This week, in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones Season 6, we all got to look on with giddy glee as Lebron Snow stormed the castle gates and retook Winterfell for the people of Cleveland. Or something like that. I don’t know. Everything’s kind of jumbled right now. Seriously, though—there was a lot of good TV on Sunday. And living on the West Coast, I didn’t even have to choose between the two. And once Kyrie Irving hit that contested three in the final minutes, and Kevin Love actually made Steph Curry pass the ball instead of taking a crazy shot, I swear I could almost hear the whole city of Cleveland cheering from all the way in Vegas. And everyone (well, all sports fans) will have their own favorite moments from the aftermath, but here’s mine: the Cavaliers getting ready to take a team photo with the championship trophy, and Lebron James, in a refreshingly non-I’m-the-Great-One moment, calling to his kids to make sure they go stay with Grandma, who of course decide that, nah, we’d rather be in this picture as they run happily back into frame and plant themselves at his feet. Smile, click, happy Sunday, everyone! But wait! (you’re saying) This isn’t a basketball retrospective! And you’re right, of course, but I do have a point, and it is this: after seeing the son of a single mom from Akron best the son of a former NBA superstar who grew up with all the from-the-start advantages that entailed, and deliver a championship to a city that hasn’t experienced one in over 50 freaking years—seriously, it’s a running joke in sports to say “God hates Cleveland.” How harsh is that?—I was ready for anything. Kill ‘em all, GOT, (I said) I’ve had my fill of happys for the day, so dash my hopes and dreams if you must. Except… that didn’t happen. We can debate the moral implications of thinking bad guys meeting gory ends counts as something “good” another time but, aside from a character with a really important name who’s had a really small role for several seasons, and a giant whose death seemed more like a heroic sacrifice than anything else, the good guys triumphed, in grand form. What is this imposter show, and what has it done with my Game of Thrones? We began in Meereen, with arrows flying and things exploding. The cut from “Directed by” on the credits to the first action scene was so jarring, I honestly wondered for a moment if we’d leapt full-force straight into the Battle of the Bastards. But no, it quickly became clear this was the assault of the Masters on the pyramid. As carnage reigns around them, Tyrion and Daenerys have a surprisingly calm discussion, wherein she promises to burn all the Masters’ cities to the ground, and he lets her know her father, the Mad King, did the same thing, so she should be a little careful going down that road. The show has been doing an awful lot of gentle could-be foreshadowing of Daenerys’ perhaps-genetic predisposition to massive-scale cruelty and destruction, and it’s going to be interesting in the (presumably) final two seasons to see just how far the show is willing to push that idea. My guess: the showrunners know how happy the fans are to finally have strong female characters they can actually root for, and as long as Arya and Sansa remain developed and alive, Daenerys doing a WWE-style heel turn isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. Prognostication aside, though, Daenerys’ sequences have gone well beyond the border of tiredly predictable and formulaic. Starting way back at the end of Season 1, when she was thrown into a bonfire to die and instead walked out unscathed with baby dragons in hand, the sequence (for all you would-be Mother of Dragons conquerors) is this: Daenerys seems weak, outmatched, and on the verge of defeat; Daenerys says something along the lines of “Oh, you must be confused. I’m here to kick your ass”; the bad guys laugh at her insolence; Daenerys burns the world. Rinse and repeat. It happened that way with the bonfire; it happened when she went to procure her first fleet of ships and the rulers of the city decided, instead, to hold her and her dragons hostage; it happened that way when she gained the allegiance of the Unsullied. It happened that way twice this very season: first, when the Dothraki leaders were getting ready to brutalize her in the very flammable temple, and in this most recent episode, as well. To speak specifically of Episode 9: the Masters say, “We’ve come to take your city and your dragons”; Daenerys says, “Oh, you’re mistaken, we came to discuss your terms of surrender, and not mine.”; the Masters wink and laugh at each other—silly girl, they’re thinking, how could she possibly think she’ll get the best of us?—; Daenerys uses the power of dragons and fire to kill her enemies. This pattern has become so predictable that no matter how many dragons are flying around the resulting chaos becomes something close to boring. Then, once the figurative dust and literal smoke have settled, we jump-cut to Theon and Yara standing with Daenerys in the Mother of Dragons’ chambers. The shift is so abrupt I half wondered if my video had hiccupped and eaten five minutes of the show. Strangely, though, I’m not as bothered by their traveling clear across the world in record time as maybe I should be: what we didn’t need, from a narrative momentum perspective, was for repeated scenes of the Theon and Yara on a boat making their way to Meereen. The result of this quick conference, in any event, is Daenerys pledges her assistance to Yara and Theon, and Yara pledges to end her people’s raping and pillaging ways. So with that ten minutes out of the way—yes, all the above clocked in at just over ten minutes. Craziness!—we go directly to the Battle of the Bastards. Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton have their much-awaited, face-to-face meeting on the battlefield, in a parlay of sorts the day before the carnage is to commence. It’s to the eternal credit of both actors that they convey their respective characters’ emotions in this scene so well: Kit Harington wears a frown of quiet, uneasy contemplation—a mix of “I know I have to do this” and “I know I can’t do this”—and Iwan Rheon is maniacal and batshit as ever, calmly thanking Jon for returning his wife to him, casually remarking how hungry his dogs are (oh, they’ll get fed, Ramsay, you jerk), and declining Jon’s offer of one-on-one combat: “I don’t know if I can beat you,” he says, “but I know my army can beat yours.” The battle itself, as had been for the past several weeks and will be written of for a long time to come, is beautifully shot, staged, and edited. As it begins in earnest we track Jon Snow on foot, and the camerawork somehow simultaneously conveys the overall frantic scope of the fighting while giving us an intimate look at what it’s like for this one, single character to be in a veritable war of thousands. And later in the fighting, as Jon’s men begin a retreat and he is knocked to the ground, we feel his claustrophobia and both figurative and literal suffocation as he is trampled by the men and horses above him. When he finally is able to pull himself to his feet, the camera pulls back and up, and the sea of bodies around him brings the whole scale of things uneasily to light. The actual ending of the battle, though, seems to come a little abruptly and is a bit too tidy. As swords fly and battle cries ring out, we hear a distant horn blaring. It takes the soldiers—and the viewers—a minute to realize that something is happening, and when the camera pans out we see Littlefinger and his army—with Sansa at their side—ready to turn the tide. Leaving aside the fact that perhaps Sansa could have told Jon that, hey, we have reinforcements coming and maybe saved some lives, there’s no sense of the tide really turning at this point—just Ramsay retreating to within the castle walls, and the wildling giant using his body as a battering ram to break through. After the retaking of Winterfell is complete, and Sansa is given the opportunity to strike the killing blow against Ramsay—in very appropriate canine-assisted fashion—we fade to black and the credits roll. It’s a good ten seconds after this point that I remembered to exhale. The exit of Ramsay Bolton is a welcome one. Yes, he was an expertly cast and played bad guy who was easy to root against; but he was also distressingly one note. There was no nuance to his personality or actions—he was just bad for bad’s sake. Even his quest to capture, and then retain, Winterfell seemed to have less to do with any personal ambitions of power, than the opportunity to cause more suffering that his power carried. His entrance into the series—when he pretended to be Theon’s ally, only to lead the poor guy out of prison, through the wilderness, and then back to his torture chamber—was wonderfully managed, and did more for his character building than an entire season’s worth of little horrors could have accomplished, but everything we’ve seen from him since that time has just been reinforcement of our initial impressions of his evil. Every scene involving Ramsay has seemed to exist as nothing more than an opportunity to push the envelope—you think raping a girl while her brother watches is bad? Well, now we’re going to kill a baby!—with actually advancing the story at large being an afterthought. The viewer can easily be forgiven for forgetting the whole reason Ramsay was important in the first place: as long as he controlled Winterfell, the Night’s King and his White Walkers could advance relatively unimpeded through the North. Instead of rejoicing at what his defeat means for our heroes’ survival chances, we’re instead just glad that the jerk is dead. As Sansa herself says shortly before unleashing the Hounds, no one will remember him or speak his name ever again (hopefully).  This was, top to bottom, as complete and linear an episode as we’ve had all season. And the sheer scale and technical execution of the fight scenes and special effects more than make up for any lacking areas of the narrative. Combine that with the death of Ramsay Bolton and the Stark flag flying at Winterfell once again, and you almost get the sense that things may turn out okay in the end. But then, you take a moment and consider: all the good things we could have possibly rooted for have already happened: Sansa escaped Ramsay’s clutches, Ramsay himself is dead, The Hound isn’t dead. Arya killed the Waif and is no longer beholden to the Faceless Man. So all that’s left, any Game of Thrones fan should know, is for the bad stuff to come. So remember Cleveland and the improbable comeback of the Cavaliers. Remember that we’ll never have to deal with Ramsay Bolton ever again. Because those warm fuzzies may be the last we get until GOT returns for Season 7. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.