Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Revenge Served Hot

"Battle of The Bastards" is a fine Game Of Thrones episode, maybe the best of season 6.  It was also very satisfying in that, generally, the good guys won--something never guaranteed on this show. (Though with Arya taking down the Waif last week, are we on a rally?)

The episode gave us two, two, two fights in one.  This is nice, since I'm generally disappointed when they spend an hour on just one story. And the latter battle is, I think, the best they've ever done. (I know most would pick "Hardhome," and that was good, but it was a little more confusing and had less plot.)

We start in Meereen.  Those backstabbing Masters are lobbing firebombs at the Pyramid.  Dany and the Imp are up top--he wonders if they should take shelter, but she's become fearless. (I hope she understands that while she has dragons, she's not one herself.) He notes Meereen's commerce has come back, but it's a pretty weak defense of his tenure. Her idea, at this point, is to kill everyone and burn their cities to the ground.  Gets to be more like her father every day.  Tyrion convinces her to try a different approach.

And we get a parley where Dany and her crew meet the three head Masters (but not headmasters) to discuss the terms of surrender.  The Masters think she's surrendering but we know better. Just when they think they have the upper hand, she goes all Avatar as Drogon appear at her command.  They fly high above the city as her two other dragons are let go and fly behind. I'm glad the show didn't waste too much time on figuring out how to work dragons--we're just glad to see them.

You can excuse the Masters for not being prepared--no one alive is used to this threat.  They burn the ships in the bay (with people still in them--the Masters were kinder when they burned Dany's ships).  Also--as if it's needed--the Dothraki horde (and Daario) finally ride into Meereen and start killing with gusto.  Pillaging is what they do for a living, after all.

Back at the parley Grey Worm explains Dany's terms.  She'll keep whatever ships are left, of course.  Also, the slaves who protect the Masters can now go home.  As to the three Masters, one of them will have to die for violating their pact.  Two of them immediately give up the third, noting he's lowborn. I know they're under a lot of stress, but they do realize they're talking to Grey Worm and Missandei, two former slaves.  Did they really think that lowborn stuff was gonna fly?  Grey Worm slits their throats and Tyrion pretends he's in Inglourious Basterds, telling the one living Master to let everyone know what happened.

Now we're in the North. Jon, Sansa, Davos, Tormund--and is that Lady Mormont!?--are having a parley with Ramsay Bolton.  We had a parley last week, and two already this show.  You could have made a lot of money on a parley parlay.

Bolton is good here, saying how much he misses Sansa.  He probably does, but he's also trying to get Jon's goat (which isn't that hard). In addition, he's got the arrogance of a guy with the odds in his favor.  He outnumbers them 2 to 1, and holds Winterfell, which can withstand enemies (we've been told in previous seasons) even if the odds are 10 to 1 against.  Jon offers the old-style war (which Tommen will probably be banning soon)--he'll fight Ramsay, winner take all. Ramsay turns him down, and, to be fair, it's a bad deal when you're going to win the next day.  Jon thinks Ramsay's men won't want to fight when they find out he's a coward, but Bolton throws Rickon in their faces. (He also throws an actual face--Rickon's direwolf--at them.) You'd think Sansa might be moved, but she's gotten to be pretty cold (like a Northern girl)--"You're going to die tomorrow" she says.  Ramsay then threatens the fighters with his hounds, but tough old guys like Davos and Tormund can take it.

That night, back at camp, they plot their strategy.  One night left and they're still planning? Haven't they had months to think about this?  This would sure be a good time for Robb Stark--questionable taste in marriages, but the best military thinker around.

Davos notes that Ramsay will meet them on the battlefield or the North will think he's a sissy. I'm glad Ser said this, since it was bothering me why Ramsay wouldn't just shut the gates and wait them out. It is his style to attack, actually, as he did with Stannis.  Speaking of Stannis, they speak a bit about how he defeated the Free Folk--Davos looks at Tormund, but the two haven't had it out on this.  I guess they've moved on.

Back to strategy.  Snow notes they're digging trenches to avoid pincer movements from horseman.  Davos says it's crucial Bolton charge at Jon, so they need patience.  They can buckle at the center and come at him on three sides (a tactic from the Battle of Cannae--has Davos been reading Roman history?).  Jon wants him angry so he'll come at them and not be thinking straight.  They retire.  Sansa comes up to Jon and starts whining about how they wouldn't let explain who Ramsay is, since she knows him best.  Pardon me?  I didn't see anyone keeping her from talking.

Anyway, she notes he toys with people and lays traps.  True enough.  Worse, she knows they'll never get Rickon back--he's too big a threat to Ramsay as heir to Winterfell.  She also says it would be better if they waited till they had a bigger force.  Time out.  She knows of the knights of the Vale, and even sent a raven to Littlefinger, so why hasn't she told her brother? She would rather they rush into certain slaughter?  Play head games with Ramsay, not with Jon.  (Is she afraid he won't take help from the guy who helped kill their dad--Jon is working with the Wildlings, so how picky does she think he is?) She also says she'll die before she goes back to Ramsay. Jon promises he'll protect her, but she notes no one can protect anyone.  If there's a lesson to learn from Game Of Thrones, that's it.

Tormund and Davos, apparently buddies, walk through camp at night.  They both followed kings who were defeated.  Now they follow another man, and he's not a king. Maybe that's progress. Tormund goes off to drink.  Davos can't sleep before a battle so decides to take a long walk. (Won't he be tired during the battle?  He was more a smuggler than a fighter, I guess.)

All along I've been wondering where's Mel. Did they bring her with them?  Where else should she be? And sure enough, she's in her tent and Jon enters.  Now would be a good time for some of that blood magick.  He has an interesting request--if I die, don't bring me back. Hey, I don't work for you, I'm just a vessel for the Lord Of Light. Will we have to do this again?

Just before light of day, Davos comes to where there was once a fire and sees Shireen's toy.  We were waiting for him to find out.  He's going to have some harsh words for the Red Woman, one assumes.

We're back in Meereen.  The Imp is mad at someone for making dwarf jokes back at Winterfell.  Turns out he and Dany are meeting with Theon and Yara.  It's fun to see different combinations of characters meet.  Good thing these two came sailed in after that last battle or they might have been burned.

They will give Dany their ships but want her to give the Iron Islands their independence (and also kill Uncle Euron).  Euron will offer up ships as well, but he'll want to marry Dany and then get rid of her once he's on the throne.  This could still be tricky, notes Tyrion--you can't run Westeros and let everyone be free.  But they're just asking, not commanding.  Dany notes the Greyjoy's father was a terrible king and Yara says We have that in common. Oh, snap!  She keeps it up with the comebacks, and I wish Dany had gotten her in line, rather than smiled.  Hey, don't think just because we're both women that I'll put up with backtalk.

Dany's demands: support my claim as Queen, and stop looting (which, like the Dothraki, is how you earn a living).  I'll guess they'll have to learn a trade, start making something worthwhile. Or maybe they could turn Pyke into the best waterpark in the Seven Kingdoms.

It's dawn at the Battlefield outside Winterfell.  We're with Jon.  We sees some of those burning X's that the Bolton's love--are those real men on them, or dummies. (Is this Burning Man?)

Ramsay's forces are arrayed, and more impressive.  Ramsay comes forward.  With Rickon.  He pulls out a knife and...cuts Rickon's rope.  Run to your brother, boy.  Serpentine, Rickon, serpentine!  This is Ramsay at his best. He's messing with Jon (and Rickon) and we know he loves a good chase.  As Rickon runs, Ramsay calmly shoots arrows, just missing.  Meanwhile, Jon rushed toward him on horseback--maybe not wise, but he can't help himself, as Ramsay knew.  He's got Jon on full tilt, when the idea was for it to go in the opposite direction.

Just as Jon is about to swoop in and pick up his brother, an arrow goes through Rickon's heart.  Rickon, like Osha, came back after being gone for so long, just to be killed after very little screen time.

Now Jon is in the middle of the battlefield, facing the horsemen Ramsay just sent.  They'll mow him down, except just as they're about to clash, Jon's forces pass him and the battle is on.  Ramsay lays back, ordering his men to shoot volleys of arrows into the battlefield.  Where they land he knows not where.  He's killing his own men along with Jon's, which is fine with him, since he's got the numbers (and the sadism).  Davos refused to let his side's arrows fly.

We're right in the middle of the battle with Jon, who slices through a bunch of fighters (though they don't shatter like White Walkers), and is saved more than once by his star power.  Tormund and Wun Wun are there too, getting in their punches. As I've noted before, I don't like giants in this story. Dragons--sure, they're baked into the cake--but giants seem too much for me.  Jon's people took one down at the Wall, and I hope Wun Wun buys it, too, even if he's fighting for the good guys.

There are mountains of dead men and horses, and Davos sends the rest of Jon's soldiers into battle.  Ramsay's got plenty in reserve (Karstarks, Umbers, etc.) and finally sends them into this pile of death.  Their formation is what I guess you'd call a sort of circular phalanx, with spears and shields in front.  Like an old movie with the walls closing in, they're going to suffocate Jon's men.  Snow et al fight valiantly, but there's no way out.

Then we hear a clarion call and it's--actually, I wasn't sure what the symbol of the knights of the Vale was, except a bird and a moon seems like it'd be the Moon Door people.  They look a bit like Stannis's soldiers swooping in north of the Wall, but it's more personal.  Littlefinger is there (far away from the fighting) with Sansa.  They're smiling.  Why is Sansa smiling?  If she'd waited one more day the battle could have been won with less men dying. (Hey, they're just Wildlings.)

Ramsay's people are mowed down, and for the first time he loses his cockiness.  He retreats behind the walls of Winterfell, where he can presumably hold out a long time.  Except he didn't count on Wun Wun, who crashes through the door.  Soon Jon's men are inside and it's over, though Wun Wun dies (about time).  Ramsay says now would be a good time for one-on-one. Surprisingly, Jon agrees, blocking Bolton's arrows with a shield and then punching him repeatedly.  Just as we enjoyed Joffrey get slapped around in earlier seasons, so did we enjoy this.  We've been waiting a long time to see Ramsay suffer, and while this may be fan service, it was earned.  (Meanwhile, Davos seems ready to confront the triumphant Mel.)

But Bolton's not done.  Jon leaves something for Sansa.  They tie him to a chair in a cell where he and Mrs. Bolton have a nice chat.  He tries to get into her head, but she tells him his name and house will be wiped out and forgotten. (Women sure have a vengeful streak this episode.)  Then, with poetic justice, she releases the hounds.  They may like Ramsay, but they like how he tastes better--he hasn't fed them in a week, and soon he's a Scooby Snack.

She walks away as he screams, smiling like Carrie Mathison.  End of show.

That was fun. Only one more to go this season. I expect it'll be mostly about King's Landing, where thing are reaching a boiling point.  Of all the other characters, I most hope we see Bran next week, so we can finally get Jon Snow's full backstory.

For much of Game Of Thrones, the most hated character was Joffrey.  When he was taken care of, Ramsay took his place (and was more dangerous--just as cruel, but smarter).  Now that he's gone, who's the main villain?  I guess the Night King.  And even without him, we've got a lot of battles to go, since a whole bunch of people are fighting for King's Landing.  Things are coming to an end, but it's still hard to see who will win this game.


Blogger New England Guy said...

OK Random thoughts.

- Wun Wun's size relative to other humans seemed to change during the episode. Annoying to me because I do expect verisimilitude in a show featuring dragons, giants and zombies.

- Interesting bits on military - Giants are a big tactical advantage- maybe like tanks against infantry- huge advantage at the point of conflict but enough fire power (arrowpower?) can eventually bring them down.

_ Dragons on the other hand (firebreathing ones) are a huge strategic advantage- not quite like nuclear warheads but more like jetfighters with missiles against stationary targets. Giants may win a fight or even a battle but dragons will win the war. Air power beats seapower too.

- Tormund is my new favorite character. He don't need no book larnin and he will literally bite your face off.

-Dany and Yara are destined to suggest a couple- I think this is to counterpoint against the depiction of the evil eye-linered masters.

-Two great great lines about the bleakness of Westeros world- LAG mentions Sansa's "No one can protect anyone" but also Jon and Mel's interchange- "What kind of God would that?" "The one we've got."

-Rickon we hardly knew ye.

-Jon seems like a hardworking dude doing his best to get through the day and it seems he just can't catch an effing break- (but he keeps coming through on top so there is that).

-Sansa could have less imperiously imparted her insights for sure- c'mon these guys are stressed and your back story is as a girly-girl who got your dad killed. Yes she's been brutalized but she still needs to establish her props- the Littlefinger worked but the secrecy and the original rejection of aid is troubling.

6:42 AM, June 21, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

They only have one giant at a time. Isn't there an entire race of giants? Get five or ten of them going and that'd be decisive in a battle.

I don't know if there's any specific way to kill a dragon, but they're big targets and you only have to do it three times.

I forgot to mention Tormund's tactic, which he took from The Walking Dead.

Jon is getting a lot of hate for his rash actions. After all, everyone--and by everyone, I include Jon--was saying the previous night that the only chance they had was to draw Ramsay over to their side (and also that Rickon was a goner). Yet, the first sign of trouble and he rushes out into the fray.

Of course Jon always comes out on top--kill him and he comes back to life. (He's also gotten a lot of other people killed.)

By the way, if anyone had a right to torture and kill Ramsay, it wasn't Sansa, it was Theon. But he was busy at the time.

9:08 AM, June 21, 2016  
Blogger New England Guy said...

OK maybe many giants deployed as a unit would be effective but I still think they can be defeated by (many many) humans But with the Dragons at their current size and ability, they seem undefeatable by anything but other dragons. The artillery existing in this world is to cumbersome to hit them. I think they have grown significantly since Drogon took all the arrows last season too (and even then, he just needed to rest)

Giants are a big strong beast. (I think they are essentially just really big stronger humans) Maybe if Wun Wun had used a tree trunk as a club he could have maximized his power.

Dragons are a big strong beast plus have flying mobility plus have literal firepower. Except for magic or mother of dragons trickery, I don't see them being tamed or defeated. Maybe their weakness is that they need Dany to guide them- GoT hasn't delved into dragon ability as much as other series (i.e. Eragon. Tolkein etc...)- not yet clear what the rules are

10:58 AM, June 21, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do the Dothraki hordes riding into Meereen know who to kill?

10:24 AM, June 24, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon thanking a guy on the battlefield only to see him killed came straight out of Saving Private Ryan.

12:42 AM, June 26, 2016  
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