Since Season 2, Game Of Thrones has been unique in that unlike near the enough every other show, you’re not counting down to the season finale; you’re waiting for the one before it.
Only this time, ‘The Battle Of The Bastards’ is two for the price of one, the first part depicting Daenerys showing what happens when you threaten her people and/or go back on your word (hint: you get burned), while Tyrion gets to do what he does best: dramatic talking.
We didn’t expect this scene to get all that much air time, but it’s a welcome treat when it finally comes about: Khaleesi and her three dragons wreaking fiery havok on the enemy fleet. Westeros: your time is coming.
Add in a couple of nice character moments (turns out that Yara and Daenerys get along nicely), and it’s a solid first third.
Yet all the dragons in the world can’t overshadow what’s to come: Jon Snow vs Ramsay Bolton. Although lacking the scale of Blackwater or Castle Black, the stakes are no less higher, and the grudge no less pronounced: Ramsay is a dangerous dog who needs to be put down.
So does it deliver? Yes and no. Although director Miguel Sapochnik does some things better than earlier ‘battle episode’ director Neil Marshall (the swirling sense of chaos and understated use of CGI make it seem like more’s going on than there actually is), it’s lacking… surprise, I guess would be the choice word.
Sure, Rickon’s death is a (heavily signposted) hammerblow, but really, who wasn’t expecting it? He was always marked for death since falling into Ramsay’s clutches. Another Stark down.
Apart from that, everything goes as expected. There are moments of worry (the piling mass of bodies adds a whole new dimension to the horror of war, and we seriously feared for Tormund at one point. Guess he’s just unkillable), but Littlefinger turns up to ‘save’ the day (he’s getting good at that), and Ramsay gets the pasting he’s deserved.
Speaking of Ramsay, we should probably use this moment to express how much we’ll miss Iwan Rheon’s portrayal of the character. An arsehole even by Game Of Thrones‘ lofty standards, he effortlessly owned every scene he appeared in, and even the cowardly nature of his death can’t lessen his impact, both on the show and the world within it.
So the battle’s won, but what now? Littlefinger has come storming in with the Eyrie’s army at his back, but you can be sure he’ll want something in return. And by something we mean Sansa.
Then again, maybe he’ll get more than he bargained for. Sight unseen, her wry smile as she walks away from
Ramsay’s death screams shows how much she’s changed. Jon didn’t heed her pre-battle warnings, and it nearly cost him. There’s no danger of him ignoring her now.
So on to the end. It’s been a vastly improved year for Game Of Thrones – all that’s left is to round it off in style.