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YMMV / Game of Thrones S6E9: "Battle of the Bastards"

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Is Tyrion advising mercy for the Masters because he's worried about Dany becoming like her father, or because he feels guilty about his family's involvement in the Sack of King's Landing, or is he protecting Jaime from Dany's wrath? He noticeably bristles when Dany refers to her terrible father toppled by usurpers (referring to Tyrion's family) while Dany and Yara discuss politics.
    • Did Littlefinger arrive at the battlefield as quickly as he could, or did he intentionally wait until the last second to show up as The Cavalry after both the Stark and the Bolton armies had nearly been wiped out, effectively making him the only military leader left standing in the North? Considering that such tactics are why the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands is known as "The Late" Walder Frey, it's a strong possibility.
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    • Sansa's motivations throughout the episode:
      • She gives Jon a shocked look that stops him from beating Ramsay to death, given what she does to Ramsay later, was this look "Don't become a monster, brother," or, "Save some for me"? Then again, she didn't bat an eye when she gave Ramsay to the dogs.
      • Sansa not telling Jon that the Knights of the Vale might be coming to reinforce them. Was it because she was unsure of whether they were coming? Was it because she wanted the surprise advantage? Was she waiting until Ramsay used up his forces battling the Stark forces so Ramsay's forces would be easier to defeat when the Knights of the Vale arrive later on? Was it because she didn't think Jon would be clear-headed enough to make the most of the Knights of the Vale? (Given he was thrown off by grief when Ramsay murdered their little brother in front of him, in spite of Sansa's warning). Or, in light of her complaining about being "excluded" in earlier war councils, did she want to keep the glory for herself? Some fans are wondering if she's actually planning to betray Jon after Ramsay is taken care of, given if Jon had known another army was coming, this could have saved hundreds of lives in the existing Stark forces. (As they could have waited or planned their attack with the Vale forces, rather than Jon's army literally being on the verge of being massacred before Littlefinger and Sansa showed up).
      • The timing of Sansa, Littlefinger and the Vale army's arrival just as Jon's forces are about to be wiped out also raises some questions: 1) Did the Vale forces/Littlefinger deliberately wait until that point of the battle to enter? And if they did wait, was it because that was a good tactical time to ambush Ramsay's army? 2) Was it because it was an opportune moment for Littlefinger/the Vale to appear as the saviors of the battle? 3) Or did they travel as fast as they could and just happened to enter the battle at that point? Even if that was the case, Sansa clearly knew they were coming and joined up with them beforehand, so why didn't she or a Vale army messenger tell Jon, "Hey, wait literally an hour and we'll have over double the numbers", which could have changed everything. (Her presence with Littlefinger undermines the above possibility that she didn't tell Jon about the forces because she wasn't sure if they were coming).
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    • Before getting shot in the eye by Ramsay, was Wun Wun really done for and about to die, or was he just exhausted from the battle and the wounds he sustained, but still able to eventually recover? We'll never know now.
    • Is Smalljon Umber a racist xenophobe who betrayed the house he was supposed to be loyal to for the sake furthering his racist goals, or a genuine Well-Intentioned Extremist who just wanted to protect the North from invaders (believing that betraying Rickon was a necessity) and since Ramsay was the Warden of the North at the time, he had to go to Ramsay for help? Or perhaps it is a mix of both, but his casual toss of Shaggydog's head and watching Rickon die still make him a very unsympathetic character who deserved his fate at the hands of Tormund Giantsbane.
  • Ass Pull: Tyrion's conversation with Dany seems geared to somehow make him come off in the right, despite his actions backfiring and not bearing fruit. While his argument that his policies had allowed commerce to flourish in a free city tempting the Masters to Make an Example of Them makes sense as a defense, the Retcon that Jaime had told Tyrion about the wildfire came out of nowhere, and his comparison of Dany to her father doesn't even apply to the situation.note  One could interpret Jaime telling Tyrion as a compromise of his own character and feel that it ruined his friendship with Brienne if the latter wasn't the sole Secret Keeper, and mostly some fans resent seeing it played solely to get Tyrion out of a jam.
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  • Awesome Music: Djawadi outdid himself for both battles.
  • Badass Decay: Ramsay gets hit with this hard, it's hard to believe that this Dirty Coward who refused to fight Jon Snow one-on-one with his shirt on is the same man who took on the Ironborn and Yara whilst shirtless and leading from the front. Then again, it was Jon Snow who beat him down and he is very skilled. Perhaps more a case of The Worf Effect.
  • Catharsis Factor: After 3 seasons of being an Invincible Villain, finally getting to see Ramsay Bolton get the shit kicked out of him and be defeated is immensely satisfying. This includes the fact that his Mary Tzu tactics have finally been subverted by the fact that he enjoys being a villain too much to be an effective leader, costing every single man under his command until he is the only one left on his own side. Even better, his ultimate demise is an absolute Hoist by His Own Petard: his cruelty in not letting his dogs eat for a week (expecting to feed Jon to them) turned them against him. He is then eaten alive by them.
    Ramsay: They're loyal beasts.
    Sansa: They were. Now they're starving. They haven't eaten in seven days. You said it yourself.
    Ramsay frowns, then looks horrified at the dog that climbs on him.
    Ramsay (terrified): Down, dog! Down! Down! DOWN!
    Dogs growl... then dig in. Sansa walks away after having her fill of witnessing the carnage and smirks in schadenfreude.
    • Works on a Rule of Symbolism level as well: the Flayed Man is basically flayed alive by his dogs, who are close enough to Direwolves.
    • The fact that Sansa is the one ultimately responsible for his death is also incredibly satisfying, since she has a good case for being the living Game of Thrones character to have suffered most from his actions.
    • The other candidate for that, Theon, gets to be there in spirit, since "Reek" was another one of his dogs he kept starved For the Evulz. One likes to think Ramsay thought of that before he died.
    • Ramsay's death has a bit of an I Knew It! vibe thanks to the Karmic Death element. Jon's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown truly fits the Catharsis Factor.
    • It gets even better if you know a certain tidbit from the books: the dogs are all female, and Ramsay named them all after women he hunted down with them.
  • Creepy Cute: When one of Ramsay's dogs looks at him with her huge dark eyes, you'd almost forget that she and the other hounds were raised and mercilessly trained to be cruel killers and already provided loads of Nightmare Fuel in previous episodes.
  • Eight Deadly Words: A mild case. Given the fact that Rickon has literally two scenes in the entirety of Season 6 (his first scene where he is handed to Ramsay and his death scene), the fact that he has no lines whatsoever in Season 6, and that he has not been seen since Season 3's The Rains of Castamere, some people found it incredibly difficult to care about Rickon's death, some even demoting his existence as a character as nothing more than a plot device.
  • Franchise Original Sin: In retrospect, this episode already presents problems we would see two seasons later in "The Long Night," more specifically the fact that the battle depends on clever characters like Jon making stupid strategic mistakes. But the Battle of the Bastards was so visually impressive and exciting that at least in this case it was easy forgive this mistake.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • The "fermented goat milk" Tormund offers Davos is based on a real-life drink known as Kefir, which is very popular in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It does contain considerably less alcohol than the Wildling variant though. Despite Davos' apprehension, the real thing is considered delicious. This makes even more sense when you consider what much of the rest of the world knows fermented milk as: yogurt!
    • Sansa's promise to Ramsay that House Bolton will be forever erased from history resembles the Damnatio memoriae practice in The Roman Empire, which was a form of dishonor that could be passed by the Roman Senate on traitors or others who brought discredit to the Roman State. The intent was to erase the malefactor from history, as if he or she had never existed.
    • History buffs very much appreciated the Bolton heavy infantry, and the resemblance to the shield wall tactics of the Greek phalanx or Roman legions, among others. Seeing the cold effectiveness of the shield wall, especially against a foe totally unprepared for it, was a joy to these fans of history.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Rickon's already memetic death got even better with the release of Kubo and the Two Strings a few months later, in which Art Parkinson plays the lead role and at one point has his life saved by an arrow being fired at him.
  • Memetic Mutation: As per usual for a Wham Episode with this many distinctive moments:
    • It didn't take long for fans to create endless loops of Jon beating the living crap out of Ramsay. It's like Joffrey getting imp-slapped on steroids.
    • Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? Who? Sansa did.
    • The shot of Lyanna Mormont giving Ramsay a Death Glare is now the new template for Memetic Badass memes involving her.
    • Rickon's death and the audience's general lack of reaction to it has led to the phrasing "Rickon, Rickoff" regarding said death scene.
    • Fans have also noted that Ramsay's fate is similar to that of Scar, due to being mauled and ripped apart by his once loyal hounds who turn on and kill him due to mistreatment.
    • Several memes have been generated with references to The Lord of the Rings, from Jon saying, "For Frodo," to Littlefinger as Gandalf arriving with The Cavalry.
    • Several memes have been spawned with either Ramsey or his hounds featured in various dog food ads or Ramsay's face featured on dog food packets.
    • There is a GIF going around of Jon and Tormund looking over the battle when a headless rider passes by, dying. The caption? "Don't worry Jon, Ned Stark came back to help you".
    • After Ramsay's well-deserved death, posts pulling revisionist history of his character popped up, facetiously painting him as a generous and kind leader who gets killed by ungrateful rebels.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • While the rest of the episode absolutely shines with gorgeous special effects, some shots of the dogs at the end of the episode, especially the final dog that lunges at Ramsay, are quite obviously CGI.
    • While the Battle of Meereen is very stunning overall, the green screen in certain shots, such as when the Dothraki and Daario charge at the Sons of the Harpy, is extremely obvious.
    • When Jon mounts his horse to rescue Rickon before Ramsay kills him, the sword hanging from his waist is obviously made of rubber.
    • The CGI-heavy battle scenes are improperly scaled at times. Kit Harington is of average height, but he looks about five feet tall in places (or else all the enemy soldiers are seven footers).
  • Strawman Has a Point: Tyrion compares Dany's plan to kill the Masters and burn their cities to her father trying to burn King's Landing. While Dany says that this is different, Tyrion convinces her otherwise and the show seems to think that we are meant to agree with him. However, Tyrion is trying to compare the Mad King pulling a Taking You with Me to Dany planning to Make an Example of Them, and he has to focus on the "destroying cities" bit for his point to be even remotely similar. Sure, Dany would at the very least be destroying the livelihoods of (if not outright slaughtering) possibly millions of people, but Tyrion doesn't flesh his comparison out enough (beyond trying to avert a view of A Million Is a Statistic) to make this argument and it would be a stretch of the imagination either way.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A number of book fans lament that House Manderly didn't play any role at all in helping the Starks, since in the books they became Ensemble Darkhorses by covertly working to restore the Starks to power, and many who had pinned their hopes on the Umbers doing something similar in the Manderlys' stead were also greatly disappointed.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: So this is where all the CGI budget went this year. It shows.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Sansa complaining that Jon didn't ask for her opinion at the war council, even though she was present and could have contributed at any point, as she did at the first war council. Then when Jon does ask for his sister's opinion, Sansa offers no solutions other than "we need more men and don't do what Ramsay wants" ... while not telling him that the Knights of the Vale are on their way. Her letting Jon know about the reinforcements could have completely changed the nature of the battle, giving Jon the option of waiting for or at least coordinating with the Vale (keeping the element of surprise, as Ramsay still wouldn't know they were coming) and may well have saved hundreds of their own men as the original army were almost depleted by the time the Vale forces showed up. Why Sansa withheld the information isn't clear, but the possibility she did it so she'd get the credit for the victory doesn't make her look any better.
    • When Yara, Theon and the Greyjoys arrive to make their alliance with Dany, Tyrion gleefully taunts Theon during most of their screentime together and recalls Theon supposedly having made fun of him during their first meeting, even though Tyrion was the one being rude to the former in that episode, he makes it out as if Theon was the mean one in that instance, but this just makes him come off as a Jerkass especially when Theon has already been through so much that he can't and doesn't even fight back or retort, and Tyrion still decides to mock him at some points.
  • Win Back the Crowd: After the negative reviews of the previous episode "No One", this episode was received infinitely better, with acclaim for both battle sequences.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Jon riding off into the field and effectively throwing any strategy to the wind was less than well received by some, especially since Sansa warned him that something like this would happen and he still allows himself to be baited by Ramsay. (This is also fairly out of character given Jon's previous battle experience and that in the past he has kept himself under control and restrained his grief when necessary).
      • Even before that, they grossly overlooked a potentially game-changing asset they had on their side: Wun Wun! Jon knows from personal experience how efficient of an artillery a giant with a suitable bow can be - as was seen during the siege of Castle Black, their reach easily covers the distance between the two armies. Had they given their resident giant one of those and a bunch of fitting arrows, he could have plastered the Bolton troops with heavy fire and effectively prevent Ramsay from pulling his game. Later on, Wun Wun would have been FAR more efficient had he not went into the fight completely unarmed. Just give him a club like the one he had in Hardhome and he would have easily been able to break the circle the Boltons had closed around them, in a way similar to how Sauron dealt with the troops of the Last Alliance. Furthermore, have Davos and his troops wait just a few minutes longer and they wouldn't have been within the circle but outside! Which would have either meant the Boltons had to divide their attention to both sides, i.e. finding themselves in a pincer attack or leave their backs open and thus allowing Davos and his men to cut through them. Long story short, had Jon and Davos chosen to actually use the assets they had to their best potential, they could have made good on their boast about being able to beat the Bolton army with the troops they had - not needing the Knights of the Vale and thus denying Littlefinger the possibility to gather even more power.
    • Rickon doing absolutely nothing to make himself harder to hit. It didn't take long for fans to start making "Serpentine!" comments in reference to his poor decision, and clips of a very similar scene with better evasion techniques in the film Apocalypto are now plastered with Rickon-related comments.
    • Sansa not telling Jon about her letter to the Vale gets complaints from her motives not being clearly fleshed out. Did she not want to give Jon false faith on a plea she hadn't had answered yet? Did she not trust Jon to use the information properly? It's not clear in this episode, and it's easy to argue her silence contributed to the breakdown of the battle strategy almost as much as Jon's Not So Stoic moment.
    • Ramsay at the end of the episode, deliberately. It's actually been stated by Benioff and Weiss that Ramsay has had his way for so long that he literally does not know how to process the fact that he's in danger. He wastes a perfectly good shot against a distracted Jon because he figures he'll find some way to weasel out of fighting him fairly. He's even laughing when Jon is done punching the Seven out of him.


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