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Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Updated on June 24, 2016
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SE Andres is a marketing graduate student, writer, feminist, environmentalist, and Thor impersonator.

Have you met my dragons?
Have you met my dragons? | Source

Reclaiming Meereen

The only person to make Tyrion stumble and babble until he finds his words is Daenerys. While he insists the city is on the rise, it’s quite actually being razed. When Tyrion quite simplistically notes that “the rebirth of Meereen is the cause of all this violence,” Dany’s ears perk up at that. If Meereen is proven to be successful, it shows that their archaic way of life, of having slaves, is moot. They both have different ideas of how to proceed in this battle. Dany wants to proceed with brutality against the masters, crucifying them as they had done to slaves on her path to Meereen; burn the fleet, kill their soldiers, and raze their cities. Tyrion warns against such plans. He gives her a history lesson of her father, the Mad King placing wildfire under and all throughout King’s Landing, ready to destroy the city and his own people if the Lannisters at his door. She doesn’t care for that connection between the Mad King and herself, cutting him off, declaring that it doesn’t pertain to this. But it does. These are people that Dany could use for her army and navy, people who can be subservient to her rule.

She calls a meeting of surrender with the slavers, as Meereen is bombed in the background. The Slavers offer Dany’s terms of surrender: Dany and her advisors leave Meereen, the Unsullied and “the translator” (purposefully unnamed Missandei because it gives her humanity) will be sold to highest bidder, and the dragons will be slaughtered. Rather than pulling Lyanna Mormont and talking over them to cut them off, she allows them to smugly speak before telling them that they mistook this meeting as her surrender. Rather, it’s theirs. The bemused slavers declare her reign over, but she sounds off that it’s just begun. Drogon screeches in the distance, and suddenly the slavers don’t appear so smug. She climbs on the scarred dragon’s back and flies off, rounding up the other two dragons, too.

As the Sons of the Harpy finish off a group of former slaves, the Dothraki riders, led by Daario, approach hollering like Comanche warriors. Dany orders her dragons to set fire to and demolish one of the ships to set an example. Grey Worm speaks to the Slavers’ soldiers, telling them to make a choice between dying for people who would never die for them or to go home to see their families. They lay down their swords and flee, leaving the Slavers unprotected. Tyrion thanks them for the fleet, but proceeds to tell them that they have broken their truce, an unforgivable act. By the Queen’s orders, one must die. Razdal mo Eraz and Belicho Paenymion are quick to throw Yezzan zo Qaggaz to the wolves, since he is a lowborn outsider to Slavers Bay. After Yezzan kneels to plea for his life, Grey Worm cuts the others’ throat in one quick swipe. Grey Worm meticulously sheathes his dagger and straightens his uniform’s waistcoat-shirt. Tyrion gives him the role of messenger to Slavers Bay to let them know what happened at Meereen.

Game of Thrones' newest ship sets sail.
Game of Thrones' newest ship sets sail. | Source

When Stormborn Meets Ironborn

Dany and her Hand Tyrion see a visit from a bootylicious Yara and a pathetic Theon. Tyrion starts that the last time he saw Theon, he was mocking Tyrion’s height. Theon insists that he’s changed, which hadn’t worked out so well for him, as Tyrion noted. The Greyjoys insist that Theon’s paid for his crimes. Dany tires of the useless nonpleasantries and gets to the point. They’ve brought her a hundred ships and men to sail them, so they must expect Dany support Theon’s claim to the Iron Islands, or so she assumes. Theon readily responds that it’s Yara’s claim, which makes Dany immediately smitten. Dany asks if the Iron Islands have ever had a queen? Yara responds, “No more than Westeros.” And Dany gets a little wet to that. Theon explains that Euron killed their father, laid claim to the Salt Throne, and would have killed them, too, if they hadn’t escaped. Dany points out that their father was a terrible ruler, which Yara says they have in common. This is the second time Dany’s father has been brought up this episode, which provides a springboard for the two women to ensure they don’t rule as their fathers had done. This potentially offensive bond that Yara reaches for is solidified by Dany when she says they also have in common that usurpers murdered their fathers.

Dany asks why she should seek out Euron for his thousand-ship fleet. Yara adds that Euron wants to give her “his big cock” (in his words, Yara assures) and propose marriage, by which Dany is amused. Dany asks if her deal is free of marriage demands, to which Yara responds brilliantly, “I never demand, but I’m up for anything, really.” Dany has probably never been more pleased to see a fellow woman take charge, topple the patriarchy, and mock men obsessed with their own sexual anatomy. Judging by her smile, she is more than pleased with Yara. We just might see these two end up married. Dany has had quite enough of arranged marriages, I think. This is the same problem that Queen Elizabeth I ran into during her reign. She conquered and ruled with an iron fist while suitors from all over Europe sought her hand in marriage. She refused to relinquish her power to any man or any country. Theon warns that when Euron gets the Seven Kingdoms, he’d murder Daenerys, too. Dany questions why they don’t want the Seven Kingdoms themselves. All they want is the Iron Islands and help murdering “an uncle or two who don’t think a woman is fit to rule.” At that, Yara seals the deal for Dany. But before they come to terms, Dany requests that the Ironborn no longer reave, rove, raid, or rape. Yara is taken aback, as those very things are the Ironborn way of life. Dany doesn’t take no for answer, so Yara agrees to it with head nods from Theon and Tyrion and a lingering hand shake from Dany. I’m sailing the hell out of this ship.

No one glares like Sansa.
No one glares like Sansa. | Source
One person does glare better than Sansa, though.
One person does glare better than Sansa, though. | Source

The Battle's Eve

Ramsay, Harald Karstark, and Smalljon Umber meet with Jon, Sansa, Lyanna, Davos, and Tormund. I just have to say that I’m disappointed in Smalljon. What. A. Jerk. Ramsay eyes Sansa with intense focus and an eager smile, thinking about what he’ll do to her later, I’m sure. Ramsay thanks Jon for returning her and, as long as everyone surrenders and proclaims him the true Warden of the North, vows to pardon everyone for betraying their duties. In response, Lyanna gives the look we’ve all had when he’s on screen. Once again the Internet goes apeshit and rightfully so. She knows he’s full of shit. Ramsay tells Jon that he doesn’t have the men, the horses, or Winterfell, so he should just go ahead and kneel. He casually lies, “I am a man of mercy.” Sansa can’t help but feel disgust at that. Jon challenges Ramsay to a duel instead of fighting with their armies. Ramsay laughs it off, knowing Jon could beat him, as he’s known for his skill with a sword; but he knows that his army can defeat Jon’s. In response, Jon echoes the sentiments that Grey Worm just used in Meereen on the Slavers’ soldiers: “Will your men fight for you when they hear you wouldn’t fight for them?” A long silence follows, and Jon gets under Ramsay’s skin. Ramsay counters with threatening Rickon’s life if they don’t surrender. Sansa asks how they’re supposed to know Ramsay has him. Ramsay looks at Sansa, so bold as to actually speak to her husband like that. One more, Shaggydog’s head is thrown around all nonchalantly, like a soccer ball. A moment of silence and realization hits Jon’s party. As Ramsay begins to speak, Sansa looks him directly in the eye and declares, “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,” and turns and rides off without the rest of her party. She learned a thing or two from Lyanna about using men’s power tactics on women during communication by cutting them off. Ramsay tells Jon he can’t wait to have her back in his bed and looks at everyone there, noting that his dogs would love to chew on them, since they haven’t eaten in seven days. He wonders aloud which parts the dogs would eat first: the eyes or the balls. He simultaneously tries to unnerve and emasculate the men before him. He quite enjoys leaving the eyes last, though, so that the victims can see everything before their death, like his threat in the letter to Jon. It also goes to poke the flames of war, justifying Jon’s swift, emotional actions, as they begin to see how truly demented he is.

At Jon’s war council, Jon knows he won’t do the smart thing and hide behind the walls of Winterfell. Davos says that if he reveals any fear, the other houses in the North will begin to remove themselves from him. Tormund sees their biggest threat as the cavalry, as evidenced by Stannis’ forces cutting the Wildlings down so easily. Jon eases his mind by telling him that they’ve dug trenches to ensure that horses can’t be used against them in that way. As long as they let Ramsay’s forces charge at them. Davos foretells that they’d be surrounded on three sides if they don’t and meet in the middle instead. Jon tried to solidify Ramsay’s action of driving forward to their own army by provoking Ramsay with a duel suggestion. Sansa watches the entire time, aware that none consulted her who knows Ramsay best. She scolds Jon for this ad warns that he won’t fall for his trap. He’ll lay traps instead. Jon gets offended because he’s “defended the Wall from worse than Ramsay Bolton.” Sansa yet disagrees, but she has no solid solution for Jon, not war strategy. She especially offers no way to get Rickon back because she knows Ramsay won’t let him live. He riles to anger when she scolds him for not waiting for reinforcement. She doesn’t tell him that the Knights of Vale are on their way. We didn’t see that she received Brienne’s raven of her failure to gain the Tully army. Sansa admits that the will not return to Winterfell alive if Ramsay wins. Jon promises to protect her, but too many people have promised her that and have failed. She will fall on her sword rather than go through Ramsay’s torture again.

Something about the conversation between Davos and Tormund about their former leaders is incredibly important and relevant to today’s politics. Where Stannis listened to the demons at this side to eventually implode on himself, Mance was an inspiring, benevolent leader intent on getting his people to safety, who did not make people fear him to follow him. That is essentially what Stannis was doing when he sacrificed people. This is what the Red God’s followers do. They burn and slaughter everything in their path of righteousness. This is the exact thing that Tyrion may have given power to. They were both wrong in their choice of leaders and conclude that rather than following kings, the right choice is before them in Jon Snow.

Rather than being one of those voices inside Jon’s head like she was for Stannis, Melisandre simply advises Jon to not die. He asks that if he dies, she not revive him. She has learned her lesson about intruding in battle affairs and the wars of kings. She did her duty to revive Jon Snow, to do the right thing, so that he may in turn inspire the North to do the right thing. She says she must do the Lord of Light’s Will, and clearly he wants Jon alive since she was able to being Jon back from the dead once already. She has no idea why the Lord would want him alive, but we’ll see why next season, I suppose.

On Davos’s think-walk, he sees Shireen’s pyre and the deer he carved for her. The war horns sound, and just maybe he’s thinking, I followed the man who did this to his own daughter. I’m against a man who killed his own father. I’m following a man who is supported by the same woman who planted demons in Stannis’s head. I’ve sought her help in the past. Just what does Davos believe in? Does he hold hate for Melisandre, despite her abilities having brought back Jon?

Don't mess with the Starks, bitch.
Don't mess with the Starks, bitch. | Source

The Battle of the Bastards

With no Sansa or Lyanna present, Jon’s army approaches Ramsay’s outside Winterfell. In between them are burning Xs with upside down flayed people on them. I assume one is Osha if she wasn’t given to the hounds already. Perhaps they are lords of the North who gave second thought to supporting Ramsay. It is one of Ramsay’s tactics, after all, and it lines up with the effects of Jon's challenge to Ramsay. Likely the some of the Northern lords began to turn from Ramsay, and he flayed them to instill fear in the Northern people and to prevent anyone else form defecting. Ramsay leads his prisoner Rickon Stark to the front of the battle lines. He tells him that the sooner he makes it to Jon, the sooner he gets to see him. Rickon runs as Ramsay begins shooting arrows at him. Jon proceeds to intercept as Ramsay misses the first couple shots. Foolishly, Rickon runs straight forward rather than a zig-zag pattern, like any sensible person would do, even under extreme duress. Just before Jon reaches Rickon, the third arrow kills him. Jon rushes forward in vengeance leaving a volley of arrows behind him, which pierce Rickon’s already dead body. With Jon’s rush, his men must follow. Jon’s horse is taken out by a volley of arrows, and Ramsay’s cavalry charges. This is exactly what Sansa worried about. They are met with Jon’s cavalry. Davos orders his bowmen to stand down because they’ll just kill their own men, Ramsay orders his bowmen to loose their arrows, killing almost everyone embattled. The bodies pile up so that it creates a barrier. Despite this turning out to be exactly the situation Davos wanted to avoid because it would mean their own doom, Davos says, “Fuck it,” and leads the remaining few hundred into the battle.

Smalljon Umber takes the next round of Bolton soldiers forth, and Wun Wun points out worriedly that the Bolton soldiers are surrounding them and not coming to clash. They form a semicircle to meet with the barricade of bodies and trap Jon’s army. Yep, it’s exactly what Davos predicted, but Jon just had to not listen to anyone. Even in the face of adversity, Sansa would never have reacted that way anymore. Perhaps immediately after her father died, but she was hardened under Joffrey’s rule, then Littlefinger’s manipulations, and finally under Ramsay’s rule. This is precisely why she sought out assistance on her own and why she couldn’t trust Jon to proceed in battle with caution. She even warned him that Rickon would not make it back. Anyway, enough about how stupid Jon is… Ramsay’s army moves in closer. Every few steps, the front line stops, and the second line shoves forward their pikes. Smalljon leads a battalion over the barricade of bodies to surround Jon’s army even more. (Gross, guys.) Davos orders the line to be broken, and the men begin to fight back, starting with Wun Wun swiping them like flies and even ripping one in half. If I were that army, I’d just run from Wun Wun. Ramsay’s ranks reform and continue to push Jon’s army tighter and tighter. As more men are lost to the pikes, Jon comes face to face with Smalljon but is trampled amidst his own army’s panic. Tormund ends up fighting him. Jon fights his way to the top to see air and rises above his men to see Wun Wun being stuck at every point. In the distance, they hear the sound of a horn, distracting Smalljon so that Tormund can take the opportunity to Mike Tyson Smalljon’s ear.

The Vale’s troops come over the hill, and the cavalry sweeps through Ramsay’s army like they’re dusting furniture. Sansa and Littlefinger watch on, smiling. Jon, covered, in mud and blood, climbs the barricade with Tormund and Wun Wun in tow (in my second favorite shot of the episode, showcasing their regained power with a low angle camera). They look directly at Ramsay, who doesn’t notice them at first. Now, he sees his defeat and angrily retreats to Winterfell with Jon, Tormund, and Wun Wun in hot pursuit. Ramsay says they have Winterfell, and Jon’s army doesn’t have the men for a siege. But they do have a giant, who have been known to get through gates a few times or two. Winterfell’s archers try to hold Wun Wun back, but there’s not use. He breaks though, and Ramsay grabs his own bow. The expert archer Ramsay goes for his own bow and finishes off Wun Wun through the eye as Jon watches Wun Wun in concern. Ramsay is the last one standing of his own army and says, “You suggested one on one combat, didn’t you? I’ve reconsidered. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea.” So he uses his own weapon of strength against Jon, who uses a Mormont shield to catch the arrows. Jon doesn’t even use his own weapon of strength, his sword, against Ramsay. He uses his fists of fury to take him down. They hang the banners and retrieve the wounded and dead, including Rickon. Jon orders Rickon to be buried in the crypts beside his father, and Sansa demands to know where Ramsay is. Whether she’s ordered Ramsay to be in the kennels or someone else put him there, she’s going to enjoy this. In another memorable Sansa line, she directly says, “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” His hounds he so loved to feed with people now are so hungry that they’d turn on their master. Sansa watches him die and doesn’t even flinch, like Ramsay did when he fed Walda and his baby brother to the hounds. When she knows he’s good and dead, she walks away, smiling in her Dark Sansa way. Justice has been given on her part. His own girlfriend had taken Sansa down there to scare her once before, to show her Theon, and now she’s there without fear. Sansa has won back Winterfell. She is once more home and is making it her home as the person she’s become, not the person she was when she was here as Ramsay’s wife or as Ned and Cat’s naïve daughter. This is the very way I predicted his death, and it was even more satisfying than I thought. This was her vengeance, her death to take.

Leading the Charge

Where do we go from here? Now that we know Dany has a weak spot for badass ladies who don’t take shit, is she going to start forming alliances through them? First stop: Dorne. Now that Dorne is a matriarchy, this is an obvious choice. It would also coordinate with the book’s storyline. Is this the secret mission that Varys went on? To recruit Dorne and their navy, not Euron’s? With Sansa ruling the North and badass baby Mormont and Brienne in her corner, there’s no way that they can all not get along, as long as Sansa remains warden and doesn’t spar with Yara. Cersei will probably be dead by this point, so I’m counting her out as a major opposition to Dany. The Tyrells ruling the Reach with Olenna in charge and Margaery on the Iron Throne, they may be the only obstacles, especially since they most certainly want the throne. But at that point, they’d be no match for Dany. Margaery, however, is now using religion to her advantage. Could she just as easily adopt R’hllor as her god and continue climbing the ladder until she’s either on top or at least married to Dany, which at this point may very well happen. However, I don’t see this ending well for Margaery. It’s great to see the patriarchy finally being overthrown, and we could certainly use that in present times. It’s clear that a matriarchy could just as terrible as a patriarchy. Look at what Dany wanted to do, but Tyrion talked her out of it. The most successful societies come in equal partnership between male and female as egalitarian.

Who is winning the game of thrones?

Who is winning the game of thrones, as of this episode?

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© 2016 SE Andres

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