There was, to put it mildly, a lot going on in Game of Thrones penultimate season six episode, “The Battle of the Bastards.” So much so that three dragons set fire to an entire navy and that was still only the second biggest battle of the hour. In almost any other episode of almost any other television show, that would have been the main event. (Especially if it had happened during an episode of, like, Mad Men. I always said that show needed more nautical battles involving mythical winged beasts.) But the showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton was a long time coming, and it was the title of the episode, so let’s stick to that for now. Here are your winners and loser from the titular bastard battle.
LOSER: Ramsay Bolton
Ramsay’s death was both inevitable and long overdue. Not necessarily long overdue within the story itself, because there’s utility in keeping a smug monster around long enough to make his violent death feel like a victory for the audience, but definitely long overdue from an “Yoooooo I would like to see bad things happen to this guy” perspective. While his demise didn’t quite live up to my slightly unhinged fever dream for it, they could have done a lot worse than having him run like a coward, get his face bashed in by Jon Snow’s mud-covered fists, and get fed to his own dogs by the wife he spent the better part of a season tormenting. I’ll take it.
NOTE: The funniest possible thing would have been if they killed him off with a sudden aneurysm or something during that pre-war meeting. Like if he had just frozen mid-sentence and fallen off his horse into the mud, and Jon looked at everyone all confused, unsure if it meant he had just won. It would have been bad, anticlimactic television, sure. But very funny.
LOSER: Jon Snow
It’s tempting to proclaim Jon a winner, since he technically “won” the Battle of the Bastards and took back Winterfell. But he really did all that despite himself. I mean, let’s break this down a bit:
- He stayed up all night developing a strategy and then abandoned it the second he saw Rickon.
- He did this despite the fact that Sansa specifically told him a) Rickon was going to die, and b) Ramsay was going to do something to mess with his mind.
- His decision to run headlong into battle by himself got hundreds, if not thousands, of his men killed.
- He only lived because Littlefinger and the cavalry arrived.
Jon Snow is like the anti-Daenerys. I feel like if he had a dragon he’d accidentally fly it into a wall and kill it, then spend three episodes moping about it.
Say what you will about her decision-making and hidden alliances, but I’ll… I’ll just leave this here.
Josh touched on this in our questions column, but for the love of God, Rickon. EVASIVE MANEUVERS, MY GUY. A zig zag or two. Anything but run in a line straighter than the arrows Ramsey was shooting at you. If you do that and he still hits you on a dead run from like 100 yards, then maybe the universe was just trying to tell you something. In fact, maybe the universe is trying to tell us something, and that thing is that the Stark boys are idiots. Robb walked into the Red Wedding, Bran got Hodor killed and let the Night King in by screwing around, and Jon — who was at least raised by the Starks — tried his best to lose this battle by doing everything I listed above. If any of them want to survive, they need to put Arya in charge.
WINNER: Lyanna Mormont
Lyanna was on screen for under five seconds of a 69-minute episode that featured a cathartic death, an epic ground battle, and an extended sequence in which an attractive woman rode on the back of a dragon to rain fire down from the skies onto ships containing hundreds of villainous slave owners, and she was still my favorite part somehow. Look at that face. She looks like she just got done reading the comments under an article about politics on a local newspaper’s website. I hope she kills Jon Snow and takes Winterfell by force.
The only downside of Lyanna popping up in the pre-war meeting is that it gave me a sliver of hope that she’d be involved in the battle the next day. I was picturing her, like, just shredding soldiers like a tiny human Raphael from the Ninja Turtles. You can’t toy with me like this, Game of Thrones. It’s like Chekhov said: “If you show the audience a pre-teen badass making a stink face on a horse during a contentious pre-war battlefield meeting in Act I, you have to let her go on a bloodthirsty rampage through the opposing forces by Act III.” Basic storytelling.
You know how there are those movies about the Middles Ages that start with a big storybook opening and have a narrator pop in every now and then to explain what’s going on? I kind of want an alternate version of Game of Thrones like that, with Tormund as the narrator. And by “kind of,” I mean “desperately.”
Wun-Wun went out like the heroic version of Scarface, taking out dozens of Ramsay’s men and smashing open giant wooden doors while getting riddled with arrows. Hodor’s death hurt a little more because he was a sweet man and we had a longer history with him, but still, this episode marked the second time in a month that I found myself heartbroken over the death of a largely nonverbal giant. Didn’t see that coming.
LOSER: This guy
Yeah, that’s an L.