‘Game of Thrones’ review: ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was thrilling and rewarding

Posted Filed under

Here, at last, is the one we’ve all been waiting for; the one that’s been building up for over two seasons ever since Winterfell fell into the hands of the Boltons.


Possibly the most anticipated episode for a long time, ‘Battle of Bastards’ saw Jon Snow bring the fight to Ramsay and, for one bastard; only victory could assure their survival.

Before all that, however, there was the little matter of the Masters’ assault on Meereen to attend to. Having broken their pact with Tyrion, the Masters’ armada pummelled the city with flaming boulders flung from catapults. ‘No ruler who ever lived had the support of all the people,’ Tyrion informed Danaerys before explaining that the Masters cannot afford Meereen to succeed for it will mean a free city can prosper.

Danaerys’ plan to completely wipe out the Masters and their cities was not met with universal approval from Tyrion who saw fit to remind her of her father and his plans of using wildfire when the Lannister army arrived at his gates. Instead they opted for diplomacy, at least, an attempt at such.

Believing themselves the victors, the Masters demanded Danaerys’ surrender but their confidence soon turned to despair when the Queen mounted Drogon and, along with Rhaegal and Viserion, incinerated one of their ships. Danaerys’ show of strength was enough to frighten the Masters into submission and two were killed by Grey Worm leaving the sole survivor to return to his city and speak of what had happened.

Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards

In the North, Jon, Sansa, Davos, Tormund and the other Lords and Lady rode to negotiate with Ramsay before the forthcoming battle. As we’ve often seen with Ramsay, the bastard Lord of Winterfell was supremely overconfident in his expectation of victory and he took great pleasure in taunting Jon. Yet it was Sansa who stood her ground after Ramsay had denied Jon’s offer of single combat.

‘You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,’ Sansa told her husband with barely a quiver in her voice. Sansa’s development across the show has come on leaps and bounds in Season 6 and it’s such a joy to see the eldest Stark girl have the strength of will and resilience to say ‘no.’

Once the men had discussed their battle tactics, Sansa reprimanded Jon for not including her and reminded him that she knew Ramsay intimately – she knew the way his mind worked. Sansa believed Jon should have waited for more men but Jon was adamant the time for battle had come and that there would be no more men coming.

‘If Ramsay wins I’m not going back there alive,’ said Sansa betraying, for the first time, a sense of fear for what she knew Ramsay to be capable of.

Outside, Davos and Tormund discussed their preparations for the battle with Tormund believing the Bolton’s unfamiliarity with how Wildlings fight offered him hope. A quiet scene with Melisandre saw her offer simple advice to Jon: ‘don’t lose,’ whilst admitting she did not know the Lord of Light’s plans for him. After leaving Tormund, Davos came to Shireen’s pyre and found the wooden stag he had carved for her – realising, at last, how Stannis’ daughter had died.

Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards

In Meereen, Theon and Yara negotiated with Danaerys and Tyrion in the throne room. Tyrion remembered Theon from Winterfell and how Theon had, unoriginally, mocked Tyrion for being a dwarf. Yara presented her claim to Danaerys and there was the subtlest hint of flirting between the two Queens as Yara indicated she was up for ‘anything.’

Danaerys’ terms for an alliance were strong – the Ironborn must support her claim as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and find a new way of life to the one they had always known. It was a tough choice but Yara took the right one and they shook hands as newly formed allies. Together with Yara’s fleet and the Masters’, Danaerys might just have enough to sail to Westeros and assault the Iron Throne.

On the field outside Winterfell it was time for the long-awaited battle to commence. First, however, there was heartache for Jon as Ramsay tempted him with Rickon’s release before a well-timed arrow into Rickon’s back shattered any hopes of a family reunion.

The battle itself was an exhilarating ride of bloodthirsty combat, as the bodies of men and horses, slaughtered, lay strewn in great piles across the field. Ramsay appeared to have the upper hand, with his cavalry and Smalljon’s men, but it often helps to have a giant on your side in these situations killing a considerable number of Bolton men. Archers on both sides rained arrows down upon the battlefield and there was a notable contrast between Jon, who fought in the thick of the action, and Ramsay who merely watched from afar.

Surrounded by Smalljon’s men it seemed that victory was assuredly Ramsay’s. Tormund engaged Smalljon in single combat and, as the Arryn army suddenly arrived led by Sansa and Littlefinger, the Wildling tore out Smalljon’s throat with his teeth before fatally stabbing him.

Jon, nearly trampled by men and almost suffocating was finally able to breathe again and he watched the Arryn army completely overrun Ramsay’s. Realising the tide of battle had swung away from him; Ramsay turned tail and retreated back towards Winterfell.

Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards

Wun Wun, the giant, broke open the gate into Winterfell and archers poured into the castle. A moment of poignancy then came about as Wun Wun, overwhelmed by the sheer number of arrows piercing his hide, was finally brought down by Ramsay’s shot.

Having now reconsidered single combat, Ramsay attempted to shoot Jon who blocked each arrow with his shield. Jon launched himself at Ramsay and punched him into submission. The battle was won. A feeling of triumph – Bolton banners replaced with Stark ones – gave way to one of loss as Jon commanded Rickon’s body to be buried in the crypt beside their father’s.

In his cell, trussed up and in pain from the wounds inflicted upon him by Jon’s blows, Ramsay was treated to a special visit from Sansa. ‘All memory of you will disappear,’ Sansa informed him coldly and released his starving hounds on him. Sansa then watched as the dogs devoured Ramsay. She had won.

Ramsay’s comeuppance was a long time coming and ‘Battle of Bastards’ certainly delivered on that front, as well as teasing at Yara and Danaerys’ new alliance and the assured devastation that will soon wreak.

Apart from being the best episode of the season, this was the most thrilling and rewarding Game of Thrones has been in a while.


Aired at 9pm on Monday 20 June 2016 on Sky Atlantic.

> Buy the complete Season 1-5 box set on Amazon.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…

> Follow Tobias Forrest on Twitter.

> Read more from Tobias on his blog.