Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was the greatest television episode ever.
How could anyone who saw “Battle of the Bastards” argue differently? Has there ever been anything on television remotely like what we saw last night? In fact, there’s almost nothing in movie history quite like what we saw last night. The most similar pop culture product to “Battle of the Bastards” is the D-Day scene from Saving Private Ryan, except we didn’t know who would win this time on Game of Thrones (unless you’re really bad at World History).
Well, maybe that’s half true. Personally, I never thought Jon Snow’s side would actually lose. The Internet figured out a few weeks ago that Sansa Stark wrote a letter to Littlefinger asking him to help Jon at Winterfell. So I was pretty sure that the Knights of the Vale would come riding in right at the battle’s darkest moment. And yet, even though I (mostly) knew how it would play out, I was still on the edge of my seat the entire time.
There wasn’t much to recap in this week’s episode. Last week Daenerys arrived at Meereen right as the Slave Masters began attacking the city. As the episode opened, she and Tyrion discussed all the great things he’d done for the city (she didn’t seem too impressed) and figure out how to end the battle.
Daenerys and her gang met with the Slave Master leaders outside the city, where they offered to let her leave Meereen alive as long as she let them return to the old order. Unfortunately for them, right at that moment Drogon arrived to pick up Daenerys and, with the help of his siblings, proceeded to torch most of the Slave Masters’ ships. The Dothraki horde arrived as well to clean up the mess on the ground, and Meereen was saved.
After the battle ended, Daenerys met with Yara and Theon Greyjoy, who arrived with the Iron Fleet and offered them to her as long as she’d help them re-take the Iron Islands. Daenerys accepted, but only if Yara agreed the people of the Iron Islands would stop their Viking/pirate behavior of reaving, raping and raiding. She said yes, although that might be a tough pill to swallow for her fellow Iron Islanders.
Daenerys’ arc this season has been kind of lame. Sure, she burned the Dothraki leaders and took their army, but it seems like her entire story in season six could’ve been resolved in one episode, not dragged out like it did. Daenerys will be back next week, and presumably she’ll decide to finally go to Westeros and take back her birthright. So we might see a lot more dragon battles in season seven (or maybe just a bunch of episodes of Tyrion getting sick on a ship).
It’s pretty remarkable that in episode where we finally saw the dragons become badasses, something overshadowed it completely.
Jon and Ramsay met before the Battle of the Bastards and Jon offered to avoid bloodshed by fighting Ramsay one-on-one for Winterfell. Unfortunately, Ramsay isn’t really into the whole honor and chivalry thing, as evidenced by him calling Jon “bastard” during their meeting as well as everything he’s ever done on the show, so he refused.
Sansa recognizes right away that Jon doesn’t understand Ramsay. He may be a great military mind, but he can’t comprehend how devious Ramsay can be. I’m wondering if Sansa decided in that tent with Jon to pull the trigger on Littlefinger or if the plan was already in motion. Perhaps that will be discussed in the finale.
The Battle of the Bastards lived up to all the hype. It begins with Ramsay manipulating Jon by releasing Rickon Stark and having him run across the battlefield as he’s getting shot at by arrows. It seemed he avoided them all, but right as Jon reaches him, Rickon takes an arrow to the chest. Another Stark falls.
From the opening moment as both sides’ horses crash into one another, it was epic. The scene perfectly captured the chaos of the battlefield as Jon stumbles around stabbing random dudes, avoiding arrow fire and just trying to get his bearings. The violence was so brutal, even for Game of Thrones standards. I just can’t go on enough about how amazing those scenes were.
Despite being fairly confident that Jon Snow’s side would be victorious, I wasn’t sure he would survive. When his soldiers stampeded over him and he became trapped under all those bodies, I thought Jon might be a goner, as well as Tormund, even though he’d yet to hook up with Brienne.
Even after the Knights of the Vale arrived, saving Jon while also killing all the Bolton soldiers, the episode remained compelling. Ramsay once again decides to play by his own rules and fights Jon one-on-one inside Winterfell. Jon is able to subdue Ramsay and begins punching the shit out of him, as fans have wanted to do for about three seasons. He decides Sansa should be the one who puts him out of his misery, and she watches as Ramsay gets eaten alive by his own hounds.
This episode was perfect. From the opening moments with Tyrion delivering his patented one-liners, to Daenerys finally riding her dragons into battle, and of course the big fight outside Winterfell, Game of Thrones really delivered. For six seasons, we’ve been waiting for a battle like this. In season two and three, we were told about Robb Stark’s amazing battle skills and how successful his armies were. And yet we never saw them in action. Now that we have, it’s pretty obvious it was well worth the wait.
There may be episodes of television with better acting or better writing or more emotional stakes (the episode in Breaking Bad where Hank gets killed comes to mind), but there’s never been anything like “Battle of the Bastards” on television. It even makes some recent war movies look amateurish in comparison. It truly was the most incredible television production ever.
And the crazy thing is: There’s going to be more battles in the future! Danerys is going to bring her dragons to Westeros and the Night King is going to lead the White Walkers past the Wall at some point, so we know bigger and more high stakes wars are going to be fought over the next two seasons. But after last night’s episode, all future battles will have an extremely high bar to compete with.
Let’s see what they bring next week.
Joseph Misulonas is an assistant editor for Playboy.com. He can be found on Twitter at @jmisulonas.
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