Well, I think it’s safe to say that perhaps the most expensive hour of television definitely paid off for the Game Of Thrones show runners and viewers alike… According to sources, GoT utilized a crew of 600 members, 500 extras, 160 tons of gravel (the weather poor during shooting, so gravel was brought in to allow the horses used to have traction), 70 horses, 25 stuntmen and 4 camera crews over 25 days of shooting. Although the official budget number for the episode has not been released, it is safe assume that the team spent $20 million for the penultimate episode. We’re talking major action blockbuster movie type numbers here, people. And it was obvious that the money was put to good use. “Battle Of The Bastards” was one of the most riveting hours of television I’ve ever watched, despite knowing the probable outcome. The CGI, graphics, set-piece management and performances were upper echelon. The execution was precise, and the result was jaw dropping entertainment. Time to analyze it all and see where we’re at. HIT THE MUSIC!
GoT has come to be known for these remarkable set-pieces each season. First there was the Battle of Blackwater when Stannis’s forces invaded King’s Landing, there was the Red Wedding which was of a lesser full-scale magnitude but nonetheless staggering. Last season we saw the largest GoT set-piece of its time, Hardhome. What Battle of the Bastards did was shatter the magnitude of each of those episodes. It was quite honestly breathtaking and stunning to see a television show pull off the type of full scale dramatic battle scene that is typically only seen in theaters.
And the most amazing aspect of the episode is that we all knew the probable outcome, yet we were all still caught up in the spectacle. For starters, it was nice to see some war time council in a traveling army tent again. It had been a long while since we last saw some of our beloved characters discuss pincer movements and Roman style combat techniques under the protection of tents. Despite the numbers against them, Jon decides to press on to Winterfell and take on the massive Bolton army. Despite the opportunity, Sansa remained mum about the letter she sent, which would be confirmed to be to Lord Petyr Baelish. Jon’s pre-battle correspondence was an interesting scene as well. Jon’s challenge to face Ramsay in 1v1 combat and spare the lives of thousands of men was a cold blooded tactic to not only expose his lack of resolve to fight for his own men, but also to solidify Jon’s own soldiers’ resolve in their leader.
Just before commencement of warfare, Sansa warned Jon of Ramsay’s twisted ways. She predicted the eventual and inevitable death of Rickon. Despite her protestations, and Rickon’s inability to run a ficking zig zag or slant route, Jon would fall straight into Ramsay’s trap running full speed into Ramsay’s cavalry. It was a stunning sight from Jon’s vantage point. With Longclaw firmly grasped and ready to be unleash, the Bolton cavalry of a thousand men loomed ever closer to him.
Eventually both cavalries would clash, just as Ramsay wanted it turned out, as the Bolton archers loosed arrows at a Roman Army-esque rate in attempt to cut down anyone and everything, including Ramsay’s own men. The dead piled up into a Mordor like scene, a wall of bodies I’ve only witnessed during the Persians attack on the Spartans in 300. Ironically, Ramsay was able to trap Jon and his army behind these bodies and entrap them into the pincer move that Jon foolishly squandered at the start of the battle.
Here is when the spectacle really took off. As Jon fought for his life, nearly suffocating underneath the trampled foot of his own men, the camera followed his struggle. It was a truly gut wrenching shot, could this really be the moment that the show runners buck the trend of feel good moments and kill Jon for a second time? This possibility was squeezed for every ounce as Jon scratched and clawed his way up from the dirt. What he saw when he raised his head was the army of the Vale, whose calvary carved through the Bolton Army like Stannis had done beyond the Wall.
In the end, the ability to conclude in a probably outcome was outdone by the fortune of telling the story in a thoroughly compelling way. From the clutches of defeat, Jon was salvaged to chase Ramsay back to his homeland, break down the walls, tackle his enemy and raise his family’s banners once again. And despite the predictability, it was every bit of satisfying.
But the most surprising part of this monumental undertaking was the fact that Sansa came out as the big winner. Much of the build up to tonight centered around Jon’s legacy and his pursuit to restore the family name. Although he fought valiantly to do so, Sansa is really the individual who did the restoring. In a funny way, her deceitfulness to not disclose to Jon the letter she wrote ended up winning the battle for the Starks as the Bolton army was drawn into the open for the Vale cavalry to pickoff like fish in a barrel. Was this intended on her end? I mean, she did ride up with Little Finger together. This could’ve been a power play against Jon to weaken his own forces, but also ensure victory for their mutual cause. Each episode she is groomed more into her mother, calm, cool, calculated, thinking about how the chess pieces are situated on the board.
Sansa also relished in the ultimate revenge at the conclusion of the episode when she summoned Ramsay to meet his fate: a grisly death by his own hounds chomping on his flesh. Again, this was a predictable conclusion, as Ramsay’s “ravenous” hounds were alluded to several times on Sunday. And yet, this ending was nonetheless satisfying demise. A predictable spectacle would be a fitting theme. In a social media driven world during the Golden Age of television, a plot driven by stunning obviousness is a smart play when viewers have conceivably unearthed every possible conspiracy theory and cliff hanger before they can be conceived. Expect this theme to play out the rest of the series, as it was initially explored this season…
The Battle of the Bastards was not the sole event of the night, as Dany took care of her own business in Meereen. But, we will explore the ramifications of her new alliance later on in the week. For now, it’s the Starks’s time to revel in their victory.
Is Sansa preggers?!?
I’m inclined to say that the “Sansa is pregnant with Ramsay’s demon child” train is misinformed, IMHO. Reasons being that anatomically it doesn’t make sense. There has been no noticeable poundage added on by Sansa since her time with Ramsay. She hasn’t even changed her style of dress to reflect a pregnancy. In addition, there’s been no typical TV dramatic pregnancy arc to date. For such a momentous occasion, there is typically a period of time spent on a show addressing a potential pregnancy, the options about said pregnancy, the time leading up to the birth etc… None of this has taken place. For such a demonizing idea, there’s been no foreshadowing of it other than some select words here and there. Conspiracy debunked!
Cher boy has been slacking recently on his prime GoT takes, but he’s getting back on the saddle again and will have plenty of fire to spit in the coming days. Thanks for staying with us on this journey through Westeros.