Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9 recap: the North lies bathed in blood
The following is a recap of episode 9 from the sixth season of Game of Thrones, and it contains spoilers. Many spoilers.
Every part of this episode was inevitable. The Stark forces would win the day, the Vale would ride in to save their sorry asses, Ramsay would lose, and Sansa would get sweet, sweet revenge.
But at what cost? The North was left bathed in blood with mountains of bodies - Wildlings and countless Northerners - strewn across the battlefield. Lives that could have very possibly been saved (more on that later).
So even though the episode delivered what it needed to after a three-week build up - Yara and Daenyrys formed an alliance, Davos got a clue about Shireen's fate - I came away feeling hollow.
It wasn't just the deaths: Wun Wun died, and so did a Stark we barely got to know. (I hate that Ramsay got both kill shots). But more than that, the sight of the Stark banners at Winterfell should have been emotionally satisfying.
But it wasn't - the cost was far too huge.
And as cinematically fantastic as this episode was in terms of the grim reality of battle, I don't know if this episode matched Hardhome only because of the horror and total despair I felt watching the ending of that particular episode.
And Blackwater was amazing because it gave us character progression even within the battle. All we got here was annihilation.
So better than Blackwater or Hardhome, this episode is not.
The Mad Queen?
Honestly? My favourite Mereen episode EVER, hands down.
Daenerys, if you remember, arrived dramatically last episode only to realise that all hell had broken loose in an already crazed city (thanks to the Sons of Harpy, glad we're finally done with that).
So when she first offers up her plan for defending the city, she vaguely suggests that she would "crucify the masters, set their fleets afire, kill everyone last one of their soldiers, and turn their cities to the dust".
But before she becomes hell bent on that path, Tyrion pipes up and tells her of why Jaimie killed her father: because of the tonne of wildfire strewn beneath King's Landing that he intended to use and burn the city with him.
So instead of following in her mad father's bloody footsteps she accepts Tyrion's compromise of having a quick chat to discuss terms of surrender.
But whose surrender? The slavers, of course.
"My reign has just begun," she tells them, as Drogon swoops in and perches beside her. She climbs atop and they take off and her two other babies join them rain destruction on a few of the slavers ships.
And then after we get to see Greyworm coolly dispatch two of the masters, we're treated to sight of the great unwashed Dothraki horde galloping in.
But they weren't the only ones headed toward the dragon queen. Yara and Theon Greyjoy reach Daenyrys (in record time, Season 6 style) and offer their ships to her in exchange for being handed the Iron Islands for forever and forever more.
After some mild and cute flirting between the two women as they size each other up, the deal is struck despite Daenyrys's absurd demand that the Iron born must give up their way of life of looting and raping. (Is it really fair to force people to give up their culture even if it's some form of glorified pirating?)
"Our fathers were evil men, all of us here. They left the world worse than they found it. We're not going to do that. We're going to leave the world better than we found it," Daenyrys tells Yara and Tyrion.
War is hell
"You're going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton," Sansa told her husband early in the episode. "Sleep well."
That's how Sansa decided to end the obligatory and chilling pre-battle chat between the two bastards - Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton.
She wasn't wrong at all of course, but we didn't get that satisfaction until after some of the grittiest, most claustrophobic 15 minutes of television ever.
The much-anticipated battle began after Rickon Stark - a glorified extra since Season 1 who never really had a chance as Sansa correctly deduced - was killed off Apocalypto-style. (Why you no zig-zag boy?)
But despite Sansa's warning to not play into Ramsay's hands/games, Jon does exactly that by rushing to the middle of the battlefield to save an already dead Rickon.
Even when he knew that he shouldn't. Because Rickon is/was his brother. He had to try.
But I'm still torn about that. Jon, as a commander of an army, should have been thinking about his Wildlings and Northerners before charging blindly.
What follows is a bloodbath with ghastly piles of bodies and a 300-style scene with synchronised chants and spear thrusts. All you can do is watch in horror as the bloodbath relentlessly continues on and on, with the side of our heroes left more ragged than ever.
I'm glad Tormund and Davos survived. Couldn't stand the idea of losing either one just yet.
Those scenes with Jon though. He is the very definition of "brave but stupid" as Ygritte once described him. Too honourable for his own good, like Ned.
And perhaps the Lord of Light really does protect him/or he is Azhor Azhai - when the two armies crash into each other, he survives without a scratch and looks just as confused as us about it.
It's not just that. All arrows actually land AROUND him. I counted four times when someone was about to get him, but then a racing horse or a wildling would knock them out of his way.
But when he gets trampled on and trapped under the pile of bodies, it's hard not to feel the claustrophobia. Clawing his way out, breathing heavily as the stack of the dead increased, it was almost like he was being born again that he wanted to live again.
It also might be the perfect set up for Jon to regain his sense of purpose, and transform into the man he's destined to be: not a bastard or a guard at the edge of the world, but a leader (not a king, as Tormund pointed out).
One that will ensure that the people of Westeros survive the long night that's just around the corner.
Sorry for that sidestep. When Jon's side is surrounded and looks all but destroyed, the Vale army - with Littlefinger and Sansa coolly looking on - predictably comes riding in all Lord of the Rings-style to save the day.
So basically, Littlefinger came out as top dog.
Putting the dog down
This turn of events meant that the thirst of viewers to see Ramsay Bolton's blood would finally be satisfied.
But Ramsay was Ramsay till the very end - he didn't quiver or beg. In fact, he laughed softly even as Jon was punching his face into the ground, arrogant and unrepentant.
Side note: Jon beating Ramsay's face was ridiculously satisfying - not just because of how much hate we've had for that blood-loving wretch of a man. Nah, it was awesome because this guy has never been physically hurt in any way. Not a scratch. Ever. It was cathartic.
But Jon backed off when he looked up at Sansa, knowing that knew she needed closure. Which she poetically got in the same kennels where Lady Bolton and her newborn were torn to shreds.
It was a fitting end.
Oh Ramsay. You should have fed the dogs. Weirdly enough, you'll be quite missed.
The Jon-Sansa arc
Sansa was right about Rickon and they would have been lost if she hadn't gotten help from the Vale. I give her full credit for that.
But it was annoying how she refused to trust Jon and tell him about her little correspondence with Littlefinger. After all if she's having a hard time trusting people, why on earth is she trusting Littlefinger? He did hand her over to the Boltons after all.
The devil you know, I guess?
And if Jon knew there was a potential for that size of an army joining them-battle plans could have been changed and literally thousands of lives could've been spared.
He would have done anything to make that happen. Because even after being stabbed to death, Jon genuinely cares about the lives of other people (as proven yet again by his woeful attempt to bid Wun Wun farewell).
In that way, he's more like Ned than any of Ned's actual children.
It's strange the number of times Jon was called a bastard in this episode. Perhaps his true heritage will be revealed soon. Possibly in the crypts, when Rickon is being buried?
Ah, Lady Mormont. She had one scene and absolutely nailed it.
Now with Ramsay finally gone, whom will we direct our animus at?
Wun Wun, you were a champ. Instead of holding the door, you smashed it down.
Loved Tormund's confusion about Stannis's metaphorical "demons".
An Umber twist would have been very welcome.
Predictions for next week's finale:
1. Cersei burns down King's Landing, leaving Jaimie beyond disappointed and Tommen very dead.
2. Arya crashes the feast at the Twins. They're high on her kill list so it would be unfair to take that away from her, but it looks like their time is up. Time for some Frey pie, you think?
3. Daenerys will FINALLY cast off for Westeros.
4. Bran gets to the Wall and consequently allows the Walkers to get through despite Benjen's warning. (That, in my opinion, would be a spectacular end to the season and will give cause for Westeros to finally get its shit together).
5. Davos will confront Melissandre about the death of his favourite person in the world.
6. And after years, we'll see the Stark direwolf sigil on Winterfell in the opening credits.