Daenerys, Dragons, and Sansa (not the Battle of the Bastards) Win #GoT S6 Ep9
Guess I Should Count My Blessings
Not a good night to be a "Son of the Harpy" or a Giant (sigh). To say that I am more than a bit nonplussed by episode 9 would be an understatement. But, at least I am not a member of House Bolton.
I didn't hate the entire episode but I really hated one part, I will recap from the part I liked least to the part that I liked the most.
Before I get my furious anger rolling forward if you have not seen #GameofThrones Season 6 Episode 9 yet, quickly turn away and come back later when you have watched the episode. In other words *Spoiler Alert*
"The Battle Of The Bastards" - Zzzzzzzzz
I am sure you will read a million recaps that will sing the praises of the wonders of the "Battle of the Bastards."
Those people are either easily entertained or sheep.
This was one of the dumbest set-ups of a battle that I have ever seen on screen. It is my number one contender for "Jar-Jar of the year."
I really hate hubris and contempt for the audience's intelligence in writing.
Only hubris could make writers believe that people love action scenes so much that if you line up soldiers and have them run at each other people won't care at all about the logic behind a battle or a battle plan.
Sometimes this kind of thinking pays off (see and Michael Bay movie) but I hate the contempt it shows for audiences.
This battle was MORONIC.
First, we find out that the forces of Stark will try to draw the massively superior Bolton force into its center and then envelop it with the remaining (outnumbered) Stark forces. This is a strategy that even the actors seemed to have had a hard time communicating as credible.
Let's assume everything goes to plan and as the center collapses under the weight of the superior Bolton forces (and the Bolton forces would not yet have committed reserves) you are going to spring the "trap" and envelop the sides of a superior force that just crushed your center?
Let me put it simply, given the numbers and advantages in arms and armor, the odds this could work are basically the same odds as Taylor Swift writing a new love song to Kanye.
Remember Jon (Kit Harrington) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) are seasoned and battle-tested leaders who are not stupid. Why would they ever commit to this plan of battle? Why would Jon keep insisting they move forward with a plan that I would have called stupid as a child (when I was playing with toy soldiers)?
The only possible explanation suggested is that Jon has post-resurrection depression. Seriously, watch the scene again and imagine a goth teenager too depressed and sullen to expend the effort to clean his room. That is how Jon was acting about planning a critical battle that could cost him his life and the lives of two family members and all his Wildling buddies.
Anyway, despite being warned by Sansa (Sophie Turner) both that Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) would never fall for his plan and that he was most likely to have a trap to goad Jon into acting foolishly himself, Jon refuses to rethink the plan of battle or change a thing.
Apparently, Jon is either suicidal or criminally stupid.
So, the battle starts and surprise, Ramsay uses Rickon (Art Parkinson) to goad Jon to charge his main force right into the center of superior numbers which leads to....can you guess?
Yup, envelopment by superior numbers on both sides.
Oh, and apparently the Bolton forces did training with the Roman legions (or the 300 Spartans) because they use a Phalanx style of envelopment using shields and long spears.
No offense, I am not going to be impressed by idiocy no matter how many men you put on the field or how many limbs you hack off. Or even by cool battlefield POV cameras or piles of bodies everywhere.
Usually, this is when I go into a rant about how George R.R. Martin would never be this dumb (and he wouldn't) but why bother ranting about books versus the show. This scene showed contempt for the audience's intelligence and that stinks.
And, as everyone in the world knew in advance because it has been foreshadowed for a month, the Knights of the Vale show up just in the nick of time and save the day. Whoopie, boy was I surprised.
That is not a surprise (at all) people.
Even if you liked the battle scene, can you honestly say you were surprised at all that the Knights of the Vale showed up? Who else was Sansa sending the letter to? Did you believe Littlefinger just left?
Seriously, this was just one well-produced gigantic steaming pile of stupid.
I could write more details, but there is no point. Just watch Braveheart's battle scenes (where at least William Wallace tried to come up with unique strategies in order to compensate for his disadvantages).
Or just watch the siege at the Wall or the Hardhome episode of GoT. Both were much less insulting all the way around.
Anyway, the Knights of the Vale show up just in time and save the day with Sansa and Littlefinger side by side (obviously she will have to pay a price). The wildlings regroup and chase after Ramsay who tries to hide in Winterfell but Wun Wun (the Giant) busts through the gate and gives his life in the cause of Jon Snow beating Ramsay half to death.
Oh, one other small issue, Ramsay was never considered very much of a military mind in the books (it was actually one of his weaknesses). He has cunning and hunting skills but is not a trained military person (which makes the incredible precision of his troops a bit strange).
RIP Rickon (we barely knew you). RIP Wun Wun (Ian Whyte).
More on Sansa and Ramsay Bolton later.
I Love Davos
Before the battle, there is a cutaway scene where Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Davos are talking.
Tormund says, "You want to avenge your King don't you?'
But the truth is revealed after Davos walks away and examines the ashes of a long burned-out fire on an old battlefield. From that fire (perhaps the remains of the pyre of Shireen) he picks out a toy horse.
Davos wants to avenge Shireen (the daughter Stannis burned at the stake). He wants to make her senseless death stand for something (she was sacrificed to give Stannis more powerful Red Lady mojo for his siege of Winterfell). Which also means he ultimately has to get revenge on Mellsandre (Carice van Houten) too.
See, that is a bit of subtle writing where everything is not literally spelled out for the viewer or written for expedience at the expense of logic.
Yara Greyjoy is "Up For Anything"
I am taking the Meereen stuff out of sequence. Obviously, the battle for Meereen has to end before this scene can take place (remember, I am ordering this based on how much I liked the scene).
So, one of the best scenes of the night had Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara (Gemma Whelan) trying to reach an agreement with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). It involved a steady stream of jokes between Yara and Daenerys too numerous to recap. But, it was pretty damn funny.
The best joke was Daenerys wondering aloud if Yara will be insisting on marriage like Euron to which Yara responds "I won't insist, but I am up for anything."
That was pretty funny.
I probably don't give Benioff and Weiss enough credit when credit is due, they do occasionally add some much-needed humor to George R.R. Martin's death march prose (sorry George you know I love your books but your prose style can be a bit akin to watching precise dentistry).
"My Reign Has Just Begun!"
For my money (and I don't have much) the Meereen "battle" was more satisfying than the Winterfell Battle.
Short but sweet.
Daenerys is home, she has a short talk with Tyrion before the battle forces her to action. She wants to burn everything about the "Wise Masters" to the ground (including all the people attached to Wise Masters in all cities, villages, and towns) but Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) talks her into meeting the Wise Masters to discuss surrender terms instead.
The Wise Masters think Daenerys wants to surrender to them. You would think after making the same strategic error over and over again for what seems like years of the show they would learn. But tragically, no, they are still stupid and arrogant (like the writers of the Bastard Battle).
Daenerys informs them of the error of their ways, Drogon the dragon shows up (along with his 2 siblings), Daenerys jumps on board, and they start a fire sale on the Wise Master navy. Meanwhile, Grey Worm relieved two of the Masters of their ability to breathe and Tyrion told the remaining Master to go home and tell the rest what they would get if they didn't stop causing Daenerys trouble.
Big "Drogon the dragon" is fun! If you are going to write stupid battle scenes in the future, at least include Big Drogon.
Nobody Can Protect Anyone
Sansa pretty much ruled the night IMHO.
First, she told Jon he was being anti-strategic about Ramsay (and now that he has been turned into an idiot he did not listen). She also suggested that he use what she knows about Ramsay to reconsider his battle plan (but as I mentioned he is now an idiot so no dice). Finally, she says that if they lose she will kill herself before going back to Ramsay (smart girl).
Jon responds like a moron and says "I will never let him touch you again."
Jon's statement is symptomatic of the "magical" Stark thinking that got everyone into this gigantic mess from the jump.
Think about it, Stark thinking was always about being on the side of right mattering in some kind of magical way in politics or on the battlefield.
Sansa responds in the way she should, like a person who has finally accepted the truth after all of these years, "Nobody can protect me, nobody can protect anyone."
Of course, I do remember a girl who was sometimes referred to as nobody :).
Finally, a girl is nobody?
Maybe "Nobody" will be protecting Sansa soon.
Sansa also gets to instigate what should have been the happiest moment of all time, Ramsay Bolton's death.
Anyone who has ever read my recaps knows that I have been anxiously awaiting this moment since Ramsay first turned on Theon way back before there was even a television series. I have hated Ramsay Bolton's guts for over a decade.
I did enjoy Sansa, with no hesitation, releasing the hounds on Ramsay. But, I did not enjoy it as much as I should have.
One other thing, they have set up a rift between Jon and Sansa that mirrors Catelyn's rift with Jon. She did not let him know about the reinforcements apparently on purpose. She has made calculations about Littlefinger that nobody else (even Littlefinger) is aware of. She is officially on her own team in the GoT now.
It says something about how much I hate Ramsay Bolton that I would have been perfectly happy to see him get eaten by his own dogs. But, I won't lie to you, the battle scene had me so bummed out that I couldn't even fully enjoy Ramsay's "death by pooches."
If you were wondering how angry and disappointed the battle scene made me, now you know.
Well, that's it for another episode, supposedly the finale next week will be movie length. Lots of loose ends to tie up.
Post-Script: Hatred? Justification?
One of my friends noticed another problem with the episode, apparently Sansa had left the field before Ramsay said "I haven't fed my hound's in seven days" which she repeats at the end back to him at the end of the episode.
I think the best justification for the logic of the battle that I have seen so far came from Alison Herman of The Ringer in these two very well-written paragraphs:
"Jon Snow is on the warpath. His ancestral home, and arguably the entire non-ice zombie world, is on the line; his little brother has just been murdered in front of him. So he tosses his carefully laid battle plans aside and makes a one-man charge, facing down an entire line of Bolton cavalry with only Longclaw to fall back on. For about 15 seconds, director Miguel Sapochnik lets us forget the last half decade of our lives and think this is actually going to work. The music swells. Everything goes into slow motion. Jon assumes his battle stance. Then the Bolton forces straight-up ignore him. There are bigger fish to fry a few dozen yards down the battlefield."
"It’s a moment of pitch-black humor in an otherwise dead-somber hour of TV, but it’s also convenient shorthand for so many of Thrones’ favorite life lessons: Conventional heroism is overrated; war is about chaos and death, not glory; the underdog rarely ever wins. And when the underdog does, it’s because of a well-timed letter, not a rage-blind quest for vengeance."
Believe it or not, I agree with all of this.
And I also agree that Jon's fatal flaw is he really is trying to live by the heroism ethics of his "Father" Ned (a fatal flaw on GoT). My problem was not with the battle itself, it was with the battle plan. Yes, I get Jon thinks that he has to defend his half-brother while his half-brother still lives. Yes, I get that battles have been won with inferior forces. But when outnumbered, you have to have a better plan (think English longbows against the French or having the high ground).
I also agree Rickon worked pretty hard to get hit. Not one attempt at serpentine movement.
Have I mentioned that I am getting a bit frustrated with After the Thrones just being a recap of the discussions happening on Reddit? I still like the idea, but don't really get what Chris adds to the mix and am sad they are so hamstrung by being employees of HBO. Grantland was critical in ways that made the experience of the episodes even better.
Oh, and my new book - A Music Lover's Guide to HBO's Vinyl
If you are starting to watch HBO's vinyl, this book is a compilation of my writing on the subject (by far the most popular series of articles I have written so far). It is only $2.99 in the Amazon store.
What did you think of Episode 9? Let me know, leave a comment!