The biggest, most expensive battle to be filmed for a TV show — one that has been building for the last three seasons ever since the Red Wedding and Roose Bolton’s betrayal — finally came to fruition this episode, and it played out almost exactly as expected. It — meaning the cinematic production values of the battle — wouldn’t have looked amiss in the third act of either a blockbuster made in the 2000s (I’m thinking 2004’s King Arthur with Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd and Kiera Knightley) or a slightly lower budget movie made in recent years (Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, released last year). Especially the part where Jon looked like a man ready to die (or a man about to be imbued with magical powers), and charges single-handedly into the soldiers, when SUDDENLY his men overtake him and crash into the Bolton army just before they reach him. Even in the midst of a climatic, tension-filled battle, the director can insert such a visual gag. Bravo!
Anyway, the point is HBO spent a lot of money on their baby. It looked great.
True, our heroes looked very cornered at one point and all hope seemed lost, but like in every great onscreen battle, the cavalry — in the form of Littlefinger’s troops from the Eyrie — came to save the day, led by Sansa, who put aside all her grievances against Littlefinger so that she can be avenged against her greatest enemy. It ended like it should have: with the defeat of the most despicable despot since Joffrey. If it had ended ANY OTHER WAY — e.g. Jon is defeated / Jon isn’t defeated but Sansa is captured / Jon isn’t defeated but Tormund and Ser Davos die / neither Jon nor Ramsay is defeated and the battle is a stalemate — I would have stopped watching this most unfulfilling show where terrible things happen without alleviation.
Nevertheless, before his death by eaten-by-dogs, Ramsay managed to torment Jon a few last times by killing Rickon right in front of his eyes just as he was *so close* to saving him. I almost deluded myself into having hopes that Rickon would survive, despite knowing what this show does. But of course the editors are most sadistic in prolonging the illusion, and did not show Ramsay drawing the killing arrow, so that we can be properly blindsided. (Has Ramsay always been such a good archer? :-O)
Same thing goes for the faithful Wun Wun (the last of his kind?), whom Ramsay killed just as Jon was about to thank him for his service (or something along those lines). >:'(
So OF COURSE it was gratifying when Ramsay finally got his just deserts. (It would have been even more gratifying if it was served faster, a few seasons ago.) I was trying to think of the worst ways in which he could go — beat him to a pulp, cut off his dick and limbs slowly, shove something up his asshole! Burn him alive and sacrifice him to the Lord of Light! — but being eaten by his dogs was most poetic, since he inflicted it on so many of his victims. I wondered why Sansa looked so shocked at Jon beating Ramsay to a pulp, because she of all people should want to see him dead, so it was great to find out that she had her own plans for him. Though I was cringing a little at that part, because I don’t actually want to *see* it, although I want it to happen to him. Thankfully it was shot in the dark, so we can’t make out much of the gruesomeness, and it cuts away soon after.
(By the way, how did Sansa manage to set the hounds loose without getting bitten herself?)
One thing must be said: all Jon’s promises were for nothing. Even his army was for nothing. He did his best, but he would have been defeated if Sansa didn’t come to the rescue with Littlefinger’s aid. “No one can protect anyone,” Sansa told him, and we see Jon realising how futile his efforts were when he failed to save Rickon and almost got his entire army slaughtered by a psychopath much cleverer than he is. He may have fought worse things beyond the Wall, but Ramsay is on a different spectrum of “bad” entirely. It’s only by the grace of George R. R. Martin that Jon is still alive.
Now that the battle is done and Winterfell is finally and bittersweetly back in the hands of Starks after more than four seasons, it is Ser Davos’ turn to seek revenge. We see him brooding intensely at Melisandre at the end of the episode — Melisandre, who has outlived her usefulness. She no longer has any certainty of the Lord of Light’s commands, and she has resurrected Jon from the dead. Now it’s time for her to die for what she did to Shireen.
(But seriously, what are the odds of Ser Davos actually walking to where Shireen was burnt and finding the carved animal he gave her??? This is the sort of thing that can only happen in movies and TV shows, just like Melisandre arriving at the Wall shortly before Jon was killed.)
But the showdown between Ramsay and Jon’s army wasn’t the only climatic thing that happened in this episode. Dany did some impressive stuff too, under advice from Tyrion who at first was comically nervous while trying to explain how he managed to make things worse while she was gone, but slowly regains his confidence and gets her to listen to him.
Thing is, Dany is always doing impressive stuff, but people (in)conveniently forget and they keep re-challenging her again. I mean, didn’t the Masters see what happened in Astapor? (Or whichever city it was that Dany also put her dragons to work and they burnt those Masters to death too? I know it was sometime in Season 3.) Why haven’t they learnt their lesson about challenging someone who has dragons??? Dany’s storyline is just a repeating cycle of idiots who do not learn their lesson / Dany being obstinate and her insistence on her-way-or-the-highway backfiring against her when her new citizens rebel. It’s really getting tiresome.
I hope that Theon and Yara’s arrival breathe new life into her storyline, and they can finally get out of this godforsaken Meereen plot and just sail to Westeros already!
It was funny to see Dany being unsure of what to do after Yara acquiesced to her terms, because Yara must be the first person to do so readily without belittling her or being hostile. Also note that all the antagonistic rulers that Dany dealt with previously were all men!
Next week will be exciting. Will Cersei set fire to King’s Landing? Will the High Sparrow die? Will Ser Davos kill Melisandre? These, and many other questions to be answered in possibly the most climatic season finale yet! (Unless, of course, none of the above happen.)
I leave you with this lovely video. Ramsay wasn’t punched nearly enough, and one viewer remedied that!