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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Battle of the Bastards” (S6, E9)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Battle of the Bastards” (S6, E9)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.

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Season 6, Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Original Air Date: June 19th, 2016
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Through 59 episodes of this re-watch, this will probably be my most unpopular opinion: “Battle of the Bastards” isn’t that good of an episode.

It’s not terrible. It is visually stunning and I’m genuinely amazed a TV show could pull this off. There are some powerful moments throughout, like how Jon bravely faced imminent death, and how even on a second viewing him getting trapped under a crush of bodies and struggling to breath made me physically ill. But there are just too many stupid, un-Game of Thrones like moments for it to be special. There are too many times where people do really dumb things, or when a show that prides itself on upending fantasy tropes and being rooted in a gritty realism feels like a fairy tale full of convenient, logic-bending plot points.

(How do none of the attackers into Winterfell see that Ramsay has knocked an arrow and pointed it in Jon’s direction? And why does Ramsay shoot Wun Wun instead? Also, how did Ramsay’s starving hounds know exactly to leave their open cages only after Sansa threatened him? The show is always better than this.)

ramsay-rickon

The episode pales in comparison to the emotional weight of previous big battle episodes. “Blackwater” doesn’t look as good, but the story is far superior, “The Watchers on the Wall” carries more emotional punch while still being a visual marvel, and the terrifying “Hardhome” is maybe my favorite episode of the series because of how stunning the entire sequence is in every way, from the characters, to the story, and to the attack itself.

jon-snow

But I’m not here to merely complain about why this falls short for me, because a lot of the issues I have with it also point towards which ruler we might want to put our faith in if we hope to see the White Walkers defeated. That’s because while Jon Snow is busy screwing up and falling into an undeserved win at the Battle of Winterfell, Daenerys Targaryen shows masterful leadership achieving victory at the Battle of Meereen.

The entire plan to defeat Ramsay’s larger army revolves around waiting for him to come to their fortified position (they dug trenches so Ramsay’s cavalry couldn’t out flank them). Davos lays it out, saying, “It’s crucial that we let them charge at us. They’ve got the numbers, we need the patience. If we let him buckle our center, he’ll pursue. Then we’ll have him surrounded on three sides.”

After Davos and Tormund leave, Jon is warned by Sansa about who and what Ramsay is. She tells him neither him nor his advisers know what they are up against the way she does. That’s why she knows Ramsay won’t fall into Jon’s trap, but instead will make Jon do what he wants him to do. “He plays with people. He’s far better at it than you. He’s been doing it all his life,” she says, before adding there is no way to save Rickon because a true born son of Ned Stark is too great a danger to Ramsay’s rule.

Jon-Snow-Game-of-Thrones-Featured-season-6

So what does Jon–a man who was mentored by Maester Aemon about how “love is the death of duty,” and who was just told by his sister about what to expect–immediately do? He instantly falls for Ramsay’s trap (masterfully, Ramsay knew that Rickon didn’t understand the advanced running tactic of “zigging,” another groan-inducing moment). Jon charges without thinking, doesn’t save Rickon, but then rather than retreating like a wise commander with a plan would, he moves forward. It causes his forces to charge, and they play right into Ramsay’s hands.

It’s the dumbest thing Jon Snow has ever done, as though he had never learned any lessons about leadership, or warfare, or common sense. Sansa’s arrival with Baelish and the Knights of the Vale is the only thing that bails him out. (Great job Sansa! Maybe though don’t let thousands of your allies die because you couldn’t suggest waiting 30 minutes to start?)

sansa-baelish

Meanwhile, over in Meereen, Daenerys listens to her adviser Tyrion’s advice, and ignores her own desire for vengeance. She wanted to burn every ship, kill every master, and then destroy their cities, something few would have faulted her for doing. However, she recognizes that what she personally wants won’t serve her or her people, so instead she strategically attacks one ship with her dragons, showing off her awesome force. She also leaves one master to return alive to tell everyone what happened.

Not only does she finally beat the slavers once and for all, she takes possession of all the ships she didn’t burn, and proves to the world that while she is merciful, she is not to be messed with. That’s a ruler you can both get behind and also stay out of the way of.

dragons

When faced with his love of family and his desire for vengeance, Jon ignored good counsel and completely abandoned his duty. Meanwhile, Daenerys was able to look past her anger and do what was best. That’s why while “The Battle of the Bastards” might have had the outcome we desired, the way Jon fought it doesn’t instill confidence going forward.

But the Mother of Dragons victory at the Battle of Meereen does.

daenerys

Which one would you bet on going forward?

And what do you think of this episode? What about the two leaders who emerged victorious? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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