I have just watched the ninth episode of this season of Game of Thrones. How the directors chose to spend this season’s special effects budget is no longer a mystery. In line with episode nine of other even-numbered seasons, this one was mostly about one big battle, the Bastard Bowl as the internet has collectively dubbed it.
The episode ended with Ramsey being tied to a chair and eaten by dogs. Ramsey’s death was eagerly anticipated by some, to put it mildly. I’m certain that on Twitter, the occasional “Hell yeah!” or “That’s what you get, mother fucker!” could be seen. One of my friends, who watched the episode at my place, had in preparation for Ramsey’s death
(which everyone saw coming) brought a bottle of champagne, pictured here to the right. It was opened at the end of the episode. But lest we get ahead of ourselves too much, lets attempt to take things in something resembling chronological order.
At the start of the episode we were treated with seeing Daenerys owning everyone. Now granted, fire-breathing dragons facing wooden ships is not much of a fight, but even with that taken into consideration what happened can only be described as total domination. This is of course exactly as the writers intended it, as best displayed by Dany’s line of “there must have been some miss- communication, we are here to discuss the conditions of your surrender”. That is not the exact quote, but you get the general gist of it.
Magnificent as it all was, the music, the dragons and Emilia Clarke’s performance in this season in general (much better than say in season 2), there were some weird things going on here. As anyone who has been following me for a while can tell, there will now be some nit-picking.
First of all, the continuity is all messed up. Daenerys arrived at night, at the end of the previous episode. It was clearly in the middle of the night and through the windows we could see Drogon flying away after having dropped off Dany at the pyramid. This episode’s ship-burning could at best have taken place in the morning. Tyrion and Daenerys are seen speaking as they have just been reunited, and not had hours to discuss that stuff. This just comes off as weird. The ships were bombarding the city all night, they are still bombarding it when Daenerys and the masters were supposedly at parley. This is also weird, it would have been much better if Daenerys had arrived now and not in the previous episode, but then that wouldn’t have been a cliffhanger.
Furthermore, when the dragons are spouting flames at the ships, they are hovering in the air. They are beating their wings kinda slowly and managing to stay in one place. This looks more bizarre than Dany having a nap between returning to Mereen and taking care of business. There is a species of bird that can do this, colibris they are called, but they beat their wings so fast you can barely see them to accomplish this. The dragons should just have made fly-byes and spouted flame while moving.
That’s it for the minor battle of this episode, now lets get on to the major one (not necessarily in number of participants but certainly in screen time). Jon faced of against Ramsey, Rickon died and Littlefinger saved the day, that is pretty much the long and the short of it. The battle itself manages, somehow, to be both very good and kinda bad at the same time. The Bolton shield wall, the way Jon literally almost suffocated under a mountain of dead bodies and the general pacing of it all really made it seem terrifying, this was not the kind of trivial violence you sometimes see played for shits and giggles, this showed that war is hell. It was, in a way a much better and more convincing medieval battle than say the siege of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King, which I suspect had a larger budget.
In particular I really liked the battle cry of the Smalljon just before the Bolton infantry charged. He shouted “Who owns the north?” to which his men answered “we do!” and then he said the same thing one more time and they gave the same answer again. It was much, much better than some alternative talk about their duty to Lord Bolton or whatever. This showed how he managed to inspire the men and make them feel like they had something to fight for. With a villain like Ramsey, you always ask yourself how he manages to make people risk their lives for him, it cannot all be the inertia of the feudal system. It might seem ridiculous that I am so hyped by a small detail like this, but I’m convinced that nobody can come up with a more fitting thing to say there to make Bolton grunts feel like it’s all worth it. This was one of the best interactions of the season.
That being said, there were some downsides. Why the hell didn’t Sansa tell Jon that she had corresponded with Littlefinger? I had people in my living room waving with their arms in the air and shouting about this. There is a shady interpretation to be made here, if one is of such a mind. Jon and Sansa have been quarreling slightly at timers, and Jon has been the one holding the upper hand with regards to what decisions are made. Now that she was quiet about the Arryn reserves, Jon’s men are mostly dead and the Starks are stuck with the ones who, through Robin and Littlefinger, obey her and not Jon. Suddenly she has the upper hand. Think about it…
This is probably bullshit, but so is her being quiet about having contacted Littlefinger when she and Jon were shouting at eachother about not having enough troops. Going one with the blunders made in the episode, we next have the archery of Ramsey. He could have shot Jon twice, when he came to save Rickon and later when the giant was dying. This smells like plot armor, as did everything else about Jon’s part in this episode. But he didn’t wear much actual armor, I would have imagined him putting on some more actual mail, maybe finding a pair of iron gauntlets etc. Also, the battle at times had a feeling of Narnia about it (the second movie, I think), in particular before the shield wall was formed. Maybe I’m ranting now, but it jumped a bit between excellence and a feeling of it being too much. Ramsey’s end was also too much, I can’t imagine Sansa and Jon having him carried down to that cell and then setting up the situation with the hounds. I would have preferred it if, while Jon was pounding Ramsey’s head into the ground, Sansa had asked him to step aside and pulled out a dagger.
All in all this was a good episode, perhaps the peak of this season. It was fully comparable to the battle at the Wall in season 4. Now there’s only one episode left, about which I of course will write next week. See you then.