That’s what you call television.
This week GAME OF THRONES delivered it’s penultimate episode of the season, it’s always eventful episode nine, and oh boy was it a treat. This sixth season of the show has been fantastic by any standard. Peaking with Hodor’s tragic demise, and perhaps spinning its wheels for a few episodes thereafter, everything was brought back to peak brilliance with ‘Battle of the Bastards’. We always know to expect the best of what GAME OF THRONES has to offer when it comes to ninth episodes, but no one could have expected what occurred here.
Opening with easily the best use of large scale CGI the show has so far implemented, we saw a dazzling confrontation at sea as Dany’s dragons were unleashed like never before, crippling the attacking slaver fleet and reminding us all what these creatures are really capable of. Dany’s tale is a frustrating one, we all know where she is heading, but the show finds a way time and time again to delay her march towards Westeros. The ending of this week’s Essos segment certainly left us feeling like now will finally be the time she abandons the hot tumultuous environs of the eastern continent and attempts to reclaim her homeland, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she is still there for many episodes to come. Regardless, this was a powerhouse way to kick off the episode and set the tone for what was to come across the narrow sea.
With each season of GoT, one can quickly tell what will be the main story arc, plot and or situation that will be built towards for the season’s grand extravaganza. This season was no different; it was obvious that what we were all going to be salivating over was the fight for Winterfell, Jon vs. Ramsay, and Sansa retaking her homeland. This all came to fruition in the finest, most brutally exhilarating battle ever committed to TV. This wasn’t just impressive for a show like GAME OF THRONES, this was impressive period. There is barely a military confrontation in film that comes close to what was achieved in the fields beyond Winterfell’s walls. The scale of the forces on display, the cinematic nature of the photography, and the choreography of the action was truly a sight to behold.
I was left slack jawed, utterly devastated by the chaotic energy flowing from Jon’s attempt to defeat Ramsay’s superior forces. After the cruel and clever pageantry of Rickon’s murder — causing Jon to ignore Sansa’s warnings to not play into Ramsay’s hands — the gloves were off and we were with Jon despite the insurmountable odds he surely faced. The battle was pure chaos, it was frenetic, disorientating, and impossible to turn away from. Never has a screen battle fought off fatigue with such relentless energy. Yes, it was violent, yes, it was grim, but the framing of the individual and collective struggles, paired with the deep connection we had to the characters in peril, was more than enough to counteract any weariness of gore and viscera.
It’s obvious where the budget for this season went, and it paid off in spades, it was worth every penny. The team behind GoT poured everything into this. All their skills, knowledge, experience and passion, went into making the battle for Winterfell an unforgettable and insurmountable moment in television history. Beyond the technical achievement of what these folks have accomplished, the impact of this moment on the story cannot be understated. The series big bad — the most odious, violent and thoroughly evil character the show has — is dead, defeated in battle, the head of house Bolton torn to shreds by his own hounds, as Sansa finally got her revenge, as she finally took that step from burgeoning and embittered young lady to a vengeful woman that could even take a slice of pleasure from such a gruesome sight. Sansa has arrived now. She is standing up to her brother and forming her own path. She made the correct, but obviously dangerous decision to call for Littlfinger’s aid, and made sure that Jon’s armies came out on the side of victory. She will have the challenge of her life in dealing with Baelish, who will no doubt have marriage to Lady Stark on his mind, but she now has the tools and confidence to do so.
And what of Jon? Yes, he has proved himself once again to be a fighting force to be reckoned with, a fearless warrior that is capable of legendary heroics, but he is no leader. By falling for Ramsay’s taunts, he nearly got all of his men killed, he nearly destroyed the entire cause because of personal feelings, this kind of behaviour does not bode well for him, and Sansa knows it. With Littlefinger whispering in her ear, and her own knowledge of what needs to be done, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her send Jon away, off to pursue some mission that doesn’t involve diplomacy or patience. Jon is a hero, but he is likely to get Sansa killed, not everyone has a witch to resurrect themselves.
‘Battle of the Bastards’ was everything we could have wanted, a masterful outing that will define this season in our minds forever. There is only one episode remaining this year, and that of course brings great sorrow to all lovers of quality drama, but episode ten promises to be quite the occasion too. Beyond the fallout from Winterfell and Mereen, we have the trial at Kings Landing to look forward to. Will the High Sparrow finally get his comeuppance? Will Margery be found out? Will Cersei wreak her vengeance? With GAME OF THRONES, it’s always hard to predict, but to live up to this week’s events, it’s going to have to be something spectacular. I think they’re up to the challenge.
The Winds of Winter beckon…