There’s a “Battle of the Bastards” on this week’s Game Of Thrones
New allegiances were struck, old ones moved to very shaky ground, and a whole field of watermelons were sacrificed by a raving horde of foley artists as Season 6 of Game of Thrones nears its thrilling end. Let’s have a spoiler-filled discussion after the break.
There’s a big surprise as we start not in the North, but in besieged Meereen. Dany doesn’t seem especially happy with Tyrion’s handling of affairs while she was gone. In fact, she looked downright Mad Queenly for a few moments as she grilled Tyrion, and then ranted a bit about how she’s going to reduce the Slaver cities to ash. I think Tyrion’s little story about The Mad King’s wildfire plans really served two purposes: one was obviously to get Dany back on track but also to give us a really big hint as to what Creepy Qyburn found at Cersei’s behest last week. A little heavy handed, but hey,it’s late and the show runners got a season to finish, so we’ll give them a break.
There is a great scene leading up to the Slaver’s defeat, as our little crew meets up with Smug Boys Three to discuss surrender terms. I loved Dany’s “what we have is a failure to communicate” moment and the way Drogon’s appearance wiped the smug right off their faces. This one was for every smart, ambitious woman who has to suffer through yet another mansplaination why she has to surrender her city and kill her dragons.
And speaking of dragons, how ’bout Viserion and Rhaegal making the dramatic entrance out the side of the pyramid and into the air with big brother Drogon? Liked the smart move of not destroying all the ships, but focusing all fire on one for maximum effect. The scene provided some excellent dragon-back visuals and a great reminder of what a powerful weapon these dragons are. The whole, short-lived battle was really a great reminder of all the weapons Dany now has at her disposal, whether it be the Dothraki horde effortlessly cutting down the Sons of the Harpy, or the brutally efficient Grey Worm offing two of the Smug Brothers with one well-timed dagger swipe, or the ever-wise Tyrion setting free the low-borne slaver to spread the news of Dany’s greatness back to the conquered cities. Truth is, this crew finally has it together. And it’s about time.
The final Meereen scene finds Theon and Yara already at the Dragon Queen’s court along with some nice girl-power moments between Dany and Yara, some of which seemed almost flirty. There was a real chemistry there, and some real smart play by our Iron Bound Expatriates, especially playing up the crazy evil that is Uncle Euron. Even better was Theon owning up tothe evil he did in the face of Tyrion’s accusations. I know I rave about Alfie Allen too much, but once again there was some great, quiet nuance here. I hope we catch more of that next season.
Meereen, of course, was just the really entertaining undercard in Battle of the Bastards. The main event was held a thousand leagues to the north and it really didn’t look good for the good guys. It took a little bit of ramping up: we had the obligatory offer of one-on-one battle (Ramsay respectfully declined) and the evil scum-bags pretending to be sensitive human beings (Ramsay of course missed his wife and offered to show mercy). The best lines went to Sansa , who simply tells the evil hobbit, “You’re going to die tomorrow, sleep well.” This is the Sansa that left the Vale before being kidnapped by the plot last season, ready to play the game, and play it ruthlessly.
Unfortunately, she’s still stuck in Mansplainilvania, and while Jon isn’t nearly as smug as those slave-holder bastards, he still failed to consider Sansa’s invaluable knowledge of Ramsay and give her no role in planning. Huge mistake by the mopey bastard. Actually, for the most part, it seems like Jon Snow still knows nothing: about his enemy, the people fighting for him, or who his allies are. Even a newly tempered Melisandre has become a mystery, stung by her mistakes in the past, she offers nothing but the obvious (don’t lose), rebuke (I’ll bring you back if the Red God wills it), and a gaping lack of faith. I like this Melisandre a lot better, but she’s become somewhat useless. I wonder if Davos’ discovery of her part in Shireen’s death spells the end of the Red Woman?
Then again, maybe Davos will simply feel lucky to be alive, since the battle almost turned out to be his last. Press releases for this episode had lauded this as the biggest, most expensive battle in the show’s history and brought in “Hardhome” helmer Miguel Sapochnik to direct it. What we got was an intense, mud and blood filled, thirty minutes of tension that ultimately frustrated me. This was partly because Jon basically threw away all their planning in a doomed effort to save Rickon and partly because the show has become a little predictable. I’ll give them credit: towards the end , as Jon was slowly being crushed beneath rushing bodies and Tormund was facing off with Lord Umber, I started to think that maybe we’d get a surprise, that the bastard Bolton would defeat the Bastard Snow… and I was prepared to be outraged, but for the most part it played out exactly as expected, with the Vale arriving just in time to save the Starks from ruin. As gory and realistic and tense as the battle was, it just didn’t have the same pyrotechnic spectacle as the Battle of Blackwater Bay nor the “WTF did I just see?” impact of a “Hardhome.” Maybe it’s not fair to compare, but I really wanted something more.
We’re starting to see a trend. “Our mistake is…. believing in kings” Davos says. Our fathers were horrible kings, Yara and Dany agree. Seems like everyone is in agreement: it’s time for a new system of government…. could representative democracy be right around the corner?
I’m probably reading way too much into it, but did anyone else notice Jon’s double-take as he looked towards the flame in Meliandre’s room? As if he saw something in the fire? Yeah… probably reading way too much into it.
It’s interesting that two of the characters who were tortured by Ramsay have the best story arcs. I’ve already mentioned Theon. Sansa , however, has been downright magnificent. Smart, thoughtful, ruthless (Rickon is already dead), and – when needed – a little cruel. Her revenge on Ramsay was perfect, and the little smile as she heard the dogs do their work was divine.
So how will season 6 end? Will we find out what Cersei has in store for her trial? Will Arya make the journey back to Westeros this season? Will Dany? And we haven’t heard from Bran for a while, nor Sam and Gilly, and there is still lots to resolve on all those plot lines. I guess we’ll find out next week when “The Winds of Winter” blow into HBO. See you then!