In The Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, Good has been throttled at the neck ever since Ned Stark had a head on his shoulders. To be good-natured and whole-hearted is a veritable death sentence in this universe and that’s just the way things go. Until it isn’t…
The Starks are without a doubt a naive bunch who have come to learn the rules of this world in the hardest of ways. Still, that won’t change their nature and it won’t change our want to see their retribution. Fleeting or not, ‘Battle of The Bastards’ gives us a small glimpse at that redemption and rewards us and the Good people of Westeros for believing in a better future.
Today, I believe it’s impossible to separate the narratives of entertainment from the real world atrocities we see committed. We lay yet in the pool of horror that is Orlando. We have to reconcile a world where freak accidents can take away an innocent life who only wanted to bring some of his own Good into this world. We still feel pain and anger for a fictional wedding ceremony that occurred three years ago. Game of Thrones has embodied what it means to live in a merciless world right up until the dark and gruesome end. The night is indeed dark and full of terrors but that blade cuts both ways.
‘Battle of the Bastards’ is Jon Snow suffocating under a heap of death and corpses but not giving in. He went into a battle undermanned and ignorant of the atrocities another human can commit. Ramsay Snow* is no whitewalker risen from the grave with only one purpose. He doesn’t just destroy, he wants you to feel his pain. Jon doesn’t know what it’s like to fight that enemy. We don’t know what it’s like to fight an enemy who wears an American flag underneath the guise of terrorism. As Jon’s brother**, Rickon, is shot down at his feet, we all recognize the dagger twisting in our stomachs as this sort of hurt strikes deeper than a foreign evil. Ramsay is a man of the North. He is an American.
*You’ll never have a true name in my eyes, Bastard.
**Until further notice.
For a show that has become the face of deception and evil, ‘Battle of the Bastards’ illuminated the decent when we needed it most. All of our heroes, our friends — Davos, Tormund, Wun-Wun, Jon — were down to their last biting breath and chose to fight that battle. Davos charged his meager troops in from volley position. Tormund ate the face off Smalljon Umber. Wun-Wun ripped his hand through an arrow to be the savior of Winterfell. They wouldn’t give in when the battle turned and it finally turned in their favor.
No matter how small the victory may be, Game of Thrones makes it a point to show victories are to be fought for and cherished because they truly do exist. We aren’t meant to suffer in the darkness and let the Ramsay Snows of this world strike from the shadows. There is pain and there is blood and there is a moment of resignation but it doesn’t last. We won’t let it last. The Rohirrim-esque charge of the armies of the Vale aren’t a deus ex machina. They are reward for fighting the correct battle. Not everyone survives the battle but fighting it is worth more than accepting a doomed fate.
‘Battle of the Bastards’ is a visceral and emotional masterpiece. Forgive me my inability to mention the show’s politics and Dany’s reclaiming of Meereen and Tyrion’s conversation with the Greyjoys. We needed a week of proof that we can look directly into the void and create life when there is none. I’m happy for that.
“You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.” – Sansa Stark
- The torsion catapults besieging Meereen were just plain cool.
- Theon and Tyrion’s reunion highlighted a relationship with seriously old scars. This world never forgets.
- Was there a little flirting going on between Yarra and Dany? I mean, how could you not flirt with the Mother of Dragons?
- Rickon’s death was absolutely necessary. There just isn’t enough room in the show for him. His presence here was the perfect distillation of what that character needed to be.
- Can we just allow the pure filmic beauty of this episode wash over us? Jon standing against an army. Horses galloping into battle. Jon being completely consumed by war. This episode is a living painting.
- Tormund’s sweetness has become one of the show’s highlights. I want Davos/Tormund back and forth until the end of time.
- Finally, Stark banners in Winterfell and it feels good.
Check out my reviews of previous episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’: