Game of Thrones 6.9: “Battle of the Bastards”

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Photo: HBO

When the Primetime Emmys are handed out next year, the only question about this episode will be, how many statuettes will it take home? The visual craftsmanship of “Battle of the Bastards” was stunning. I can’t begin to imagine how many digital artists, stuntmen, cameramen, and various other industry professionals were required to pull it off.

Dany, Tyrion, and Possibly the Closest thing I’ll Ever Get to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight

We begin with the usually unflappable Tyrion, Mr. “I Drink and I Know Things,” in a state which can best be described as, well, flapped. As Daenerys Stormborn gazes at him coolly, Tyrion argues that her scorched-earth approach is akin to the Mad King’s final plot. Did you notice how we were helpfully reminded of precisely what the Mad King intended, down to the logistics? Major thoroughfares were referenced. This comes four episodes after Bran had a vision of the Mad King crying over and over, “Burn them all!” Hmmm… can you think of anyone in King’s Landing with her back to the wall? Someone who might prefer to burn them all rather than give the High Sparrow the final word? I suppose we’ll find out in seven days.

At any rate, the spectacular Dany/Drogon flying sequence was everything I’ve hoped for since season 2. Since reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, actually. I loved the artistry of the flying dragons, the believable way they swooped and glided. Never thought I’d see the day when a TV show would routinely put feature films to shame.

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Photo: HBO

The Second Coming of Ned Stark

And I don’t just mean the coat. I loved the way my TV son Kit Harington played the parley scene between him and Ramsay. He imitated many of Sean Bean’s mannerisms, including the head tilt and the unpleasant smile. Watch again as he tells Ramsay, “You’re right,” and see if he isn’t channeling Ned quite brilliantly.

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Photo: HBO

The Evolution of Sansa Stark

How long have we waited for this? Seeing Sansa finally come into her own has been wonderful. Say what you will about Cersei (and I’ve said a great deal) but perhaps her influence on Sansa helped prepare her for this day. And perhaps Littlefinger redeemed himself somewhat by bringing the Army of the Vale to her rescue.

Melisandre and Davos

Here’s a thread I keep pulling at. How will the needless, grotesque burning of Shireen be dealt with? What vengeance will Davos exact, and how will it figure into the larger picture? Melisandre remains withdrawn and melancholy, despite bringing Jon back from the dead. Is this newfound humility, or has she glimpsed her fate in the flames?

MELISANDRE: Perhaps he brought you back only to have you die here.

JON: What sort of god would do that?

VOICES UP AND DOWN THE EAST COAST: George R. R. Martin!!!

GEORGE R. R. MARTIN AT HOME: Me.

MELISANDRE: The one we have.

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Photo: HBO

Battle of the Bastards

There’s too much for me to recap, of course, and you’re better served by sitting down and watching it again, anyway. I’m glad Rickon’s end was swift and Ramsay’s was not. I loved the moment pictured above, when Jon faces an entire cavalry as Very Heroic Music swells behind him–only to be unheroically swallowed up by the thundering arrival of his own men. It’s nice when a rather predictable figuration of epic cinema gives way to something a bit more believable. Thereafter the director, Miguel Sapochnik, plunged us into the thick of a medieval battle. It felt real: the madness, the screaming, the brutality of kill or be killed, the near-misses and somewhat surreal sights, like a headless corpse atop a galloping warhorse. “Hardhome” was brilliant, but in the “Battle of the Bastards,” Sapochnik has surpassed himself.

So here we are now, with only one episode left. In the preview for the supersized finale, I noticed Jaime sitting in the hall of none other than Walder Frey. Of course, my recent post about that was met with crickets, but hey. When it comes to vengeance for the Red Wedding, I can dream. See you next week!

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