Well, this is not at all how I thought things would go. The Battle of the Bastards was a messy, gory cluster$@%& that really couldn’t have gone much worse. Virtually all of the Stark forces were slaughtered before the Vale arrived to help and Rickon was murdered in front of Jon. The scenes were dramatic and, in some cases, hard to watch. Ramsay Snow’s continued smirk was even harder to watch sometimes. The way his character was handled from his arrival in season 3 has been interesting: they’ve essentially pushed us to the edge, seeing how far you can make a character so incredibly unlikable before it becomes too much. And it’s safe to say this guy trumps Joffrey for worst human being on the show.
And now he’s gone. The beauty of his demise was that he was chased back to Winterfell and, when cornered, attempted to simply shoot Jon Snow point blank. This episode was a smorgasbord when it came to depicting why Ramsay is human garbage: he’s willing to sacrifice his own men by firing on them to hit enemy forces; he refused a single combat resolution to the fight in order to save their forces; he killed Rickon after some psychological torture; and then went running back to his castle. Jon Snow doing a number on his face was lovely, but the ultimate trigger pull going to Sansa was the best part.
Ramsay’s death was incredibly poetic. Sansa, never once laying a hand on him, managed to make a completely satisfying end to this monster of a human being. As he tries to get back inside Sansa’s head, asserting that she cannot kill him, she calmly informs him his words, his memory, and his name will be wiped from the pages of history before releasing his own dogs, whom he starved for a week, on him as he assures her they won’t attack their master.
And then one eats his face.
And Sansa walks away vindicated. To be honest, I wasn’t sure they were going to let Sansa have the final victory in this scene. The show got some serious (and deserved) criticism for portraying Sansa’s rape by Ramsay from Theon’s perspective and how being him forced to watch was somehow more important than the act itself. I was fairly certain they were going to let Jon get the final say in Ramsay’s plot. But Jon backed away and Sansa was free to deal with Ramsay in the way she saw fit.
And while we’re on the topic of powerful women, Dany very calmly retook control of her city (with some needed guidance from Tyrion). When Yara and Theon came to parlay, not only did Dany recognize Yara as the commander and conduct their alliance, but there was for sure some flirting going on there. Yara is among GoT’s few female queer characters, and the only one to be portrayed so explicitly as such. So, hopefully we don’t turn this into something objectifying and portray a real power play by two female rulers.
The episode opens in Meereen with an unhappy Dany conferring with Tyrion. She intends to burn the other two cities in retribution but Tyrion warns her father once wanted something similar for King’s Landing. She backs down and he suggests a parley with the masters. They meet and Dany informs them she intends to collect their surrender before flying off on Drogon, rallying her two remaining dragons, and burning a portion of the master’s fleet. Greyworm informs the masters one of them will be killed as punishment for the siege; two offer up the third. Greyworm kills the two who spoke up, allowing the third to live and pass on warnings back in his city about what happened and Daenerys’ mercy.
Later, the Iron Fleet arrives in Meereen, and Theon and Yara meet with Dany and Tyrion. After some back and forth (RIFE with the aforementioned flirting), Yara agrees to back Dany for the Iron Throne with the aid of her ships and Dany promises to back her claim to the Salt Throne at Pyke.
At Winterfell, Jon and Sansa parley with Ramsay the day before the battle. Jon suggests a single combat trial to end it before it begins but Ramsay, knowing he’d lose, refuses. They part ways for the night and Sansa warns Jon not to play into Ramsay’s games. They argue strategy before Sansa leaves. The next morning, Jon and his forces take the field opposite the Boltons. Ramsay frees Rickon and tells him to run to Jon and begins firing arrows at him. Seconds before Jon can get to his brother, Ramsay shoots Rickon through the heart, killing him. Jon, Tormund, and the others rush at the Bolton forces in fury.
The battle is gruesome and quickly falls apart for the Stark forces. Ultimately, Sansa arrives with the forces of the Vale who turn the tide and decimate the Bolton forces. Jon and the remaining men chase Ramsay back to the castle where Wun Wun knocks open the gate, allowing the forces to flood in. Ramsay attempts to shoot Jon before he’s overpowered and taken prisoner. Later, Jon is collecting Rickon’s body and Sansa goes to see Ramsay who has been locked up in the kennel. He tells Sansa she won’t kill him, but she quickly sends his own ravenous dogs on him after informing him she will erase his memory from history.
Meereen is saved in essentially the way most people predicted it would be after the end of Dance. The Iron Fleet arrived, also as predicted, though with Yara taking Victarion’s place as Dany’s suitor. Hopefully now we can finally put Slaver’s Bay to the rudder and get the heck back to Westeros. But, we’ll see.
Other than that there’s not much to be said here besides acknowledging that next week’s episode is titled “The Winds of Winter” which is the title of the book being adapted this season. Fun.
We’re closing out the season with the King’s Landing storyline, which has been pretty meh. The one interesting thing here is Qyburn’s “rumor” that many suspect may be the caches of wildfire. We’ve been reminded twice now of Aerys’ “burn them all” rants so it’s possible Cersei, who was willing to do it before, might cash in on the wildfire and just end the tomfoolery in the capital. And Jaime can’t come to her aid, and after his encounter with Brienne, may not want to.
We need to pull the trigger on this R+L=J stuff that we’ve been hinted through Bran’s strange memory walks. It will likely be a last minute reveal, if it’s revealed at all this season. Hopefully this season closes out with Dany having concrete plans to get across the sea now that she’s got the ships, the dragons, and the army. And the Stark hold over the North may not be so solid; it’s likely Jon (a bastard) and Sansa (a girl) will face opposition from other houses, especially given they won Winterfell with wildling forces.
Ultimately this was an emotional rollercoaster that ended up incredibly satisfying in a lot of ways. It may be remembered as the best episode of the show to date, overcoming the “Rains of Castamere” for that mantle. Check back here next week for one final recap!