Game of Thrones season six episode nine was perhaps the most anticipated episode in the six seasons of the popular series. Titled ‘Battle of the Bastards’, the episode more than lived up to expectations, delivering one of the most spectacular, bloody, brutal, and realistic battle scenes ever depicted in a series (or feature film for that matter). Jon Snow offered Ramsay Bolton the opportunity to end the fight before their armies even took the field, but Ramsay opted to let his men fight in his place rather than take on Jon in a one-on-one fight to the death. After weeks of speculation as to what it would look like to see the Starks return to take on the Boltons, Ramsay’s answer was likely met with cheers by Game of Thrones fans who’ve anxiously awaited this fight for Winterfell.
Episode nine focused on just two storylines: the battle for Winterfell and the maneuverings in Meereen. By concentrating on moving just those two storylines forward, the “Battle of the Bastards” served up a riveting 60 minutes that will likely become one of the most memorable episodes of the critically acclaimed series. The episode advanced the idea that it’s the women – Daenerys Targaryen, Yara Greyjoy, Sansa Stark, and Cersei Lannister – who are the powers to be reckoned with while playing the Game of Thrones.
”Battle of the Bastards” Recap:
Season six episode none begins with the Masters’ ships shooting fireballs at Meereen as Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) watches from the pyramid. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tries to convince her to take shelter as he explains that the city is actually on the rise and that the citizens are behind her. She doesn’t seem convinced, and Tyrion says a city without Masters proves no one needs a master which is why they need Meereen to succeed and why the Masters can’t let it. After barely considering what Tyrion says, Dany tells him she’s going to crucify the Masters and set their streets on fire. Tyrion tries to rein her in, reminding her her father kept wildfire under the Red Keep (keep that reminder in mind when we return to Cersei’s storyline next episode) and the rest of the streets and would have burned every man, woman and child alive. He has an alternate approach for her to take against the Masters this time.
Dany, Tyrion, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) meet with three Masters on the beach. With a small group of their men backing them up, the Masters command Dany to flee Slaver’s Bay on foot, calling her a “beggar queen.” She must abandon Meereen and leave the Unsullied and Missandei behind to be sold to the highest bidders. Just for good measure they throw in the fact her dragons will be slaughtered after she leaves. Dany, smiling, tells them she’s there to discuss their surrender, not hers. They swear her reign is over and as her dragon Drogon nears, she says her reign has just begun. Drogon lands behind Dany, lifts her up, and together they fly out over the ships. The other dragons are freed from their prison and join Drogon as he circles the bay with the Mother of Dragons on his back. On the ground, the Sons of the Harpy are busy slaying freed citizens of Meereen when the Dothraki arrive and kill the Sons. Meanwhile, in the bay the dragons concentrate their fire on the lead ship of the fleet, with men burning to death as the ship breaks apart. It’s the best dragon scene thus far and shows just how easily Dany is now able to command her scaly children.
Back on the beach, the armed men protecting the three Masters are told they can go free, leaving the masters unguarded. Tyrion tells the Masters they broke the promise, and Missandei says for that one of the Masters must die. Two immediately choose the lowborn outsider who drops to his knees in front of Grey Worm, begging for his life. Grey Worm kills the other two men with one swipe of his blade. Tyrion then sends him the remaining, traumatized Master off to spread the word about what happened in Meereen. Dany has now gathered a large part of the fleet of ships she’ll need to sail her army to Westeros.
On to the much-anticipated battle at Winterfell… Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and a few of his men ride out to meet with Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Davos (Liam Cunningham), Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and a few other men. Ramsay addresses Sansa as his “beloved wife” and thanks Jon for returning her to him. He tells Jon to kneel before him and swear his allegiance, saying Jon doesn’t have the men, the horses, or Winterfell. “There’s no need for a battle. Get off your horse and kneel. I’m a man of mercy,” says the cruel Lord Bolton. Jon responds by saying there’s no need for thousands of men to die, challenging Ramsay to a 1-on-1 fight. Ramsay says the people of the North talk about Jon as the greatest swordsman who ever walked, and says his army of 6,000 men would beat Jon’s army which has just half that number. Jon wants to know if Ramsay’s men would fight for him if they learn he won’t fight for them. Sansa speaks up, asking how they know Ramsay actually has Rickon. In response, they toss over Rickon’s direwolf’s head. Sansa says, “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,” and turns and rides away. Ramsay tells Jon he looks forward to having Sansa back in his bed, and his dogs are looking forward to eating Jon’s men.
Back at their camp, Jon, Davos, and the leaders plot out their strategy. Tormund worries about the knights on horseback and Jon explains his strategy. Davos says the Boltons have the numbers which means the Stark army has to have the patience. Ramsay’s men need to charge them for the Stark army to stand a chance. Tormund asks if Jon really believed Ramsay would fight him man-to-man, and Jon explains he only threw down the gauntlet to make Ramsay mad enough to come at them full tilt. After the men leave, Sansa says she’s lived with Ramsay and knows him but Jon never considered she had some insight. Sansa says Ramsay plays with people, and Jon says he’s fought beyond the Wall against worse than Ramsay. Sansa, increasingly frustrated, says they’ll never get Rickon back and that Ramsay will have to kill him because he is Ned Stark’s true son and therefore holds more weight in Ramsay’s eyes as the true Lord of Winterfell. Jon and Sansa scream at each other, and Sansa tells Jon not to do what is obvious. Sansa wants them to wait to fight, reiterating her stance that they do not have enough men. But Jon argues back, reminding her they’ve asked everyone and no one else will support them. “If Ramsay wins, I’m not going back there alive. Do you understand me?” asks Sansa. “I won’t ever let him touch you again,” replies Jon.
Davos and Tormund walk through the camp discussing whether their army actually stands a chance against the Boltons. Tormund wants to know if Davos still loves Stannis. Tormund says he loved the man Stannis burned – Mance Rayder – and thought he was the man to lead them through the long night but he was wrong. Davos says believing in kings might have been both their mistakes, and Tormund points out that Jon Snow is not a king. Tormund’s off to get a drink, but Davos says he’s off to think and walk – and to shit his guts out away from camp. Laughing, Tormund says, “Happy shitting.”
Jon meets with Melisandre (Carice van Houten), wondering why she wasn’t at the war council. He asks for her advice and she says, ‘Don’t lose.” He tells her that if he loses, not to bring him back. She says she serves the Lord of Light and does what he commands. If the Lord didn’t want her to bring him back, how would she have done it the first time? Jon finally asks why he was brought back and she admits she doesn’t know and that maybe he was brought back here just to die again. She simply doesn’t know and he asks, “What kind of god would do something like that?” She says, “The one we’ve got.” Oh no…is this setting us up for another Jon Snow death?!
Davos leaves camp and wanders over to where Stannis Baratheon and his army camped. He comes across a pile of burnt wood and ashes, spotting something he immediately recognizes. Bending down, he picks up a carved stag. He knows it was Shireen’s and that finding it there means she died in a fire.
And now we’re off to Meereen again but this time there are new visitors to the city. Tyrion faces Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), reminding him how he joked about Tyrion’s height the last time they saw each other in Winterfell. Tyrion tells him he must not have been having an easy time in Winterfell since he had to kill the Stark boys. Theon says he didn’t murder the Stark boys but that he did other horrible things. Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) brought Dany 100 ships and wants to work with the Mother of Dragons, with Theon explaining what’s happened on the Iron Islands. Tyrion says with their 100 plus the Masters’ ships, they have enough to head out to Westeros. Theon and Yara tell Dany their uncle, Euron Greyjoy, also wants to offer Dany ship but his offer will come with a marriage demand. Theon says Euron would murder her if she marries him, and Dany seems to like Yara after finding out from Theon that it’s his sister who should rule the Ironborn. They want her to help them take back the Iron Islands and kill their uncle. Yara and Dany are bonding over the fact they both had evil fathers who were horrible rulers. Dany tells Yara they will respect her way of doing things and support her claim to the Iron Throne, in exchange she will help them take back the Iron Island. Yara agrees and offers her hand. Dany takes it. #TeamSisterhood is formed.
Jon’s army (with the Wildlings) waits patiently on the battlefield with the giant in the front of the lines. Across the field the Bolton army is assembled. In between, men are burning upside down to match the Bolton’s Flayed Man banners. Ramsay rides to the front of their line, with Rickon attached by rope behind him, hands tied in front. Jon sees Ramsay advancing with Rickon in tow while the rest remain in place. Ramsay pulls his sword, holds it high in the air, as Jon walks forward. Ramsay slices Rickon’s rope and tells him they’re going to play a game. He tells him to run to his brother – that’s the game. “Easy. Ready? Go,” says Ramsay, pushing him forward. Rickon runs as Ramsay takes up his bow and arrows.
Jon rides out to get his brother. The first arrow misses as Jon charges across the field. The second arrow also misses on purpose. Jon’s getting closer to Rickon as Ramsay this time takes careful aim. Rickon is hit and falls to the ground, quickly dying. Jon looks across the field at Ramsay, probably remembering what Sansa told him. Ramsay smiles and turns away. The first wave of arrows flies and Davos tells the first wave of men to charge. This is not what Jon initially planned, but he’s so furious with Ramsay that he forgets to follow the battle plan. Ramsay’s archers hit Jon’s horse and he stumbles. Then Ramsay orders the cavalry to charge. Jon slowly stands and sees the approaching army. He briefly looks to the ground and then pull his sword, ready to face hundreds on his own. Just then the first wave of his men (which is made up of most of his army) arrive and the two armies are now locked in fierce battle.
Ramsay commands his archers to shoot, not caring if they kill their own men. It’s a bloody battle with Jon killing man after man as arrows land all around him. Horses ram into each other as Ramsay launches another attack from his archers. The arrows land indiscriminately, taking Bolton men and the Stark army alike. The men fight on top of large piles of dead bodies. Davos leads his men forward finally, and Ramsay says it’s time for them to also get into the battle on foot. Ramsay, of course, stays back and lets his men fight, unlike Jon.
Tormund saves Jon and the giant rushes into the fray. The Bolton army surround the Stark army and the Wildlings, forming a wall around them so they can’t escape. They advance inwards with spears out, cutting down the army with row after row of shielded men. Davos commands the men to break down the lines, but they’re ineffectual. Even the giant isn’t making much headway. Men are dying and holding their innards in as others use their bodies to try to make a break for it. The Bolton army’s wall is holding and in fact closing in on three sides. Jon’s army tries to make a break for it and Jon is nearly trampled to death as they climb over the mountain of dead men. He gasps for air, seeing the fighting going on all around him yet unable to move. His men are being crushed even as he’s being driven deeper into the pile. He emerges from the pile, gasping for air, but with nowhere to go.
The giant is also being repeatedly hit with arrows, but then a horn sounds in the distance. Ramsay Bolton turns to look and it’s the Vale army arriving in full force. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) rides up and sits next to Sansa on horseback, looking out of over the field of battle. The Vale army easily break through the lines on horseback, stampeding through the Boltons as Sansa smiles from a short distance. Jon spots Ramsay still seated on horseback while the Bolton army is being decimated. Jon is nearly unrecognizable and Ramsay is completely untouched. The giant, Tormund, and Jon race after Ramsay who flees back to Winterfell with a few men.
Once inside the gate at Winterfell, Ramsay tells his men they can just wait it out because they hold the castle and it doesn’t matter if his army is gone. The giant pounds down the gate as Ramsay’s men shoot him full of arrows. He’s a giant pincushion as the Stark army enters Winterfell. Jon stands next to the giant with Tormund on the other side as he takes his final breaths. Ramsay shoots him through the eye, killing the giant. The Stark men surround Ramsay, arrows poised to fly. Ramsay says he’s reconsidered and will fight one-on-one, but doesn’t give Jon a chance to respond. He begins shooting arrow after arrow at Jon who deflects them with a shield. Jon pulverizes Ramsay’s face with punch after punch as Sansa watches. He’s not quite dead when Jon gets off of him.
The Bolton banners fall and the Stark banners are hung again on the walls at Winterfell. Davos survived the battle and quietly stands off to the side holding Shireen’s carved stag while staring at Melisandre.
The dead are brought in, including Rickon who Jon wants to bury in the crypt next to his father. Sansa wants to know where Ramsay is and she’s taken to him. He’s tied up in a cell, badly injured but alive. He looks up to see Sansa and says hello, asking where he’ll be staying. She doesn’t reply. “Our time together is about to come to an end,” says Ramsay, believing she’s come to kill him. “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear.” Just then a growl is heard and it’s Ramsay’s dogs. “My hounds will never harm me,” he says, sounding confident. Sansa reminds him they haven’t been fed in seven days, and Ramsay insists they’re loyal. She says they were, but now they are starving. One approaches his master and sniffs his face. Ramsay tells it to get down as it licks the blood from his face. It doesn’t, instead lunging at his face and ripping it as he screams. Sansa walks away as dogs bark and Ramsay screams, a small, satisfied smile on her face. If only Ghost had been able to join in on the feast!!!
More Season 6 Recaps:
- Episode 1 The Red Woman
- Episode 2 Home
- Episode 3 Oathbreaker
- Episode 4 Book of the Stranger
- Episode 5 The Door
- Episode 6 Blood of My Blood
- Episode 7 The Broken Man
- Episode 8 No One
- Episode 10 The Winds of Winter