I think pretty much everyone who knows me well, knows that I am huge follower of HBO’s Game of Thrones. And they know that I dedicate my Monday nights to watching it (almost) without fail. Tonight, we saw episode 9 of season 6, ‘Battle of the Bastards,’ and there was plenty of excitement building up to it, especially when the show’s track record has been consistent with huge moments and turning points that happen in the, often epic, 9th episode. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty hyped about this one.
After having successfully avoided spoilers all day (which I might add, I’m getting quite good at), all I’d heard about the upcoming episode was that it was a big one, and plenty of the cast were singing its praises too. But all of this I’d gathered myself from the teaser shown on last week’s Thronecast. So, I settled down to watch with great anticipation. And then something happened which only happens every once in a while, when TV does something incredible.
Game of Thrones proved to me why it’s my favourite show on television.
Kicking off with Daenerys in Meereen, there was a twinge of fear I had for Tyrion Lannister as she saw the state of the city upon her return, but that was quickly extinguished when the Dream Team went out to negotiate with the masters. I have loved seeing Tyrion try to connect with Missandei and Grey Worm over the course of this season, and it was rounded off nicely last week with them attempting to exchange jokes. But tonight we saw the three of them work together as a force, and a force to support Daenerys, which they did remarkably well.
And then the dragons arrived!! God haven’t we waited a long time to see the three of them in their full glory? And tonight felt like exactly the right moment – in terms of the story and the position Daenerys and her city were in, but also in terms of the length of time we’ve waited. This show is so good at making us wait for things to happen, and then bringing them up in the best ways possible. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let out a little cackle of joy when Daenerys said that famous line, “Dracarys…”
I’ll keep you in Meereen just a few moments longer while I mention the arrival of the Greyjoys. I couldn’t help but notice that they seemed to get there rather quickly, but that’s something we can glaze over. I think the alliance we have building between Targaryen and Greyjoy is a very interesting one, and one that probably bodes well for Westeros too. The series really is making a move towards the development of powerful women, and we saw two would-be queens come together here, both with the goal to work together for a future of women leading Westeros. Daenerys changed her whole attitude towards her visitors when she realised it was Yara that was making a claim to the Salt Throne, not her brother Theon, and I’m excited to see where this thread takes us.
Meanwhile in Westeros, there was a helluva battle going on outside the gates of Winterfell. This was what ‘Battle of the Bastards’ had been leading up to. Now let me tell you, that was amazing. I loved every second of it. Seriously, that was some of the best television I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
The tension that built up while Sansa sat in silence throughout the battle plans was tantalising, just teasing us for the clash she had with Jon immediately afterwards. And I don’t think I’d be alone in wondering if that’s Game of Thrones suggesting to us that Sansa might actually be the more successful leader of the two? Whether that’s what she wants, I’m not so sure of, but I think if this episode proved anything, it’s that Sansa has come a very very long way from the innocent, daydreaming teenager she started out as, and she’s perfectly capable of surviving, and thriving, in a man’s world.
I can’t let this moment pass by without giving honourable mention to the wonderful Davos Seaworth, who’s lived through his own fair share of torments. Tonight, he found the wooden stag that he carved for his beloved Princess Shireen, and discovered the fate she had befallen. While the moment was only fleeting, it was touching and sombre and just what was called for – Benioff and Weiss did it again.
But that battle. Oh my holy mother of our Lord and seven hells. That was something else. This, this, was what we were waiting for. And gods did it deliver! Rickon’s fate, while I expected it – come on, Sansa said it herself – was devastating, and made even more so by Ramsay’s toying with Jon’s hopes, and through him, our own hopes. Ramsay played Jon Snow so well, and Jon did exactly what we knew he would do, but wished he wouldn’t, and for a minute I really did think he would have to face all those men alone. Then when the battle really began, there was chaos. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sequence so accurately depicting the horror and the confusion and the loneliness of battle quite like this one did (okay I’ve never been in a battle myself, but what I mean is this depiction of it didn’t shy away from showing the not so glorious parts). I was scared for Jon. I was scared for Davos. I was scared for Tormund. And while it should have been an obvious cliché of a ‘rescue,’ I was so caught up in the battle that I hadn’t thought about Sansa and where she might be. I’ve never been so happy to see Littlefinger.
When it was over, and Davos and Tormund were safe, and Wun Wun had given his life to Jon’s cause, Jon Snow faced Ramsay Bolton. Well wasn’t that a satisfyingly, beautifully gruesome little punch-up? All those who wish they could have been Jon Snow in that scene say ‘I’… I thought so. Then when he looked to Sansa, and he gave her the power to do with Ramsay what she liked, I had a sick and twisted little chuckle to myself. If I had been Sansa, boy would that be what I wanted. And after waiting three seasons to see the little bastard of Bolton die a slow and painful death, there he was, being eaten by the very dogs he used to use to hunt down girls for sport. Only in the world of Game of Thrones could we say that watching someone being eaten by hounds was satisfying.
And all of that is exactly why I thought that ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was such an awe-inspiring episode. It perfectly sewed together the tension and excitement and epic scale that it set out to create, and had some touching moments woven into the fabric, which by the end was all stained crimson by the bloody and gruesome battle. That was Game of Thrones at the top of its game: the best episode to date.
Not too long ago, one of my friends asked me why I loved the show so much, and I couldn’t quite string together a coherent answer for them because I got excited and couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why. But that episode was everything I love about Game of Thrones. That episode proved to me why I love it so much.
I had the pleasure of watching some awesome television tonight, and that feeling doesn’t come around very often, only when TV does something incredible.