Game of Thrones – “Battle of the Bastards”: Dog eat dog

This week’s episode was packed with intensity and visceral thrills, but whether intentionally or unintentionally, to me it felt like Jon Snow’s victory at Winterfell wasn’t a triumphant one.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing the Stark banners fly once again at the home that was stolen from them. But so much went wrong during the “Battle of the Bastards” that the victory felt slightly hollow. Jon pretty much did everything wrong from a tactical standpoint, allowing Ramsey to fluster him enough to send his smaller numbers charging in without a clear plan, which allowed Ramsey’s forces to surround them. Jon himself narrowly escaped death dozens of times and his troops only prevailed through the help of their giant, sheer luck and some well-timed reinforcements.

Having the Knights of the Vale as a secret back up plan could have been a brilliant tactical move, but Jon was clueless about their potential arrival thanks to Sansa’s caginess. I’m utterly baffled why she would withhold crucial information from him that could have helped him plan the attack better, especially since it seems clear she’ll have to fess up now. It felt more like a decision to advance the plot than a logical one her character would make. It almost seemed like the show started with the Knights of the Vale making the save and then worked backwards to justify it.

Making matters worse, there seems like so much discord in Jon’s ranks right now. Sansa gave him the worst pre-battle pep talk ever, scolding him for not including her in the planning, then offering no tangible help once she argued to have her voice heard. Then Melisandre doubled down on the unhelpful rhetoric by basically seeming bored with Jon’s seige and unwilling to offer any reassuring words about the purpose of his rebirth.

And, speaking of Melisandre, Davos has finally figured out what happened Shireen. Again, like Sansa withholding the info about Littlefinger, it seems odd that Davos never brought up the question before now. But perhaps he’s had a suspicion Shireen was sacrificed and simply didn’t want to know the answer. However, now he has a strong hint of what happened and will likely confront Melisandre with his suspicions.

Even with all of the tension among the ranks and Jon’s foolhardy planning, the episode did a great job of making you feel like you were in the battle. I love how it was shot, with the camera putting you on Jon’s level so you felt what he felt. It was brutal to watch. And even though I couldn’t see Jon being brought back to life only to die here, there were several times I wondered if this wouldn’t be the end.

I also wonder what the future holds for Jon. Sansa has the better claim to Winterfell and Jon hasn’t really shown any interest in ruling. He’s quit the Night’s Watch. Perhaps he will start traveling the north warning of white walkers and trying to get everyone ready for their inevitable attack on Westeros. (Side note: the North is pretty depleted after this battle. They’re going to need more soldiers.)

I also have to wonder how King’s Landing will respond to this. Jaime just retook Riverrun to make the Freys happy and to squash the Black Fish’s momentum. The crown can’t be happy to see Starks back in charge of Winterfell, even if Sansa’s marriage to Ramsey would seem to solidify her claim.

The show gave us another, much more straightforward battle with Danny decimating her opponents thanks to her three dragons and her Dothraki horde. It was more a slaughter than anything else. Contrasting it with the other battle we saw this episode, it’s a reminder of just how powerful Danny’s army is and what an advantage they’ll have when they get to Westeros (which they may, finally, be headed toward).

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode, though it gave me an uneasy feeling about the Starks hold on Winterfell going forward.

And another thing …

  • I have mixed feelings about Ramsey’s death. It’s what he deserves, certainly, but I can’t help but think Ned Stark would not approve of sadistically torturing your enemy. He would have advocated for a more humane beheading.
  • I love that, on Father’s Day, Danny got to point out what terrible fathers she, Tyrion and the Greyjoys all had. What a bizarre way to bond. (I’m also loving all of the girl power bonding that happened in that scene.)
  • Rest in peace, Rickon. You died as you lived; as a plot device.

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Written by Joel Murphy. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com

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