The penultimate episode of epic fantasy saga Game of Thrones’s sixth season was quite, in a word, phenomenal. Titled “Battle of the Bastards,” it showed the much-awaited clash between Wolves and Flayed Men in the ultimate bid for Winterfell and the North itself, with armies led by the Stark bastard Jon Snow on one side and the Bolton bastard Ramsay on the other.
It opened in Meereen: the Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen was not at all pleased by the destruction the Masters’ fleet brought upon the ancient city. And if looks could kill, her advisor Tyrion surely would have been struck dead already; he clearly had some explaining to do.
He admitted that he severely underestimated the Masters; they broke the treaty they struck with him during Dany’s absence, and they took the opportunity to wreak havoc on her greatest conquered stronghold thus far. But Tyrion also pointed out that this move merely reinforced the idea that they fear what the Stormborn was doing in Essos—proving that cities and civilizations did not, in fact, need slavery in order to thrive. Meereen itself was adjusting quite well to the new order, and once the other slaver cities see it, they would be sure to follow. When that happens, the Masters would lose everything they had—their influence, their wealth, and their very purpose of existence, which, essentially, was to command the slaves.
Then followed a significant exchange that exposed how easy it was for power to be tinged with madness. Daenerys told Tyrion her plan of retaliation, saying, “I will crucify the Masters, I will set their fleets afire, kill every last one of their soldiers, and return their cities to the dirt. That is my plan. You don’t approve?”
Tyrion then reminded her of her father, telling her what Jaime himself told him, that the Mad King had wanted everyone burned, loyal and traitors alike. And though Daenerys might think the circumstances “entirely different,” Tyrion knew that they really weren’t.
With this, Tyrion showed himself as exactly the type of advisor the Dragon Queen needed. Same as Ser Barristan, Tyrion had knowledge of Westeros and of the Mad King, and he knew when and how to tell Dany that she was going too far, that she might be becoming more like her father. And he was not afraid to do so; he admired her, yes, but he did not worship her the same way others did.
A meeting with the three Masters was set up. They were being unbearably smug, even going so far as to naming the terms of Dany’s surrender. Dany, of course, would not stand for this, and she informed that the meeting was for their surrender, not hers.
They were arrogant, for they seemed to have completely forgotten about the dragons. Drogon arrived just in time for Daenerys to make her point; she climbed the dragon and went to fly over Meereen, which was under attack on almost all sides. The Sons of Harpy were also terrorizing the citizens, going on a killing spree, until the Dothraki horde and Daario Naharis came charging into the city, fierce battle cries ringing through the air.
Viserion and Rhaegal, having been freed from their chains a few episodes back, rushed from their underground cell and joined their brother in flight. With these three dragons in tow, Daenerys set her eyes on the invasive armada, and she let loose her most powerful command, “Dracarys.” (Dracarys means “dragonfire” in High Valyrian, the language used by the dragonlords from which ancestry Daenerys hailed.)
While the dragons were setting fire upon their mother’s enemies in a heartwarming reunion (yes, a pun), Tyrion was dealing with the Masters. He told them that Daenerys would allow two of them to live; one should die as a lesson to those who would even think of defying the Dragon Queen. Two of them immediately turned on the third Master, apparently a lowborn and thus not truly one of them. With him kneeling, Grey Worm advanced and drew his blade, killing the two Masters standing on either side of him.
Still reeling, he was then approached by Tyrion, who told him, “Tell your people what happened here. Tell them you live by the grace of Her Majesty. When they come forward with notions of retribution or ideas about returning the slave cities to their former glory, remind them what happened when Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons came to Meereen.”
Later, Daenerys was then faced by two Krakens in her throne room. Yara and Theon Greyjoy had arrived in Meereen in hopes of an alliance with the Targaryen monarch. They offered her the hundred ships of the Iron Fleet and also the information that Euron Greyjoy would be coming with the offer of more. Asked why Daenerys shouldn’t just wait for him, Yara then told them that Euron’s offer came with marriage—one wouldn’t be given without the other. The deal was sealed when Yara accepted the term that there would be no more pillaging and raping by the Ironborns, and Dany would grant her the Iron Islands.
Back in Westeros, two bastards and their armies would fight to the death with Winterfell and the North as their prize.
Sansa, Jon, key members of their army, and a small retinue of guards met with Ramsay and his people to discuss the terms of battle on neutral grounds. While they wait for the Boltons, Jon told Sansa that she didn’t need to be there, but she said she did; after all, this fight wasn’t just between the bastards. (This was Sansa’s too, more hers than anyone’s, in a way; she’s doing this not only to reclaim her home but also to reclaim herself.)
Ramsay arrived, and he immediately began his typical ruse. He thanked Jon for delivering him his bride, and he urged them all to bend the knee and acknowledge him as Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. No one in Jon’s party was particularly impressed, and Lady Lyanna Mormont looked about ready to shoot Ramsay then and there (bless her).
Jon then tried to reason with Ramsay and proposed that they instead fight in single combat. No lives needed to be lost but one of theirs. But Ramsay knew his own strengths, and he knew he’s not strong enough to fight and defeat Jon. He admitted as much, and then they tossed Shaggydog’s head as proof they had Rickon Stark.
Fed up with the “discussion,” Sansa said (you go, girl!), “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.”
That night, Jon discussed battle strategies with Tormund and Davos, while Sansa quietly fumed on the side. Once it was done and two Starks were alone in the tent, they argued about the whole thing, from Jon’s continuous underestimation of Ramsay’s capabilities to his failure to consult his sister about someone she knew better than anyone else. Jon pointed out that he had battled more fearsome monsters than Ramsay, and Sansa pointed out that they should have waited for more men.
Both had their points, of course, and this showed how much the two siblings had missed out on in the other’s life and how differently they acted now than they did before Robert Baratheon went to Winterfell.
Next, Jon went to the Red Woman, Melisandre, telling her not to revive him again should he fall. She told her then that it was not his will but the Lord of Light’s that she followed.
Outside, in the cold Northern winds, Davos and Tormund talked of the kings they used to follow. “Jon Snow’s not a king,” Tormund said, driving home the recurring theme in the show: those who fight for a greater purpose, not caring of the power involved, were those best suited to have that power. They were those who inspired devotion and loyalty from the people they lead.
Davos went on alone for a walk to clear his head before the battle, and upon doing so, he stumbled upon what remained of Shireen’s funeral pyre. He saw the stag he carved for her, given on their last meeting, and he finally understood what happened. He couldn’t grieve right then, though, for the horns had been sounded and the battle would begin.
The battle scene was spectacular, by far surpassing any previous battles in the show (and it took ten million dollars and twenty-five days of shooting to achieve this!).
Everything was somber, the air punctuated with the flapping banners and the crackling fires and the pattering hooves. Jon rode to the front lines, Ramsay doing the same on his side while holding a rope.
The rope was attached to a tired and terrified Rickon Stark. Sansa was right when she told Jon that Rickon would be as good as dead with Ramsay; he intended to use the boy to toy with Jon, perhaps even lead him to make a mistake.
And mistake Jon did make. Directly contradicting last night’s plan to not be the ones to approach the enemy, Jon rode his horse across the battlefield to meet Rickon, whom Ramsay released. The boy was instructed to run to his brother, while Ramsay readied his bow and arrows.
Jon spurned his horse in a mad dash to get to Rickon in time, and just when everyone thought he would make it, that another Stark would be safe, Ramsay’s arrow found its mark. Rickon fell on the grass and breathed his last.
(Personally, I wish the North itself wouldn’t forget the image of a fallen Rickon Stark, on his way to his family’s arms. I hope they never forget the young Northern prince who died before he knew what living truly was. I hope they never forget the young wolf who fell on Northern ground, spilling first blood on this war they waged.)
It seemed like the world slowed down for Jon, seeing his brother’s fall, and both Tormund and Davos knew that he would be making his next big mistake.
Jon Snow charged toward the Bolton army, and his men soon followed.
Arrows flew true, and steel met steel. Blood flowed freely as men died along with their steeds. Bodies piled up, forming a literal wall of death, enclosing Jon’s army and making them vulnerable against the wall of shields and spears the Bolton army made.
The Bolton army advanced, and with nowhere to go, Jon’s men kept getting killed, and more bodies were added to the piles of cadavers around them. Jon himself was trapped under dead bodies and trampled by living ones. Gasping for air, he struggled to emerge from this sea of flesh and blood.
When the battle seemed much too dire to ever be redeemable, a horn again sounded, and those still living turned to whence it came.
Ramsay, still in the sidelines (too cowardly to actually partake in the battle perhaps), saw that the Knights of the Vale had arrived. Littlefinger and Sansa Stark led the army of House Arryn, and their forces descended upon the battlefield in overwhelming might.
Ramsay, seeing this turn of tide, fled to hide behind Winterfell’s walls. (This is reminiscent of Joffrey Baratheon in the Battle of Blackwater, back in season 2.) However, it was not meant to be, for Wun Wun the giant broke down the gates, and in came Jon, Tormund, and several others of his men.
Wun Wun was feeling the exhaustion, however, and he did have dozens of arrows sticking on his body. Jon stood beside him, in gratitude, and was about to let him rest a bit when Ramsay shot an arrow through the giant’s eye.
This was what snapped Jon Snow’s control and rekindled his fire. He advanced on Ramsay, who fired arrow after arrow, which Jon deflected with a shield. And then when he finally reached him, Jon beat Ramsay, putting him near death, raining upon him punches and blows filled with rage, fury, and hatred, only stopping when he saw Sansa watching him.
After the battle, House Bolton’s banners were taken down, and House Stark’s banner was finally unfurled on Winterfell again. Rickon’s body was brought into the yard, and Jon declared that his brother would be buried next to Eddard Stark in Winterfell’s underground crypts. Sansa then asked him where Ramsay was taken.
Ramsay woke up in a cell, tied to a chair. Sansa looked at him impassively through the bars. He tried to get under her skin again, telling her that she won’t be truly rid of him for he’s part of her now.
She didn’t agree. She told him, ferocity cloaking her words, “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. My memory of you will disappear.”
Then Ramsay’s hounds entered the cell; they had been starved for seven days in Ramsay’s arrogance that they’d be well fed by the flesh of his enemies. Sansa watched as they started to devour him, and with his screams echoing in the darkness, Sansa walked away, and the Queen in the North smiled.
The next episode will be the season’s last. Titled “The Winds of Winter, ”after the forthcoming sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, will be the longest episode in Game of Thrones's history at sixty-nine minutes long. Its synopsis simply reads, “Cersei will face her trial.”
Will Cersei escape what the Faith and the High Sparrow had in store for her? Or will Qyburn go through with whatever it was he discovered? Will Tommen finally die as a fulfillment of the prophecy given to his mother in her youth?
In the promos, we see Walder Frey toasting the Lannisters and Freys sending their regards (a call to what Roose Bolton said before putting a blade through Robb Stark), a celebration to House Frey’s return to Riverrun. Loras was put before the High Sparrow. Jon and Sansa were aware that though they reclaimed their home, they still had “many enemies.” Littlefinger then seemed to confess his love for Sansa, saying, “You know what I want.” Ser Davos confronted Melisandre about what was done to Shireen. Dany and Tyrion talked about what their next move would be. Bran got another major vision.
Jaime Lannister was present in Lord Frey’s banquet. Will he finally fulfill his lost promise to Catelyn Stark and exact revenge on her name? What will the Kingslayer’s next move be?
Will Loras survive his test? What really was her sister, the Queen, trying to achieve? Will her plan, whatever it was, work in House Tyrell’s favor before their heir dies?
With Winterfell freed from House Bolton, what will Jon and Sansa’s next political move be? Will the traitors run to Southern lords, or will they once again kneel before the wolves?
Will Littlefinger’s ploy work again? It seems highly unlikely that he was working for Sansa’s best interest, for Littlefinger only loved Littlefinger. But there’s no question that Sansa—and Jon, by extension—owed him a great debt by saving the day. He did not officially have an army of his own regardless of his control over the Lord of the Vale. Will he be asking for Winterfell then through marriage to its rightful heir?
With her hold of Slavers’ Bay strengthened and her title as the Dragon Queen solidified, will Daenerys finally set sail for Westeros? She had the Iron Fleet now, along with the Masters’ ships. She had the army, and she had her advisor. Will she, at last, reclaim her birthright as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms?
Will Bran—and us too!—also finally learn what truly happened in the Tower of Joy? What did Ned Stark see, and what was Lyanna Stark’s fate?
Will Jon’s true parentage be then revealed?
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