Warning: Major Spoilers!
Well, despite the expectation and hype, that was easily one of the best hours of television we’ve ever witnessed. Game of Thrones gave us the Battle of the Bastards episode and you’ll need to give us a couple more hours before we fully remove our jaws from the floor after an utterly mesmerising hour of television. The epic, brutal showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton had us firmly welded to our seats during a season highlight that was, at once, emotionally devastating, riveting and awe-inspiring for both the scope and direction and, most pertinently, its execution.
Rivalling Thrones’ pantheon of greats like Hardhome, Watchers on the Wall and Blackwater, the showrunners delivered a battle that not only showcased their extravagant budget, but realistically portrayed the horror and desperation of war, during a enthralling 30-minute that restored any wilting faith after a season that has bungled plots and left us with more questions than answers at times, when it promised the anthesis.
Director Miguel Sapochnik, now anointed as the go-to big-time episode director, managed to surpass his immense work on last season’s Hardhome, gripping us with a horrifically gory, claustrophobic battle, when the Bolton forces seized the upper-hand thanks in no small part to piercing volleys of arrows, until the glorious intervention of the Knights of the Vale. Up until that point, the episode gave us thrilling flourishes of Jon Snow’s mastery with a sword, scything down Bolton’s cavalry as the bodies piled up around him.
There was also a gloriously brutal fight between Smalljon Umber and Tormund, which ended in the Wildling warrior plunging his blade into his adversary’s face. Then, led by Sansa Stark and Littlefinger, the Knights of the Vale rode gallantly to the rescue of Snow and his failing forces, wiping out the wall of Umber soldiers and leaving Ramsay watching from the hilltops, more in dread than delight.
And that was the turning point.
Ramsay fled back to Winterfell in cowardly fashion, trailed by a vengeance-hungry Jon, Tormund and Ser Davos. Oh yeah, they had the giant of the Wildlings with them too to single-handedly knock down the gate to Winterfell, unleashing Jon’s epic beatdown on Ramsay, pulverising his face with punches, each one packed with emotion and turmoil from having watched the faux Warden of the North shoot down Rickon Stark in a ploy to drawn Jon out into the open.
Jon took back Winterfell and locked Ramsay away, leading Sansa to pay him a visit, unleashing the villain’s very own mastiffs on him, leaving them to tear him to shreds, echoing the gruesome murder of his very own brother earlier in the season. It was a death fitting for one of the most merciless fuckers we’ve ever seen on television, Thrones or otherwise.
Sansa’s poetic moment of retribution cemented the episode as one of ‘Girl Power,’ despite all the macho swordsmanship and valour on display. Sansa got her moment, while over in Meereen, Daenerys and Yara Greyjoy struck up an intriguing lady bromance, further reinforcing the suggestion that this show will end up with one of its many strong females ruling the Seven Kingdoms.
We truly are in the great game now, and great game is terrifying. Now all that’s left is the finale, but there’s surely no chance of it living up to such an outstanding piece of television. Battle of the Bastards lived up to the hype on all fronts —and we’re absolutely thrilled about that.