Another Sunday another Game of Thrones. Dragons, Battles, Bastards and…these hounds ain’t loyal.
We start off in Meereen under siege. The ships of Slaver’s Bay have appeared outside the city after breaking the pact they’d made with Tyrion. And they’re pounding the Great Pyramid with catapulted fireballs. The only good part is that Dany has shown back up. She stands watching the fireballs destroy much of her city. As the pyramid shakes about them, Tyrion tries to explain how he so royally screwed things up in her absence. The Good Masters want to destroy Meereen, he says, because it’s been doing so well without slavery, to make an example of it. Dany stands listening, real cool like, then says: “Good. Now what?” Tyrion asks if she has a plan and she tells it to him: she’s going to kill all the Good Masters, kill their soldiers, kill their families, kill the people who owe them money and raze their cities to ashes.
Tyrion says that perhaps that’s not the best plan–all the killing and the razing. He tells Dany the story of her father The Mad King Aerys Targaryen who tried to burn down King’s Landing (and everyone in it), a story that Dany has likely not truly heard–but she gon’ learn today. When she tells him this is entirely different, Tyrion offers: “you’re talking about destroying entire cities–it’s not entirely different.” Tyrion offers there’s another way–and just then the room is almost blown apart.
When we see Dany again, she’s flanked by Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei. They’re there to parley with three Good Masters of Slavery’s Bay. In the background, the invading ships have gone momentarily silent. Tyrion announces they’re there to discuss the terms of surrender. The three Good Masters say there ain’t no terms. Dany had been offered ships earlier to leave them be and go her own way. But she was arrogant. So now, they demand, she’s going to surrender and she will get NOTHING. She’ll leave Meereen barefoot, as the “beggar queen.” The Unsullied she’s used as an army will be sold out to highest bidder. Her translator (Missandei) will be sold. The dragons in the basement will be slaughtered. That’s the only terms of surrender they’ll accept–complete and total.
Dany listens to em’ do their mansplaining thing then she informs them they got it twisted. She ain’t there to discuss her terms of surrender. She’s here to discuss theirs. As they look on incredulously–thinking she’s lost her mind–you can make out something winging it’s way closer in the distance. There’s a familiar cry and one of the Good Masters turns about–to see Drogon, bigger and badder AF. He swoops in and lands beside Dany, who’s all like “What’s good? Talk sh*t now!” Then she climbs onto her dragon’s back, like the Targaryens of old, and flies out to do battle.
The two aren’t as big as Drogon, but damn big enough! Plus, they’re dragons. Following his lead, they descend on the invading ships out on the bay. Dany picks one in particular and gives the order: “Dracarys!” Drogon sets the ship on fire, while Rhaegal and Viserion join in, burning a whole lot of folk up. Back on land, near the city gates, the Sons of the Harpy are slaughtering the slaves of Meereen with impunity. Only they’re not expecting an army of Dothraki led by new-faced Daario. The first Son of the Harpy that looks up to meet this new threat gets his head lopped off. It is known.
The three Good Masters who had been left at the parley watch all this thinking, “Damn. Life comes at you fast.” Grey Worm tells the men guarding them that they don’t have to stay and die and to return home to their families. They take a look at the odds and say, “peace out.” Tyrion thanks the Good Masters for the ships that they’ve just delivered up. He reminds them that they violated the pact they’d made with this invasion attempt, which can’t be forgiven. Missandei tells them that Dany has decided, in her graciousness, that only one of them needs to die. True to form, the Good Masters turn on each other, offering up the weakest among them (a “lowborn outsider”) as sacrifice. Grey Worm steps up to dude, and (instead) casually slits the throat of the other two. One move, nothing but net. Tyrion tells the survivor to”run tell dat”to the other Good Masters–of what happened when Daeneyrs Stormborn and her dragons came to Meereen.
Sometime later, who should show up before Dany than a pair of deposed princelings from the Iron Isles: Yara and Theon. Tyrion doesn’t have many kind words for Theon. The last he’d seen him, he reminds, was way back in Season 1 at Winterfell–during which an arrogant Theon had a good number of unoriginal dwarf jokes. And, from what else he knows, Theon murdered the Stark children and other nefarious deeds. Theon denies the charge (because he didn’t do that) but admits he’s done other terrible crimes (because he has) and that he’s paid for his misdeeds (and man has he ever!). He and Yara say they’re there fleeing their uncle Euron Greyjoy who is hunting them. They will offer Dany their ships to retake the Seven Kingdoms, if she’ll support their claim to the Iron Isles. More, specifically Yara’s claim. When Dany asks why she shouldn’t just wait for their uncle to make his offer, Yara informs her that he’s also bringing it with a marriage proposal. Theon adds that he’ll kill her once he has what he wants. Yara and Dany hit it off on some gyrl-power “Run the World” type level and before you know it they got a deal. Dany says they all had pretty terrible fathers (awful daddies seems to be the theme of this Father’s Day episode) but they’re going to create a better world. It’ll be interesting to see them try.
The other part of this episode takes place in the North.
Somewhere outside Winterfell, Jon, Sansa, Tormund Giantsbane, and the Onion Knight Ser Davos Seaworth are gathered for a parley with Ramsay Bolton. Creepy sicko that he is, he greets Sansa with that infuriating smile as his “wife” who he’s missed “terribly.” Then he calmly and kindly orders Jon and the others to get off their horses and kneel to him as the true Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. He tells Jon that he ain’t got the men (he’s seriously outnumbered) to win this fight. So why get them all killed for nothing? Kneel, Ramsay says, and he’ll consider sparing them. On her horse, ten-year old Lyanna Mormont is mean-mugging Ramsay like she’s ready to bring it.
Jon listens and offers Ramay another option. Instead of two armies meeting for battle, the two of them can fight: one on one. Ramsay however, ain’t taking the bait. He’s heard all about Jon, and admits he might in fact be a better swordsman. But, he’s got the bigger army and he knows that’ll beat him. Besides, he has something Jon wants–Rickon Stark. When Sansa asks how do they know he’s not lying, he has one of his men produce the severed head of a black direwolf–Shaggydog. Those Stark children do not take very good care of their direwolves. When Ramsay starts up again Sansa cuts him with: “You’re going to die tomorrow Lord Bolton, sleep well.” When she rides off, Ramsay tells Jon his sister is a fine woman who he can’t wait to have back in his bed. Rapey. He also tells the gathered soldiers that they’re fine-looking men–and his hounds can’t wait to meet them, as he hasn’t fed them in seven days, and they’re ravenous.
That night, Jon, Ser Davos and Tormund hash out a battle plan. Turns out Tormund doesn’t know all the fancy-schmancy Westerosi military terms–but he’s ready to fight. Ser Davos says that the trick is to get Ramsay’s forces surrounded on three sides. When Tormund asks if Jon really thought Ramsay would agree to fight one on one, Jon says no–but he wanted to make Ramsay angry, in the hopes that he’ll slip up. When the others leave the room to just Jon and Sansa, she rounds on him. “I see you over here planning out this whole battle with your dude-bros who know nothing about Ramsay Bolton,” she says, “but you never stopped to ask if maybe I had some ideas, since, you know, I know the dude intimately.” She tells Jon that he doesn’t understand Ramsay. And that their trap won’t work because the Lord of the Dreadfort is cruelly good at springing traps. He’s just better at that.
Jon is real man-arrogant tho, and asks if she knows how to get Rickon back. Sansa tells him the brutal truth: they’re not getting Rickon back. He’s as good as dead. If Jon tries to do anything to save Rickon he’ll be playing right into Ramsay’s hands. It gets contentious after that. When Sansa leaves she lets Jon know that if he loses she’s not going back to Winterfell, hinting she’d prefer suicide. Jon solemnly tells her that he’ll never let Ramsay touch her again–that he’ll protect her. But Sansa don’t believe in fairy princes no more. “No one can protect me,” she retorts. “No one can protect anyone.” Real talk.
On the eve of battle, Jon goes to see Melisandre who still seems shaken since faltering in her faith to the Red God. He tells her that if he dies, she shouldn’t try to bring him back–not like last time. He also asks if she has any advice. She tells him “don’t lose.” The Red God might have brought him back to win this fight, or to lose it. Who can say. When Jon asks what kind of god is that? The Red Lady replies, “the God we’ve got.” Out in the camp, Tormund and Ser Davos exchange stories of the past men they’ve served–and how perhaps Jon is different. It’s as Ser Davos is wandering the camp (because he can’t ever sleep before a battle) that he comes across the snowed over pyres left by the last army that was camped here. In the ashes is a carving of a stag he’d given to Shireen Baratheon. He realizes then what we all already know: that Shireen was burned to death by #1 Dad Stannis Baratheon. And he don’t look happy.
The next morning, the armies are arrayed for battle. Jon rides out amid his ragtag band of Wildlings, gathered small houses and one Wun Wun. Across from them is the very humongous, much larger, ordered, disciplined and looking like they can “f*ck some sh*t up” army of Ramsay Bolton. Between the two forces are actual flayed men set ablaze on burning stakes. Really, that’s just the worst house symbol ever. Ramsay saunters out from behind his men and steps off his horse leading a rope. Attached to it is Rickon.
He brings Rickon out where everyone can see. And Jon (and the rest us) tense up when Ramsay pulls out a knife–thinking he’s going to kill the kid. But instead he cuts his bonds. It’s over right? Wrong. Weren’t you paying attention to Sansa? Ramsay tells Rickon they’re going to play a game. And that he should run–not walk–to his brother on the other side of the battlefield. Then he has a long bow brought to him, and begins firing.
Jon rides out, intent on saving Rickon. The kid is running, but in a straight line. (WHY AIN’T YOU ZIG ZAGGIN?! SWERVE! SWERVE!) Jon is getting closer. Ramsay is loosing arrows that land just shy of Rickon. And for a brief moment we dare to hope the kid might get away. We never even see Ramsay shoot the arrow that goes right through Rickon’s chest. That’s the second Stark kid we’ve lost. Ramsay’s smug as hell. Jon looks pissed. Tormund and Ser Davos know this wasn’t the plan. But this was the trap Sansa was warning about. Will Jon fall for it now seeing his brother dead?
Of course he will. And he charges.
Jon’s cavalry rides out to follow, watching as the hail of arrows cuts his horse out from under him. Ramsay looses his massive cavalry at that moment. For a while, it’s Jon, with one sword, against an army of charging horses. One heck of an epic scene. Then his cavalry catches up and the two opposing horsemen clash. It’s a bloody, chaotic battle. Perhaps the bloodiest chaotic battle we’ve seen on this show. Ramsay has his archers sending down arrows, taking out his own troops and Jon’s at the same time. There are men getting chopped off horses. There are men getting skewered. One dude somehow gets taken out by a horse like he was hit by a truck. It’s brutal, as Ramsay continues to send endless arrows into the fray. In moments there’s small hills dead horses and men with others fighting on top of them. And that’s just the beginning.
Ser Davos has seen enough, and he orders his reserve of archers into battle. Meanwhile Ramsay gives the order for the bulk of his army to advance. They quickly surround Jon’s smaller force, ringing them in a thick wall of shields and spears like the Battle of Cannae. As they advance they press the smaller army in, skewering as they go. Can things get worse? Of course. The ring of shields and spears is a half-ring. Jon and his army are actually hemmed in from behind by a mountain of dead. But more of Ramsay’s men are climbing that mountain, and coming down to kill them. It’s a fight on both fronts, pressed together, hand to hand.
This battle in the circle will likely give us some of the most memorable fighting of the series. Wun Wun picking up men and ripping them in two. Tormund and his Wildlings charging to try to get between the shield bearers. Men lying holding their intestines in. Jon getting buried and suffocated beneath a trample of his own men trying to fight to reach the other side of the ring to meet the approaching soldiers–and maybe find a way out. It’s crazy brutal. For a while, it seems things are over. Jon manages to claw his way to the top of the pressed tangle of bodies gasping for air, only to see Wun Wun festooned with arrows and Tormund being head-butted to death.
Then a horn sounds. And everyone remembers, Sansa set out a raven.
The most beautiful sight in the world appears in slow motion–an armored cavalry of men bearing the standard of House Arryn. The Vale has shown up, in force. We see Sansa, sitting next to none other than Littlefinger. They watch in triumph as the horsemen of House Arryn crash into the ring of Ramsay’s troops, smashing them.
Oh, Tormund also pretty much eats the throat of that dude who was head-butting him.
Ramsay realizes he’s lost the day, and takes off back to Winterfell. When he gets back he shuts the door to prepare for a siege. When he informs one of his officers that Jon’s army is gone, dude reminds him, “yeah, our army is gone too bruh.” Somehow that dude remains alive. Ramsay is confident no one can get in and they can just wait out any siege. You know what he doesn’t count on? A goddam giant named Wun Wun! He takes care of that door, and comes charging in–only to fall to his knees as he’s filled with spears and arrows. But other Wildlings pour into Winterfell, shooting down Ramsay’s men. Jon and Tormund arrive. Wun Wun is swooning, on his knees. He’s breathing heavy and Jon reaches out a hand as if to console him–then an arrow goes through the giant’s eye, and he drops dead.
We see Ramsay holding the bow that delivered the killing stroke. He killed Wun Wun. Oh. Hell. No.
Ramsay tells Jon he’ll take him up on that one-on-one combat now. Jon grabs a shield to block his arrows, makes his way close, and then proceeds to beat Ramsay like his daddy should have–to the cheers of just about everyone everywhere. He’s still working on Ramsay’s face when Sansa walks up. Seeing her he stops, though she didn’t tell him too…so…I dunno why.
Later, we see something that’s been a long time coming–the ugly ass standard of the Flayed Man is pulled down from the walls of Winterfell and the Wolf is raised. Rickon’s body is brought out, and Jon orders it be taken to the crypt to be buried alongside his father. Sansa meanwhile asks Jon, where’s Ramsay?
Our final scene is of Sansa confronting the monster–her tormentor and rapist–Ramsay Bolton, who is tied up in what looks like the dungeons. He’s bloodied from the beating he took but manages to come awake and begins a Hannibal Lector rendition when he spies Sansa. She cuts him off tho, and tells him that his words and house will disappear when he’s gone. That’s when he hears the growls. They’re his hounds, in the open kennels of the dungeons with him. Ramsay is defiant tho, saying the hounds he trained will never betray him. They’re loyal beasts. But Sansa reminds him he hasn’t fed them in seven days. And sure enough, when they come out the cage, they’re hungry. One of them climbs up onto Ramsay’s lap, and begins to sniff the blood covering him. He orders the dog down. It promptly proceeds to bite off his face. The others join in.
These hounds ain’t loyal bruh.
Sansa watches them feed on Ramsay before turning to walk away…with a smile. Most satisfying revenge death ever.
Till next week, where there’s gonna be a trial in King’s Landing.