(Photo Courtesy of YouTube)
Three “television enthusiasts,” the dynamic brother-sister duo of Marci and Rusty Buehler and Zac Hirschbeck, watch Game of Thrones each Sunday night and exchange their thoughts on the show’s happenings.
Rusty: Well, that was an underwhelming episode, eh? Jkjkjkjkjkjk! Last night’s episode was so EPIC, it’s hard to pick a place to begin. ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ was easily the series’ flashiest episode. If you’re curious to get a peek under the hood, I recommend reading this behind the scenes article on Entertainment Weekly. How much coin did that episode cost to make??
I want to start out by talking about our main dude Jon Snow. For all intents and purposes… he should have lost, right? Sansa tried to give him some sound advice, which he totally ignored. Jon may have awesome hair, and some incredible luck, but at this point I’m pretty confident in saying that our hero isn’t the smartest tactician in Westeros. “2,000 men against 6,000? Cool, cool. Any advice? Don’t play into Ramsay’s games? OK great, I’ll totally take that into considera –RICKON AHHHHHHHH EVERYBODY CHARGE! I AM A DUMMY!” If Sansa hadn’t sent out that raven to get the at-the-buzzer assist from Littlefinger, a different bastard would have won.
That was a pretty fantastic battle. Creatively, each battle has gotten more and more innovative with how the audience gets to take everything in. This season’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ style was pretty effective, keeping the camera tight on Jon for most of the battle, giving the viewer a tunnel lens perspective into the action. The action was purposefully overwhelming, hitting home how the odds were against our protagonists.
As for casualties… I mean there were literal PILES of bodies on the field, which was crazy. But, I was surprised how many characters survived… except our big buddy Wun Wun. Poor Wun Wun! He was a giant of few words, and managed to treat most bow-and-arrow wounds like mosquito bites, until one got him right in the eye. Happy trails, my friend. Wun Wun was wun wun of my favorite characters…. Any chance Melisandre will bring him back to life? Probz not, she seems pretty deflated at the moment. Davos finally connected all of the dots, and it’s not looking good for the Red Witch next week. Wouldn’t it be funny if she couldn’t get wet, Wizard of Oz style? I’m not optimistic that Melisandre will make it out of this season alive – we started the season with an episode that focused on her (it was titled ‘The Red Woman’) and it would be appropriate to bookend the season with something gnarly happening to her. That is one of my big predictions for the season finale, stay tuned for about 500 more!
We have barely scratched the surface of this episode… Marci, Zac, what did you think??????
Marci: THAT EPISODE WAS AMAZING !!! Wow, I know I complain when they have their setup exposition-filled episodes, but boy did it all pay off big time this season – last night’s penultimate episode was filled with action and drama from start to finish, bringing a very satisfying conclusion to the Battle of the Bastards after it seemed like Jon Snow and his meager army was doomed.
Rusty, I also noticed the “Saving Private Ryan” feel to the battle, and thought it worked really well. When Jon was effectively getting trampled we were given an intimate look into the battle, and I ALMOST FELT LIKE I WAS THERE. LIKE I WAS GETTING TRAMPLED TOO. Thank goodness Sansa got help from Littlefinger. Watching The Knights of The Vale easily mow down the Bolton forces as if they were bowling pins made me delightfully happy.
Then Ramsay ran away like the little bitch that he is. What a piece of crap. Watching Jon, Tormund and Wun Wun chasing after him was great fun, except it seemed like Wun Wun was lagging behind the others – with those giant legs, you’d think he’d be able to move a little faster. But, nevertheless – he’s a true hero, taking that wall down and reclaiming Winterfell, even if it meant losing his life for it. It was sad to see him go, made into somewhat of a huge porcupine with arrows sticking out of him every which way. RIP Wun Wun, you’ll be forever in our hearts.
After seeing the destruction and death of the battle, it was hugely satisfying to watch Jon Snow punch Ramsey repeatedly in his dumb face. I’m glad he let Sansa finish him off, but I do have to say that as an advocate for the pit bull breed, I was a bit saddened that Ramsey’s bloodthirsty dogs that ultimate eat his face off are all huge, blockheaded pitties. Sansa’s smirk at the end, though!
Another general note on last night’s viewing experience: I thought the direction of this episode was done particularly well – kudos to Miguel Sapochnik for giving us some really well structured shots amidst the action. The shots of the Stark banners being hung at Winterfell after the Battle were some of my favorite of the episode.
Zac, I’ll let you talk about Dany’s big opening sequence this week, as I have a feeling that it was hugely satisfying for you. Did you enjoy watching the dragons attack the slaver’s fleet? And what do you make of the meeting between Khaleesi and Yara/Theon?
Zac: Marci, before I share my (predictably enthusiastic) thoughts on the Mother of Dragons opening up a sizable can of whoop ass on the Masters of Slaver’s Bay, the last half hour of this week’s episode was the most grippingly tense period of television that I ever had the pleasure of watching. When my heart wasn’t racing and pounding, I was shouting hopeful predictions, thoughts, and worries at the television as Jon Snow weaved his way through the Bolton army. With that in mind, I’d like to offer my apologies to my loved ones for having to watch Game of Thrones with me last night.
While I haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan’s famous depiction of World War II like you both (Sorry!), the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Between the brutality, the realism, and the never-ending concern for our beloved heroes (particularly Jon – Leslie Jones and I really thought was going to die when the entire Bolton army was bearing down on him), I still feel a little spent from watching it all unfold. Yet, unsurprisingly, I likely will never tire of talking about everything that went down just outside the walls of Winterfell.
Here are some randomly ordered takeaways from the battle:
1. Jon Snow is Still Pretty Cool
Although he would’ve been wise to adhere to the advice that Sansa gave him, it’s hard to fault the former Lord Commander for racing to try and save Rickon. Plus, his chaotically heroic ensuing efforts, which were so beautifully filmed, more than made up for failing to retrieve his younger brother in time. As he pushed his way up out of that mangled pile of bodies, chased down Ramsay, beat him within an inch of life with his fists, and left him to die at the hands of his sister, I continue to believe that Jon is the hero to end all heroes on this show.
2. R.I.P. Wun Wun, But Long Live Tormund
Despite speaking but one word (Snow!) throughout his time on the show, Wun Wun was a beloved character. Deservingly so, he died a heroic death as he busted down the gates of Winterfell before succumbing to a significant collection of arrows. The look on Jon’s face as he saw his huge ally tumble to the ground was pretty heartbreaking. However, I hope they find the strength within them to burn Wun Wun’s body. You really don’t want him coming back as a White Walker.
Tormund’s killing of Ramsay’s head lieutenant was the most enjoyable kill-of-the-week for me. Things looked very bleak for Brienne’s future husband until he took a bite out of that dude’s neck and subsequently put him down. Much like Bronn has done in King’s Landing, Tormund provides the North with a fun combination of hilarity and badassery.
3. Sansa and Littlefinger
We’ve talked about this a few times this season, but Sansa’s transformation throughout the show has been pretty crazy. In Season 1 she was unlikable, whiny and annoying. In Season 6, she’s engineering victories and reclaiming her family’s home. Though I’m unexcited to watch Littlefinger hit on Sansa for the 178th time in the finale, the guy plays the Game of Thrones better than most. It’s reassuring for Jon and Sansa, from a survival aspect, that they have Pete Baelish on their side now.
4. Ramsay Dies a…. Fitting Death
The show’s most vile character finally met his demise. I liked Jon pummeling the absolute shit out of his face. I liked Sansa sicking Ramsay’s own instruments of destruction on him. I especially like that we don’t have to watch The Bastard of Bolton commit one horrific act after another moving forward. With that said, credit Iwan Rheon for bringing such a monster to life. That final pre-battle interaction on horseback was particularly great acting from Rheon.
Moving on, Daenerys’ swift decimation of the Slaver’s Bay forces was just as enjoyable. I almost feel that the showrunners should’ve saved that moment for an episode separate from the Battle of the Bastards. This show has been building to the moment where Daenerys and her dragons set opposing forces ablaze, and while it was great, I can’t help but feel it deserved it’s own episode. I think I’m just being a wiener though. I mean stop packing so much awesome into one episode David Benioff and D.B. Weiss! The nerve!
Other brief thoughts on the situation in Meereen… I’m happy that my concerns over Tyrion’s demise last week seem premature now. He seemingly still has the ear of the Queen and he doesn’t appear ready to check out and start up that vineyard quite yet. I also enjoyed Yara’s interaction with Daenerys. In particular, I loved her response to Dany regarding a potential marriage demand. She is so down to clown.
While I’m tempted to keep writing and writing and writing, I’ll turn things back over to you both!
Did I miss anything from the victory at Winterfell that caught your eye? What did you guys make of the M.O.D.’s dragon-riding fun in Meereen?
AND WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FINALE?!?
SIDEBAR: HEFF REACTS
Kevin Heffernan, co-founder of Rise Collaborative, shares his immediate thoughts after viewing this week’s episode:
“All the theories on the Umbers being an insider coup – nothing but wildling haters. Littlefinger – how strategic that he wait until there’s almost no one left alive to strike so there will be no one left to challenge him when the dust settles. Sansa is so definitely pregnant with Ramsey’s kid. Do Dothraki get sea sick? No one knows. That is all.”
Rusty: Zac, I agree that it’s pretty crazy to have the first third of the episode filled with HOT DRAGON ACTION, and for it to be overshadowed by something else. But, such is the stacked hand we were dealt with this week. The amount of story we went through in Meereen this episode alone could have taken a whole season to get through. Also, I guess dragons are pretty smart? Are they like dolphins, who are similar in intelligence to humans? Or are they more like dogs, and you can teach them to respond to commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘fucking waste that ship with gnarly, gnarly fire’? If it’s the latter, Dany’s done a pretty good job of hiding her Cesar Milan from the main narrative! I hope they also learned that trick where Dany shoots them with her hand pointing like a gun saying ‘bang!’ and then they pretend to fall over and play dead. I love when dogs and dragons do that! So cute!
We left Dany in a pretty good place. She’s got an alliance with the Greyjoys and the slavers are on the run. Knowing Game of Thrones, things can’t possibly stay this good forever. My BIG PREDICTION for the season finale: Euron catches up to them and kills Yara, priming a big comeback story for Theon. This also strands Dany in Meereen for a few episodes into Season 7, and the GoT fans will all collectively groan and command their dragon to shoot fire at their television sets (or computer screens if you’re a millennial or influencer or gen Z or WHATEVER).
Here are a couple of other predictions for the finale:
Davos: Now that Davos has successfully found all of the evidence he needs to win Clue (“It was…. Melisandre… on the frozen tundra…. With a fanatical stake-burning!!!”), there will definitely be a reckoning next week.
Cersei/King’s Landing: Whatever happens next week, I think the High Sparrow is toast. Cersei has a lot of plates spinning in the air, and all of them are dangerous. My BIG PREDICTION here is that with whatever scheme she has cooking (and I prescribe to this popular fan theory SPOILER ALERT), she will inadvertently put Tommen in mortal danger. Also, we gotta have a payoff with The Mountain, right?
Bran: At the very least, we need to see those flashbacks come full circle in the finale. I’m a little worried because I don’t recall seeing any Bran in the ‘scenes from next week’, but maybe they’re holding out on us. Are we also going to see more imminent danger with another tease from the Night’s King? Now that Ramsay is out of the way, are there any other Big Bads beside him?
Hot Pie: Hot Pie will come back, after he announces a franchise of his bakery, Hot Pie’s Hot Pies. Brienne inexplicably is a line cook.
Arya: BIG PREDICTION: NO ARYA NEXT WEEK! I don’t think we’ll get any more Arya until season 7, which is such a bummer. But I don’t know how she can fit into the story with all of the other threads we need to resolve.
What do you two think?
Marci: Good predictions Rusty! I agree that Arya probably won’t show up next week, it seems like her storyline came to a pretty strong conclusion this year, and we have so many more loose ends to wrap up next week. The good news is we’re getting a supersized episode next week – a whopping 69 minutes (hehehehehehehe). Really Benioff and Weiss? You couldn’t just make it 70 minutes? Next week’s episode is also directed by Miguel Sapochnik, and I’m pumped to see more of his work coming off this week’s masterpiece.
Here’s the official HBO trailer for next week’s finale:
Looks like we’ve got some King’s Landing shit going down, some Jon and Sansa talk, some Frey/Lannister toasts, some Littlefinger declaring his love to Sansa, some Davos yelling at the Red Witch, something with Bran, some stuff with Dany and her lover man, and (obviously) a witty, memorable line from Tyrion.
My bold predictions for next week:
- Zac’s prediction of “R+L = J” unfolds and we finally find out who Jon Snow’s real mother is. I’m thinking this will unfold via BRAN WARG.
- Tommen AND the High Sparrow will die. And maybe Loras.
- Davos will yell at the Red Witch and possibly kill her? I’m not sure how that will shake out though…is it easy to kill a witch? Maybe if he waits until she’s asleep he will have an advantage versus her saggy bum.
- The Freys will try to murder Jaime… Otherwise I’m not sure why we have a scene with the Freys and Jaime. Now that we’ve established him as a somewhat likable (and at the same time morally reprehensible) character, it makes sense that the show would put him in imminent danger.
- The name of the episode is “The Winds of Winter,” so I’m thinking that we’ll see some White Walker action at some point.
But, as usual – none of my predictions will probably come true. And that’s why I love watching this show so much.
Zac, what do you think will happen next week? Are you worried about the fate of any of our fave characters?
Zac: As far as predictions go for the finale, I agree with pretty much everything you both already spoke to.
Rusty, the fan theory regarding Cersei in King’s Landing makes a lot of sense. Between Bran warging and stumbling upon the Mad King’s plan to “Kill Them All” with wildfire, Tyrion discussing how Daenerys must avoid similarly destructive paths, and Qyburn whispering of his and Cersei’s “plan” two weeks ago, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Cersei burn King’s Landing to the ground. I think Tommen dies this week. The prophecy that Cersei has lived in accordance with is pretty damning at this point. I also think the youngest of the Queen Mother’s children will die tragically. If I had to guess, I still believe that Margaery and Tommen might be working together behind the scenes to shed the Sparrows from their current proximity to the Iron Throne, and I think Cersei might discover those true intentions after she accidentally kills her own son. Even for Cersei, who has long been one of the more reprehensible characters on the show, that scenario would be pretty terrible if proved true.
Marci, I also agree that we will definitely see the White Walkers in the finale. “The Winds of Winter” seems like a title that would indicate that the Frozen Army of the Dead is fast approaching the North. I think this show will ultimately hinge on a battle for all civilization between our heroes (Jon, Daenerys, whoever else aligns with them) and the White Walkers. I think the show begins inching toward that war this week.
Ultimately, I always come back to the fact this whole series (meaning George R.R. Martin’s books) is titled “A Song of Ice and Fire.” This past week we saw both of these words shape the episode. Daenerys’ fire has empowered her this season, and she looks a safe bet to reach King’s Landing at some point to stake her claim to the Iron Throne. In the North, we saw Jon and Sansa team up to topple their horrible foes and take back control of the land that is rightly theirs. Eventually, and especially when Jon learns that he’s half Targaryen and half Stark (R+L=J does have to happen Marci!) and therefore can ride dragons AND kill White Walkers with his Valyrian sword, the Starks and Targaryens will unite.
One last personal hope in addition to my long desired discovery of Jon’s parentage: A Stark Reunion. Arya is on her way back from Braavos, and Bran is likely doing the same after fleeing from the White Walkers. As Jon and Sansa attempt to patch things up in the Winterfell, I hope their long-lost siblings manage to find their way home as well. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking on Game of Thrones though. After so much went well in Episode 9, we could be in store for a whole bunch of negativity in Season 10.
Episode 9 was great, but I can’t wait to see how this show raises the bar yet again in Episode 10.
See you guys next week!