This is what we've been waiting for, and we've been waiting such a long time. The dragons, completely unleashed. Giving hell to their enemies.
It was everything I had hoped it would be.
Every time the show didn't show a conflict in the past few episodes or something was slightly smaller than we had hoped it would be — and I'm thinking primarily of the siege of Riverrun — this episode more than made up for it. The production had clearly been saving budget for these moments, and by God did they ever land. And it kept happening, throughout the entire episode. Those dragons, those horses, that battle.
The show also introduced a few interesting ideas, including the fact that there is wildfire under the Great Sept of Baelor. Or that Daenerys Targaryen may be more like the Mad King than she's willing to admit. There's also the repeated assertion, from multiple characters, that you should only fight for people who would fight for you. That if your leader wouldn't, you should leave at your earliest possible convenience. It's rather good advice in general.
Let's talk about the battle, though.
The battle of the bastards
It was all here. The number of combatants was impressive. The tactics on the part of Ramsay were cunning. Sansa warned everyone it was coming. But I don't think anyone was prepared for how dark, and beautiful, this battle would be.
It was hard to watch, beginning with the death of Rickon. Sansa was right; as a male Stark he was the most threatening person in the world to Ramsay, and he had to go. But those moments with the arrows were still hard to watch, even if the results were inevitable. I was hoping that there was some way for Rickon to survive, but of course Ramsay is too good for that. Rickon had to die, and an angry Jon Snow is a compromised Jon Snow.
After that it was just a matter of watching some of the best choreography the show has ever offered. I can't wait to watch it again to see all the small moments I missed; every inch of this battle dense with fear and blood. But just like in so many of these epics, our heroes only had to survive long enough for the, figurative and literal, cavalry to show up. In this case it was House Arryn, complete with Littlefinger smirking next to Sansa.
And, I mean, did she know he was coming? She couldn't have told Jon? Also, how much power did he just grab for himself by coming through in that moment? One of the more interesting aspects of this episode, outside of the amazing dragon and army-on-army action, is the fact that a few interesting alliances are being wrought as we move closer to the end of the game. Not the least of which included Daenerys and Yara Greyjoy.
But Ramsay's actual end, after that final and somewhat groanworthy moment where his arrow killed Wun Wun the giant once and for all, was at least somewhat fitting. Nothing could have been done that would have paid back all the monstrous deeds he took part in throughout the shown's run, but there was a certain amount of joy in the fact that he didn't have to go out in that manner. He could have avoided it by just feeding his dogs.
But that's been his problem for the entire run of the show. He's almost comically undone by his own need to be monstrous. It ceased to make sense last season, and I'm glad he's dead. Not just because he was terrible as a human being, but he was terrible as a character. The show is much better, and more interesting, without him.
But at least his existence helped to give us this battle, which was one of the best action scenes the show has given us to date. And the results of the conflict are going to lead to many changes in the power structure of Westeros itself. This is very big news indeed, in many, many ways.
"I'm going to bury my brother in the crypt, next to my father," Jon says, next to the body of Rickon. It's a small moment of consolation. The Starks are home.
Odds and ends
- "Thank you for the armada. Our queen does love ships."
- "My beloved wife. I've missed you terribly."
- "You're going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton."
- "Happy shitting."
- "I never demand, but I'm up for anything, really." They may have brought 100 ships, but they also brought a ship.
- That shot of the Stark banner. Chills.
- I'm not apologizing for the ship joke.