One cannot seriously do a review of Game of Thrones’ most epic battles without touching on The Battle of the Bastards, the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth season.
Note: The Battle of the Bastards was the main event of the episode but there was also a bonus battle at the beginning when the Queen of Dragons showed her strength against an ongoing assault by the slavemasters’ fleet. For this magnificent showing, Drogon is rejoined by his brothers Rhegal and Viserion who were finally freed from the catacombs. Yet again, Daenerys showed strength in the face of overwhelming odds.
Synopsis: After Jon Snow and Ser Davos Seaworth seek the support of the different houses of the North in their bid to reclaim Winterfell, only a handful remain loyal to the Starks but they make do with their small army anyway and challenge Ramsay Bolton into battle. However, the sadistic bastard son of Roose Bolton has another trick up his sleeve apart from the sheer number of his army against the Starks. He also holds captive Rickon Stark, the legitimate heir to Winterfell. With this new factor, the ever honorable Jon tries to win against Ramsay, protect his sister Sansa and save his little brother from his evil hands as well.
Jon Stark has the makings of an ideal leader. He is humble, he wants to protect people, he is brave and he is strong. But his main weakness is that he is a bleeding heart. He wants to save everybody and he gets very emotional when he fails. I cannot blame him for this because firstly, he was not groomed to become the Lord of Winterfell in the first place. That was what Robb was trained to do. Jon lived his life in the sidelines and military strategies is something he is not quite familiar with, and his advisers in this case is Ser Davos Seaworth, whose expertise lies in sea warfare, and Tormund Giantsbane, whose freefolk strategy for war has always been strike now, think later. Jon behaves more like a soldier than a general in most cases because he does not and could not factor in the politics of his battle plans.
Such was the case for the Battle of the Bastards, arguably one of the best Battles in Westeros. Jon was the ultimate underdog and completely lost it when his brother was killed by the evil Ramsay Bolton right in front of him. All their planning went to hell after Jon drew his sword and stood in the middle of the battlefield in a perfectly cinematic frame but completely stupid war tactic that basically marked the end for his men.
This battle had a lot of compelling moments. There was a lot of deaths from both sides because Ramsay kept loosing the arrows even with his men in the fray. There was also the scene where Jon was gasping for breath after almost being stomped to death by his own men, which reminds fans of the Mhysa scene of Daenerys Stormborn as she freed the people of Mereen in the finale of Season 3.
As the cavalry arrived as if by some apparition, fans also saw the first glimpses of Sansa as she adopts Littlefingers’ ways in politics and betrayal. The battle in itself was gripping and well executed. One feels in the moment with Jon Snow as he deals with war shock, being overwhelmed, the guilt at their imminent loss and just the sheer rage provoked by Ramsay Bolton. His unraveling was so effective that when he went berserk against Ramsay, you felt at one with him as he let loose his ground and pound against the smug sadist. I loved the final shot where the bloodied Ramsay was sitting face to face with his famished hound to be ravaged face first by the beasts he has groomed to make his enemies suffer. Oh, sweet irony.
All in all, Battle of the Bastards was a beautiful episode, cinematically, storywise, scoring, the works. It was a magnificent episode overall. It was a total underdog victory, and while it was achieved by keeping secrets, it was a victory all the same. You can say a lot about Jon Snow but one thing he was, was trustworthy. It wasn’t right to keep him in the dark about Sansa’s plans but on the other hand, he might not have accepted support from the traitorous Lord Baelish in the first place. It was a satisfying victory because Ramsay finally got what he deserved. Karma’s a bitch. RIP, Rickon. It was nice seeing you one last time.