Game of Thrones
“Battle of the Bastards”
June 19, 2016
Alright, so the Battle of the Bastards was amazing, no doubt, but the real story this week is how sisters are doing it for themselves. Sansa, Daenerys and Yara: none of them are playing, y’all. Look out, Westeros, because these ladies are getting in formation and they slay. They got hot sauce in their bag, swag, indeed. DAMN.
As the masters bomb the everliving hell out of Meereen, Tyrion and Daenerys discuss how they should handle the situation, and Daenerys is like, “BRB, going to go crucify all the masters and burn their fleet and destroy their cities.” Tyrion is all, “Well, that’s one way to go. But let me tell you a little story about your dad. Have you heard the one where the Mad King stashed wildfire under the Red Keep with the intention of setting it off and killing every man, woman and child in King’s Landing? Yeah, this talking about ‘destroying cities’ has a familiar ring to it. So how about we try something else?”
Dany, Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm meet with three of the masters for surrender negotiations, and the masters are all, “So what’s going to happen here is you’re going to leave the pyramid, and the Unsullied and your translator friend are going to return to being slaves and you’re going to go away and never come back, k bai.” But Daenerys is like, “Or, I could get on the back of my dragon, and with the help of his two brothers, I could destroy your fleet. In fact, how about we try that?” And then, Daenerys climbs onto the back of Drogon, while Rhaegal and Viserion burst out of the pyramid to join them and the three dragons lay fiery waste to a few ships just so that everyone is really clear on who will be surrendering to whom here.
Also happening: the Dothraki Screamers, led by Daario, killing all the Sons of Harpy who really needed some killing.
While Daenerys rides around being all Targaryen, Grey Worm tells the masters’ slave army that they can fight and die for their worthless masters or they could go home and be free. Unsurprisingly, they choose option B. Tyrion thanks the masters for their fleet before pointing out that they violated the terms of their truce, and for that, there is a price. So, talk amongst yourselves and decide which of you is going to die. Two of the masters volunteer the third claiming he’s “low born” and not even really a part of their cliqué anyway. But then Grey Worm kills them instead for being honorless jerkfaces. Tyrion then tells the surviving master to go home and tell people what happened here.
That bit of business taken care of, Tyrion and Daenerys meet with a pair of visitors, Theon and Yara. Tyrion has a little rant at Theon about the dwarf jokes he told the last time they crossed paths (nevermind all the eunich jokes he’s told), and Theon is all, “Yeah, sorry, dude.”
Yara and Theon then offer their fleet of 100 ships to Daenerys in exchange for her help with a few things: reclaiming the Iron Islands, making Yara queen and granting the Iron Islands their independence once Daenerys becomes Queen of the Universe. They explain that their Uncle Euron will be on his way shortly to make Daenerys an offer of his own which will involve his 100 ships in exchange for her hand in marriage — an offer that Yara would be happy to match if Daenerys is receptive, WINK WINK.
And a thousand bits of slashfic are born.
Yara and Daenerys bond over the patriarchy, man, and Daenerys agrees to give Yara the Iron Islands on the condition they cut it out with all the raping and reaving and raiding. Yara agrees, but considering that the Ironborn “do not sow” — they’re really pretty explicit about it — I’m not exactly sure what this new Iron Island economy is going to look like. BREXIT, WESTEROS STYLE.
Jon, Sansa, Davos, Tormund and Badass Lady Mormont have a little pre-war chat with Ramsay where Ramsay promises Jon he’ll pardon him for abandoning the Night’s Watch as soon as he hands over Sansa. Instead, Jon offers to fight Ramsay one-on-one, an offer that Ramsay is all, “Bish, please.” Instead, Ramsay is preeety sure he has twice as many men as Jon, so he’s going to let their differences be settled on the battlefield. Jon sneers that while Ramsay may have the numbers, he’s not sure his men will be willing to fight for him once they hear he wasn’t willing to fight for them.
Ramsay then threatens Rickon, and to prove he has him, Smalljon tosses Shaggydog’s head at them. “OH THAT’S COOL,” Sansa says, “AND BY ‘COOL’ I MEAN, ‘YOU’RE GOING TO DIE TOMORROW.'” And then Sansa rides off in a huff. Ramsay informs Jon and the rest that he hasn’t fed his man-eating dogs in a week, so they’ll be good and hungry when he feeds them some Crow meat tomorrow. Sleep well!
That night, Jon, Davos and Tormund go over strategy. The three agree that they need to construct ditches and make Ramsay angry so as to bring him towards them, thereby avoiding being caught in a pincer move by Bolton troops and then, and this is the really important part, to totally throw out all of these plans once it really comes down to it.
As soon as Davos and Tormund leave, Sansa’s like, “Aren’t you the least bit curious what I, Ramsay’s wife, might think about your plans? Because I’m here to tell you, it’s not going to work. You don’t trap Ramsay; Ramsay traps you.” Jon gets all snotty about how he’s a soldier and she’s not and demands to know what she’d do to rescue Rickon, but Sansa’s like, “Dude, Rickon’s a dead man walking, you got to let that go.” Sansa then gives him grief for not waiting for more troops before insisting that if Ramsay wins, she’s not going back to Winterfell alive. And in conclusion, YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW.
Meanwhile, Tormund and Davos bond over having put their faith in the wrong kings, Mance and Stannis respectively. At least Jon’s not a king! they say to make themselves feel better, before Davos declines Tormund’s offer to get drunk on sour goat’s milk. Instead, Davos takes a walk where he finds the remains of Shireen’s pyre and the stag that he made for her. Oooh, Melisandre, you in danger, girl.
Speaking of, Jon pays a visit to our Red Priestess and is like, “Could you do me a favor and not revive me if I happen to die tomorrow?” But the Red Priestess is all, “The Lord of Light’s gonna do what the Lord of Light’s gonna do.”
As the sides line up, Ramsay reveals that he’s brought along a guest: Rickon. Instructing Rickon that they are going to “play a game,” Ramsay orders Rickon to run towards Jon as fast as he can, the only rule is that he must run in a perfectly straight line. Granted, that line wasn’t delivered on screen, but it must have happened because only AN IDIOT WOULD RUN IN A PERFECTLY STRAIGHT LINE WHILE SOMEONE IS SHOOTING ARROWS AT HIM. GOD.
Anyway, Ramsay shoots arrows at Rickon as he runs in a straight line, and Jon, because he knows nothing, runs out to Rickon to try to save him. Just as he is about to reach his little brother, Ramsay shoots an arrow right through Rickon’s heart.
Jon, furious, charges at the Boltons, because of course he does, and with a sigh, Davos orders the Stark troops to follow, totally abandoning all of their plans TO NOT DO THIS VERY THING. At one point, Jon’s horse is felled by arrows, so he just grabs his sword and faces the Bolton calvary on foot. The two calvaries clash, Ramsay fires arrows into the melee, Jon Snow kills a bunch of Boltons, fighting fighting fighting, chaos chaos chaos, fighting fighting fighting. And the bodies begin piling up. As the remaining Stark troops join Jon and Tormund and the rest, Ramsay orders Bolton troops to surround them in a phalanx, trapping them against the wall of corpses.
As the Boltons press forward, Tormund orders the Wildlings to retreat, causing something of a stampede in which Jon gets trampled like a short girl at a concert. Not that I would know anything about that. Wun-Wun manages to kill some Boltons and Tormund chews that jackhole Smalljon Umber’s throat out, but otherwise, things are not looking great for the Starks. Jon manages to pull himself up and out of the mass, and just as it seems hopeless for our heroes, a battlehorn is heard and troops from the Vale arrive to save the day.
Hooray! Hooray for Littlefinger, that creepy weirdo!
The Starks storm Winterfell with some help from Wun-Wun who is promptly filled with arrows, Ramsay firing the kill shot that goes through the giant’s eye.
Seeing that he is outnumbered by many angry Wildlings and Starks, Ramsay proposes that he and Jon go ahead and have that one-on-one fight now. But as he fires arrows at Jon, Snow is able to deflect them with a shield until Ramsay runs out of arrows. With that, Jon begins to try to beat the evil out of him. BEATING BEATING BEATING, until Jon catches sight of Sansa and is like, “You know what? You deserve this more than me.”
Elsewhere, Melisandre watches as the Starks lower their banners over Winterfell, while Davos watches Melisandre, grasping Shireen’s stag.
Tormund brings Rickon’s body into the castle and Jon orders him to bury him in the crypt next to Ned. (~sniff~), while Sansa demands to know where “he” is.
Sansa then pays a visit to her husband in the kennels where Ramsay is being held. There he notes that their time together might be coming to an end, but she can’t kill him because he’s “a part of [her] now.” Sansa’s like, “Actually, your house, your name, your words are all gone now.” As Ramsay’s starving dogs come out of their cages (nice of them to wait for Sansa to have her moment), Ramsay insists they are loyal and will never hurt him, but Sansa’s like, “Right, except for that whole part where you didn’t feed them for a week. Boy, BYE.” And then she watches — with pleasure — as the hounds eat his face right off.
ALL HAIL SANSA, QUEEN IN THE NORTH!
We should begin with the Battle of the Bastards, the spectacular set piece we’ve been waiting for since the Boltons took Winterfell, and I think it’s fair to say it did not disappoint. Cinematic and tense and claustrophobic and overwhelming, it was a brilliantly crafted war scene, and a worthy follow-up to Hardhome. But I’m not sure I have much to say about it story wise? The Starks needed to take back Winterfell, they took back Winterfell, it came at a huge price.
I guess it’s worth noting that by waging this battle, the North killed thousands of their own men, men they are desperately going to need when facing the next, much more dangerous threat. It will also be interesting to see what Littlefinger expects in exchange for helping Sansa retake her home: will he demand something from her, believing he can exact it because his troops far outnumber her own? Or if he will accept that helping her was the least he could do after handing her over to her tormentor and rapist? (Probably not that last part.)
The other thing I will say about the battle is that it revealed something very interesting about Jon, which is that he hasn’t changed in any sort of fundamental way as a character. He goes into the battle thinking that he’s going to trap Ramsay, and despite being warned by Sansa that Ramsay is going to play him, he walks right into the trap thanks to his Starkian sense of honor and duty and family first. He does exactly what Ramsay and Sansa expect him to do because he hasn’t changed in the least.
The reason this is interesting is that this lack of change is completely contrary to your typical hero arc. Jon and Daenerys both are both perfect examples of the monomyth: they have daddy issues; they journey into the unknown; they have wise mentors who help them; they are tested again and again; and they both, in the most literal fashion, pass through death and are reborn. However that’s where they — at least for now — diverge from the monomyth path. Typically, once a character experiences an apotheosis, the moment in the story where they physically or spiritually die, they also achieve enlightenment, a divine knowledge which up until now had been inaccessible to them. Then and only then are they able to access the “boon,” the great gift with which they can save their people. The whole point being, that to become a great hero, one must change, one must shed their childish selves. The hero’s journey, after all, is really about the maturation process, it’s the story almost all cultures tell about the journey an adolescent takes to achieve adulthood.
However, Jon does not seem to have gained anything from his time on the other side. He is just as stubborn, he’s just as unwilling to take advice, he’s just as incapable of seeing the big picture as he was before he was murdered. As for Daenerys, she doesn’t become infused with divine wisdom after her rebirth, she just becomes more self-assured, more Targaryen — but she also achieves the boon: her dragons, which in some ways gives me hope for Jon’s eventual development. Maybe he’ll change and earn his boon (Lightbringer?) down the road.
(I have to go into parentheticals here, because I’m still not sure what to make of it, but I still feel like it’s worth discussing: but I’m wondering what, if anything, we’re supposed to make of the differences in Jon and Daenerys’ respective rebirths. 1. Jon is actually killed, he is dead when he is brought back to life, whereas Daenerys never really dies: she walks into Drogo’s funeral pyre and sets the Dothraki meeting ablaze without actually perishing herself; 2. Jon has to be brought back via magic; Daenerys, perhaps because she never died, is reborn just by being; 3. I don’t know how this compares to Daenerys’ experience, but it feels important that Jon tells Melisandre that he didn’t see or experience anything while he was dead. What it means? No idea. Maybe it’s the famously atheistic Martin’s way of suggesting that there is nothing more and that the symbolism of dying and being reborn is an empty one. And maybe he’s suggesting that Melisandre, for one, is reading much more into it than there actually is.)
What’s interesting is that we are certainly meant to compare and contrast Jon and Daenerys in this episode. Where Jon refuses to heed Sansa’s wise advice about Ramsay, so confident he is in his own soldiering, Daenerys, who is as tied to her Targaryen impulses as Jon is to his Stark ones, does listen to her advisor, Tyrion, and it works out much more advantageously for her. Daenerys keeps most of the masters’ fleet; Jon loses thousands of valuable Northerners whom he is going to need down the road. She is a queen, a leader and is learning the value of listening to others; Jon is many things, but a king — as Tormund and Davos both note before the battle — he is not.
Speaking of queens, let’s go back to Sansa. Again, maybe it’s just me because I obsess about the hero’s journey, but I find it fascinating that Sansa (and her sister) have both significantly changed and matured in ways that their brother/cousin has not. And speaking of Arya, I couldn’t help but be a literalist when Sansa told Jon, “No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone.”
Will Arya come to her sister’s aid somewhere down the road?
A couple of other Sansa issues: for one, why didn’t she ever give Jon a heads-up that she had been in communication with Littlefinger about using the Vale troops at the battle? Seems like pertinent information Jon could have used! The simplest answer, of course, is that it was a writing choice, one that makes the whole scene more dramatic. But if we’re to ascribe actual character motivations, I think it could be argued that Sansa doesn’t tell Jon for a couple of reasons: 1. she doesn’t know if she can entirely trust Littlefinger to actually deliver and so promising Jon troops that she can’t guarantee doesn’t help anyone and 2. I think Sansa, especially after her argument with Jon after the strategy session, knows her choice to receive help from the sneaky Littlefinger will be met with derision at best, anger at worst. Jon is clearly not listening to her, and I think Sansa realizes that this plan — which could be their only hope — could potentially be dashed by Jon’s rash decision-making and poor judgment if he learns about it beforehand. It’s just one more example of Sansa having learned from her experience, having been shaped into a shrewd leader and strategizer.
But going back to the writing thing, not only does Sansa withholding this information allow for the Vale troops to come in at the last moment and save the day, it also gives Littlefinger a huge advantage over the North. By waiting until the last moment to enter the fray instead of being there from the beginning, the Vale army remains mostly intact, while the Northern troops on both sides are depleted — a tactical decision by both Littlefinger and the writers.
So, now who’s in charge of Winterfell? Jon is still a bastard, and therefore ineligible to become Warden. (Although it’s interesting — in the books shortly before the Red Wedding, Robb tells his mother he is planning on making Jon his heir. Robb’s wife wasn’t yet pregnant; Arya was presumed dead as were Rickon and Bran; Sansa was married to Tyrion, and they worried that should she have a son with him, the son, a Lannister, would inherit Winterfell. But then Robb and Catelyn go get themselves killed and no one ever knows that Jon would have been legitimized.) Rickon is now dead and Bran is presumed to be, so there are no male heirs to take it.
Which leaves us with Sansa, and we know in this rather patriarchal society, women ruling great houses is frowned upon. But it’s not unheard of; just look at Little Lady Mormont of Badass Island. And here is an interesting post that details instances of women becoming the heads of houses when there are no legitimate male heirs, the examples coming from the books, not the series.
Of course, ruling the tiny Bear Islands or some minor house is entirely different than being the ruler of the entire North. Remember, the Starks were in open rebellion of King’s Landing during the War of the Five Kings, seeking secession from the Seven Kingdoms. This rebellion ended at the Red Wedding, when the Boltons took over the North and swore allegiance back to King Joffrey. Now, however, the Boltons are out and the Starks are back in. So, presumably Sansa, if she is to be the head of Winterfell, will not be bending the knee to Tommen anytime soon, thereby making her not merely the Warden of the North, but the Queen of the North. Which is completely unprecedented.
It’s also worth remembering that during the War of the Five Kings, three of the kings, Joffrey, Renly and Stannis, were all fighting one another for the right to the Iron Throne, while the other two kings, Robb and Balon Greyjoy, were fighting to secede. And, more importantly, both Northernmen were laying claim to the title King of the North. So, Euron Greyjoy will certainly be disputing claims Sansa or anyone else at Winterfell might be making on the title, but more importantly, so will Yara. So unless Yara and Sansa make some sort of truce over the right to “Queen of the North,” they could be in direct conflict with one another — as might their supporters, Jon and Daenerys.
Finally we have the big question everyone is asking after this episode: is Sansa is pregnant, especially after Ramsay’s comment that he’s a “part of her now?” According to multiple sources, Liam Cunningham, the actor who plays Davos, “shot down” this theory this week. But if you read what he actually said, it’s inconclusive. His point was that Ramsay has no way of knowing whether or not Sansa’s pregnant, not that she is definitely not pregnant.
That said. I don’t know. Game of Thrones is vague about its timelines — how much time has passed between Sansa’s escape from Ramsay and the battle of the bastards? Two months? A year? Who can say! — so it’s kind of impossible to say whether or not Sansa should be showing, or even have had a baby at this point. And I think that it is very important to not read Ramsay’s comment or Sansa’s own words when she told Littlefinger that she could still feel what Ramsay did to her, as more than a reflection on the psychological consequences of rape. It diminishes the power of those words.
THAT said, if Sansa were pregnant, it would create a number of complications for her. On the one hand, she certainly wouldn’t want to carry or raise a Bolton baby; but on the other, especially with Rickon now dead, for all she knows she might be the last legitimate Stark alive, and this baby could represent hope for the continuation of her family’s line. And if she were pregnant, it would make her more vulnerable to a marriage proposal from Littlefinger — to himself or to Robin.
Remember: just last season, Littlefinger was informing Cersei that Stannis and the Boltons were about to go to war, trying to convince her that it would be a good time for the Lannisters to send their troops up North and take control of whomever lost. He concludes his pitch by suggesting that he use the army of the Vale to take Winterfell and Cersei make him Warden of the North. She agrees, and promises to order a royal decree. In turn, he promises to not rest until a “lion flies over Winterfell.” Cersei will only be happy, however, when Sansa’s “head is on a spike.” Needless to say, none of this bodes well for Sansa. Watch the entire scene here.
So who, exactly, is Littlefinger playing here? Was this all Littlefinger’ trap to try to lure Lannister troops into an ambush? Has Littlefinger’s protection — such as it was — of Sansa always been about putting himself into power in the North? Or is he playing both sides, planning on using the Vale’s troops as a threat against the depleted Starks, a push to make Sansa marry either himself or Robin, while luring the Lannisters north for a fight, thereby defeating two great houses at once?
All I know is that this is not a series with a lot of happy endings, so we should take Sansa’s victory in this episode and hold it close to our hearts, because it might be the best thing that happens to her for a long time.
Speaking of the Lannisters, what’s Jaime’s plan? He told Edmure that he wanted a quick resolution to the whole Riverrun situation because he was anxious to get back to Cersei, but looking at photos from the finale (SPOILER ALERT for those of you who are super sensitive to spoilers) he is still in the Riverlands, hanging out with Walder Frey at the Twins.
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Some are speculating that Jaime is bringing Edmure back to the Twins to see his wife and child, as he promised in exchange for his surrender of the castle. It should be noted though that in the books, Edmure becomes a prisoner at Casterly Rock where his wife and child are sent to join him; Edmure doesn’t get to just hang out at Riverrun. Others are speculating that because Jaime has come to see the Freys as worthless allies, he goes to the Twins, and in a sort of reverse Red Wedding, kills Walder Frey. Jamie then gives Bronn the castle and choice of any Frey girl to fulfill his promise of a great house and wife.
Orrrrrrrrr …. more likely, nothing quite so dramatic happens. Instead, Jaime goes to the Twins for a whole, “Screw Those Tullys” celebration where he learns that the Starks have retaken Winterfell. With a sigh, he agrees to take all 8,000 Lannisters north to try to nip this in the bud while, as Littlefinger suggested to Cersei, the victors are still licking their wounds. (And this way Arya can still be the one to come in and Red Wedding Walder Frey herself, which I personally would find MUCH more satisfying.)
As for what will happen once Jaime arrives in the North? (If he even goes there.)
Let me just note here that I don’t think any of this is going to happen in the season finale, but rather in the season to come. But if Jaime were to turn his troops north, rather than heading back to King’s Landing, there might be some sort of conflict between Lannister forces and Northern ones, in which Jaime would be forced to fight against his girlfrenemy Brienne — or maybe even kill or be killed by her …
Orrrrrr …. Lannister troops would be arriving in the North just as another, graver threat begins making its way down towards “the land of men.”
So, a detour: I think there is a very strong possibility that the final shot of season 6 will be Daenerys with her fleet, headed west, dragons flying overhead. A 99% chance. A 99.999% chance.
But I also think there is a .0001% chance the final shot could be of cracks forming in the Wall, or even the Wall crumbling while the White Walkers look on.
Alright, so, according to the old myths, one of the reasons the Wall is so effective is not just because it’s huge, but because it’s magical. In the books, the Wildlings spend a lot of time obsessing over a so-called “Horn of Joramun,” a mythical object that when blown, can “raise the giants” from the earth, and bring down the Wall. Mance claims to have found the horn, which is burned by the Red Priestess on the pyre with Rattleshirt (who has been glamoured to look like Mance). Later, Tormund tells Jon that the horn that was burned was not the real deal.
None of this horn business made it into the show (nor did the dragon’s horn that in the books Euron claims to have found which he plans to use to control Daenerys’ dragons). But the Wall is thought by some on the show to have been made with ice, stone and magic — magic that was meant not to keep the Wildlings out — but the other things that come from the North. As time wore on, and the old stories became just that, stories, keeping the Wildlings on their side of the Wall became paramount to the people of the Seven Kingdoms — but that was not its original purpose.
OK, SO. What if Benjen brings Bran back to Castle Black — but that’s as far as Benjen can go because having been half-turned into a wight himself, he can’t take Bran past the Wall thanks to its magic. However! Bran, having been touched by the Night’s King, has become a master key to unlocking the protective magic as seen at the Three-Eyed Crow’s weirwood. And so, what if by passing through the Wall, Bran brings the whole thing down?
Bran = Horn of Joramun.
Bran = Bran the Destroyer.
Annnnnnd … that’s all I’ve got. Well, there is this, “The Curse of King Robert”:
Everyone King Robert touches is now dead. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Probably nothing. In the books it reads: “Ned knelt in the snow to kiss the queen’s ring, while Robert embraced Catelyn like a long-lost sister. Then the children had been brought forward, introduced, and approved of by both sides.” So I wouldn’t read too much into it other than being an interesting coincidence.
UNTIL THE FINALE, MY LITTLE DRAGONS!
Status of Jon Snow: STILL ALIVE! Still knows nothing.
Game of Thrones airs on HBO and will return in the summer of 2017.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site chron.com.