‘Game Of Thrones’ Discussion: Six Questions About The Brutal ‘The Battle Of The Bastards’

We’re in uncharted territory on Game of Thrones. There are no books to work from — even George R.R. Martin might be surprised with what’s happening on the HBO series — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, our Thrones experts will answer your six most pressing questions.

1. Is Daenerys pretty much unstoppable now that she has her dragons?

Ryan: It certainly seems like Daenerys has everything she needs to take Westeros with ease. She has the Unsullied, Daario’s mercenary army, a horde of Dothraki screamers, and a bay full of ships. And now she’s got three dragons that reliably do her bidding. How that last part came together is still a little mysterious. She’s ridden Drogon enough at this point that I can buy that. But Viserion and Rhaegal busting through a wall like fire-breathing Kool Aid monsters seemed a bit too convenient, if still awesome.

There are vocal critics of Game of Thrones who have accused Daenerys of being a Mary Sue, a literary term for an overly perfect character who breezes through all the challenges she faces with ease. Her flawless destruction of the Masters is the latest example that said critics will add to the list. But hey, she has dragons. They’re crazy powerful. So you better get used to Mary Sue Targaryen, because she’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Josh: I’ll get back to your point in a moment, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s amazing Daenerys flying around on a dragon and then trading smirks and wink-winks with Tyrion and Yara is the second most eventful thing to happen this episode. Game of Thrones is pretty wonderful sometimes.

Anyway, the only thing that can possibly delay (I won’t say “stop”) Daenerys right now is the Iron Islands. Euron and his self-proclaimed “big cock” are on the way, but don’t forget about Yara’s pact with the Mother of Dragons — she agreed that the Ironborn will give up raping and pillaging. I won’t comment on the former, but the latter might be a tough sell. The Iron Islands are harsh and largely inhospitable; its people have made a living by stealing from others. I don’t think the Ironborn are going to be thrilled about this new way of life. There could be blowback against Daenerys and Yara, who’s “up for anything.”

Smirk, wink-wink.

2. Is Davos going to have to stab a Red Priestess?

Josh: Apologies for sounding like a monster in advance, but: I don’t care that Rickon Stark is dead. I care about him as an idea (Team Stark for life, obviously), but as a person? Not so much. We never had the chance to form an emotional attachment with him; he’s been gone for too long, and even when he was on the show, his screen time was fleeting. I’ll go so far as to say Rickon had to die. In my defense, imagine if he hadn’t been killed by Ramsay — Wun Wun would have been the only “good guy” to die. That’s simply not plausible in a battle where, to quote Lou Reed, all the dead bodies piled up in mounds. You need an occasional hero to fall; otherwise, you’re in Stormtrooper territory. The fatal arrow through Wun Wun’s face was a bummer, but again, it didn’t hit me the way Hodor’s death destroyed me in “The Door,” or Shireen’s did last season. Davos feels the same way.

He’s not over what happened to his reading teacher, who, unbeknownst to him, was burned at the stake as a “gift” to the Lord of Light by Stannis and Melisandre. (It didn’t work.) He’s beginning to piece it together, though, after finding her toy stag amongst the sacrificial soot. That’s a heavy thing to have on your mind before the battle of your life. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose? More like, clear eyes, full hearts, the Red Woman better watch herself.

You do not want to upset the Onion Knight.

Ryan: Davos has always been quick to offer up some solid life advice in the past, so you have to figure he knows in his heart what he needs to do here. If you’re on the side of the people burning children at the stake, then you’re on the side of the bad guys. And Davos already tried to off Melisandre in season three, so we know he’s got it in him. The only question is if he thinks she’s essential to winning the war against the Others… and if he’s level-headed enough to let that dissuade him from killing her. Melisandre may even welcome death. The only person more broody than Jon Snow lately is the Red Priestess. She wasn’t exactly helpful through the Bastard Bowl, and she seems fed up with R’hllor’s confusing signals. When’s the last time she’s pulled a helpful tidbit about the future out of the fires? If Melisandre doesn’t see Davos sticking a sword through her, maybe it’s time she becomes the latest character whose plot gets “wrapped up” en route to the final seasons.

3. What was Rickon thinking?

Josh: There’s a moment in Ridley Scott’s fairly maligned Prometheus where Charlize Theron’s character is fleeing from a crashed ship, or falling debris, or something huge that was on its way to kill her. (I’ve tried to forget about this movie, and clearly failed.) Instead of running to the right, where she would have been safe, she continued going straight. This is a common occurrence in movies and television shows — it’s like the fighter pilot who gets killed by Godzilla because he doesn’t fly higher — and it annoys the heck out of me every time. I thought about that Prometheus scene when Ramsay was firing arrows at Rickon. I should not be thinking about Prometheus while watching Game of Thrones. My question is: Why didn’t Rickon run right?

Actually, let me rephrase that as a demand: Go right, Rickon. Or left. It was his choice, really. He could have zigged or he could have zagged, but he didn’t, and now he’s dead. Look, I get it. Rickon wasn’t thinking straight, only running straight. He was a hostage who saw freedom. His mind was distracted on what was in front of him, not who was behind him. And it cost him his life. I guess Rickon never saw Prometheus. Maybe he’s the lucky one, after all…

What’s going to happen to Winterfell since Rickon’s dead and Bran’s MIA?

Ryan: The honor of running things in a straight line, er, the North falls to Sansa, and while I’m still questioning her decision to keep the Vale army a secret from her half-brother, at least her shenanigans worked out in everyone’s favor unlike those of a certain bastard who knows nothing. But the patriarchy being what it is, the next big question to be asked is: Who will Sansa have to marry to bring the North back together? Perhaps all that will be put off until the undead army beyond the Wall is dealt with. But with so few Starks left, it might be smart to seriously think about marriage alliances and making new little Starks named after all the old ones who keep getting killed off. I’m sure Littlefinger has a suggestion on who she might consider.

Josh: You hear that, internet. “Little Starks,” not little Boltons.

4. Should we be worried about Jon Snow?

Ryan: Jon has been the brooding type since the start of the show, but he’s been even more so since being brought back from the dead. And while he put on a strong front when talking to Sansa about armies winning with worse odds, we also watched him hedge his bets by asking Melisandre not to revive him if he died in the battle. And then there was his foolhardy solo charge against Rickon, which started heroically but then turned into a gigantic tactical blunder that cost his army who knows how many lives. The point is, this is not the guy that we want running things in the North. He bumbled his way into getting assassinated by his own Night’s Watch brothers, and he bumbled his way through the Battle of the Bastards, surviving through a combination of dumb luck and deus ex Littlefinger showing up at the end. Is this really who we want calling the shots with the Others coming from beyond the Wall and Daenerys coming across the Narrow Sea?

Josh: It’s funny that you should mention Daenerys. The parallels are, let’s say, not subtle. I can’t help but think Game of Thrones was tipping its hand by, in the same episode, showing Jon going full Kirk, minus the shirt ripping, and the Mother of Dragons letting her Spock-like logic guide her decisions. Jon has a death wish and isn’t interested in ruling; he thinks of it as an obligation. Daenerys, meanwhile, sees it as her bloodline birthright. If anyone’s going to lead the charge against the Others, I hope it’s the dragons, I mean, Daenerys.

5. Was Ramsay’s death the new most horrific moment in Game of Thrones history (even if it was, like, totally awesome)?

Ryan: A great villain deserves a great death, and Ramsay Bolton is second only to the Night King in terms of Game of Thrones baddies. So of course they had to give him a fitting finish at the mouths of his own hounds.

We got to see just enough of his mauling to know how brutal and terrible it was, but what really got me was how Sansa stuck around to watch the whole thing. We’ve been waiting for Sansa to grow up and change for a while, and she finally did… not in a positive way, either. Ramsay said he’d always be inside her now, and I think we saw that in the satisfied smile she had when leaving the site of his sadistic execution. Not that I blame her (or any of the show watchers) for enjoying his graphic death. But it makes me wonder what kind of ruler she’ll be now that she’s in control of the North. Those houses that didn’t side with her might want to get on their knees and have a good grovel prepared next time they see her, or we might see more of this new, darker Sansa in action.

Josh: I have to disagree with something you wrote. I don’t think Ramsay was a “great” villain. He was great at being evil, but that didn’t make an interesting baddie on the level of the Night King, or the I-want-to-slap-him-so-much Joffrey. (Still one of the all-time great YouTube videos.)

The unholy offspring of Cersei and Jaime was never a sympathetic character, but at least we saw him struggle and get poop thrown in his face. He was fun to hate, and in a weird way, I was sad to see him go. I was just relieved when Ramsay became hungry puppy chow. Every time the action cut to the Bolton bastard, he was doing something else capital-e Evil, whether it’s violating Sansa, feeding victims to his dogs, or cutting Theon’s penis off. There was never any question that Ramsay was going to kill Rickon, even after letting him go. After a while, his cruelty became predictable, boring even. It was hard to guess what Joffrey, a bratty pawn in Tywin’s game, was going to do next — you always knew Ramsay was up to no good, and he was going to do bad, with diminishing returns. I’m glad Sansa let his dogs do the dirty work.

Ramsay wasn’t worth it.

As for the “most horrific moment” question, I have to go with expecting Lady Stoneheart in the last episode, and seeing the Hound’s penis instead. (Hey, we almost went a full week without a Lady Stoneheart reference. Progress!)

6. Who was the MVP of the Bastard Bowl?

Josh: The obvious choice is Jon Snow, considering he was the commander of the winning side. But, like you wrote earlier, he also made driven-by-emotion mistakes that could have been his and his men’s fatal downfall. So, not Jon. Other candidates: Tormund, like Brienne on Locke before him (true love), took a bite out of John Umber, which was pretty great; Davos wisely held his men back; and Ramsay would have conquered if not for Sansa’s clever sensibility and Littlefinger’s army. The episode’s director, Miguel Sapochnik, is in the running, too, if only for the brilliant and darkly hilarious scene where Jon is ready to take on the entire Bolton army himself, and they totally ignore him. But I’m giving the MVP trophy — it’s Viserys’ head covered in gold — to my main man Wun Wun. He was mowing down guys left and right, and Jon wouldn’t have been able to enter Winterfell without his Hulk-smash abilities. Who needs the pincer move when you’ve got a giant? R.I.P. Wun Wun — you were the real Wunder (that thing you do? Kill), and MVP.

You can’t possibly disagree, right? Right…?

Ryan: Yeah, there’s not a fight Wun Wun was involved in where he didn’t steal the show. He smashed heads against walls, tore people in half, and swatted down Bolton soldiers like flies. He un-held the door and got Jon’s people inside Winterfell, which was the crucial difference between merely giving Ramsay’s forces an ass whupping and wiping the Boltons off the map.

He’s the MVP, but I also have to give a shout out to Littlefinger, who came through with the army of the Vale. Without him, Jon Snow and his entire army would have been destroyed in that shield ring. For once, Peter Baelish didn’t stab the Starks in the back and screw them over… which makes me wonder what he’s got up his sleeves. Is this just more of that chaos he spreads wherever he goes, or will we finally learn what his end game is?

Josh: My prediction: Littlefinger helped win back the North, and now he’s coming after Baltimore. I can’t wait for the middle school season of Game of Thrones.