switching between those three viewpoints. That's not something you can really do with this episode.

Luckily, it wasn't all Winterfell all the time: We also got some sections with Daenerys in Meereen, wrapping up the 'siege of Meereen' storyline introduced last week.

In this week's episode, Jon and Sansa march on Winterfell. After Ramsay turns down an offer of single combat from Jon, and murders Rickon on the battlefield, the battle begins, with Ramsay seeming to clearly and decisively beat Jon's army, before help comes at the eleventh hour. Meanwhile, in Meereen, Daenerys return sees the tide of the battle for Meereen change drastically, and Yara and Theon arrive in the city to appeal to her for help.

Worst mosh pit ever.

So, we'll start with Meereen. A few people have been speculating that Daenerys is going to go mad, as her father did, and I didn't buy that until this episode: As Daenerys proclaims that she'll execute not just the Masters but their entire army, and turn their cities to dust, Tyrion overtly draws a comparison between her and Aerys - and the episode continues to hammer in that comparison, even after Daenerys relents and takes Tyrion's slightly less bloody option instead, as she remarks to Yara that both their fathers (and Tywin as well) were terrible people, and that they're going to be better.

It's the most we've gotten to hint that Daenerys might end up going all Mad Queen, and it ties in well with the fact that Bran's visions have given us our first glimpse of Aerys, as well as Daario's remarks that Daenerys is a conqueror, not made for sitting on a throne (despite the fact that that's what conquerors do when they're done conquering.)

It was nice to see Daenerys and Yara flirting, though. I'd like it more if I wasn't still kind of reeling over Yara's whole 'oh my god stop being traumatised' speech to Theon, but details.

The battle scenes with Daenerys are brief, but all pretty dramatic, as she soars around the city setting fire to boats, with music swelling in the background, and occasional cuts to Tyrion talking very softly to the Masters. It showcases both of those characters' strengths pretty well, and after nearly a whole series of them being apart, helps cement them as the Game of Thrones Dream Team. 

Team Dragon.

Winterfell, meanwhile, is somewhat - less interesting to me. Sorry, I don't care all that much for Jon as a protagonist, and I care even less for Ramsay as a villain. The moment where Rickon dies is effective, but I almost feel like it would be more effective if it was Sansa, not Jon, who had to hold Rickon while he died. Ramsay has more ties to Sansa, after all, and it would hammer in the idea of 'Ramsay can't stand to have a trueborn Stark heir', which is more relevant to Sansa, since Rickon being dead means that it's just Bran before her now - and she has no idea that Bran's alive.

The Battle of Winterfell also doesn't feel that dramatic. It's very one-sided in Ramsay's favour, but there's no tension there because we all know what's going to happen. We know Littlefinger is going to show up with the Knights of the Vale. We know that the Knights will immediately just wreck Ramsay's army. We know that because of that, the battle will end with Jon and Sansa victorious. 

So the battle was mostly just waiting for that, and wondering if they'd manage to pull some kind of surprise, like Karstark betraying Ramsay, or Melisandre doing some magic shenanigans, or Jaime arriving - but none of those things happened, so it was just a waiting game.

Sometimes Ramsay looks like a frog.

What I did like, though, is that when the Knights of the Vale do arrive, it's framed as Sansa's victory over Ramsay. A lot of emphasis is put on Sansa and Ramsay acknowledging each other from across the battlefield, of Ramsay's confidence fading, and so on, and we're pretty clearly meant to take it as 'Jon lost against Ramsay, but Sansa won, because she outmaneuvered him.' That almost redeemed the entire battle for me.

Thankfully, Ramsay also died, in what might be one of the most gruesome deaths of the series - and gratifyingly, Sansa gets to be the one who kills him, by way of mauling him with his own hands. Good doggos. Good doggos.

Next episode, we're getting Cersei's trial, Daenerys finally properly joining the game (apparently), Jon and Sansa having trust issues with both each other and with Melisandre as Davos reveals that she had Shireen burned, some stuff with Bran, and what looks like Jaime being just about ready to murder Walder Frey. Please, Jaime. Please murder Walder Frey and redeem yourself in my eyes.

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