In the Game of Thrones recap, Jon Snow battles Ramsay Bolton for control of the North and Daenerys Targaryen faces the slave masters one final time…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
No one has taken a beating over the course of six seasons like the Stark family.
First it was Ned Stark being called away from his home to serve as the Hand of the King to his friend Robert Baratheon to the moment when he dared to stand up to his witch of a wife and illegitimate son that ended with his beheading.
Robb Stark and Catelyn Stark standing up for Ned before they were betrayed and slaughtered at the Red Wedding. Sansa Stark being tortured first at the hands of King Joffrey and then by an even scarier monster in Ramsay Bolton.
Arya Stark always arriving seconds too late to being reunited with her family and of course Jon Snow trying to do the right thing and ending up with a slew of daggers in his belly with the men holding the knives who once called themselves his brothers.
The Starks have been battered, beaten, crushed, destroyed, mangled and killed — and yet they were still standing.
So it was befitting that the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season six featured the resurrection of the one of the greatest houses in the history of the Seven Kingdoms as the Starks reclaimed Winterfell from the treacherous house that stole it from them.
Meanwhile across the Narrow Sea, another great house — possibly the greatest house of them all — rose again as Daenerys Targaryen tore through the wise masters from Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis before making her first pact with another house in Westeros where she will now prepare to travel and bring her reign home again.
Of course this is Game of Thrones so not everybody made it out alive so there were a few tears shed, but in the end, the wolf is back in Winterfell and the dragon will soon by flying over King’s Landing.
With that said, let’s recap the latest episode of Game of Thrones titled “The Battle of the Bastards”….
It’s a Trap!
Ramsay Bolton knew the minute he stepped foot outside of Winterfell and met Jon Snow on the open field of battle that he was at a massive advantage. He had more men, more horses and the advantage of the largest houses in the North supporting his claim as the new king. So when Ramsay finally came face to face with Jon, his smug attempt to negotiate a surrender was nothing more than a slap in the face.
Ramsay knew Jon was never going to bend the knee and pledge fealty to him anymore than he was going to hand over his sister Sansa to her abusive and sociopathic husband. But still Ramsay had to present an air of graciousness in front of his fellow lords of the North.
Of course, Jon answered back with a suggestion that then put Ramsay on his heels because instead of offering up a battle where thousands of soldiers could potentially die, he had another idea that would only result in one dead body.
Either Jon or Ramsay would die and the losing side would concede.
“You’re right. There’s no need for a battle. Thousands of men don’t need to die. Only one of us. Let’s end this the old way. You against me.”
~ Jon Snow
Ramsay knows no matter how much he has Jon under his thumb on the battle field when he has him out numbered two-to-one, he’s no match for the former Lord Commander in a straight up fight. So Ramsay declines the offer and reminds Jon that when he sends his forces of 2,000 plus men into a battle against 6,000 trained, fed and rested North men that the war won’t last very long at all.
He also reminds Jon that sitting in a dungeon beneath Winterfell is his little brother Rickon Stark and Ramsay proves it by tossing the head of his poor direwolf Shaggy Dog on the ground to show the power he still holds over the Stark family.
Back at camp, Jon, Davos and Tormund create a battle plan to try and figure out a way to put their 2,000 some odd men against Ramsay’s forces and still walk out alive. It’s an uphill battle to say the least, but they are resigned to fight it and one way or another, either they will win or Ramsay will be forced to kill each and every one of them.
After the war council ends, Sansa has a frank conversation with her brother about the true nature of Ramsay Bolton.
She reminds Jon that Ramsay may be cruel and he may be a savage, but he’s also no fool. Ramsay didn’t attain the position he’s at as Warden of the North by being stupid and he’ll use every advantage possible to force Jon into the worst position possible. A losing position.
“You’ve known him for the space of a single conversation. You and your trusted advisors and you sit around making your plans on how to defeat a man you don’t know. I lived with him. I know the way his mind works. I know how he likes to hurt people. Did it ever occur to you that I might have some insight? If you think he’s going to fall into your trap, he won’t. He’s the one who lays traps.”
Sansa is actually right on the money. Jon has strategized to beat Mance Rayder and his Wildling army. He figured out that teaming up with those same Wildlings against the army of the dead was the wise thing to do. He was even resurrected after already being killed. But for all those things, Jon still didn’t do any of it against Ramsay Bolton.
Sansa knows Ramsay, but more importantly she knows what he’s capable of and that includes a virtual guarantee that he’ll kill Rickon long before the boy ever has a chance to reunite with his family. Rickon is a natural born Stark child — his continued existence is a threat to Ramsay’s claim to the North so by nature, he’s simply a pawn that will be used to engage a reaction in Jon before he’s slaughtered as a casualty of war.
As it turns out, Jon should have listened to his sister.
Burn Them All
Back in Meereen, Daenerys isn’t the happiest queen right now after returning to her city and finding that the wise masters from Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis are bombing her city from the sea in an attempt to return slavery to Slaver’s Bay.
Tyrion does manage to point out that he did help somewhat in her absence by putting an end to the Sons of the Harpy while also returning commerce and peace to the city at least temporarily. Sadly, Tyrion also realizes that his attempts at negotiation came against a group of men who so feared what would happen in a world without slavery that one nearby city full of free people would only serve to undermine them in the end.
So the masters attacked and now Daenerys is going to be forced to fight back.
“I will crucify the masters. I will set their fleets on fire. Kill every last one of their soldiers and return their cities to the dirt. That is my plan.”
Before Daenerys can go about burning everyone and everything to the ground, Tyrion reminds his queen that her plan sounds a lot like the one her father had when King’s Landing was under attack by the usurper Robert Baratheon and an army led by Lannister forces at the end of the war. Rather than let his people live and surrender the city, the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen opted to store casks of wild fire underneath every structure in town so upon his order, he could burn them all alive (remember this very section ahead of next week’s finale).
If the Mad King couldn’t have King’s Landing, no one could.
So Tyrion decides to offer up an alternative to Daenerys’ plan, once again proving his usefulness to the queen.
Outside, Daenerys, Tyrion and her court meet with the masters to negotiate a surrender. Of course, the masters believe they have Daenerys right where they want her. They believe she’s broken and ready to surrender.
They were wrong.
“We obviously didn’t communicate clearly. We’re here to discuss your surrender — not mine.”
A moment later, Drogon comes flying down from across the sky before Daenerys mounts his back and the two of them take off again. With Daenerys riding her dragon into battle, Drogon summons his brothers — Rhaegal and Viserion — who join him in burning the masters’ ships with their fire. Outside the city, the Sons of the Harpy are back and doing their part to disrupt the harmony in Meereen, but they are soon greeted by a Dothraki horde that runs 100,000 deep. Needless to say, the Dothraki win that battle.
As the ships go up in flames and the Sons of the Harpy lay dead in pools of their own blood, Grey Worm then reminds the soldiers standing guard over the masters that this fight is already over and they can now stand and defend the very men who put them in chains in the first place, or they can run and return home to their families.
Take a guess which option they took?
Grey Worm ends up decapitating two of the masters and leaves one of them alive. Tyrion then gives him some very explicit instructions to carry back to Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis. Instructions that remind every person in those cities what will happen if they go up against Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen — First of Her Name, the Unburt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons
“Tell your people what happened here. Tell them you live by the grace of her majesty. When they come forward with notions of retribution or ideas about returning the slave cities to their former glory — remind them what happened when Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons came to Meereen.”
And with that the uprising of the masters has finally come to an end, once and for all.
The God We’ve Got
On the night before the battle, Tormund only wants to get drunk and Davos can only walk along the fields as his mind won’t allow him to rest before a fight begins.
As he walks along the snowy plain, Davos comes upon a pyre burnt to the ground — the same structure that once stood in the middle of Stannis Baratheon’s camp. The same structure that his daughter Shireen was tied to before she was burned alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. When Davos finds the stag toy that he made for Shireen before he was sent on a mission for his king, he knows that she didn’t die by natural means.
Whether or not Davos figured out that Shireen was burned alive in that moment is unclear, but at the very least, he’s now suspicious about the way she died. From all accounts, however, it appears Davos knows that Shireen was a sacrifice — that would explain why he was sent away the day before and that would explain why her toy was left here in the ashes, and not at the battlefield where her father died.
Back at the tent where Melisandre is staying, Jon goes to visit with her to hand over some instructions. He tells Lady Melisandre that no matter what happens in this battle, she’s not to bring him back to life again. She counters and tells him that what she does isn’t a matter of will — Melisandre follows the instructions from the Lord of Light.
Now perhaps the Lord of Light brought Jon back for this specific moment or perhaps he brought Jon back to die on the battlefield. Melisandre isn’t about to question the Lord of Light’s intentions. Her job isn’t to ask — her job is to follow.
Jon Snow: “What kind of God would do something like that?”
Melisandre: “The one we’ve got.”
Whether Jon is walking into certain death because that’s the way the Lord of Light willed it or if he’s going to be covered by some kind of divine power, he’s marching into war in a matter of hours whether God’s watching or not.
The Queen’s Navy
Following the destruction of the masters of Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys then finds she has visitors from her former homeland in Westerose as Yara and Theon Greyjoy have arrived in Meereen looking to join her army.
Tyrion quickly dispatches with the pleasantries as he reminds Theon what a bullying shit he was the last time they met after the last living son of Balon Greyjoy taunted him about his height and made fun of him every chance he got. Of course, Tyrion also believes Theon killed Bran and Rickon Stark and he’s come to Daenerys asking to join her because he’s not no where else to go.
Except there’s one problem — Theon isn’t the one in charge.
His sister Yara then explains how she hopes to become the first queen to sit on the Salt Throne while also warning Daenerys about their uncle Euron and his plan to give her a fleet, his big cock and a wedding that will eventually end with her death. So rather than team up with a man, who believes he’s got all the answers hidden in his pants, Daenerys opts to join with his niece and nephew instead.
Yara only asks for the Iron Islands to be returned to her family’s control, free of the reign of the Seven Kingdoms and in exchange she’ll give Daenerys the ships she needs to transport her men back to Westeros where she will undoubtedly conquer everyone and then sit on the Iron Throne.
Daenerys knows that all of them in that room had fathers who only wanted to watch the world burn or drown, whichever would serve their purpose, but that’s not what she wants. Daenerys wants to return the Seven Kingdoms to the prosperous land it once before war ravaged every city, every country and everywhere in between.
“They left the world worst than they found it. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to leave the world better than we found it.”
A handshake later and Daenerys now has an army made up of the Unsullied, the Second Sons, 100,000 Dothraki killers, three dragons and the navy to take her home again. Imagine the look on Tommen Baratheon’s face when he sees that coming at him from Blackwater Bay .
The Battle of the Bastards
It all came down to this.
Jon Snow versus Ramsay Bolton for control of the North. As much as Jon hoped he could sucker Ramsay into a one-on-one fight, he knew that a real battle was inevitable and sadly he also had to find out just how much he should have listened to his sister the night before.
As Ramsay trotted out onto the battlefield, he came along with a guest — Rickon Stark.
But rather than slit his throat with his brother and sister watching from a few hundred yards away, Ramsay instead cut off the ropes tying Rickon’s hands together and told the boy that instead of killing him, they were going to play a game.
“Do you like games, little man. Let’s play a game. Run to your brother. The sooner you make it to him, the sooner you get to see him again. That’s it. That’s the game. Easy.”
~ Ramsay Bolton
Rickon starts sprinting towards his brother and in return, Jon charges forward with his horse to try and get to him in time. Back on Ramsay’s side of the battlefield, he docks an arrow on his bow and fires it into the air. The arrow comes screaming out of the sky and just misses Rickon as he’s running.
Jon knows what Ramsay is doing but it doesn’t matter. He’s going to save his brother.
Another arrow just misses and Jon is now within shouting distance of his brother, but just before he gets there, Ramsay hits his mark. An arrow plunges through Rickon’s heart and he falls to the ground dead, directly in front of his brother who was just too late to save him.
A moment later, Ramsay orders his archers to bombard the sky with arrows before unleashing his army behind them. Jon’s entire plan — to make Ramsay’s army come to them — has fallen by the wayside because he did exactly what his sister warned him not to do. Ramsay is nothing if not the world’s greatest antagonist and he pulled Jon into his trap perfectly. Behind him, Jon’s army has started to march towards him and just when it looks like he’s about to swing Longclaw at a gallivanting force, crumbling the ground beneath their hooves, the Wildlings and 62 soldiers from House Mormont arrive to lend support.
A sword fight breaks out — man fights man, steel clashes steel, horses fall and the blood flows into the mud. One by one, men from both sides fall into the dirt. At the same time, Ramsay continues to pour a sea of arrows into the battle, not really caring whether it hits his men or Jon’s men — as long as everybody ends up dead. See, Ramsay knows he’s got more to spare so even if he loses 10 of his own men, if he takes out 10 of Jon’s as well, then it hurts him far worse.
The battle continues until the pile of bodies is so high, it looks like a hill in the middle of the field. Davos and Tormund join Jon’s fight and while they aren’t winning, it’s clear they aren’t losing either — at least for that brief moment.
It’s there that Ramsay unleashes his true plan — a trap that Sansa attempted to warn her brother about. Ramsay sends his troops into a circle surrounding all of Jon Snow’s army with their shields up and spears out. With each step forward, Ramsay’s army starts killing Jon’s men one by one and there’s no escape.
The only back door to the surrounding forces are the huge pile of bodies that now serve as a blockade and from the other side storms Smalljon Umber and his garrison of men to plunge into the battle to kill any stragglers who might escape.
The circle gets tighter and tighter and at one point, Jon is nearly trampled from the men pushing over him in an attempt to escape the pile through the bodies behind them. It appears all is lost when a horn sounds from the distance — Ramsay looks to his right and sees the last thing he ever expected in this fight.
The Knights of the Vale have arrived as reinforcements!
The flags with falcons soaring across a white moon fly high as the knights pour through the battlefield by the hundreds. The Bolton blockade is quickly broken and all of Ramsay’s men are slaughtered by the cavalry from House Arryn. Even Smalljon Umber meets his demise when he forgets for a second that he’s fighting a Wilding while going up against Tormund Giantsbane. Just when it looks like the Lord of the Umbers has the upper hand, Tormund dives into his neck and bites out a gigantic piece of his flesh. Smalljon Umber falls to the ground bleeding to death and it’s just one more casualty in this war of the North.
Off in the distance, Sansa Stark sits proudly on her horse where she’s been joined by Lord Petyr Baelish, who led the forces from the Vale as they’ve come to the aid of the North and they’ve now crushed Ramsay Bolton and whatever was left of his army.
As Jon gets out of the fray along with Tormund and the giant Wun-Wun, he sees Ramsay and the last of his battle commanders turning tail and running back to Winterfell.
There’s no chance, Jon is going to allow Ramsay to sit behind the walls of his home for another second, so he gives chase because this battle of the bastards is going to end — today.
The Dogs of War
Ramsay makes it back to Winterfell when he informs one of his remaining commanders that Jon Snow’s army has been destroyed. Of course the commander reminds him that the Bolton army has also been destroyed. Ramsay believes Winterfell with save them — the walls of this castle won’t be breached and Jon doesn’t have the time or the strength to wait out a siege. Of course like everything else he’s done today, Ramsay vastly underestimated his enemy and his hubris will cost him control of the North.
A second after Ramsay proclaims he’s safe, a banging on the door is heard and from outside we see that Wun-Wun has arrived and he’s going to break down this gate or die trying. Despite a cascade of arrows piercing his skin, the last living giant crashes through as Jon’s remaining forces barrel inside to take out whatever is left of Ramsay’s men.
Unfortunately, Wun-Wun’s efforts leave him dying and one final arrow through the head kills the last of the giants. But his death won’t be in vain because a few moments later, Jon’s men seize the rest of the castle and the only person left standing is Ramsay Bolton.
“You suggested one-on-one combat didn’t you? I’ve reconsidered. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea.”
~ Ramsay Bolton
Jon agrees as he drops his sword in the mud, picks up a shield and charges at Ramsay, who has an arrow docked in his bow. One shot fired and blocked. Two shots fired and blocked. Three shots fired and blocked. Before Ramsay can get the fourth shot off, Jon is upon him and he smashes the smug look off his face with the shield before tacking him to the ground.
Jon beats Ramsay within an inch of his life, with each punch paying this bastard back for the loss of his brothers, the loss of his home and everything else in between. But before he can strike the killing blow, Jon looks over and sees his sister Sansa standing there looking at him. He realizes in that moment that Ramsay’s fate doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to his sister.
Later that day after the wounds have all be bandaged and everyone is cleaned up from the fight, Sansa asks her brother where Ramsay has been stashed. She finds her “husband” tied to a chair, still bleeding from all the gashes opened up thanks to Jon’s fists. Even in his current state, defeated and alone, Ramsay still has a few more words for his bride.
Thankfully, Sansa has an even better rebuttal.
Ramsay: “Our time together is about to come to an end. That’s all right. You can’t kill me. I’m part of you now.”
Sansa: “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.”
Perhaps Ramsay is taunting Sansa because when he says “I’m part of you” maybe he means he managed to put a baby in her belly? That remains to be seen but something to think about going forward.
Sansa is tired of talking to Ramsay though and it’s time for him to pay for all the awful things he’s done over the years. A growl is heard from the darkness and soon a few gleaming eyes peak out from the shadows and we see Ramsay’s hounds coming out of the kennel. Before the fight started, Ramsay told Jon and Sansa that if they didn’t surrender to him, he would eventually win and then he would feed them to his dogs, who he starved for seven days to get them ready for this feast.
Now as he sits tied to a chair, face and body covered in blood, Ramsay is realizing that his fate now lies in the very animals he trained to kill. Of course, Ramsay still doesn’t believe they’d turn on him.
Sansa: “You haven’t fed them in seven days. You said it yourself.”
Ramsay: “They’re loyal beasts.”
Sansa: “They were. Now they’re starving.”
Finally one of the dogs climbs up on Ramsay’s lap and stares him directly in the face. He attempts to get the animal to jump down but the snarl soon turns to a bite as the dog unleashes on Ramsay, ripping his jaw from his face. A second later, the entire pack of dogs are pulling Ramsay apart, piece by piece as he shrieks in terror at what’s being done to him.
As Sansa walks away, a small smile creeps across her face.
In the end, the Bolton banners are torn down and for the first time since season two, the Stark banners are back in their rightful place in Winterfell. And from my estimation — at least for now — it’s time to bow down to Sansa Stark as the mastermind who wasn’t looking at winning a battle. She was out to win the war.
Now we are poised for a woman to sit on the salt throne for the first time in history. A woman sitting on the Iron Throne for the firs time in history. And perhaps a woman ruling Winterfell for the first time in history.
All hail the queen.
The season finale of Game of Thrones airs next Sunday night — a special 70 minute episode — so take a look at a sneak peek below: