If you’re sitting at work reading this right now, I just want to personally congratulate you for being able to make it into the office after watching last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. It took me twenty minutes of silence before I could even contemplate moving from my couch, let alone carrying on with adult life. If anyone tries to talk to me about the NBA finals today I’m just going to scream SANSA STARK over and over until they walk away.
Honestly, this recap could be about four sentences long if we were going to just break down the basic plot points for you. Everyone knows what happened in that regard. But how it happened, and more importantly, how we all felt while it was happening, could fill an entire novel.
Actual footage of me throughout the entirety of the episode, from “previously on” to the credits:
I’m going to put The Battle of the Bastards down as one of the greatest episodes in Game of Thrones history, not just because of the deeply satisfying death of Ramsey or the bittersweet victory at Winterfell, but because it was possibly the first time that we’ve ever seen blanket female victories across the board. The spectacular battle sequence didn’t hurt though.
No matter what happens next week*, we will never forget the uninhibited joy we all felt when Sansa finally got her redemption. I will also probably never forget the fact that I cheered with all of my heart and soul while a dog ripped off a man’s jaw and then proceeded to eat him alive. That’s what this show does to you.
*I already know I will regret saying this
Let’s get down to the death, destruction and mayhem that left us all feeling euphoric for hours after the credits rolled.
In any other episode, what went down in Meereen would have been show-stopping material. It may have been overshadowed by the events of Bastard Bowl, but that doesn’t make the retaking of Meereen any less badass of a sequence than it was. My sexual orientation might be watching Danaerys smash the patriarchy on the back of Drogon while Tyrion delivers quippy threats below her. I’ll be sure to update all my dating app bios accordingly.
If you’ve ever watched a teenager try to validate his shitty grades to a very stern and quiet parent, then the opening scene between Dany and Tyrion probably looked familiar. She’s not angry, just disappointed.
Tyrion: City morale has really improved while you’ve been gone.
*fire bombs sound off in the distance*
Tyrion: Really think we’re making strides here.
Somehow Tyrion’s panicked rambling works, because Dany decides it’s time to take action rather than discipline her small council. She is calm and collected in a crisis, something that some people on this show *COUGH* JON FUCKING SNOW *COUGH* could learn from.
Tyrion: So what’s the plan now?
Danaerys: Death and destruction.
Tyrion: Yeah so I know that I’m partially to blame for this situation but I have some advice here.
Finally, someone on this show has the balls to tell Dany what the internet has been whispering about her for weeks: her penchant for no mercy retaliation is eerily reminiscent of the Mad King.
Tyrion: Your father was willing to burn entire cities to the ground if it meant victory.
Danaerys: I am nothing like my father.
*Five minutes earlier*
Danaerys: I will burn entire cities to the ground if it means victory.
While she doesn’t necessarily take the criticism well, she clearly does take it to heart, which is a big moment for Danaerys’ character development. Her fire (both literally and metaphorically) is a huge part of the reason she’s such an unstoppable force, but it could very easily also be her demise. This is why these two make such a lethal combination. With Tyrion’s guidance, Dany’s passion becomes less of a roving wild fire and more of a streamlined weapon the likes of which Meereen, and probable even Westeros, has never seen. Together, they come up with a much more effective plan for the battle at hand.
Outside the Great Pyramid, Danaerys and her small council meet with the three slavers from Tyrion’s negotiation. The masters threaten to sell the Unsullied and Missandei back into slavery after scolding Dany for her arrogance, which is hilariously ironic considering what happens next.
Slavers: Your reign is over.
Danaerys: My reign has just begun.
A glutton for drama, Drogon literally drops into of the middle of the negotiation meeting and scares the shit out of everyone before Danaerys climbs on his back. Accompanied by the other two dragons, who very easily broke out of their prison, they ride off into the bay, only to start lighting ships on fire. Below, the Dothraki, led by our sweet prince Daario, ride into town and lay waste to the Sons of the Harpy. My heart swells at the relentless violence.
Back up on top of the Great Pyramid, Grey Worm gives the enemy soldiers two options: stay and fight for men who would not fight for them, or GTFO. This notion is a recurring theme this episode, and let’s just say that it doesn’t work out so well the next time it comes up.
After their warriors peace the fuck out, the slavers watch in horror as Grey Worm gives them a very different choice: one of you must die as a message to the rest. Two of them throw the third under the bus, claiming his low birth makes him unworthy. You think they would have caught on by now that this is not the route to take with the people who showed up to abolish slavery, but whatever.
Grey Worm responds by cutting down the two traitors and then lets Tyrion stroll up to the survivor to do what he does best: talk shit.
Tyrion: You have been spared by the Mother of Dragons so that you can go home and spread our message.
Slaver: Which is what?
Tyrion: You come at the Queen, you best not fucking miss.
Adrenaline is already at an all-time high and we haven’t even gotten to Bastard Bowl yet. My Fitbit points are about to be off the charts.
After the battle has been won we are graced with even more lady power scenes. Theon and Yara have arrived in Mereen, because their fleet is clearly made up entirely of jet boats. You know who’s not excited to see Theon? Tyrion, who appears to hold grudges harder than my mother. The last time the two saw each other, Theon was much mouthier and still in possession of a penis. Weird how those two things go hand in hand.
“Every person who makes a dwarf jokes thinks that they’re the first person to ever make a dwarf joke.” As someone who can’t introduce themselves without a slew of horrendously tired Olsen twin commens, I identify with this struggle on a spiritual level.
Theon and Yara make their pitch: their support and their ships in exchange for sovereignty of the Iron Islands. Danaerys assumes that Theon wants her support for his claim to the throne, and he very quickly assures her that Yara is much more deserving.
Danaerys: What’s wrong with you?
Theon: Oh man, how much time do you have?
From this moment onward Tyrion’s objections are wholly ignored, not because he’s lacking a valid argument, but because no one can hear him over the raging sexual tension between Yara and Danaerys. After a whole lot of eye fucking and a quick bonding sesh of their collectively shitty fathers, Danaerys comes up with her terms.
She will give Yara the Iron Islands and support her rule against Euron, but the Ironborn have to stop their rape-y pirate antics. I’m honestly offended by how long it took Yara to mull that one over, but she agrees in the end, shortly after implying that she’d 100% bang Dany if their alliance depended on it. Or just because. They’re probably already hooking up.
I don’t think I have the ability to put this entire battle into words, mostly because it would just be ten pages of incoherent screaming with intermittent bouts of tears. There were three separate times that I was convinced Jon was about to die, even as I said out loud “there’s no fucking way Jon dies again.” Tormund’s many brushes with death had me hiding my face in my hands. Wun-Wun put the entire fucking team on his back and suffered the ultimate price for it. But nothing, truly nothing, prepared me us the death of Rickon.
We start off the day before the battle where we see Jon, Sansa, and their commanders riding into a meeting with Ramsey and his men. Things are tense, to say the least.
Jon: You really don’t have to be here.
Sansa: Yeah, but none of you are going to tell Ramsey to suck a dick, so I actually do have to be here.
Ramsey opens by offering them all amnesty if Jon just surrenders now and kneels before him. The entire world’s reaction to that offer can be encapsulated by Lady Mormont’s almighty stank face. Three seconds on screen and she steals the entire show.
Rather than fight a battle that will result in the death of thousands of men, Jon offers Ramsey an opportunity for one-on-one combat. To nobody’s surprise, Ramsey turns this down immediately and proceeds to taunt Jon for trying to get out of battle. Jon, a man of few words, claps the fuck back.
Jon: Will your men want to fight for you when they hear you wouldn’t even fight for them?
Jon: Hey guys that was a good one.
Jon: Remember this super cool moment later when I royally fuck up.
Ramsey then turns his attention to Sansa, who is no stranger to his long-winded speeches about torture. Rather than entertain a moment of his psychosis she shuts him down with a cold “You will die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,” before riding away without even looking back. Be still my heart. No one really wants to follow that performance, so the rest of Team Stark sits by looking wholly unamused as Ramsey ominously describes how hungry is dogs are. How’d that end up working out for you, bud?
Back at camp, morale is spectacularly low during the last strategy session. It’s got the same vibe as those last hours of an all-nighter before a final, when you’re 100% aware that you’re going to fail but continue to stare at your flashcards in defeat anyways. Except, you know, this time with the promise of a brutally painful death looming over the room.
Sansa seems pissed throughout the whole meeting and it turns out that’s because she absolutely is. No one has asked her input on this entire battle, despite the fact that she is the only one in the room who understands Ramsey’s motives. It only takes 30 seconds of interacting with Jon and his pouty face to know that he’s the kind of guy who lets his emotions get the best of him. Ramsey has no emotions, and thus uses other people’s to manipulate them into their own death. Sansa knows how this will go. Jon does not.
They once again argue about going to war so unprepared, but this time Jon gives Sansa a chance to come up with a plan. He actually asks her what she would do, and she still doesn’t spill about Little Finger and the Vale army. She has also already accepted the fact that Rickon is going to die, which seems like a 180 turnaround from a couple episodes ago when she insisted on saving him at all costs.
This is just one of many reminders throughout the episode that Sansa is no longer the materialistic princess of season one, and she hasn’t been for a long time.
Jon heads over to Melisandre’s tent to tell her that, under no circumstances is he to be brought back to life this time. She lets him know that it’s not up to him, and that she’ll do whatever the Lord of Light bids her to do. I know I’ve talked a lot of shit about this fire religion over the years, but it’s the only one on this show to have produced any results thus far. Maybe, just maybe, Melisandre is onto something here. Jon was brought back for a reason, and I doubt that reason was to die two months later. At least, that’s what I kept whispering to myself throughout the entirety of the battle.
Outside, we get a rare shot of Davos and Tormund bonding over their mutual love for Jon Snow. It was as close as anything in Winterfell got to light-hearted, that is, until Davos discovers Shireen’s pyre while out on a walk to clear his head. Reminder: Davos loved Shireen, and had no idea what her actual fate was last season. You can bet that Melisandre is going to pay for this but first, everyone has a pretty important battle to attend to.
To be fair, the second Ramsey set Rickon free on the premise of “playing a game,” we all knew what was going to happen. That didn’t stop me from screaming like an anguished child when that arrow hit him, because no one taught this kid to fucking zig zag in situations like these. In case the initial sting wasn’t enough, let this GIF haunt you for the rest of the day.
They were so fucking close.
It must be nice that everyone in Westeros has 20/20 vision that allows them to peer across vast battlefields and see in extreme detail. I wouldn’t be able to identify my brother running for his life from fifty yards away, let alone five hundred, and we haven’t even spent the last seven years apart.
Just like Sansa predicted, Ramsey used Jon’s honor and emotion to lure him into a trap. What follows is bar none the best war scene this show has ever had, and probably a better one than most movies. I’m going to watch it once a week for the rest of my life, just to keep me humble. I won’t do it the disservice of trying to describe each individual interaction for you, mostly because no one would want to read that. Just watch it and weep for the people who actually had to fight like this once upon a time.
To say things got bleak would be a vast understatement, which made the arrival of Sansa, Littlefinger, and the Vale army all the more triumphant. Would their participation from the start have made a difference, or was it the element of surprise that let them come in and wreck the Bolton’s forces? Idk, I’m not a military strategist. I am, however, an expert at identifying creepy older men with ulterior motives, and I am already angry about whatever it is that Baelish is going to demand in the finale as payment for his services.
While the Vale cleans up Jon’s mess on the battlefield, the dream team of Jon, Tormund and Wun-Wun make their way for Winterfell, followed closely by Sansa and Petyr. Ramsey can’t even finish his sentence about a siege before everyone’s favorite giant comes busting through the gates with reinforcements behind him. This heroic act served to be his last, and Wun-Wun goes down after a final arrow through the eye from Ramsey. As if Jon wasn’t already mad enough.
Ramsey: So I’d like to take you up on that offer of one-on-one combat.
Watching Jon beat the ever-loving shit out of Ramsey was satisfying, but not nearly as satisfying as watching Sansa finish the job. Locked in the bowels of Winterfell, tied to a chair and covered in blood, Ramsey is still more confident than I am on the best of days. It really seemed like he thought he’d be getting out of there alive, until his hungry, hungry hounds rolled in.
Sansa: Your words will disappear.
Sansa: Your house will disappear.
Sansa: Your name will disappear.
Sansa: All memory of you will disappear.
I forgive this show for every horrific and traumatizing moment they’ve put me through, because it was all worth it to get to the point where we got to watch Ramsey be ripped to pieces by his own dogs as Sansa walked away smirking. I will sleep peacefully for the rest of my life with that image in my head.
See you all next week, when no doubt horror and misery will eclipse and shred of joy we felt today. Take this time to get your affairs in order, and maybe request next Monday off just to be safe.