‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 9 Roundtable Review: ‘Battle of the Bastards’

Each week, twins Adam and David Shimer analyze the latest episode of Game of Thrones from the perspective of a non-book reader. This week they discuss “Battle of the Bastards,” but first they would like to assign some weekly awards:

Tywin Lannister Memorial Award for Best Political Maneuvering: Ramsay creating a perfect battle-plan that began with the flawless manipulation of Jon.

Honorable Mention: Davos playing the long game with Melisandre — he may be the only character dull enough to have the patience to sit on that horrifying information.

Eddard Stark Memorial Award for Worst Political Maneuvering: The slavers forgetting that one of Dany’s many titles is Mother of Dragons.

Honorable Mention: Poor Rickon running at a steady pace in a straight line.

Brandon Stark Award for Most Boring Storyline: Tormund and Davos talking about sunsets and long walks on the beach.

Jaime Lannister’s Right Hand Award for Best Fight Sequence: Ramsay’s encirclement maneuver, the Giant in action and Jon running into a wall of charging cavalry.

Honorable Mention: Dany’s dragons showing that single ship who’s boss!

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AS: This episode more than any other made it feel like the show is slowly but surely inching toward its conclusion. The Starks returned to Winterfell, the show’s truest antagonist since Joffrey died, and Daenerys finally has a fleet of ships and her eyes set on Westeros. Still, the episode was at many points disappointingly conventional. It’s one thing to be predictable, but what makes these straightforward plot points all the more disappointing is that the show became so popular largely because of its unpredictability. To be fair, though, the episode did expected things in unexpected ways — while no one fell out of their seats when Rickon and Ramsay died, their deaths at the hands of a chase sequence and man-eating hounds were horrifyingly singular. Ramsay demonstrated that his sadism goes beyond his ability to wield a butcher’s knife, because there was no better way to torment Jon than to make him believe he could save his brother. And while it seems obvious that Rickon should have zig zagged, even if he did, Ramsay would have just had his army release a volley of arrows. It would have gotten rid of the malicious charm, but as Sansa said, he was never going to let Rickon live, who will be missed, despite the fact that he failed to say a single word all season. Seriously, not a single one — maybe Ramsay cut out his tongue and we just didn’t know.

While he was able to take a Stark to the grave with him, Ramsay finally did meet his demise, giving Sansa a sense of closure, or at least satisfaction, that few characters get. Theon will never get the pleasure of seeing his tormentor suffer a gruesome death, but the confidence he finally displayed this episode, just as his former master died on the other side of the Narrow Sea, provided its own sense of closure. Ramsay dying at the hands of disloyal hounds was a fitting way for the Bolton family to end, because whether it was Roose stabbing Robb or Ramsay doing the same to Roose, traitorous acts always defined the House. Ramsay’s sadism had become a bit over the top — who even were those people flayed and burning at the beginning of the battle? So his death now leaves the show without a true villain for the first time (the Night’s King doesn’t count), but the true strength of the cast has always been that it is filled with characters that could be viewed as good or evil depending on your perspective, such as Cersei, Jaime and the High Sparrow.

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The setting of Sansa and Jon’s war council — on the eve of battle in a candlelit tent surrounding a battle map of Westeros— was eerily reminiscent of Catelyn and Robb’s meeting the night before the Red Wedding. On that night, Catelyn was defiantly fierce as she famously told Robb to “show them how it feels to lose what they love.” This episode Sansa exuded no false confidence, but instead said, “No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone.” Between this and Arya’s “anyone can be killed”, it appears that the Stark sisters have largely arrived at the same, gloomy place. Sansa continued to utilize the realpolitik skills she gained from Littlefinger. It may have seemed cold hearted when she equated her younger brother to a sunk cost, but she has become shrewd enough to understand which variables in a situation need attention, and which are merely diversions.

Random Thoughts —

-“I’m part of you now”… more subtle hints pointing towards a secret Sansa pregnancy???

-Men value their lives more than their leader’s apparent courage, so Ramsay abandoning the walls of Winterfell as a way to demonstrate his strength and maintain his men’s loyalty was unconvincing.

-That moment when Sansa rode away and no one followed her.

-Since when did Theon and Yara steal 100 ships? Pretty sure they took 2, maybe 3, when they frantically fled the Iron Islands.

-A Stark dying was gut wrenching and yet oddly cathartic at the same time — it really felt like the show was getting back to its roots.

-Tyrion disliking Theon can’t last long given how well he gets along with eunuchs.

-Fat Walda got her revenge this episode! RIP Fat Walda — the first and last lovable Frey to ever exist in the Seven Kingdoms.

-I liked how the show used the “Previously on GOT” to manipulate how the audience viewed the episode. Lady Mormont was barely in the episode, but they highlighted her past scenes to misdirect us into thinking she might die or have a larger role in the battle than she actually did.

-The most animated Jon 2.0 has seemed all season was when he was begging Melisandre not to bring Jon 3.0 into existence.

-Tormund couldn’t die because of unfinished business with Brienne the Beauty.

-Why didn’t Sansa tell Jon about Littlefinger’s impending arrival? Past behavior provides a hint — she also lied to him about Littlefinger being the source of her Blackfish information. When it comes to Littlefinger, she seems to instinctively keep things close to the chest.

-The new Lord Umber’s betrayal is still inexplicable. The original Greatjon was one of Robb’s most faithful supporters and was the first to pronounce him King in the North.

-Pretty surprising that Ramsay didn’t desecrate the Stark crypt while he had the chance. I wonder where he buried Roose…

-The last time a Stark requested men from Littlefinger, Ned was betrayed and imprisoned. But this time Littlefinger stayed true to his word — further showing that he is the show’s most unpredictable character.

M.I.A. this episode: Bran and Benjen, Arya, King’s Landing, Gilly and Sam, Dorne, and the Night’s King.

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