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Well, that was pretty damn underwhelming. After teasing the clash between everyone’s favorite and least favorite bastards for several weeks, we were given a fight that was so incredibly telegraphed that I could have sworn I had seen it before. Oh yeah, I did. Only it was Gandalf riding in to save the day, not Littlefinger. And it also doesn’t help when you see Aidan Gillian’s name in the credits at the opening of the show and spend the remainder of the episode waiting to see Littlefinger ride in to save the day. But, even without that piece of information, I don’t think there was anyone watching the episode who didn’t expect deus ex Littlefinger to happen.
As for the actual battle, I will say that it drove home the idea that war is hell pretty well. Seeing the soldiers fighting it out the battlefield, blood spraying and heads flying, whilst Ramsay sat away from the fray highlighted the class issues (and Ramsay’s own personal cowardice). But the battle itself lasted far too long, and the interlude with Jon appearing to get crushed under the weight of the retreating wildlings was particularly trying for a number of reasons (chief among them that no one in their right mind believed that Jon Snow would perish on that battlefield after the show went to all that trouble to bring him back from the dead).
I may not have believed for a second that the show would kill off Jon Snow for a second time, but I was worried about poor Tormund for a bit. In fact, Tormund surviving the battle might have been the biggest surprise of the episode. I certainly want’s shocked to see good old Wun-Wun meet his demise, and I actually called the entire Rickon sequence from the word go (which thrilled my family, who were watching with me- sorry guys). David Benihoff and D.B. Weiss made zero effort to subvert expectations by having Rickon get struck down mere moments before reaching Jon. And then, to have Jon ride off half-cocked into the fray? Well, he deserved to have Sansa conveniently forget to tell him about the potential aid from Littlefinger. Because Jon is the worst commander the show has had in a long while. There’s an awful lot of Ned in Jon, and that may make him a loyal individual, but we all saw what happened to Ned in the end. Jon needs to wise up and start listening to his sister (or Davos, or Tormund, or pretty much anyone else).
Speaking of listening to women, how about the alliance between Yara and Dany? I would never have thought, way back in season one, that two women on Game of Thrones would be making an alliance to take over the world. But here we are, and man, I don’t doubt for a moment that they can do it- the real question is how much of Westeros will be left to rule once Dany takes her place on the throne. Yara’s agreement to end the Iron Born way of life was something no other Iron Born ruler would have ever contemplated, but that decision just secured the independence of the Iron Islands for as long as Dany and her progeny rule the Seven Kingdoms. Giving up plundering and pillaging is a small price to pay for freedom in the grand scheme of things (although I have a feeling those in Pyke might not think so).
As for Dany, I do find it a tad troubling that the show keeps bringing up the shortcomings of her father. While I think part of that reference was to remind us about the Wildfire stored under the Sept (foreshadowing for next week, perhaps?), I am worried that the show might be setting up Dany to be a ruler who bares more than a passing resemblance toward the Mad King. Dany has already proven to be a ruler who refuses to compromise, even when facing extreme odds, which is all well and good when you have three dragons and the moral high ground. But when you have three dragons and less than pure reasons? Look out.
Traditionally, the ninth episode of Game of Thrones is the showstopper set piece that the season hangs its hat on. “Battle of the Bastards” offered a paint by numbers battle that did nothing surprise the audience. While it did officially set Dany on the path to Westeros and create an interesting alliance between two badass ladies, the episode, as a whole, paled in comparison to some of Thrones‘s best moments.
— I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the death of Ramsay. While I’m thrilled that the show FINALLY offed its worst character, I found the entire sequence to be disappointing. Sure, Sansa got her revenge (which was great), but in doing so she sunk to Ramsay’s level. A darker Sansa would be an interesting road for the show to travel down, but as Arya learned during her time in the House of Black and White, revenge isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
— I suspect that Littlefinger will charge a steep price for his aid.
— Anyone know the status of Lady Mormont?
— How long do we think Melisandre will last with angry Davos coming at her? And does she even want to survive? She’s seemed pretty down lately.