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Battle of the Bastards Review

Battle of the Bastards by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss


Now that was what we’d been waiting for! A pulsating hour of epic battle scenes, tense standoffs and Jon Snow, Daenerys and (Sansa!) being utterly awesome.

Like Hardhome, this wasn’t a one-topic hour, but had an almost equally epic excursion to Meereen into the bargain. Seeing all three of Dany’s dragons in action at once bringing fiery death to the Masters on the ships was a great tease of what we might expect when she finally gets to Westeros, but she wasn’t the only great thing in the Meereen segments. Daenerys and Tyrion’s conversation with Theon and Yara was a nice touch (anyone else notice the chemistry/mutual respect between Daenerys and Yara as they bonded over their desire to be the first ruling Queen in their houses history? that could be an alliance to be reckoned with!) suggesting a showdown with Euron can’t be far away. Greyworm slitting two cowardly masters throats was bloody brilliant as well.

But onto the main course of the episode, and boy did director Miguel Sapochnik cook up a storm. The battle/character shots were framed in a picturesque way that Zack Snyder would have applauded, whether tracking shots of arrow volleys, Jon facing down charging cavalry or Jon’s army being enveloped by a semicircle of spearmen. Fortunately, unlike Batman vs Superman, the scripting was at ease with the direction. The scene where Ramsay and Jon first come face to face was suitably tense, while the conversations between Jon and Sansa, Jon and Melisandre and odd couple Tormund and Davos were excellent.

Back to the battle scenes, the chaos of a battle was better depicted than ever before as the director focused in on Jon in the centre of the battlefield, dodging cavalry, arrows and cutting his way through a lot of Bolton troops. This was up there with in the top two battles I’ve ever seen on TV (equalling Spartacus’ epic finale and beating quite a lot of ones from film) and was capped off by Ramsay finally getting his comeuppance (one death was never going to be enough after everything he’s done, but that was about as satisfying as we could have hoped for!)

The only issue with the entire episode was that everything unfolded a bit predictably – Rickon’s survival was always unlikely (although the director did a great job of making us think he might just make it – though why the foolish kid didn’t zigzag and make himself a harder target is beyond me), while Wun-Wun was more expendable as a character than the likes of Tormund or Davos and wasn’t a surprising casualty. Littlefinger’s men riding to the rescue was also predicted back after episode 7. But who cares? We got to see Ramsay beaten to a pulp by Jon and then ripped apart by his own hounds while Sansa watched in a poetic justice sequence that was reminiscent of the Jokers ‘how loyal a hungry dog really is’ speech from The Dark Knight. And the fans have been waiting for that to happen for a long, long time. Hope Theon gets to hear about it – I sense his smile at the news would be worth seeing!

Overall it may have been a predictable hour, but it was such an enjoyable and well done one that I’m not going to fault it. And I haven’t cheered that much since the Purple Wedding as another one of the series worst/greatest villains bites the dust (Joffrey, Tywin, Roose, Ser Alliser and now Ramsay – only Walder Frey and the Night’s King are left…)

Rating 5 out of 5!

Next Week: The season finale is here, Bran is back, Jamie celebrates with the Freys and Cersei’s trial arrives in what promises to be a fiery end to the High Sparrow’s plotline…

Game of Thrones: Episodes 2-8 review

Warning: MAJOR Spoilers!

Episode 2: Home by Dave Hill

Now that was more like it! Two major deaths and a long awaited return made for a great second episode. Dave Hill wrote last years ‘Sons of the Harpy’ which contained both telling character moments and a shock non-book death scene (Selmy) and he delivered on both again here. The violent comedy continued from week 1 (though not quite at the level of a spear through Trystane’s head) first with the Mountain smashing someone’s head into wall in King’s Landing (for mocking Cersei’s walk of shame) and then Wun-Wun hurling a foolhardy Night’s Watch soldier into Castle Black’s Wall. But these were only a warm up for the two major violent shocks in the episode.

First up was one of the last loose ends from the books – Balon Greyjoy plunging to his death in a storm at Pyke. In the books it was unclear whether it was simple bad luck, Melisandre’s blood ritual, or murder. The show has no such ambiguity, as Theon’s uncle Euron is introduced by throwing his brother to his death. The scene was very well constructed and served as an  adequate reintroduction to the Greyjoys. But the major shock came as Ramsay responded to the potential threat of a baby brother (and trueborn heir to Roose) being born by murdering first his own father (arguably the shock of the season so far) and then setting the dogs on Walda and his newborn brother (thankfully offscreen – #redbabyshower). And all this before Jon’s resurrection – definitely the episode of the season so far (though episode 9 looks set to trump that).

Rating: 5 out of 5!

Episode 3: Oathbreaker

A filler episode on Game of Thrones is still better than some key episodes on other shows, but some filler is always necessary and after the massive shifts in ‘Home’ its no surprise this episode was mainly concerned with the fallout and moving people into place for future plot developments. It wasn’t bad by any means and at least we got to see those fuckers in the Night’s Watch get their comeuppance, but apart from the shock return of Rickon Stark and Osha being handed over to Ramsay there was nothing particularly memorable in this instalment. Oh, except the first half of the Tower of Joy sequence! My that was some epic swordplay there – though I wish they hadn’t stopped just at the point we all wanted to see. Saving it for next season or this finale I guess? Hopefully the latter, but overall this was a good episode but a forgettable one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Episode 4: Book of the Stranger

Well we’d be waiting for a kickass Daenerys scene since series 3 (her storyline has been enjoyable, but not nearly as epic as we knew it could be) and this episode finally delivered. Daenerys turning the tables on the Khals was suitably badass and her takeover of the Dothraki a nice parallel with how her story started in season 1. Sansa and Jon’s reunion was possibly the most touching scene the show’s given us and Tormund’s reaction to Brienne might just be the funniest thing in the series. Everything else was essentially more character based rather than moving the plot forward but the ending drags it above the status of a simple filler episode.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Episode 5: The Door

The biggest tearjerker since the Red Wedding and the biggest shock since Stannis burnt his daughter alive. Hold the Door was an awesomely clever yet devastating twist coupled with a breaking White Walker attack which mounted up the casualties: the Three-Eyed Raven, Summer, Hodor 😦  as well as the incredibly cool moments of the children of the forest fire-bombing wights and Meera killing a White Walker (R+L=J+M anyone?) We also got the revelation that the Children of the Forest CREATED the White Walkers to save them during a war with the first men – something i’m sure will have caught the attention of book readers. The rest of the episode was decent, the other highlight being the kingsmoot (even if it was one Greyjoy brother short, the casting for Aeron and Euron was on point and gave Theon and Yara some great moments into the bargain) but ultimately it’s the ending that people will be talking about for a long time afterwards. (GRRM said he revealed three major twists from the future books to the showrunners – 1 was Stannis’ daughter, 2 was Hodor’s origin and the third is apparently at the very end – I’m both excited and utterly terrified over who it will involve)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Episode 6: Blood of my Blood

Another obvious filler episode, as very little happened to advance the main plot and ended on a entirely superfluous (if awesome) Daenerys scene. The confrontation between the High Sparrow and Lannister/Tyrell forces rather fizzled out and while I accept this may be down to what’s going to happen in the books, it really wasn’t a satisfying payoff for the arc (hopefully that will come in the last 2 episodes). Regardless, it had some important moments such as the return of Benjen Stark (horse combat has never looked so cool) and amusing ones such as Walder Frey berating his collection of halfwit sons for losing Riverrun to the Blackfish (Catelyn Stark’s uncle who escaped the Red Wedding). Sam and Gilly’s scenes were heartwarming, unlike Sam’s bastard of a father, and the moment where Sam stole his family sword and finally rebelled against him felt like a proper character development scene. Overall, another filler episode, but another good one.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Episode 7: The Broken Man

Another slow-burner of an episode but it was a great character piece and some terrific guest acting from Ian McShane raise it above the level of a simple filler episode. The Hound’s return was welcome and the scenes between him and the Septon were excellent. Lyanna Mormont is the latest in a long line of excellent child-actors the show has employed and her scenes were an undoubted highlight. Arya’s stabbing was shocking but if they really wanted us to be concerned they should have made it the last scene – her death would have been too important for anything else. The scene between Theon and Yara felt like a turning point for him and also fleshed out his sister’s character somewhat, thanks to her touching desire to help restore her brother’s personality (by effectly telling him to move on and man up to get revenge) and the revelation that she’s a lesbian (the first on the show if I’m correct) which while being one of the more curious changes from the books seems to suit her character (who we’ve seen so little of so far). Elsewhere, the Blackfish’s return reminded me what a good character he was (kind of a gruff Tully version of Barristan Selmy) and the scene between him and Jaime was suitably tense. And Bronn’s back – YAY! Not everything worked (the stuff in King’s Landing is still too drawn out and slow-paced to be interesting – though seeing Olenna verbally beat down Cersei was amusing) but overall it was a good episode that went some way to reconciling the show’s narrative with that of the books.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Episode 8: No One

The third quiet episode in a row led to some reviewers and fans getting frustrated, but this episode had plenty going for it in my opinion. The scene with Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm was both sweet and amusing, and led up to the revelation that the slavers have come back to take Meereen by force with their navy (setting up the battle of Slaver’s bay that the end of the fifth book was busy setting up). The Hound’s quest for vengeance varied from awesome fight scenes to hilariously mocking dying men and then coming face to face with old rivals Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion (no stoneheart yet then?) and set his character up for an intriguing journey northwards (presumably to help the Brotherhood fight the white walkers?). The Waif-Arya terminator style chase scene was awesome, even if it was a little disappointing not to see the resolution (though I understand why they did it that way). The only real disappoint was not seeing the Blackfish’s last stand (maybe he isn’t dead?) but as for the way the siege played out it was a nice adaption of what happens in the books and gave Jaime and Brienne some of their best material since season 3 and 4.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Overall the season so far has had some epic scenes but they’ve been far more spread out, despite the usual collection of shock/violent deaths its been mainly a character piece. Not that that’s a bad thing, but this is game of thrones and I think everyone’s ready for another kick-ass battle scene – and the way the last two episodes are shaping up, we may just get two for the price of one. And we can all be glad Arya’s finally leaving Braavos behind! (I haven’t been that relieved since they killed off half the Dornish cast!)

Next: Jon and Ramsay face off outside Winterfell as the North decides it’s fate in ‘The Battle of the Bastards’…