Ned Stark’s beheading. The Battle of the Blackwater. The Red Wedding. The wildlings attacking Castle Black. Daenerys flying away on the back of her dragon. That’s what the ninth episode of Game of Thrones means. Joining that list is the Battle of the Bastards, where Ramsey Bolton and Jon Snow fight for Winterfell.
It’s yet another brutal and brilliant battle with some of the most visceral and bloody action sequences the show has ever done. And as if the Battle of the Bastards wasn’t enough, we also get an impressive battle in Meereen. If this episode isn’t instantly in your Top 5 Game of Thrones episodes of all-time, you’re a fool.
The Battle in Meereen
Meereen is still under attack by the masters, so Dany and Tyrion discuss strategy. The meet with the leaders to arrange a surrender, but the masters foolishly think Dany is the one surrendering. She summons her dragon, jumps on his back, flies away, gets the other two dragons and they proceed to destroy the masters’ ships with their fire. Meanwhile, Dany’s Dothraki army approaches on land to kill the Sons of the Harpy.
Just like that, she wins. Battles are a lot easier when you have dragons. Meereen is free and the masters are dead, never to return to slavery.
The Targaryen/Greyjoy Alliance
Also in this episode, Theon and Yara Greyjoy arrive in Meereen to align with Dany and Tyrion. They offer their ships and their loyalty if she will kill Euron and help make Yara queen of the Iron Islands. Dany and Yara bond over their mutual female empowerment (with Yara sending some serious lesbian vibes) and the deal is done. Yara and Theon have joined Dany’s army.
Before the Battle of the Bastards
However, the bulk of the episode takes place at Winterfell. Jon Snow meets with Ramsey Bolton to try to avoid a big battle. He suggests single combat, a one-on-one fight to decide the victor. Ramsey declines, instead making threats about taking Sansa and feeding Jon’s army to his hounds.
At night, Jon prepares for battle the next day. Sansa still thinks they need more men. She insists that she’d rather die than go back to Ramsey while Jon tells Melisandre not to bring him back if he should die again.
The Battle Begins
The two armies face off on the battlefield. Ramsey arrives with Rickon and sets him free. He tells Rickon to run to Jon, but then proceeds to shoot arrows at him. Jon rushes to save his little brother, but just as he meets him, one of Ramsey’s arrows hits Rickon. Just like that, another Stark is dead. RIP Rickon.
Jon is enraged and charges all by himself. Ramsey’s army charges back and right as they’re about to meet, Jon’s army of wildlings comes up from behind him and the battle is on.
The Battle of the Bastards
The action is as raw and brutal as we’ve ever seen. Horses, swords and arrows are flying everywhere and soon there are giant mountains of corpses. At the center is Jon Snow, swinging his sword and killing everyone he can. It’s the closest TV has come to that first battle sequence from Saving Private Ryan, with jarring, close-up action.
Jon’s smaller army is overwhelmed and surrounded. The Bolton army, with shields and spears, closes in. Jon gets knocked down, trampled and buried in a mountain of dead boides, gasping for air as he digs his way out. It’s even more terrifying than it sounds.
All hope is lost. Jon, Tormund and Davos look at each other, ready for the end. That’s when we see Sansa on a hill next to Littlefinger. He’s who she wrote to and he brings the Arryn army. They attack the Boltons and save the day. Soon enough, the Bolton army is soundly defeated and Jon looks up to see Ramsey, who retreats back into Winterfell.
The Battle Ends
Ramsey is confident Winterfell is safe, but not when there’s a giant knocking at the door. The giant bursts in, but he looks like a pin cushion, filled with arrows. Jon walks in next to him, but that’s when Ramsey shoots one last arrow into the giant’s head and kills him.
Now that Jon is bloody and weak, Ramsey accepts his initial offer of one-on-one combat. He shoots an arrow, but Jon picks up a shield and blocks it, running towards Ramsey. Ramsey shoots a second arrow, but it’s blocked. A third arrow is blocked too and Jon finally reaches his enemy.
That’s when we see how weak and pathetic Ramsey is, because Jon takes him down right away and punches him until he’s a bloody mess. Sansa is there to watch and Jon stops just before Ramsey is dead. The battle is over. The wolf banner flies again. The Starks have taken back Winterfell.
In the final scene, Ramsey is tied up in the kennel. Sansa visits him and he claims he will always be a part of her (is it possible she’s pregnant with his baby?). Sansa gets the last laugh. The hounds are released. Ramsey believe they won’t attack their master, but he’s been starving them for seven days.
The episode ends with Ramsey Bolton being eaten alive by his own hounds. HUZZAH, THE BASTARD IS DEAD! And Sansa got to watch and then walk away.
Seeing as how Rickon (and the giant) were the only prominent casualties on the Stark side, this was a pretty great battle. The action scenes were as good as the show has ever done and it’s certainly another fantastic ninth episode of Game of Thrones. The only complaint I have is that the finale is next week.
(Image courtesy of HBO)