‘Game of Thrones’ RECAP, REVIEW: Season 6, Episode 9 – ‘Battle of the Bastards’

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Ramsay Bolton died this week.

Suffice to say, the battle between the Stark and Bolton forces that preceded his demise was sufficiently spectacular. Not without many casualties; Rickon perished, hunted down by arrows; Wun Wun, the wildling giant also met his end. The Stark army was saved at the last minute, however, by that jolly rogue Littlefinger.

And as Ramsay’s flesh was ripped from its limbs by sharp-sabered hounds hungry for the bastard’s blood, no one cried and no one mourned. Bolton was an absolutely repellent character. He killed children, babies, women, his dad in the most sadistic means; he raped; he chopped off penises; he fed on pork sausages in a very mocking manner. He was unscrupulously evil, with no redeeming traits whatsoever (even Hitler, apparently, loved dogs, children, and his mother). It was inevitable that he had to get his comeuppance at some point, and it’s also a shame.

Satisfying as it was to see Bolton die, he was one of the most compelling characters on the show, because, and not in spite of, his staggering, psychopathic cruelty. From Buffalo Bill to King Joffrey, there is something perversely fascinating about watching these dark extremities which tap into the dark never-world of the human brain where our horrors lay dormant.

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

What Game of Thrones abated with Bolton’s death was the arch villain of our primordial archetypes. Joffrey filled the same role before him, and naturally, Bolton had to be excruciatingly cruel to outdo his immediate predecessor. Having lived exceedingly up to the task, Bolton leaves in his wake big, sadistic shoes to fill.

‘Battle of The Bastards’ was divided roughly into two halves between the Stark/Bolton showdown, and Daenerys Targaryen’s parlay with the slave masters as she finalises her plans to set sail and conquer Westeros. The pairing of the two storylines is significant, because less obviously Daenerys and Ramsay Bolton share a parallel. For all her utilitarianism, Daenerys is in her own way just as brutal. Wreaking destruction with her dragons, and ordering crucifixions like she were ordering toast, her penchant for blood is starting to become obvious, even to those ostensibly serving her. Not for the first time this season, Tyrion has had to assuage her cutthroat tendencies, and this week went as far as pointing out the affinity she shares with her dead father, The Mad King.

At this point, her proponents should definitely be asking the Mother of Dragons what she is going to do once she has conquered the Seven Kingdoms. On this point she has always been rather vague, except for asserting that it is her rightful claim by birth to rule. Will she quash all those who refuse to acknowledge her total power? Seven kingdoms is quite a lot of kingdoms, and quite a lot of people. However well her intentions, it seems highly likely –as already indicated by her tenure in Mereen- that her monarchical rule could fall into a totalitarian dictatorship.

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

That Daenerys could turn into the show’s definitive villain is not completely impossible, especially if she were to go truly mad, as vague suggestions imply that she could. Of course, the difference with Ramsay was his lack of utility, his selfishness, his sadism – and this separates the two, independent of how many people they kill. Their commonality is rather the preoccupation with power, and that never ends well.

With next week’s final episode fast approaching, one would assume most the focus will be on Daenerys’ invasion campaign, and the Lannister’s confrontation with the High Septon, with most of the storylines having reached their momentary conclusions already.

As the penultimate chapter for season six, ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was a thrilling end to the Stark/Bolton storyline, both tragic in its loss of innocent characters and aberrantly satisfying in its brutal killing of a heinous one.

Expect next week to be doubly epic.

THE REEL SCORE: 8/10

Next time…

M.L.