Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ delivers the spectacle and catharsis in a standout episode

My first thought after finishing tonight’s climactic episode of Game of Thrones was this:

“Can I go back and experience that again?”

A review of the new episode of Game of Thrones coming right up.

Spoilers below! So read no further unless you’ve watched tonight’s episode.

After an entire season of build up, Game of Thrones delivered big time with the “Battle of the Bastards.” All season we have been watching Jon (Kit Harington) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) attempt to build an army large enough to finally rid the world of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). With as large an army as they could hope to muster, the siblings march on Winterfell to rescue their brother Rickon (Art Parkinson) and reclaim their home. The time for talk was over. Now it was time to fight.

“Battle of the Bastards” is about as straight forward an episode of Game of Thrones as there has ever been. Two sides rushing at each other with everything they have until only one is victorious. There aren’t any shocking twists in this episode, the story progresses in exactly the manner it had to. Was it a surprise when the Knights of the Vale showed up to save Jon’s army toward the end of the episode? Not at all. But it was no less of an awesome moment. We finally get to see our heroes take back what is theirs. For the better part of 6 years, we have watched the Stark siblings struggle against all kinds of villains. Now it was time for a victory and that was exactly what we were given here(*).

(*)But it was not without cost. Sadly Rickon did not make it through the episode. While it was sad to see Ramsay take yet another victim, Rickon wasn’t ever much of a character so his loss is more impactful in what it means to Sansa and Jon. In fact, it was Rickon’s death that provoked Jon to charge at Ramsay. While it wasn’t a surprise I was still quite sad when Ramsay’s arrow hit its mark.

Game of Thrones has a (well-deserved) reputation for being filled with misery. But at this late stage in the run of the series it was high time for some catharsis and boy did we get it. Not only was Winterfell retaken but Ramsay finally met his fate, at the hands of Sansa no less. Sansa’s torture at Ramsay’s hands was a major point of controversy back in season 5 and to see her be the one to free the world of Ramsay Bolton was the ultimate payoff. Ramsay was a villain who was borderline cartoonish in the depths of his depravity but I think we can all agree it was time for him to go. This entire season had been setting Sansa up to no longer be a victim and what a moment it was to see her rise above her tormentor(*).

(*)Another amazing moment for Sansa came earlier in the episode when the two sides parlay before the battle. She cuts Ramsay off  mid-sentence with a “You will die tomorrow Lord Bolton” and then rides off. 

The actual battle scene was the most amazing spectacle I have ever seen on TV. The action was fast, brutal, and coherent thanks to the direction of Miguel Sapochnik (who directed last season’s standout episode “Hardhome”). Not once did we not have a clear view of the action. There was a clear sense of where everyone was the entire time. This was absolute chaos and boy was it beautiful. Only a show as successful and with a budget as large as Game of Thrones could have pulled this off. My heart was racing the entire time. I challenge you not to be breathless as Jon as being trampled by the men trying to retreat from the battle.

Elsewhere in the episode, we got the resolution of the siege of Mereen and it’s just as much of a spectacle as the titular battle. Watching Dany’s dragons let loose to take out the master’s fleet was something to behold. We also saw an alliance made between Dany and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) who along with Theon (Alfie Allen) brought 100 ships to pledge to Dany. It’s always great when Game of Thrones brings its characters together instead of keeping them apart. The scene where the pact is made was a particularly great one for all the actors involved.

Benioff and Weiss had promised us a massive battle and they most definitely delivered with the “Battle of the Bastards.” Our characters earned a well-deserved victory that should hopefully propel us into a finale that will continue to set the stage for series’ endgame.

Well done Game of Thrones. Well done.

Some other thoughts:

  • Davos (Liam Cunningham) stumbled across the ashes of the pyre that Shireen was burned on. Which no doubt means the finale will feature him confronting Melissandre (Carice van Houten) for what she drove Stannis to do to his daughter last season.
  • Kind of bummed that Jon’s direwolf Ghost wasn’t in this episode at all.
  • I’d love to know how much this episode cost to make. I’ve truly never seen anything like it. The show really has managed to outdo itself.

What did you all think? Did “Bastard Bowl” deliver on the hype? Let me know in the comments below!

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