Recapping the Realm: An Epic ‘Battle of the Bastards’ and a New Ship on ‘Game of Thrones’
Welcome to “Recapping the Realm,” where each week ScreenCrush senior editor Erin Whitney is joined by Tyler McCarthy and Kelly Lawler for a SPOILER-filled discussion of the latest Game of Thrones. This week, Erin, Tyler, and Kelly discuss “Battle of the Bastards” (full episode review here). Tyler is an Assistant Managing Editor at Odyssey. You can tweet at him at @TylerMcCarthy. Kelly is an Entertainment Writer and Social Media Editor at USA Today. You can tweet at her at @klawls.
Erin: Oh boy, where to start? Every Game of Thrones Episode 9 has some of the highest expectations of any episode of any series on TV. Yet six seasons in and Dan Weiss and David Benioff still know how to blow our minds. “Battle of the Bastards” was a phenomenally directed hour of television, one that had me hyperventilating, yelling expletives, and pulling my hair more than anything this season.
I’ve got to say, I appreciate that the entire episode wasn’t just the battle – an hour devoted to one battle can turn tiresome, as the Battle of Castle Black proved. But once we finally arrived there this week, I actually felt like I was on the battlefield. Director Miguel Sapochnik crafted a claustrophobic atmosphere with impeccably choreographed action – the single-take of Jon fighting was outstanding – that was genuinely terrifying. It felt like we were watching something out of a history book, rather than a glorified, stylized cinematic battle scene.
Kelly: There were a lot of expectations, it’s true, and although I wasn’t quite as blown away as you were, Erin, it was a stunning hour of television. Maybe it’s just because we haven’t had a full-on battle in awhile, but this felt like one of the most intimate, dirty, bloody, and grimy battles the show has ever produced. It was so focused on the minutia and the man-to-man fight it really took you there.
I also love what they did with Jon, who has been fighting battles against nightmare creatures who shatter when they die, a far cry from getting up close and personal with a man who simply follows the opposite sigil. It was no coincidence that his face was covered in blood for nearly the entire battle, and he got a bit feral at the end there with Ramsay. Are we finally seeing some consequences of his resurrection? I have been waiting, guys.
Tyler: This was, without a doubt, the best damn battle scene Game of Thrones has ever produced. And I’m not trying to say Blackwater or the Battle of Castle Black weren’t amazing, but this just had that real-world, high-stakes quality to it that none of the others had. Ramsay came out with his typical sinister tricks, and it worked! Jon’s army had to charge when they weren’t supposed to and through sheer grit and grace in the face of utter, utter chaos, Jon Snow came out victorious when it looked like he really wasn’t going to. Sure, we all knew the Knights of the Vale would come sooner or later, but that didn’t take away from the stakes as much as I thought it would.
I’m with you Erin. It was a beautifully-crafted hour of television. The amount of tension that each character experienced was so gripping that I feel as though I didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night because of it. But I think the biggest takeaway from the episode was, for once, the good guys won!!!!! Yes, the loss of Rickon is huge, but this is about as close to a victory as people have seen since the Red Wedding! Honestly, I’ll be watching the moment where Jon takes Ramsay down with ease again and again and again. Sansa had her moment too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves too quickly!
Erin: I feel like my enthusiasm for this battle is in between you two. I definitely loved it, but, in my opinion, it had nothing on Hardhome and Blackwater – still my top battles of the series. But let’s get to Ramsay’s death already.
Kelly, I like that you use the word “feral” to describe Jon’s attack on Ramsay, since it did show an unhinged, animalistic side to him. It felt like a little Fight Club homage to me (you know the scene), Jon’s inner Tyler Durden coming out (perhaps the results of his resurrection, as you say) and totally losing control on Ramsay’s pretty boy face.
But one feral attack isn’t enough, of course, and Sansa finally got her moment of vengeance. I have to add that I loved how Sapochnik shot that final scene, holding the camera on Sansa’s face during a traumatic moment (unlike that other time). She’s really the hero of this episode, the hero of the North, and hell, the hero of the series at this point. Women are dominating GoT this season and I’m digging it.
Speaking of powerful women ... I am still squealing/screaming/melting with love over Daenerys and Yara’s flirtatious meeting. Move over #Briemund, I’m now shipping #Danyara so hard.
Kelly: I am so here for that ship. I’m so glad the show was finally able to figure out what to do with Yara and Theon. I enjoy bringing disparate characters together to get new interactions, and Dany/Yara did not disappoint.
I thought it was interesting that the show decided to cut itself the way it did, unlike Blackwater, which was only at King’s Landing, or Hardhome, which teased itself as a regular episode before staying at the battle full-time. This felt like something in the middle, although I did like what I saw from Meereen.
I’ve started to come around to the Dany-as-villain theories percolating since her dictator-esque speech to the Dothraki on Drogon’s back. And her interaction with Tyrion and the way in which she (finally) took down the Wise Masters only seemed to further the idea that she cares a lot less for the bystanders, as it were. And for ruling. She just wants to get on her dragon and go. Which, considering her attempts at ruling, is not a bad idea from her perspective. But like Tyrion, I’m concerned. We do have that Mad King to remember.
Tyler: Just to get my two-cents in on Ramsay, please allow me to backtrack. I kind of think that Jon’s feral-ness had very little, if anything, to do with his resurrection. Honestly, after hearing what Ramsay did to Sansa, seeing what he did to Rickon and knowing that he’s doing it all from behind the gates of Jon’s home, I’m not surprised in the slightest that a warrior like Jon Snow was eager to get his hands on Ramsay and give his punchable face the beating it so deserved! At a certain point, we’re just talking about a Stark standing up for what’s right!
As for the Meereen of it all, I think I Dany is absolutely in danger of becoming a villain. She’s like the Justin Bieber of Westeros. Not enough people have told her “no” up to this point, so now she just wants to go scorched earth on the world until it’s shaped the way she sees fit. Tyrion was right this episode to point out the fact that she’s talking more and more like the Mad King. However, I think she won’t end up a villain because she has people like Tyrion, Missandei and Varys around her now to make sure that she doesn’t. She even agreed with Yara when she quipped that they both had bad fathers that were cursed with having power. So, I think Dany’s big thing going forward will simply be whether or not she can listen to the seasoned, in some cases smarter, people around her.
Also, in an episode where Ramsay Bolton got what was coming to him, Sansa Stark finally emerging victorious, Davos giving pep talks to soldiers, and Jon Snow leading men into battle, it’s hilarious to me that the line of the night went to Yara with: “I never demand, but I’m up for anything really.”
Erin: That line! Get these two the church and married already! There’s room on the Iron Throne for two women, yes? Yes.
In response to the Dany Mad King theories, this episode did hint at it fairly strongly. At first I thought it was a bit of a ridiculous speculation, but it’s beginning to make a lot more sense. She doesn’t have her own people to fight for and those she’s freed and pledged herself to have regarded her as a god. She also has the most powerful weapon in all of the Seven Kingdoms – three actually – so it certainly follows that an obsession with power can grow into a tyrannical madness. But I like what you said Tyler; with the checks and balances of those around her, especially Tyrion, I’m really hoping the series doesn’t go in that direction.
As for next week, there are still so many storylines to catch up with I can’t believe we only have one episode left this season. I’m preparing myself for an overwhelming, jam-packed 69 minutes, which will certainly have a handful of deaths.
Kelly: There is so much to cover next week I wonder if we will visit the North or Meereen at all, and this was their sendoff. Regardless, however this finale is structured will give us clues as to how the show will approach Season 7, and indeed, its looming end.
Tyler: I’ve been a little bored by King’s Landing in recent seasons, only because all the intrigue is happening elsewhere. This season with the High Sparrow, it’s been a bit slow, but leading to next week’s ultimate climax. And, for once in my TV-saturated, entertainment junkie Game of Thrones life I have absolutely no guesses as to what will happen next!