Game of Thrones Recap Season 6 Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards
Still under siege by the Slavers' Navy, Dany and Tyrion consider their options. She would like to raze their cities to the ground, but Tyrion tries to prevent indiscriminate destruction, using her father and his caches of Wildfyre in King's Landing as a comparison. Dany meets with the Masters to correct their misconceptions regarding surrender. She summons Drogon, and they take to the skies where they are joined by Rhaegal and Viserion, who have escaped the pyramid below. Together they head out to sea and set fire to a number of ships on Dany's command. Grey Worm kills two of the three stunned Masters, and Tyrion instructs the other to spread word of Daenerys and her dragons to anyone wishing to oppose her in the future.
Yara, with Theon supporting her claim, offers their 100 ships to Dany's cause in exchange for the right to rule the Iron Islands as their first-ever Queen. Dany demands the Ironborn stop all reaving and raping, which Yara accepts after a brief hesitation.
Jon and Sansa meet with Ramsay to discuss the upcoming battle. Jon offers single combat as a solution, but Ramsay notes the numbers are on his side (6,000 vs. about 3,000), leaving him no reason to accept. Sansa warns Jon his plan to trap Ramsay won't work and asks him to wait for more men. An exasperated Jon asks where these men might come from, and Sansa has no response. Davos discovers the remnants of a pyre, and finds the carved stag he gave Shireen in the ashes. Jon asks Melisandre not to bring him back if he dies, but she refuses; the Lord of Light needs Jon, she says, and she serves the Lord's will.
As Stark and Bolton forces line up opposite each another, Ramsay leads Rickon to the front lines and forces him to run across the field while firing on him with a bow. Jon takes the bait and rides out alone to rescue Rickon, but arrives a moment too late: one of Ramsay's arrows punches through Rickon's back. Jon stands his ground and awaits the charging cavalry, but is joined in the nick of time by his own troops as the battle for Winterfell commences. Chaos ensues, but ultimately Jon and his army are caught between an interlocking shield wall of Bolton forces and Umbers on the other. The Smalljon is headbutting Tormund to death when a horn sounds in the distance; the Knights of the Vale have arrived, with Sansa and Littlefinger at their head. Tormund bites a chunk out of the Smalljon’s neck before going to work with his dagger, and the mounted troops from the Eyrie cut an easy path through the footsoldiers surrounding the Stark forces. Seeing this turn of events, Ramsay retreats to Winterfell and closes the gates. Wun-Wun the Giant breaks down the gate despite taking enough arrows to resemble a pincushion. The Stark forces neatly clean up the remaining troops, leaving Ramsay and Jon to face each other in the yard. Ramsay suggests single combat again, but Jon blocks three of Ramsay's arrows with a shield before knocking him to the ground. He beats him unconscious and only relents when he notices Sansa has arrived.
As Davos contemplates what to do about Melisandre, Sansa visits the imprisoned Ramsay. She promises to strike his name and his family's name from history, and lets his own hounds into the cell. She reminds him he's been starving them for seven days; they WERE loyal, but now they're starving. The hounds start tearing Ramsay to pieces, and Sansa breaks into a smile while walking away.
Wow. Just wow. I guess I have to provide more commentary than that to justify writing a recap, but I'm still in shock. Let's give it a go, starting with Daenerys.
Meereen First Take
Finally, FINALLY after almost six full seasons we see the power of all three grown (not fully-grown, by the way) dragons unleashed simultaneously! Dany's refusal to accept the terms of the Masters was extremely satisfying, but more importantly her restraint in only burning as many ships as necessary suggests she's thinking further down the road. If Dany ends up ruling the Seven Kingdoms, perhaps the people won't have to fear another mad Targaryen. I don't know why she let the firebombing continue through the night instead of setting fire to the ships right when she arrived, but it was certainly more dramatic this way.
Does Dany now have enough ships to take her army to Westeros? I don’t think she does. Adding the 100 ships stolen by Yara and Theon to the ships lucky enough to survive the conflagration in Slaver’s Bay is helpful, but short of 1,000, which I remember as their target number. If they need more, Varys’s mission remains critical. Where is he headed? Perhaps another female-led kingdom? I can think of one we haven’t seen since Episode 1!
Down the Road
How will Dany approach the Seven Kingdoms? The partnership with Yara is more important than the ships they received because it shows Dany is no longer interested in compromise. She doesn't want to play the marriage game to secure her power again (like she did with Hizdahr) and she isn't granting Yara and the Iron Islands full autonomy. Instead, she's forging real alliances, exchanging thrones for loyalty, and remaining firm on important matters for the Kingdom. It's reminiscent of Aegon the Conqueror, who initially won the Seven Kingdoms with equal parts might (his dragons) and politics (open invitations, accepting surrenders).
The North First Take
I'll sleep a little easier tonight knowing that Ramsay Bolton finally met his doom. The man pulled out miracle after miracle, but finally faced someone determined (and maybe divinely protected) enough to kill him. Jon's almost dismissive blocking of Ramsay's arrows before pummeling him nearly to death was satisfying; watching Sansa sick his own hounds on him to finish the job was downright heartwarming. Winterfell is finally back under the Stark banner, but it came at a great cost. We lost Rickon, Wun-Wun, and a lot of horses (sorry, Kat), not to mention the bulk of the army Jon brought to the battle. Also, why was Sansa so hesitant to tell Jon about Littlefinger's involvement? She lied to him at the Wall about meeting with LIttlefinger, and even when pleading with Jon to wait for more men she didn't reveal this potential ally in the Vale. I hope they address this at some point, because if I'm Jon (rather than John), I'm asking why I wasn't informed of something so critical.
How is the power vacuum filled? Jon is a bastard and Sansa is a woman; neither is technically in line for the seat of Winterfell. I assume the people will accept Sansa as their Queen even though the Starks have never had a female ruler. Controlling the North and dictating events going forward will require some political machinations on her part because Littlefinger is still in town with the largest army in the area. She doesn't want to work with him, but her willingness to suggests she's diving into the game headfirst. However it shakes out, Littlefinger isn't just fading into the background now that Starks once again rule Winterfell.
Down the Road
Where will the Starks look next? Jon will likely look North and seek help defending the Wall against White Walkers, but Sansa and Littlefinger may not share his interest. Will they tour the North again, accepting new pledges of fealty? I think Sansa still seeks some degree of revenge against the Lannisters, but amassing an army to march south to start another war won't be easy. The Wall needs reinforcements, but I think Sansa and the North as a whole still have a part to play in the future of the Seven Kingdoms beyond fighting off the forces of Winter.