Everyone knows how much we love reading here at Knockin' Books. But what you may not know is that we sometimes grudgingly put our books down and watch a little quality TV. (Note how we said quality. You’ll never catch us stooping to the level of reality TV)
With that in mind, here’s the weekly Westeros wrap-up, aka, a discussion of Game of Thrones, Episode 9 (Battle of the Bastards) between Scott (the Design Dude) and Jennifer (Editorial Staff).
Time to get this party started!
Jennifer: First of all, I’d like to say a little prayer of thanks to The God of Light and the Many Faced God and the Old Gods and whoever else might be listening. Thank you, thank you, thank you for FINALLY killing Ramsey. I was starting to get worried that it wouldn’t happen. And Ghost is OK. Yay!!! All in all, it might have been my favorite episode of GoT EVER. (I know, I said that after Blackwater and Hardhome, but this time, THIS TIME, I really mean it)
DesignDude: It's times like this, I wish I were a better writer so I could accurately capture just how much I absolutely LOVED that episode. Was it completely predictable in terms of plot? No question. BUT (and I can't emphasize this strongly enough) when a show or movie or book or whatever follows a path you fully expect—thereby eliminating the power of surprise—and still blows your mind with how beautifully it's executed, it makes for a truly exceptional viewing experience.
The fact that the episode was limited to a single, grossly inadequate hour in length should be, in my humble opinion, considered a crime. On the other hand, seeing every precious minute so skillfully used to tell an immensely compelling story was almost like watching art being made before your eyes. And though I was vaguely marveling in the back of my mind at the amount of time and energy involved in producing something so gorgeous, I kept tamping those thoughts down because they only served to interfere with the experience of simply enjoying it.
Jennifer: Few shows have ever made me talk to my TV, or cheer or boo out loud. This show has done it a ton of times. I cheered out loud for Dany and her dragons, I held my breath and watched the whole battle between my fingers, and I laughed manically when Ramsey died. I’m not ever as invested in characters as I am in these. That’s a testament to the writing and acting on this show.
As for the nitty-gritty, I’ll start with Dany. When she said, “oh, no, you must’ve misunderstood. We’re here to talk about terms of your surrender,” I was smiling so much my face hurt. When Grey Worm killed the two pompous asshat slavers with one swing of his blade, I think I giggled a little. And when Tyrion patted the remaining slaver on the shoulder sympathetically and told him to go home and tell the story of what had happened that day to anyone dumb enough to rise up against Daenerys Stormborn ever again, I laughed out loud. I actually cheered when she ordered the dragons to burn the slavers’ ships. Anyone watching me watching the show last night would’ve thought I was batshit crazy. (But that would never happen. No one is allowed in the room with me while GoT is on. I demand complete silence)
DesignDude: Yes, by all means, let's start with Dany. Clearly, her storyline was the lesser of the two in terms of screen time if not importance. And yet, the perfection of every scene was absolutely brilliant. I'll start with the conversation between her and Tyrion who became increasingly distracted by explosions of fiery catapult projectiles hitting the pyramid while trying to nervously and unconvincingly explain how Meereen had actually been doing much better...up until the current attacks by the slavers.
Watching the usually confident and composed Tyrion behave like a child attempting to explain an ill-advised prank to a disappointed parent was both humorous and powerful at the same time. For her part, Dany ignored the explosions raining down on her city while calmly explaining how she was going to destroy her enemies. It was a scene that spoke volumes about her absolute confidence as a leader and ruler.
Jennifer: I felt like Tyrion was stifling her a little. I liked her “burn their cities to the ground” plan. But, I guess Tyrion’s plan had merit, too. Whatever. Her plan would’ve been more fun (and would’ve involved more onscreen dragon time, which is always awesome).
DesignDude: Speaking of dragons, when Drogon flew down and brought his head right down next to Dany as she calmly stared at the slavers, I have to think the look on her face would have made even the Night King pee little ice cubes in his frozen pants. And yes, I know the realism of high-end special effects just keeps getting more and more amazing,but watching Dany climb on Drogon, fly over the city and then command her dragon babies to breath fire on the invading ships was un-fucking-believable.
Also loved watching the Dothraki come charging out of nowhere to slaughter the Sons of the Harpy. Those dudes are going to come in super handy when it's time to take King's Landing. I only hope Dany decides to hand Tommen and the High Sparrow over to them.
Jennifer: I don’t think there was a moment of that whole sequence that I didn’t love. Everyone played their part beautifully. I want dragons in every episode from now on. The Sons of the Harpy probably crapped their pants to see that many Dothraki coming after them.
So, so, so, loved Tyrion’s comment to the slavers. (“Thanks for the armada. Our queen does love ships.” Ha!)
I also loved the little back-and-forth, semi-flirty exchange between Yara and Dany. If that’s not a match made in heaven, I don’t know what is. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Dragons: Long may they reign.
Thought Tyrion was surprisingly bitter about the short jokes Theon made so long ago, which was a little out of character for him, I thought. He usually takes things in stride. Sure, Theon was a despicable human being, but I think he’s actually starting to grow up. I kind of want Tyrion to forgive him. Again, it’s a testament to this show’s writers and the actors’ performances that I’m actually starting to root for Theon, of all people.
DesignDude: There was nothing "semi" in the flirting going on between Yara and Dany. That was full-on Lilith Fair smoldering, at least from Yara. I don't think Dany is interested in moving the show to late night Cinemax territory, but she definitely likes and respects her. She even stood up for her by correcting Tyrion's claim that she was "demanding" rather than "asking".
For all her brash, aggressive cockiness, I had to give Yara credit for being calm and respectful in her handling of the conversation. Maybe she got a good look at the dragons and decided it'd be a good idea to tread carefully. Thought the arm clutch was a significant symbolic moment for both of them.
As for Tyrion, I'm guessing he doesn't like bullies or cowards and justifiably believes Theon is both. Can't say I'm not rooting for Theon, too. Not many characters on this show have been through worse and survived. He fought his way back home, backs his sister as the rightful ruler and helped her escape their fratricidal uncle. On a side note, I'd love to see the look on his face when he finds out Ramsey is not only dead but HOW he died.
Jennifer: Yeah, part of me wished Theon would’ve had the honor of killing Ramsey. He brutalized Sansa, but I think Theon was more…um…permanently damaged by that sadistic freak.
OK, I gotta talk about the battle of the bastards now, because it’s KILLING me not to. For my pre-battle thoughts:
DesignDude: If there was any wasted space in the episode, it was definitely Davos finding the deer carving. Based on the previews for the season finale, it looks like that discovery will come back into play. Not sure about the purpose of Davos and Tormund bonding, other than to provide insight about how they viewed their respective dead leaders versus Jon Snow.
I didn't understand the way Sansa handled her role in the battle. Her advice to Jon was frustratingly vague and pointless. I'm not a military strategy expert either, but I'm guessing it would have been super helpful if Jon knew there was a possibility the Vale army was on their way. Maybe he'd delay the battle for a day. Maybe there wouldn't even have been a battle. Surely fewer lives would have been lost. I understand they did it for dramatic effect, but if I'm Jon or Tormund, I'd be super pissed after the fact.
Speaking of dramatic effect, the Rickon death seemed totally stupid. He's running across this field and all he has to do is avoid arrows from a single archer. Given the distance the arrows were traveling, they were definitely in the air long enough that it would have been pretty simple for him to look over his shoulder, get a bead on the flight of the arrow and just jog a few steps out of it's path. Granted, Ramsay might have simply told all his archers to shoot at the same time, but Rickon's inability to figure out how to avoid single arrows traveling over a hundred yards seems downright idiotic. And with Jon riding to save him, shouldn't he have been able see that final arrow was heading right for his little brother? Why not yell at him to get down or jump or something?
Jennifer: Sansa keeping the possibility of Vale soldiers showing up from Jon and his war council made no sense to me. If the battle could’ve waited a single day, so many lives might have been saved.
Like Sansa, I never expected Rickon to make it out of that battle alive. But I do have one word for him: Serpentine. Zig and zag a little, kiddo. You’re right: avoiding one arrow shouldn’t have been that hard. But at least Rickon finally had a purpose on the show: get Jon into the berserker rage necessary to kick some ass on that battlefield. He did “crazy eyes” pretty good, too. Not as good as Rick on The Walking Dead, but a really respectable effort made by Kit Harrington on that one. Kudos.
As much as I appreciate “crazy eyes” done well (not to be confused with Ramsey’s usual expression, which is “sadistic douchebag eyes”), I was irritated that Ramsey managed to goad Jon into charging. Even after Sansa’s warning that he liked to play games, Jon still fell for it. Grrr.
DesignDude: Really bummed that Wun Wun the giant died too. Don't know if he would've survived all those arrows but hate that Ramsey killed the last known giant in existence. Watching Sansa play with Ramsey as the dogs slowly began coming out of their cages was delicious. She stared down the monster that brutalized her, tasted sweet revenge and walked away stronger and better prepared to help Jon rebuild alliances with the remaining Houses of the North. Of course, that all depends on what Petyr is expecting in return for his help. Also can't imagine the Lannisters and Freys being happy about a new Stark regime.
Finally, I'd like to mention the show's music. I think it's a vastly underrated aspect of the show's quality. Ramin Djawadi is the composer for much of the show's music including its opening title sequence and for me at least, it's an invaluable aspect to setting the tone and mood of each scene. Really powerful stuff.
Jennifer: Yeah, I have a feeling I know what Little Finger expects from Sansa, and it’s gross, because he’s old enough to be her father. I hate that Wun Wun died, but was glad he went out a hero (like Hodor…sniffle). At least his death wasn’t meaningless.
And I can’t remember ever enjoying watching someone get pummeled as much as I enjoyed Jon Snow beating the crap out of Ramsey. Ramsey was shooting arrows at him, and he never broke stride (all while rocking the “crazy eyes”, protecting himself with one of little Lyanna’s bear shields). Couldn’t be happier. Also glad he let him live long enough for Sansa to have her moment. Her little evil grin as Ramsey screams in the background was priceless. (And I’m calling bullshit that the dog they showed onscreen was anything more than a big, lovable, tongue-lolling doofus. That dog had the sweetest face I’ve ever seen. They should’ve gotten a mean-looking dog to do the deed, but hey, I’m not complaining. At least the fucker is dead.)
All in all, best episode ever. Epic, even. Prepare their Emmy awards now. Don’t see how they’re going to top this one (though I’ve been wrong about that before…)