Tales From Westeros – Season 6 – Episode 9 – Battle of the Bastards
Oh my oh my, is it a great week to be a Thrones fan. What’s up, guys its Zach P. and if you can’t tell I’m pretty excited about how this week’s episode turned out. Let’s dive right into the epic showdown that is “Bastardbowl”! I was excited to flex my military historian muscles a bit here, so enjoy. As always, spoilers are coming.
We begin things back in Mereen, where Tyrion is being stared down by Dany like a disapproving mom. He begins to try to explain that his plan actually helped Mereen, however that case is pretty hard to make as trebuchets are hurling flaming balls into your city. The blows can be heard outside, and Dany simply asks if they should begin. Tyrion, confused, asks if she has a plan. She basically says she’s gonna go postal on these slave masters, crucifying them, burning their cities to the ground, typical Targ nonsense. Dany is so displeased about Mereen being sieged that she’s ready to knee jerk react, which only further galvanizes the idea that she’s a conqueror and not a ruler. Tyrion suggests she try an “alternative approach”.
So Dany and co meet with the slave masters, who are all understandably cocky. They begin to negotiate surrender, with the slaves remaining to be sold again to the highest bidder. Missandei and Grey Worm, both former slaves are also part of this deal, along with the rest of the Unsullied. “We must not have communicated properly. We are here to negotiate your surrender, not mine.” Dany says icily soon, Drogon swoops in out of nowhere, like he does and he goes off, with Dany on his back, but not before scaring the pants off of the slave douche’s personal guard. When Drogon is heard shrieking, we hear two other shrieks join him. A wall comes crashing down and Viserion and Rhegal, Dany’s other two dragons that were held captive but taken off their chains by Tyrion, join their brother in burning one slave ship (and all the poor unfortunates still on it) into a charred husk soon to float to the bottom of Slaver’s Bay. Grey Worm steps forward and tells the Masters’ personal guard that they could either die for their masters or go home to their families. They all immediately drop their weapons and run away. The masters, now defenseless are told by Missandei that one of them has to die.
Outside the city, some Mereenese who are attempting to escape are being killed off by the golden masked sons of the Harpy. After a few moments, one stops stabbing long enough to hear some pounding. Then a shriek. The Dothraki horde turns the corner, Daario at its front and with war cries, begins to suppress the city. Two of the masters elect one of them who is apparently “an outsider” and “lowborn” and force him to his knees. Grey Worm steps forward and draws his knife, instead killing the other two and leaving the master on his knees alive. They aren’t done with him, however. Tyrion approaches the man and says, “Tell your people what happened here. Tell them you live by the grace of her majesty…Remind what happened when Danaerys Stormborn and her dragons came to Mereen.” Now, this gentleman is likely shitting his robes, but he is single handedly responsible for foretelling today’s events to anyone and pretty much anyone. I wouldn’t want that job. Either way, Dany seems like she’s sitting pretty. She’s got a three part air force with the dragons, a Dothraki horde, Daario’s mercenary company, the Second Sons and the entire Unsullied force. And now, she has some ships. Speaking of ships, we’re not entirely done in Mereen this week.
Theon and Yara come forward to speak to Dany and Tyrion. Tyrion recounts Theon’s time in Winterfell and blames him for the killing of Bran and Rickon, which Theon then fesses up that he didn’t. Yara implies that Theon has paid for his former insolence, but does not directly mention his castration. This is a big step for Yara, as we can now see she’s really devoted to giving her little brother all of the dignity he can muster on his own. As we know, eunuchs are looked down on in Westeros, kinda along the same line as dwarves, but Theon is soon to return to not only prominence as Yara’s counselor and advisor, but we might be able to see a new Theon. In the beginning he was cocky and arrogant, and did horrible things in the name of craving attention and love from his father because he felt as though he didn’t belong. That his fostering with the Starks (not under his control) made him somehow weaker in his father’s eyes. If he had returned to Robb’s army when Papa Balon rejected supporting him in the War of the Five Kings, maybe Theon would be a different man. But he is on the mend, and that’s what’s important here. #TheonGreyjoyDefenseSquad #NotGoodbutNotBad. Dany gets confused when Theon tells her that Yara is to rule and not him. “Have the Iron Islands ever had a queen before?” she asks. “No more than Westeros.” Yara replies. Dany seems to like this, like, really like this. There was a bit of flirting between the two of them in this scene. I think I’m about it. So Yara and Theon give forth their proposal, Dany gets the Iron fleet and the support of the 100 ships they’ve brought, just so long as when she conquers Westeros, she gives the Iron Islands independence and supports Yara’s claim. Dany is eager to accept, before asking if there are more than 100 ships in the Iron fleet. Theon confirms, and says that Uncle Euron is making more. Euron’s plan is related to Dany and she considers it for a moment before Yara mentions the whole “marriage” part of Euron’s plan. Dany says something along the lines of “And I suppose your plan would come free of any marriage demands?” To which Yara replies with something like, “I’m not demanding, but I’m up for anything.” The little eyebrow wag from Dany may be reading into things a bit, but the Dragon Queen looks like she’s bout. The kraken and the dragon may be a wonderful marriage. So Dany accepts the Iron siblings’ offer, but has a quick, kinda big proviso. She demands that the ironborn no longer raid, reave and rape like they used to. Yara looks legitimately confused. “No more raping? Impossible. I don’t care how finely crafted your cheekbones are, dragon queen.” She must have thought. Yara protests, saying it is the ironborn way of life. Dany is adamant, however and Yara accepts. So, in addition to her three armies, now near two hundred ships, and three dragons, Dany has the support of the Ironborn raiders of the Iron Islands. Westeros is looking more and more like lunch every episode for Dany this season.
ARE YOU READY? IT’S TIME FOR THE BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS!
IN THE RED CORNER: YOU’VE HATED HIM SINCE SEASON THREE, BODY FLAYING CHILD MURDERING, AND COLD BLOODED, HE’S THE BASTARD OF THE DREADFORT, THE LORD OF WINTERFELL AND WARDEN OF THE NORTH! PUT YOUR SKINLESS HANDS TOGETHER FOR RRRRRRAMSAY BOLTOOOOON!
In Ramsay’s corner: the Karstarks and the Umbers, two of the largest and most powerful houses in the North, the castle of Winterfell.
IN THE BLACK CORNER: RECENTLY BACK FROM THE DEAD, HE’S THE MANBUN WEARING, FREE FOLK LOVIN, TOUGHEST SON OF A BITCH THE NORTH EVER HAD, HE’S NED STARK’S BASTARD, EX-LORD COMMANDER OF THE NIGHT’S WATCH, THE PRINCE THAT WAS GOTDANG PROMISED! HE KNOWS A FEW THINGS ITS JJJJJJJJJJJJOOOOOOOOOOON SNOW!
In Jon’s corner: Stark loyalist houses, including the Mormonts and the Hornwoods, a wildling army, and most importantly, Wun Wun the giant!
The pre-war smack talk party/negotiation starts as Ramsay rides up to the meeting party. Jon turns to Sansa and says that she doesn’t have to be present if she doesn’t want to. Sansa denies that. She really needs to look Ramsay in the eye. Confronting your abuser is literally one of the most triggering things an abused person can do, and Sansa is obviously traumatized by what Ramsay did to her. This is the strongest we’ve seen the She Wolf in some time. Ramsay rides up flanked by Karstark and the Smalljon; and is obviously and understandably cocky. His demands are simple. For Jon to get off his horse, kneel to him, proclaim him the true lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, and give back Sansa. He also claims he will not only pardon the “treasonous” Northern houses, but will also pardon Jon for deserting the Night’s Watch. He does this because there’s no need for a battle in his mind. He knows he has the numbers and he figures it’ll be a slaughter. Jon agrees that there is no need for a battle and suggests he and Ramsay fight, with the winner taking the victory. “1v1 me, scrublord”. Ramsay isn’t having it, and talks shit about his numbers. “Aye, you have the numbers, but will your men want to fight for you if they find out you wouldn’t fight for them?” Jon retorts. This clearly gets to Ramsay and Jon reveals later it was a ploy to make him angry. Ramsay tries to use Rickon as a bargaining chip and Sansa calls his bluff. Smalljon tosses them Shaggydog’s head as proof. In the ensuing silence, I was really hoping Jon and Sansa would start laughing, say “That’s too small to be a direwolf head, you silly” and then Smalljon was going to be revealed to be a traitor and bring the Umbers on the side of the house that supported them for years, the Starks. Great going, Smalljon, you fucking prick. “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,” comes Sansa’s voice, icier than anything the North has to offer. She rides off and after a bit more banter, including the mentioning that his dogs haven’t eaten in a week and will be hyped to eat them alive, Ramsay rides off as well.
In the Stark camp, Jon, Sansa, Tormund and Davos all stand around the battle plans. They attempt to devise a few different ways to beat the much larger force with the smaller army. Davos suggests a mock or controlled retreat of their center force, forcing the cocky Ramsay to pursue, thus allowing the smaller army to surround them on three sides. Flanking is one of the staples of medieval warfare, and in pitched battle it can mean the end for a force of any size. Tormund is seemingly ignorant to the ideas of medieval warfare, and after a few questions and comments, bows out of the tactical conversation. Davos and Jon appear to reach an accord and he leaves, leaving the Stark siblings alone. Sansa, who has spent more time with Ramsay than anyone, is insulted that Jon did not ask her opinion on what to do. Jon and Sansa argue, in which Sansa very sagely and somehow also very naively states “Don’t do what he wants you to do.” Sansa also reveals her plan should the battle turn sour. “I’m not going back there alive.” She says, implying that she would kill herself before she could be captured. Jon merely offers “I’m never going to let him touch you again.” Outside, Davos and Tormund have a humorous chat in which Tormund offers him a drink, but Davos says that the night before a battle, he walks all night and goes to the edge of camp and “shits his guts out”, presumably from fear, of course. Tormund merely offers him a wildling grin and a “Happy shitting.” This was a nice scene, as Tormund and Davos are two salt of the earth gents who aren’t really the brightest, but are fiercely loyal and humble dudes. Davos does his thing at the edge of camp but then comes across something: A pyre. Burnt wood covered in snow. Among that burnt wood, is a blackened statuette of a stag. Davos is crushed. It’s Shireen’s pyre from last season. The stag was a wooden one he gave to Shireen Baratheon for teaching him how to read. This is the moment where Davos finds out that Shireen was burned by Melisandre. As if Davos didn’t have enough reasons to hate that red bitch. Speaking of said red bitch, Jon visits Melisandre’s tent. This was a pretty forgettable scene for me, used it as my bathroom break. He was basically just like “if I die, don’t bring me back” and she’s all like “blah blah Lord of Light.” Whatever. She brought Johnny boy back, she’s outlived her usefulness. I hope Davos gets some revenge for Stannis and Shireen.
The morning comes and the forces assemble. It’s very, very clear how outnumbered they are. Even worse, as a show of force, there are flayed men on burning crosses littering the battlefield. Ramsay is seen, his horse strutting through the crowd of men with a rope in his hands. He is clearly dragging someone along behind him. When he gets to the front of the crowd, it’s revealed to be Rickon Stark. Ramsay pulls a knife and for a while it looks like he might kill him, but he instead frees Rickon. “Do you like games, little man? Let’s play a game. Run to your brother.” He says, pointing to Jon in the distance. Rickon believes this to be a trick and begins to walk. “No, you have to run, those are the rules.” Ramsay says, before being armed with a bow. Rickon begins to sprint, with Ramsay firing arrows after him in an attempt to kill him. Jon damn near kills his horse trying to ride out to get him, as arrow after arrow misses. One even has an ominous swell of music behind it, leading us to think it’s the killing blow, but it isn’t. It lands at Rickon’s feet and he runs past it. Jon and Rickon are mere yards apart, Jon with his arm out to scoop up his little brother as he rides past. And then, the killing shot lands, piercing Rickon through the heart, leaving Bran as the last surviving trueborn son of Eddard Stark. This does exactly what Ramsay wanted it to do, and exactly what Sansa warned him against. It gets Jon angry, and he charges. The entire army charges forward, with Davos and some archers staying behind. The battle is on.
A hail of arrows takes down Jon’s horse, so he is hardly 300 yards away from the army, given the effective distance of a longbow at the time. Jon is thrown from horseback and is on foot. Ramsay orders his cavalry to charge as Jon stands. And what does this magnificent King Arthur-esque bastard (pardon the pun) do? He draws Longclaw in both hands and stares down an army of thousands. You had best watch yourself, Bolton. Winter is coming. Just as he is about to take his likely final stand, his own cavalry collides with the charge, a mess of humanity, horses and swords. Bowmen on both sides nock and draw their arrows. Davos realizes that firing into the fray will merely kill their own men and orders his archers to stand down. Ramsay orders his archers to fire because….he really doesn’t give a fuck about killing his own men, and has the numbers to spare where it’d be worth it. Jon, still on foot, dodges cavalry and spars with infantrymen. I don’t think Jon’s plot armor could have been thicker in this episode. In my opinion, he could have taken an arrow or two. The volleys of arrows continue to fall as the numbers of the Stark army dwindle. The battle is getting to the point where the bodies are literally piling up. I heard David Benioff say they were inspired by the Civil War in this facet of the battle, where bodies would become a battlefield obstruction. Google the Battle of Antietam if you want some more on that. As men fall and lives are lost, Davos Seaworth has had enough. “We may as well be taking shits back here!” he shouts, drawing his sword and having his archers charge. “It’s time. Go.” Ramsay commands. It’s clear that for all his arrogance, he’s a capable battle commander.
This is where the tide shifts. Smalljon marches forward with the battle cry “Who owns the North?!” “We do!” the Umber/Karstark/Bolton infantry charges en masse. Jon is knocked down and almost killed before Tormund comes through with the assist. Wun Wun and the infantry catch up with Jon and Tormund just as the encroaching charge surrounds them. And I mean surrounds them. A phalanx of Bolton shields encircles the Stark army. A phalanx is like a shield wall, where shields are held so closely together that they create impenetrability. It was a common warfare method used by the Greeks and Romans. D.B. Weiss said in the Inside the Episode segment that they based this movement off of the Carthaginian/Roman battle of Cannae, in which a similar encirclement was used by Hannibal Barca to slaughter the Romans in droves. The long spears, called pilum, stick through the shields are used to stab and skewer the huddled enemy. The call goes out: “Infantry! Advance!”, followed by a guttural chant as the shield wall closes in tighter. When they set the shields down, the spears go through, starting to skewer the tightly packed forces. As this goes on, Smalljon and his infantry arrive over the pile of bodies and it seems the Stark forces are now well and truly surrounded on all sides. Things look grim. Davos begins to command to “break the line.” Now, breaking the line is a commonly used tactical advantage against a shield wall/phalanx. Normally its best application is against another shield wall, with a second row of soldiers behind it, reaching over the normally stalemated shields engaged in a pushing match in order to kill the first row of the enemy soldiers, thus breaking the line and allowing the entire force to push through the perforation and turn the battle back into a single combat melee with the side who’s shield wall had broken at a serious disadvantage. However, the Stark forces are unshielded and the long pilum spears are keeping them at a distance from the shield wall itself. A few brave souls try to break the line, but the shield wall holds. With the exception of good old Wun Wun of course, the giant manages to batter down his section of the shield wall, but the second row of soldiers use the spears to attempt to keep the giant at a distance. Having a second row of shielded soldiers, as the Bolton army does, allows you to switch out sections of your shield wall to keep your men fresh and rested. A good move on Ramsay’s part, however I think the military genius here may have come from the Smalljon or Karstark. The Umber infantry begins to pick off the outer line of the slowly tightening force, and things are looking like they might be over. Tormund attempts to break the shield wall and is wounded. A few wildlings pull him back to safety however, as he’s Tormund goddamn Giantsbane and needs to live so he and Brienne can live happily ever after goddamnit! The infantry decides to stop its stop and go advance and instead marches forward for multiple paces, turning the Stark force into a free Justin Bieber concert at the mall style closeness. Tormund begins to lead his men through the center of the force, as Jon and Smalljon Umber meet face to face. Instead of the epic swordfight, we were promised, the men begin to retreat over the wall of bodies, knocking over and trampling Jon in the process. Due to the tightly packed humanity and all of the oxygen being consumed, around ground level in a crowd has little to no oxygen, and Jon begins to choke, unable to breathe. Smalljon and Tormund end up in a tussle, a battle of the beards if you will, and even though it looked scary for a while, Tormund kills Smalljon, biting off his ear and stabbing him in the face. Wildlings don’t fuck around. Jon is eventually able to crawl up the mass of his men and climb up high enough to get some air to breathe. From this vantage point, we see Jon at his lowest. He’s soaked in dirt, blood, and he’s surveying the dead and the soon to be finished battle around him. Davos is looking similarly hopeless as a trumpet sounds aloud on the battlefield. Ramsay turns his head and sees the hawk and crescent-moon blue banner. House Arryn. The Knights of the Vale. Turns out, Sansa wrote a cheeky little letter to Littlefinger and asked for his army, and Peytr came through. Littlefinger is seen looking pretty pleased with himself, while Sansa looks pretty bummed beside him, both on horseback. The massive cavalry charges and cuts through the Bolton shield wall, as Tormund said, “like piss through snow.” Jon climbs over the wall of bodies and makes eye contact with Ramsay from afar, with a look that conveys the most intense “you dun fucked up” I’ve ever seen. Tormund and Wun Wun flank him. So, a bastard, a wildling and a giant walk into a bar….
Ramsay decides what any sane person would decide at this time. NOPENOPENOPENOPE. Ramsay retreats to Winterfell with the three heroes in hot pursuit. Ramsay manages to get into the gate ahead of them, and very intellectually decides to hole up. “They don’t have the men for a siege, all we have to do is wait.” And he’s right. With the provisions a castle like Winterfell likely has, he could wait for a year or two. But he didn’t account for one thing…or should I say Wun Wun thing. The giant begins to pound on the door, and archers begin to pump him full of arrows, he even takes a spear to the hand like it was nothing. Wun Wun breaks open the gates and the Stark forces flood into the courtyard. Wun Wun is looking pretty worse for wear, stuck full of spears and arrows, and as Jon reaches out to him, an arrow hits him in the eye. It’s revealed that Ramsay shot it, because why shouldn’t he take away another lovable character? Wun Wun falls. RIP, my big homie. Go join the rest of your family in the next life, no one deserves to be the last giant forever. #RIPWunWun. Ramsay decides that he’s “reconsidered” Jon’s offer for single combat and draws an arrow. Jon drops Longclaw and picks up a shield with the Mormont sigil on it. Jon marches forward like a man possessed as Ramsay shoots arrow after arrow at him. After the third, Jon parries and knocks the bow from his hand, driving the edge of the shield into Ramsay’s chest, knocking him over. And then, in the most cathartic sequence since Cersei’s walk of shame, Jon beats Ramsay bloody with his bare hands. The sound design is just beautiful, you hear the packing sounds of flesh pounding, the splash of blood, the breaking of bones, Seven Hells, it was satisfying even with Ramsay’s satisfied little smirk. However, before Jon can beat the sick little shit to death with his bare hands, he notices a scared looking Sansa looking on and realizes….Ramsay isn’t his to finish.
The Bolton banners are struck and the Stark direwolf banners again fly over the Winterfell courtyard. The Starks have returned home. Rickon is carried in on a stretcher. Jon informs his men that Rickon is to be buried in the crypt, next to Ned. Meanwhile, Davos looks on, staring at Melisandre with eyes and likely a heart filled with malice. He’s going to have a stern talking to with her next episode or season, you better believe it. Sansa is standing in the center of the courtyard as Jon walks away. “Jon…” she says, clearly not pleased. Jon turns, expecting to be screamed at for not doing what she said and getting Rickon killed. But instead she merely states three words: “Where is he?”
Ramsay, blood covered, awakes tied to a chair. Sansa stares daggers into his form as he struggles back to consciousness. “Sansa. Hello, Sansa.” He says, ever the cocky shit, and begins to try to talk. “Our time together is coming to an end.” he continues, in his creepy little voice. He implies that Sansa can never really “kill him”, that he’s “part of her” now. This could mean any number of things, however the most likely is that Ramsay has made her ruthless and cold instead of the sweet girl she once was. Other interpretations of this is that her trauma will never really leave her, or however unlikely, Sansa is hiding a pregnancy. But how would Ramsay know that? “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” After we’re treated to another of Ramsay’s cocky little grins, we hear growling. The growling of hounds. Ramsay’s hounds, the ones that haven’t eaten in a week and have a hogtied dinner sitting not ten feet from them. “My hounds will never harm me.” Ramsay says, arrogantly thinking he’s won. “You haven’t fed them in seven days, you said it yourself.” The dogs begin to take more of an interest in Ramsay as he begins to get scared. “They’re loyal beasts.” “They were. Now they’re starving.” I couldn’t help but think of that one line in the Dark Knight, “…then we’ll see how loyal a hungry dog really is.” The dog, which is actually rather cute for a man eating beast, licks Ramsay’s bloody face, as the former master begins to try to command them to sit. Instead, the dog lunges and takes a bit of Ramsay’s chin as he screams in agony. The other dogs join in the mauling as Ramsay wails and screams. Sansa walks away, a ghost of a smile on her face. I quote from the books as I say, “If ever a man deserved to die screaming, it was him.”
So….wow. What an episode. I know I say that every week but this week was something else for sure. We saw the two pretty much main characters of this series right now, Jon and Dany return to a former echelon of power. We truly saw two different sides. One was war, the other was conquest. One was strategy, the other dominion. One was steel and ice, the other was fire and blood. Dany and Jon are tied for the whole “Prince that Was Promised” idea, and once the war comes to Westeros, we may see if they end up fighting each other….or a certain King beyond the wall.
Anyway, next episode is the season finale you guys! Bound to be some new revelations and a cliffhanger that leaves us wondering for another year as they film season 7! Thanks for reading, berate me in the comments.
- Zach P.
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Posted on June 24, 2016, in Geekology, Tales from Westeros, TV and tagged Battle of the Bastards, dragons, fantasy, Game of Thrones, HBO, Jon Snow, Ramsay Bolton, Tales from Westeros, TV, Westeros, Winterfell. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.