By James Hancock June 19th, 2016
As every fan of Game of Thrones knows, episode 9 nearly always features the grandest action set pieces or the most twisted surprises of any given season. While I would not argue that ‘Battle of the Bastards’ had much in the way of twists, on the other hand it did not hold back in any way when it came to massive, status quo-altering battles. On one front, we saw Daenerys unleash the full power of her dragons for the first time in order to repel the invasion of Mereen. She has fully embraced her Valyrian heritage in a way that has not been seen since the days of Aegon the Conqueror when he began his war against the seven kingdoms of Westeros. On a different front, we saw Jon and Sansa’s army fight a pitched battle against the forces of Ramsay Bolton in a last ditch effort to reclaim their family home. The show has never attempted anything on this scale before and for fans of epic medieval combat the final showdown did not disappoint. As much as I’m looking forward to next week’s wrap up, I can walk away from this season with a giant geeky smile on my face. While the first three seasons remain my favorite, I think season six overall has been a dramatic improvement over the previous season which was the weakest in my opinion. The teaser below gives us some idea of what to expect in the tenth and final episode. I’ll be sad to see the season end but for now let’s move on to the recap.
The episode began with a full scale invasion of Mereen with Tyrion desperately trying to bring Daenerys up to speed on current events. He cautions her about resorting to the tactics of her father the Mad King before she meets with the opposition to discuss terms of surrender. Much to their surprise, she flips the script on her adversaries and mounts Drogon before flying into battle against the enemy fleet. Hearing their sibling’s roar, Viserion and Rhaegal break free through a wall to join him in the air (a little too convenient but it was still kind of cool) as they begin to burn the ships and their catapults. Meanwhile, Daenerys’s new Dothraki horde enters the city to fight the Sons of the Harpy in hand to hand combat. In the aftermath, Tyrion and Grey Worm allow one of the enemy’s leaders to survive in order to inform the rest of the continent about what is in store for anyone who tries to resist Daenerys.
Meanwhile, outside of Winterfell, Jon and Ramsay meet out in the open where Jon offers to save a lot of lives by facing Ramsay in single combat. Ramsay refuses and when questioned about whether or not Rickon Stark truly is his prisoner, he offers the head of Rickon’s dire wolf. That night Jon strategizes with Ser Davos and Tormund about the battle to come and their desire to provoke Ramsay into attacking their forces and getting caught in a pincer movement. Sansa urges Jon not to play into Ramsay’s hands by behaving in a predictable fashion. Jon, unsure of himself, speaks to Melisandre alone and asks her not to bring him back again if he dies. She tells him that she has no power to do so and that it is the Lord of Light’s power that brought him back and that he would not have done so without a reason. Back in Mereen, Theon and Yara arrive and offer their fleet of 100 ships to Daenerys in exchange for the independence of the Iron Islands from Westeros. After bonding about their evil, deranged fathers, they forge an alliance on the condition that the Ironborn stop raiding and raping the coasts of Westeros.
The episode draws to a close with the massive battle we have been waiting for the entire season. Ramsay tricks Jon into attacking prematurely by telling Rickon to run across the field. Ramsay begins firing arrows at Rickon as he runs and Jon gets to Rickon just in time to see him die. Playing right into Ramsay’s hands, Jon’s forces charge and what follows is an epic melee with some astonishing choreography. Eventually, Jon and his wildling army are surrounded but before they meet a grisly end, they hear the horns of some much needed reinforcements. Led by Littlefinger and Sansa, the army of House Arryn of the Eyrie, a fresh army that has stayed out of every battle and skirmish throughout the entire story since episode one of season one, rides in and quickly sweeps aside Ramsay’s men. Ramsay flees the field with Jon, Tormund and their giant right on his heels. The giant smashes through the gates of Winterfell before finally dropping with an arrow through the eye fired by Ramsay. Ramsay accepts Jon’s proposal of single combat right before Jon nearly pummels him to death. With a look from Sansa, Jon leaves him in her care and she decides to feed Ramsay to his very hungry dogs who have not eaten in seven days.
So that’s it for this week. The teaser for next week gave us a peek at the trial of Loras and Cersei as well as some lectures by Tyrion to Daenerys about the dangers involved in playing the Great Game for the Iron Throne. I have no idea what to expect from Cersei’s trial but I hope it involves Margaery putting the High Sparrow in his proper place and shaming her idiotic husband Tommen for turning against his own blood. Or maybe Cersei and her zombie guardian will simply burn down all of King’s Landing. Whatever happens, I know where I’ll be at 9 pm on Sunday evening. I hope you all enjoyed this recap and give me a shout on Twitter with any predictions you might have about how the season will end.
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