Recap: Game of Thrones decides to throw us a bone

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it's the consequence of your own decisions...

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it’s the consequence of your own poor decisions…

Yeah, I know how other sites give you the Game of Thrones recaps the same night the episodes are first released, but that is SO-o-o-o- 20th Century. I watch them in the modern way — when I feel like it.

So here’s my recap of Episode 9 of Season 6, “The Battle of the Bastards.”


Let’s cut to the chase and deal with the battle itself. Bottom line, the good guys win, which in and of itself is remarkable. For once the writers throw us a bone.

But here’s the thing — they don’t deserve to win. Not tactically speaking. In fact, they do everything they can to throw the battle into Ramsay Bolton’s nasty lap.

What was the one thing that came out of the Council of War the night before? Make Ramsay come to us. He has the numbers; he has the cavalry. Choose your ground, hold it, shape it with trenches and other things that will prevent the enemy from enveloping you, and you have a chance.

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

So what happens? Ramsay does something entirely predictable — as Sansa said, there’s no way Rickon is walking out of this episode — and Jon et al. do exactly what he wants them to do, what even a split second of thought would tell them he wants them to do. And they do it anyway, without hesitation.

This seems particularly egregious to us as viewers — or me, anyway — because who is Rickon to us? Yeah, in the abstract we know that Jon watched the kid grow up, but we have not been made to feel that. To us, Rickon is just this guy, you know? Has he ever spoken a word of dialogue? Maybe so, but not that I recall. Yeah, he’s the last legit male Stark heir who hasn’t gone north of the Wall and become a hallucinating oracle, but were any of us pinning our hopes on him to save the family fortunes? I don’t think so. The poor boy was a born victim. I didn’t seen any of Ned in him. In fact, I didn’t see any of anybody in him, because we never got to know him.

So we see Ramsay do Rickon in in a cruel manner, but not a particularly cruel manner by Bolton standards. Which we expected him to do. Which, since we don’t know Rickon really from Adam’s off ox, makes it seem especially egregious when Jon reacts by doing everything he can to throw the battle away.

And in fact, he succeeds in that. The battle, as far as the forces Jon went in with, is entirely lost when Littlefinger comes to the rescue — a deliverance we had no reason to expect, making it the plot equivalent of dealing with a nightmare situation by writing, “And then the boy woke up.”

Yeah, it’s satisfying to see Ramsay come to an ignominious, gruesome end. He brought out the cruel beast in us all.

But the good guys had this one handed to them. They didn’t earn it.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, the Khaleesi is in a fix and her dragons deliver her from it, yadda-yadda. Personally, this girl isn’t going to impress me any more until she finally makes an appearance in Westeros and delivers on all her big talk.

But what did y’all think?

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda...

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda…

19 thoughts on “Recap: Game of Thrones decides to throw us a bone

  1. Doug Ross

    Sunday’s episode was the first one I’ve watched in full this season. I’m not a GOT fanboy, I suppose. Too may characters and story arcs plus I’ve never been into fantasy, sci-fi, etc. where you just make stuff up as you go along – once the dragons come out, I’m not interested.

    With GOT, I stopped watching mainly because of the Ramsey character. The whole torture of Reek was disturbing — to the point where you just ask yourself “Why am I watching this?” Watching a psychopath murder and rape people on a weekly basis isn’t “must see TV” for me.

    Anyway, my takeaway from this week’s episode is that Rickon deserved to die just for being dumb enough to run in a straight line when someone is shooting arrows at you. Just a little zig-zag now and then would seem to make you less likely to get an arrow in the back. Nevermind the fact that even running in a straight line, making that shot at that distance seems highly unlikely.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “The whole torture of Reek was disturbing — to the point where you just ask yourself ‘Why am I watching this?'”

      I stopped watching Outlander because of one episode where I thought exactly the same thing.

  2. David Carlton

    Your take is certainly valid, although I sympathize with Jon, who’s really loyal to his family and is very much a Stark in his impetuosity. His strength is as a fighter, as he definitely showed in the battle–NOT as a strategist. MY big problem (and I gather that of a lot of other people as well) is with Sansa. I’m hearing people praise her “leadership”–but all I see is guile. She knew there was a chance of getting the Vale to show up, and kept it from Jon, even while complaining that he doesn’t listen to her. Earlier, she lied about her contacts with Littlefinger, and got rid of the two people (Brienne and Pod) who knew about it by sending them off on what turned out to be a wild goose chase. How many people died because of her deception? She could have lost two brothers–one of which she was willing to give up, after using him to get Jon on her side earlier. And she got way too much satisfaction from feeding the dogs. This does not bode well for the North–and Winter is Coming, after all.

    As for Daenerys–I keep waiting for people to remember the mess she left Tyrion to handle. Tyrion has been dealing from a position of weakness. The Unsullied seem to have been useless; if Grey Worm had problems with Tyrion’s temporizing with the slave masters, he was supposed to be the one with the army, right? And I keep wondering from episode to episode just which Dany will show up–the idealist who wishes to use her power for good and transcend her paternal heritage, or the cruel queen who thinks she can solve every problem with violence? Her one redeeming quality seems to be her choice in advisors (Jorah (and Khal Drogo) early on, then Barristan, and now Tyrion). If he can keep her grounded, her best qualities may win out yet.

    1. Brad Warthen

      Good points, especially about Sansa. I’ve never been a Sansa fan. I prefer to root for Arya. A girl’s got it together.

      Something that bothered me about the feeding-the-dogs scene — she didn’t stay to make sure he was dead. On this show, that’s a major, major oversight. Anyone you don’t SEE completely devoured by dogs COULD come back…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Adding to what Bryan said on his blog…

      Let’s state it clearly: Jon LOST this battle, completely, and it was his fault. That Tommy Carcetti — I mean, Littlefinger — came in and saved him doesn’t change the fact that he had already lost it on his own.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Something I meant to mention…

    The battle scene was well conceived and well directed. It achieved the goal of communicating both what it was like to be in he middle of the melee, and what was happening overall.

    That’s rare, so kudos…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      HOW rare is it?

      Well, to give an example…

      I love the scene in “Band of Brothers” in which a handful of Easy Company guys, with the help of some members of Lt. Speirs’ company and some stragglers from other units, take out those four German guns at Brécourt Manor that are firing on Utah Beach.

      It does a wonderful job of communicating what it was like to be in the middle of the fight, and shows very clearly just how cool-headed Winters was in directing it, and how his troops maintained the initiative — in a constant headlong rush, with proper provisions for covering fire — and accomplished the objective in the face of a superior force.

      But what’s missing is a clear sense of the overall fight — where the German guns and covering machine guns are, Winters’ lines of attack, etc. Beyond counting down the capture and destruction of each of the four guns, I’m really confused about what’s happening. And while battle in general is disorienting, I think everyone in this fight had a clear sense of what they were doing at all times. But I, as a viewer, do not. And no, that crude sketch Winters drew in briefing the guys beforehand didn’t do it for me.

      So, well done, GoT…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Midway did a good job of that, too. Of course, they showed the giant tables that were maps of the Pacific that everyone could stand around and look at with grimaces, while clerks pushed the ships around. I wonder if our high-tech Navy still has those tables.

        Oh, and the Battle of Endor was pretty good, too. Good presentation of the tactics with taking the shield generator 🙂

              1. Bryan Caskey

                He was. I think that picture must have been some sort of promotional picture for the movie where they wanted three big names all together for a shot, rather than having Mitchum look like this:

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Meanwhile, other shows I’m watching or have watched recently that are pretty good:

    The Night Manager” — I’ve got the finale still to watch, but when I do I plan to post something. One of my fave LeCarre books. The “updates” in the TV production are sometimes off-putting, sometimes quite good…

    Fortitude” — Weird murder mystery in the world’s (fictional) northernmost town. Started strong, but got weirder and weirder, to where it lost me at the end. Stanley Tucci plays a prominent role in it.

    Occupied” — Fascinating Norwegian series (original title: “Okkupert“) about a near-future in which Norway stops oil production, and the Russians move in and take over (with the blessings of the EU!) to get production going again. About halfway through the first season. Interesting phenomenon — although it’s in Norwegian, huge portions of it are in English.

    Boardwalk Empire” — Never saw this before and just started on it — watched a couple of episodes while giving platelets at the Red Cross Monday evening. Strong. And not only does it have real-life figures such as Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone and “Lucky” Luciano, but the whole thing is based on actual history. Buscemi’s “Nucky” Thompson is based on the real-life boss “Nucky” Johnson. Good stuff.

    Which reminds me… Anyone see the first episode of the new season of “Endeavour” on PBS? I can’t decide whether the fact that it was based on The Great Gatsby was a cool thing or cheesy. Anyway, at one point “Bixby” (the Gatsby character) informs our protagonist that someone at his party is the guy who fixed the World Cup — a direct reference to Gatsby explaining that one of his party guests fixed the 1919 World Series. Which, of course, was Arnold Rothstein. Small world…

    1. JesseS

      If you do end up watching Boardwalk just skip the last episode or two. The real fun of it is that almost every episode has some historical footnote who pops up, and those footnotes are often crazier in real life than on the show (the actors seemed to relish fleshing out those historical oddballs beyond their real-life 15 minutes of fame).

  5. Scout

    Why didn’t Sansa get Littlefinger earlier if she could do that. Why didn’t somebody shoot Ramsay with an arrow when he was just sitting out there on his horse and Rickon was running. Too far, I guess. I agree Rickon should have stopped and started intermittently or zigzagged. But he was a scared kid; I suppose it’s believable that that would be beyond him. In the book he was just 4. He named his wolf Shaggy Dog because he was 4. That is the best thing he did and about the extent of his character development. I agree it is important to make sure Ramsay is dead. I was extremely wary that something else was going to happen right up until the dogs started doing what they did. It would be so like this show to have him somehow survive and be all disfigured and come back and be super evil again.
    I think my favorite part was the we all have horrible fathers club in Meereen.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    One more point I’d like to raise…

    Like all right-thinking people, I like Peter Dinklage. I’ve always liked him, ever since “The Station Agent” 13 years ago. And his character is one of the few likable ones on GoT.

    But… what about that accent? Oh, we can defend it by saying none of us know what a true Westerosi accent sounds like. But I think he is actually trying to employ Received Pronunciation, and while he may technically be pronouncing each syllable correctly, it sounds SO artificial, such an obvious thing of artifice, that it’s hard to ignore sometimes.

    As has been noted elsewhere, the guy who plays his brother is DANISH, and manages to sound more like a posh Brit.

    Does this bother anyone besides me? I mean, this guy is a professional. He probably gets paid more per episode by far than I will make in the rest of my life. But I think I can do RP better than he does…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *