“Battle of the Bastards” is by no means the best episode of Game of Thrones the Double D’s have ever given us. It’s probably not even top five. It has it’s flaws, like Sansa leaving before she could hear Ramsay say he hadn’t fed his dogs in seven days, or like Jon’s clearly rubber sword as he’s jumping on his horse, but it’s battle scenes are no less than an achievement in cinema and it does deliver one of THE most satisfying moments in television history.
The most important aspect of any long-running television series is its characters. It’s imperative we connect emotionally to our supposed heroes before we can get behind a whole story revolving around their lives. No show’s ever accomplished that better than Game of Thrones. For almost six full seasons, we’ve seen our heroes develop personality, change morally, adapt to their brutal surroundings and, in some cases, meet their demise. But, most importantly we’ve experience heart break and sorrow with our most beloved characters. Between Sansa being perpetually manipulated by malevolent male villains and Jon Snow always reminded of how much a Stark he isn’t and then, you know, the whole dying thing, we’ve rarely enjoyed a pleasing moment amid our favorite people.
But the “feel goods” have been amassing in season 6. The aforementioned Jon Snow came back from from the dead against all odds; Sansa broke free of Ramsay and met up with Brienne of Tarth; Dany took a massive step towards proving her family reputation by burning all the Khals alive in one fell swoop. For better or worse, our heroes win battle after battle in season 6, all building to season 6’s penultimate episode, “Battle of the Bastards.”
To be fair, we all knew how the battle was probably going to turn out. Surely the Double D’s, advised by George R. R. Martin, aren’t as malicious as to bring our favorite hero back, just to kill him again and have the villain win the day as it’s been for almost 6 full seasons! It was time to stop the buck and let the good guys have their day.
In the moment, I thought Jon wasn’t going to make it. The shot of him held down in the mud by dozens of his own dead soldiers made me feel super claustrophobic and physically scared for him. When the Knights of the Vale led by Little Finger and Sansa rode up to save the day (deus ex machinas are pet peeves of mine), I felt relief knowing the battle was all down hill from that juncture. Jon had it in the bag, but he had to finish the job.
In the two days since “Battle of the Bastards” aired, I must have watched that 2-minute scene with Jon and Ramsay one-on-one about twenty times. That’s the cathartic moment we’ve needed for six long years of rape, torture and evil deeds. That’s the climax we’ve wanted for our heroes since Jamie Lannister drew his sword against Ned Stark in season one. And when it came, boy, did it come!
In this moment, when Jon’s eyes fill with madness, staring down Ramsay Snow thinking of all the evil things he could unleash back on this young psycho, we become Jon Snow. Ramsay isn’t simply Ramsay Snow any longer. He represents all the evil of ice and fire, all the heroes we’ve lost, all the occasions where the good guys – the men and women trying to do the just thing – failed because some tyrannical opposition cheated to get the upper hand. Ramsay is Ned Stark’s execution, he is the Red Wedding, he is the entirety of Joffrey’s shittiness, he is Tyrion’s unfair trial, he is Oberyn Martell’s brutal death at the hands of the Gregor Clegane, and he is Lord Commander Jon Snow betrayed by his own brothers at Castle Black. Every bit of pent-up revenge we’ve wanted so dearly to give back indeed is released in the most brutal, savage, bloodthirsty scene possible, and it’s everything we could have wanted. No one wanted Jon and Sansa to live above their enemies. No one wanted to see Ramsay without a scratch on him, in the dungeons awaiting trial. All we wanted was cold, hard revenge. Our victory was dirty, it was untidy, it was hard fought, it came at great costs, but it’s a victory.