Last night, the famed and long-awaited Battle of the Bastards, also known as the Bastard Bowl, finally aired. The showdown we all wanted, we all knew was coming, and we sat on the edge of our seats for, probably since Season 5. And I just have to say, R’hllor, Old Gods, New Gods, whoever is listening, THANK YOU. BLESS YOU!!!
Do…do I even need to say it? Meh, I’m going to say it anyway. Spoilers.
SPOILERS ARE COMING.
Normally I post a gif, but I just can’t find one to express my happiness right now, so, since I’m super into American Horror Story right now, here’s a lovely adorable gif of Evan Peters.
Now, down to business! First off, I’d like to say that I’ll only be covering the Battle in the North in this post, the Boltons vs Jon/Sansa/the Wildlings/Lady Lyanna/Other Northern Houses/Davos. I will be covering all the awesomenss that’s going on in Meereen, but in another post.
Okay. NOW let’s get down to business.
So, first off, I’d like to say that arguably the most satisfying moment was when the Stark banner unrolls, and the Direwolf sigil of House Stark hangs on the walls of Winterfell once more. We have waited seasons and seasons for this moment, and more than once have we wondered, “Will we ever see this happen?”And tonight, it finally did. The Starks have taken Winterfell back, and with Sansa (presumably) taking her seat at Winterfell as Lady of the North, we can add another name to badass Ladies in charge. *Does a little happy dance.*
I definitely was a little worried for this episode. The Bastard Bowl was hyped up so much, and it isn’t uncommon for the hype to lead up to a really disappointing episode. But this was anything but. I’ve been hearing a lot of bad reviews, but I honestly cannot understand how people did not enjoy this episode. I’m racking my brain, and coming up blank. This episode was perfect.
It begins with the Starks being fantastically brave and amazing, as always. Sansa, though knowing she didn’t have to be by Jon’s side, refused to stay behind while he met with Ramsay. She would face him head on. You go girl, you are the star of the show!
Ramsay’s being the arrogant guy that he is, most likely just trying to make Jon angry, but I can’t help but feel that a little part of him actually believes what he’s saying. He welcomes Jon, and thanks him for bringing his wife back to him, and tells him that as long as he kneels and swears fealty, he will be pardoned. More likely what would have happened was he would have had his head chopped off right then and there, because despite what Ramsay says about being “a man of mercy (THAT’S A LAUGH), he is far from such. But Jon didn’t come for that.
He offers Ramsay an alternative. This battle is unnecessary, it’s between himself and Ramsay. So why not settle it the old way? Jon vs Ramsay. Sansa definitely didn’t know about this offer, and I’m not sure if the others did either because they all looked really surprised. But it’s Jon. Could we really expect anything less? He is his father’s son (even if Ned isn’t his dad but you know what I mean). Ramsay, coward though he may be, is clever. He’s heard tell of Jon’s prowess, and rightly so considering what he’s accomplished. Maybe it’s all exaggerated, but Ramsay won’t take an unnecessary risk like that, and he admits it. He doesn’t know that he can defeat Jon, but he does know that his own army can defeat theirs.
Now at this point I’m just sitting there wondering how the hell Jon’s going to respond to that. Because, let’s face it. Ramsay’s a really awful, terrible, horrible person, but he makes a lot of sense sometimes. And then Jon comes back with the biggest “oh snap!” ever.
“Aye, you have the numbers. But will your men want to fight for you, when they hear you wouldn’t fight for them?”
Now, Ramsay almost looks impressed, as well as amused. And when he has Shaggydog’s head dropped before them to prove that he really has Rickon, he looks even more so. He think’s he’s won this little battle of wits. But Sansa simply looks at him and says, “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.” And then she rides off!! What a girl, what a girl.
Now, I just have to say, I don’t know if it’s the location, or the camera, or maybe it’s just Jon’s new look, but this entire episode was one of the most beautifully shot ever. I was so impressed, it was visually stunning. There were many moments that showed this, and that just floored me, but this was the beginning. The suspense and showdown between Ramsay and Jon was just so fantastically done, and I needed to bring attention to that.
Later that night, they make up their battle plans. While it would be smart for Ramsay to stay behind Winterfell and wait them out, he’s too power-hungry, and can’t afford to let the other Northern houses sense weakness in him. They plan on digging trenches along the sides, so that they can’t attack that way. It’s smart, because as Tormund points out, men on horses can cut through men without easily. Davos says that it is crucial that they let Ramsay charge at them, they have to wait it out. Makes sense, and in any battle it’s better to let them come to you, and the big reason is archers. If your people are in the mix, you may hit them by accident (no one in a battle is standing still). But if the enemy is charging at you, it’s a completely different story. But plans never work out, especially not in this show.
Jon admits that he wanted to make Ramsay angry when he made the offer of one on one combat. But once everyone else has left, Sansa points out that Ramsay will want to do the same. He’s known him for one conversation, but she’s lived with him, was married to him, she knows how he thinks. And she’s pretty insulted that he hasn’t asked her opinion. Rightly so, as she does know Ramsay the best. Jon asks her how they can get Rickon back, and she admits that they never will. She knows the truth. He’s Ned Stark’s true born son, which makes him a much greater threat than a bastard or a woman. Jon, I think, knows that Sansa’s right, but doesn’t want to admit it to himself that he won’t get Rickon back. With a bit of a hero complex, he has this need to save everyone, especially family, and I think he still feels he owes it to Ned. He doesn’t of course, it’s the fact that he tries that counts, but I don’t think he feels this way.
The emotions are running high now, and there’s a pretty intense shouting match between Sansa and Jon. Sansa doesn’t know what Ramsay is going to do exactly, but he knows he’s going to lay a trap and try and make Jon make a mistake. And he’s good at that. If Jon isn’t prepared, he’ll fall right into it and ruin himself and his army. They should have waited until they had a larger force, but Jon shouts there was no one left who would join them. Sansa falls silent at this point because she knows something he doesn’t, and probably doesn’t want to throw him off before the battle. But she tells him the truth, that if Jon loses, she won’t be going back to Winterfell alive, implying that she will take her own life. Jon immediately softens and tells her he’ll protect her, that he’ll never let Ramsay touch her again. “No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone,” Sansa mutters before walking away. The seasons have turned her hard, her judgement is no longer clouded. She knows that the only person she can truly rely on is herself. And she must hope that that is enough.
In other news, Davos and Tormund are getting on, and I really hope that this friendship continues to be a thing because wow I’m loving this. But while Davos is walking, trying to clear his head before the battle, he comes across an old pyre, and along the wood, he sees the little stag that he carved for Shireen, Stannis’ daughter. He doesn’t confront Melisandre in this episode about it, but will in the finale. The cat’s out of the bag now. Melisandre burned Shireen alive and Davos is pissed.
Speaking of Mel, she’s kind of taken a backseat this season, but Jon goes to her tent and tells her that if he dies, he doesn’t want to be brought back. She tells him that it isn’t up to her. She has to try and the Lord of Light will decide. If he didn’t want Jon to be brought back, Jon wouldn’t be here. Jon asks why and what he is needed for, and Melisandre honestly doesn’t know. Maybe he’s a bigger part of all this, or maybe he’s a small piece, brought back only to die again here. What a cruel joke that would be. This scene was particularly worrying, because it’s what would make or break the episode, and arguably the season. If they resurrected Jon only to kill him in the same season, it would have been absolutely awful writing, and made much of this season feel rather pointless. But luckily, the writers are wonderful at their job.
The time for battle has come. And the Boltons have lined the field with flayed men, the symbol of their house. Ramsay rides up, and as soon as we see the rope, we know. Keeping true to his character, he continues to play with people as he leads Rickon out in front of his army. He takes his knife and raises it above Rickon. Jon gets off of his horse and walks forward, utterly shocked and horrified. But Ramsay simply cuts his bonds. He tells Rickon, with that psychotic smile of his, to run to his brother. The faster he runs, the sooner he gets to see him again. That’s it. But everyone should have known better. And as Ramsay takes out his bow, Rickon realizes how crucial and close this game is. Jon mounts his horse and rides towards Rickon, the arrows flying but missing Rickon every time. This isn’t a mistake. Ramsay doesn’t want to hit Rickon when he’s far away from Jon, he wants to kill him right at the last second, because it would be that much more devastating.
Now, throughout this entire scene, I’m screaming, “ZIG ZAG, RICKON, ZIG FREAKING ZAG”, because he could have avoided being hit that way. Ramsay can aim, but once the arrow flies, Ramsay can no longer control it. He actually might have made it if he zig zagged, but he didn’t. They never do. So, Jon rides. And Rickon runs. And just as Jon is about to reach him, the arrow pierces Rickon’s heart, and so ends yet another Stark.
As much as I love Jon, and I do, I really do, I was screaming at him. This is what Ramsay wants. For Jon to charge at him. And he knew that this would completely overwhelm him with emotions, he wouldn’t be able to think straight. Tormund whispers, almost prays for Jon not to do it. Everyone is praying that Jon will turn around and ride back. But it’s not in Jon’s nature. He’s angry now, and it’s time for vengeance.
And so the most epic battle in Thrones history begins.
This is, without a doubt, the most epic, most moving, most beautiful sequence I’ve ever seen. With Davos rounding up the men, ordering them to take their places and get ready, Ramsay nods to his archers, who nock their arrows. And as they loose them, Jon charges forward, alone.
His men begin to ride and run forward. They will not leave their commander alone for much longer. The horses gallop in yet another gorgeous slow motion shot, as the archers continue to fly their arrows at Jon. His horse is hit, sending him flying into the ground. And it is then that Ramsay orders his men to charge.
Jon stands, his face falling as he sees the entire Bolton army galloping towards him. This is probably the best, most beautiful shot of any film or show ever. Jon undoes his sword belt, and draws Longclaw, preparing himself and gripping the hilt of his sword with everything he has as the Bolton army grows closer. And we witness all of it from directly behind Jon. We feel the terror, the fierceness of it all, Jon’s bravery as he stands alone, waiting for the coming storm.
I have tried but truly words cannot describe how this scene moved me. The calm before the storm. It was just gorgeous and sad and terrifying and beautiful, everything that it needed to be.
And then the onslaught begins. Jon’s men reach him, and he just stands there in confusion for a moment. All this fighting and death happening around him, so close to him, it’s something he really hasn’t seen before in this kind of proximity. The battle at Hardhome was much different than this. He just freezes up at first.
Davos and Ramsay both order their archers to nock and draw, but Davos tells his to stand down. The battle is too close, they’ll likely kill their own men. Ramsay isn’t so smart, or maybe his men are just more disposable, because his archers fire, and most of the men they hit are their own. *Little happy dance again.*
We cut back to Jon and follow him through the battle. It’s all one shot and I can only imagine how long it took for them to shoot this incredibly technical, difficult and amazing sequence. This is something that was so intriguing to me, because while it was extremely cinematic, it’s different than any battle scene I’ve watched before. This takes us directly into the heart of the fight, and it’s almost like a P.O.V shot. It’s hectic, and there are so many close calls, so much of it is just luck. Jon turns at the right time, someone else runs an enemy down before Jon is killed, someone is shot right next to Jon. There’s so much chaos, and we as an audience really feel it with the way this was shot. We feel as if we are actually in Jon’s position, and we watch as his face goes from clean to completely red and dripping in blood. And as there are no cuts, we actually see how each death changes him. It’s absolutely genius, and as I’ve said, something I’ve never seen done before quite like this. And just as I think it can’t get any more intense, the sequence continues.
The archers continue to fly their arrows, and the bodies pile up. Now, it’s many quick cuts, making it disorienting and confusing, as one in the battle must feel. The bodies have made almost a mountain. It’s new levels of disturbing, because while we see the men on top, we have no idea just how many are underneath. Seeing how the count has grown so fast, in such a short time…this is a whole different ballgame.
Davos orders the rest of their men forward to join the fight, and Ramsay sends his out along with them. The Bolton men form a circle around Jon’s army, shields up and spikes down, slowly pushing them closer and closer together. Almost suffocating them, again, we as the audience feel and experience it as if we were there. More of the Bolton men climb down from the mountain of bodies, and Jon’s army is split, some trying to take down the shields, others fighting near the bodies. Now we see not only dead men, but men who are alive, with limbs missing, organs literally falling out of them as they lay on the mound.
The men are so close they are climbing on top of one another. There is nowhere to go. And this is the scariest scene in the battle, especially for anyone who hates small spaces.
Jon falls. He isn’t hit, someone simply knocked him over. He tries to get up, but everyone is running around him, and he keeps getting pushed to the ground. More and more men fall around him, and soon, there are bodies covering his own.He screams, trying to get up, and soon he’s choking for air. But he can’t push the bodies off of him because he’s pinned to the ground. Between the camera movements and Kit’s acting, I actually couldn’t breathe. I’m a little claustrophobic, so this scene really terrified me. And I wondered if this was going to be the end for Jon, trapped under a pile of dead bodies, unable to breathe. But he finds strength and pushes forward, emerging from the crowd, taking in the deepest gulp of air and almost weeping out of the relief of it. I really need to give a shout out to Kit this episode for his performance. Absolutely breathtaking (aha get it?), he could not have performed better.
And finally, Sansa gets her moment in the sun. She becomes the best and brightest Stark when a horn blows out. And who should ride forward, to save the day, but the Knights of the Vale.
I would just like to say, I CALLED IT. I FREAKING CALLED IT. For those of you who avidly read my blog, you’ll remember me writing that Sansa was clearly writing to Littlefinger, and the Knights of the Vale would ride in at the greatest hour of need, the moment the battle seemed lost, and help bring the Starks to victory. And so they did! Thanks, Baelish!
The Knights of the Vale charge in, and there’s this beautiful victorious moment before they even reach the Boltons. Ramsay looks genuinely scared, and as the Knights ride forward, they pass Sansa, with Littlefinger next to her. She looks down at the battle as if she owns every person, because she knows that thanks to her, she has just saved their army and defeated Ramsay, the man who murdered her brother, who raped her, who tortured her endlessly. Thanks to Sansa Stark, the battle is won. And never was there a more satisfying moment.
The Knights ride the Boltons down, cutting through their army with extreme ease. Jon climbs up and watches Ramsay’s face, and knows that he’s going to ride back to Winterfell. Sansa watches, with what looks like a mix of fear and pride, as Jon, Tormund, and Wun Wun lead the army after them. Ramsay feels safe behind the gates, but it’s only a short time before Wun Wun breaks through. Covered head to toe in arrows, he doesn’t falter. With the army running in behind him, soon the archers are shot, and the castle is all but taken. And as Jon stands next to the giant, they simply look at each other, almost a silent appreciation and thanks being given. Before Ramsay shoots Wun Wun through the eye, killing him.
And now that it is obvious he has no other choice, Ramsay nocks another arrow, and agrees to one on one combat. Jon could easily just have had him bound, or shot, but no. That is not Jon’s way. He takes up a shield, stopping all the arrows shot at him. All of his own archers lower their bows and watch in awe as he continues to go at Ramsay, until he finally reaches him and knocks him to the ground. He pounds Ramsay’s face in, punching him over and over again until Ramsay is covered in his own blood. And he would have continued, I think, until he killed Ramsay with nothing but his fists, if he hadn’t stopped and looked at Sansa. The moment he does, he freezes. Because this isn’t his kill. It’s hers.
The Bolton Banners fall and the Stark Direwolf flies once more. They will bury Rickon in the crypt, next to Ned Stark. The episode ends with Ramsay waking up, tied to a chair and covered in blood. I mean it almost looks as if he was flayed himself, there’s so much blood. He looks up to see that he’s in the kennels, where he keeps his hounds. The ones he has starved for seven days.
Sansa watches him from the gate, not answering his questions, not moving a muscle, she simply stares. Then, when he says that he is a part of her now, that she can’t kill him, she responds, “Your words will disappear. Your House will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” And the hounds show themselves. Ramsay thinks their loyalty will save him. But they are not loyal beasts anymore. They are starving beasts. The come up to him, and sniff his face. He orders them down, but they only come closer. And then they attack, tearing their master apart and bringing a just end to Ramsay Bolton.
This was such an amazing episode for everything I have said above. Beautifully shot, written, amazingly acted, and a perfect end. The Starks are home, the Boltons are dead. But what does this mean?
Now that Jon and Sansa are back at Winterfell, I think their relationship will grow closer. Though she did lie to him, she saved his life and reclaimed their home by doing so, so I think he’ll be okay with it. But no more secrets between them now that they’re home.
And what about Sansa and Littlefinger? Will he want anything from her? Will he want her, herself? And will she accept? He’s not to be trusted, but he has supported her arguably more and definitely longer than anyone else. This dynamic is one of my favourites and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Davos will definitely be confronting Melisandre, and we saw in the trailer for the finale that he will be telling Jon about it. Does this mean it is time for Melisandre to go? Will she die in the finale? Perhaps burn by the flames she loves so much? Or perhaps she has a crucial part to play still.
As for Ramsay, while we’re all glad the Bastard is dead, I can’t help but wonder who the next big villain will be. The reason he worked was because he was just as terrible as Joffrey, and we knew him for a season before Joffrey died. We had time to know and hate him, so the loss of the villainous King was not taken so hard. Will the new enemy be the White Walkers? Can we expect Season 7 to bring them as the central focus, perhaps even the thing that unites the seven kingdoms together? Only time will tell. But whatever happens, this episode could not have been more perfect, and I am so, so pleased with how the Battle of the Bastards played out. HBO, we thank you.