‘Game of Thrones’ szn 6, ep. 9: A Glorious Bastard

It’s the remix to Ignition

Hot Pie workin’ the kitchen

Now all my direwolf pastries are totally bitchin’

What defines “good” when talking about a Game of Thrones episode? More specifically, what defines “good” when talking about the most-anticipated GOT episode in the show’s six-year run? Any given episode can be great for any given reason. Some episodes seamlessly forward the plot. Some bring about shocking revelations or critical character moments. Some are just plain badass. The truly perfect GOT episodes –like S2’s “Blackwater”, or last season’s “Hardhome”- do all of these things. Before you read my general cynicism, ask yourself, was ”Battle of the Bastards” everything you expected it to be and more?

It’s not baseless overkill to call “Battle of the Bastards” the most-anticipated GOT episode yet. GOT is more popular now than it ever has been. It’s at the brunt of the pop culture discussion to a degree nothing else has come close to in my lifetime. On a personal level, this episode felt so much like an event that I, a diehard hoops fan, tuned out of Game 7 of the NBA FUCKING FINALS to catch it. I didn’t despise the episode by any means; but when the dogs ripped Ramsay up and the credits rolled, I went back to the basketball game thinking, “That was cool. I guess.”

For an episode on such a large scale, I was frustrated with how safe and obligatory this felt. What really was at stake? Let’s start at Winterfell, the site of the titular battle. Did anyone expect Ramsay to win? Was this show really going to waste the time of having Jon Snow lose and regroup when there are much bigger wars to be fought? If it sounds like I’m asking a lot of questions, I am. I really am interested to see what other people thought going into and coming out of this episode.

I couldn’t even take Rickon’s death seriously, as cruel as that may sound. I don’t give two shits about Rickon because the show has given me no reason to other than his last name being Stark. He’s had, what, 20 minutes of screentime the whole series? His capture by Ramsay was purely a plot device; something included solely to add urgency to an event that didn’t need any added urgency. As for the physical killing of Rickon, good God man. We’ve seen Ramsay shoot a few arrows but nothing’s indicated that he’s some master-archer capable of pulling an Apocalypto with so much ease. I’m just going to move forward pretending Rickon, and that scene, never existed.

The battle itself was beautifully staged by director Miguel Sapochnik, who should be getting calls from Hollywood franchises as we speak given what he did here and with “Hardhome”. There was nothing particularly poetic about this battle. It was raw. Blood, guts, mud, and piles of corpses so high Jon literally found himself buried in one of them. GOT has never skimped in regards to brutality, but this was something else. The producers have talked extensively about how this was their most expensive and difficult moment. A grueling 25-day shoot with hundreds of extras, a whole lot of horses, and careful choreography. They nailed it. This certainly looked like the open-field battle we’ve been waiting for. If only it felt that way.

I’m not saying Ramsay should’ve won. His assuredness was always his tragic flaw; and a classical one at that. It was very much within the frame of his character to foolishly decide to meet Snow’s army in the open as opposed to taking advantage of Winterfell’s reinforcements.

My problem is with how Snow won the battle. Is it possible for a TV show or movie to have battle that doesn’t end with the underdog being saved at the last minute by a third-party cavalry that just happens to show up at THE PERFECT MOMENT? We’ve seen this so many times before. Shit, we’ve seen this on GOT multiple times before. It felt like a cop-out (even if it made sense on a strategic level).

Also, why in the fuck didn’t Sansa tell Jon she wrote Littlefinger? This makes ZERO sense. She didn’t think they had enough men, but Jon was moving forward regardless. Talk about communication issues. And to think some of you want them to become a couple.

Checking in with Bronn of the Blackwater, Week 9

No Bronn this week as everything was focused on Winterfell and Meereen.

Surely Littlefinger’s motivations for saving the day extend beyond just helping Sansa and Jon win this battle. Did Sansa promise him something in that letter? Littlefinger is a character who stands just outside the major happenings until he sees an opportune moment. Maybe he wants the North. Maybe he wants Sansa. Maybe he wants the Seven Kingdoms. I’m not sure, but he wants something.

Ramsay was probably the most hated character on GOT yet. His death, though predictable, was satisfying. Jon beat him into submission but made sure he was still breathing so Sansa could watch him get ripped apart by his own dogs. That was certainly a moment. She didn’t even blink. She stood outside the cage (cliché visual motif!), watching every second of it. As nice as it would’ve been to see Sansa order the removal of a certain body part, Ramsay’s actual death felt proper.

The “Daenerys Sucks Diaries”, Week 9

Coming in, I thought this episode would be ENTIRELY dedicated to the battle in Winterfell. To see it include and even open with the battle at Slaver’s Bay was a surprise. I’m glad they got it out of the way so the finale can focus on other things. GOT flexed its CGI-muscle with those dragons. The ship-burning sequence was spectacular, as was the use of scaled models to show Dany flying above the entire city. Nothing looked cheap, which is refreshing on a show whose CGI can (understandably) be very hit-or-miss.

I don’t really understand why Dany was so forgiving towards Tyrion, who violated her orders and almost lost the city. She’s been pretty damn stern and unforgiving up to this point. Perhaps her embracement of Jorah and forgiving of Tyrion indicate a change in her mindset. Maybe she’s realized that she needs help from those she swore to burn.

Theon and Yara arriving in Meereen (that was quick) supports that idea. Dany needs to compromise. She needs ships. The Greyjoy rogues have ships, and they want the Iron Islands. This would appear to be a pretty easy deal to make. There was also a nice girl power moment between Dany and Yara, both of whom have seen their sex be an additional hurdle to get over. Yara is a bit more masculine in the classical sense (we’ve also seen that she hits from both sides of the plate), but Dany has proven herself quite forceful in a world where women are mostly either trophy wives or whores. I don’t actually believe Yara gives a damn about leaving the world “better than she found it”, but maybe Dany will rub off on her.

Tweet of the Week

CaptureEl oh El.

Going back to my original thought, I don’t really know what to think of “Battle of the Bastards”. It looked spectacular but felt minor the more I think about it relative to the larger story. It was very neat, happy even. Because of this, I’d expect some serious tragedy in the finale next week.

Arbitrary Ranking of the Week

GOT “Battles”, ranked

  1. Blackwater
  2. Hardhome
  3. The Wall
  4. Battle of the Bastards

Five Random Notes

  1. Oh boy, how about that Game Seven? I’m happy for LeBron. He finally has more rings than Michael Jordan.
  2. I saw Finding Dory. It wasn’t very good. Gorgeously animated but the story just took HUGE leaps and the supporting characters weren’t charming or funny. It had its emotional moments but the whole middle third of the movie was bad. However, Piper, the short before the feature, is possibly my favorite thing Pixar has ever done.
  3. Next week’s GOT will be 69 minutes long. Nice.
  4. Miguel Sapochnik also directed the finale.
  5. Iwan Rheon, the actor who plays Ramsay, originally was brought in to audition for the role of Jon Snow.

 

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