Season 6 might as well be called Revenge of the Starks, whereby the family of our hearts finally get to win back some agency and their home in the process. Although that did come at a cost – namely of their brother Rickon, the giant Wun-Wun and the nervous systems of the entire audience.
In an episode that just visited two locations – Winterfell and Meereen – we, as the audience, received an odd satisfaction that we are not used to accustoming with Game of Thrones, and partly what makes this show and this episode in particular so special.
Let’s get into ‘Battle of the Bastards’:
From beginning to end, this episode was a treat – in storytelling, in character development and in special effects. In one episode we got the dragons taking flight and laying attack on Meereen, and we received probably the best directed fight sequence of the entire show. We have had some great battle before – Blackwater, Hardhome, Castle Black – but this one seemed almost like choreography, like a scene from big budget movie rather than a television series. It makes me excited in anticipation to think what we’ll get next with regards to the Great Battle between the living and the dead.
Last week after Meereen was burning I worried that Daenerys has too much to deal with Meereen to go to Westeros anytime soon, but boy was I wrong. Daenerys was all ready to kill all the masters and people of Meereen with fire and blood but Tyrion encouraged her not to go the route of her father but to try diplomacy in order to get Meereen back in working order.
This one of the things that I enjoyed most about Daenerys this week – she was a good ruler. Yes she is powerful – she has dragons, Dothraki, Unsullied but she didn’t just throw them all out in full force, she used them strategically and utilized them well. She listened to the advice of Tyrion, she used Grey Worm’s lethal combat, used Missandei as a spokesperson, and through that we got to see Daenerys using her skills well, Tyrion at the best he has been for two seasons, Grey Worm actually doing something and the dragons looking beautiful with probably most of the budget that the show has.
The second Meereenese scene was between Daenerys and Yara and Theon where they pledged their ships and allegiance to her in hopes that she will give Yara the Iron Islands when she conquers Westeros. Daenerys promises to grant them independence if they stop their pillaging and raping ways, which will be something that Yara will struggle with because that is what her people are used to, but it might be worth it if they get to be their own independent state. This does make one think that if Daenerys was able to grant the Iron Islands this, can the north be independent again? And perhaps she will be able to introduce a more democratic or equal form of governance.
And then there was the event that we have been building up for years, the battle between the ‘bastard’ sons of great lords – Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton. They fought for control of Winterfell, Rickon Stark, and that niggly thing that Ramsay happened to be married to Sansa.
Okay so before I go into what I loved about these scenes I’ll relay the 5% that I disliked: firstly Jon. He is such a great guy, but he really failed when he underestimated Sansa and what she knew. She told him how to outsmart Ramsay but he still did not listen to her, and that derailed their battle. In the same way it was annoying that Sansa did not reveal to Jon that she had wrote to Littlefinger for help and perhaps if she had asked him to postpone the battle for a couple of hours, a lot of lives might have been saved. I feel like the two of them really need to get their ducks in a row and start trusting each other and working together.
The battle itself was almost beautiful in the way it was executed, the horses, the fighting, the sequences, it was all done spectacularly with extraordinary special effects working with well done direction. Miguel Sapochnik, the director of this episode, is deserving of every accolade he receives for this because this episode in and of itself was in a league of its own.
We need to talk about Sansa though. We have seen her character go through so much, being surrounded by the worst of the villains from Cersei and Joffrey, to Littlefinger and Lysa, to Ramsay Bolton, she has seen a lot more harm than most of the other characters but for the first time, this season we get to see how all of this affected her and she gets to reclaim her agency. She gives sound advice to Jon (just as her former husband Tyrion did over the sea to Daenerys) she saved the day with Littlefinger and the knights of the Vale, and she signed Ramsay’s death sentence (being torn apart by hounds, so apt). She has proven herself to be smart and cunning, even though she is constantly underestimated by the men in her life – like Jon and Littlefinger.
She is capable of ruling, especially politically, and whereas we saw Jon make silly errors we do know he is a warrior, Sansa can easily be the politician to his warrior. Soooo if Yara is getting the Iron Islands does that mean the North is up for grabs when the matriarchy eventually takes over?
Game of Thrones airs on HBO on Sundays at 9pm E.T