At this point, I’m not even sure how to write about how good Game of Thrones is. I don’t know what there is to say anymore. Between the Battle of the Bastards and Game Seven of the NBA Finals, last night was the most anticipated night in entertainment for most of our lifetimes. Anything less than a hard 10 of an episode would’ve been a letdown, anything less than heart-pounding drama would be a massive disappointment. But even with these expectations, last night delivered on every single level. I truly believe Game of Thrones is the best television show of all-time. There has never been a show more epic in scale, that promises more, and several times every single season it delivers on that promise. It’s mind-boggling how consistently great it is. It raises expectations higher than a television audience has ever raised them, and then exceeds that. And I am going to cherish every last second we have of it for the rest of the show’s lifespan.
While many of us anticipated a mainline to our veins of straight Jon Snow for the entire 60 minutes, we also were treated to a little Essos action as well. We opened with Khaleesi under attack and a panicking Tyrion, desperately trying to remain calm in an environment he hasn’t been in since Blackwater. Well the Masters thought because they had ships and catapults, and Mereen had no naval defense given they burned the shipyard in the beginning of the shipyard, they and everyone else thought they had the upper hand. The Masters also probably thought with the Warriors up 3-1 and two games left at home, there was no way the Cavaliers could come back to win the NBA finals. Life’s funny. Watching them tell Dany, a woman ruler in a man’s world, a liberator on a continent defined by slavery, a woman who spent her childhood begging in a place where power and status are everything, “I imagine it’s difficult. Adjusting to the new reality” might as well have been framed in a neon blinking Vegas sign reading IRONY, IRONY, IRONY.
And it is Dany’s goddamn world now. Watching her kick ass on a dragon has been something we as an audience have been edging towards for about five seasons now, and we got a taste of the asskicking that we’ve been wanting to see for so long. She’s a bulldozer now. A white-hot death machine that can burn and cut through everything in her path. She has the best land warriors that money can buy, a horde of insane horsemen who double as the foremost savages seen on either continent (and not savages the way white bros who can take a six second pull of Fireball are BROOOO, WHAT A SAVAGE type savages, but you know, actual savages), solid political consultation, and it’s about to get as lit as those ships in Slavers Bays. Well not all of the ships are lit, some of them of course were surrendered to her, which combined with the deal she made with Yara, should be enough to turn her eyes west once and for all. Which if you are a highborn who the Khaleesi has been very, very upset with for a very, very long time, that is most likely very, very bad news and should make you very, very nervous.
A quick note about the pact she made with Yara: The gradual empowerment of Daenerys, the ascension of Yara, the rebirth and remaking of Sansa (which we’ll get to in a minute), and Arya’s general badassery makes Game of Thrones, in my opinion at least, the single most prominent piece women’s empowerment in pop culture right now. You can call it Girl Power, you can call it feminism, you can call it whatever term you want. But it’s cool to see the most popular show on television and a legit cultural phenomena able to embrace female characters in a way that doesn’t feel forced or like it’s trying to make some sort of point larger than the importance of the show itself. I realize I’m like a guy writing on Barstool Sports right now, so no one really gives a shit what I think about this topic nor should they, but Thrones if they are not pioneering cool killer girls on TV, are at least elevating it to a level it hasn’t been before, and it’s definitely worth making a note of. And a huge L for Beyonce to have Lemonade be overtaken by a show about dragons and ice zombies, but a lot more people are willing to pay for HBO than Tidal.
Which brings us to the bread and meat of the episode, the reason we all turned in, the fight FOR THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, the mf’ng Bastard Bowl.
Everything we intuitively know about story structure and how TV and movie plots generally progress told us that Jon Snow was going to win yesterday. Every natural instinct a viewer has is that the good guys win. If you were to generally explain the situation leading into last night’s episode to a group of people who has never watched the show before, they could probably guess the ending with more accuracy than a group of diehards. That’s because for 94% of what we watch and consume, we sign a “James Bond” implicit contract with the writer; they’ll create all the drama and suspense we need to entertain us, but we can watch with a certain level of relaxation or more accurately, WITHOUT a certain level of anxiety because we know at the end, James Bond is going to escape the death trap, kill the bad guy, and get the girl. The main character has to survive at least towards the end to make everything work, and he’ll in close to all cases survive the end as well. That contract doesn’t exist with Game of Thrones. The tragedy and chaos of real-life is reflected in the ability of anyone to die and the probability of something unexpected going wrong. What that accomplishes is it lets us watch with more tension and delivers more dramatics than any other show in the history of television, but also causes us to punch more holes in walls and throw more chairs across the room than any other show in the history of television. Every instinct told us “Yeah Jon is going to win” but then you remembered how you got your hopes up for Ned Stark, Khal Drogo, Robb Stark, Oberyn Martell, and Stannis Baratheon and like a guy or girl whose been in three bad relationships in a row went “NO I’M NOT LETTING MYSELF BE HURT LIKE THAT AGAIN.” The smartest thing to do was prepare yourself for the worst.
Ramsay offering surrender terms was the first sign that “Oh wow they might actually pull this off.” I mean if anyone would like to walk in a field littered with thousands of dead bodies, it’s Ramsay, so he must have known the odds were worse for him than they might have looked. Maybe it going toe to toe with Wun Wun as an the giant who was able to break a line of shielded soldiers or the gates of Winterfell despite several arrows and spears stuck to his chest, or as he calls them, “splinters” that made the Bolton Bastard so nervous. Having Ghost the direwolf would’ve made things that much more scary but unfortunately, that apparently wasn’t in Jon Snow’s CGI budget. He tried to counter that with burning some flayed body alive as an intimidation factor. It sort of reminded me of how my 6th grade football team used to jump up and down in a huddle before games yelling “WHAT TIME IS IT? GAME TIME!” Real intense, intimidating shit.
Jon Snow was too much though. He was George Washington level bulletproof on his horse (Revolutionary War reference, Google it) and coming out of the pile of bodies had another rebirth/Christ-like redemption.
But that’s more or less what we expected of Jon. The far more interesting role in the battle was played by Sansa. Sansa letting Rickon take the L knowing he wasn’t going to live much longer shows how hardened and savvy she has become. It took going through a living hell to do it, but she has learned the Game of Thrones and knows how it’s played. Some people, less people, soft people, like bloggers for example, would have crumbled if they’d gone through her experiences, but instead of shaped and sharpened her like steel. She knew Rickon was destined for Crying Jordan memes the second he was taken and also knew he’d be used to trap Jon. Which ya know, is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED TEN HOURS LATER AFTER SHE SAID IT WOULD and almost ruined everything (by the way Rickon, you’re taking arrows in an open field. Maybe run in a zig-zag formation. Mix in a few tuck and rolls. Make the person lobbing sharp projectiles at you work for it. Pretty basic shit.)
Sansa’s letter from Episode Seven is what ultimately won the battle, taking the old adage from our dear departed Tywin Lannister (some wars are won with letters, remember when he said that right after the Red Wedding?) and applying it to herself. That letter loomed large when it wasn’t addressed (PUN) in Episode Eight; the Knights of the Vale riding in to save the day was the “upset” that literally everyone predicted like when everyone and their mother took the Celtics to beat the Warriors for their first regular season loss earlier this NBA season. It was the most predicted plot twist of all-time, but it still was awesome.
Also I heard predicted a lot was that Ramsay would meet his demise via his own dogs, which again, if predictable, didn’t make it any less awesome. Sure Jon Snow beating him to death would’ve been more old-fashioned, but there’s a roughtly 70% chance he was aroused the entire time and watching Sansa walk away to the sound of tearing flesh with a smile on her face illustrates the extremely important point that for whoever the next enemy is for the Stark clan, lord have mercy on them because she isn’t a woman to be trifled with anymore. Although that enemy might be inside of her, because I’m fairly certain she’s pregnant with Ramsay’s baby (the hints are there).
And that’s just about everything that happened. I guess Davos learned what happened to Shireen, but deep down I think he always knew, now it’s just confirmed so he has to confront someone about it, like a guy who knows his girlfriend is cheating on him but then finds tangible evidence for it and has to act surprised. And while I mostly felt great about what happened last night, as the Stark banner unfurled over Winterfell, I felt an odd pang of sadness too. There was a circular nature to that moment, that the show began with the Starks leading Winterfell, and now it has ended with the Starks leading Winterfell. And Dany is still across the Narrow Sea, and a Baratheon (in name at least) still sits in Kings Landing, and the Greyjoys lead the Iron Islands, and the Tyrells are in High Garden, and so little has actually changed. But it has cost so much, and for what? No one is better off than when they started. No one is happier or in a better place. I mean obviously Game of Thrones is fiction and serves for the purpose to entertain us, and getting overly emotionally attached to fictional characters is silly, but that banner going down in a weird way reminded me of how sad and pointless everything that has happened since King Robert went North to ask his old friend to be Hand of the King really is.
Even if is absolutely unbelievable to watch.
And that’s it. Postgame of Thrones podcast is coming tomorrow, we weren’t able to record last night due to Game Seven. So watch out for that. Also here are some random predictions I have for tomorrow’s episode. They may come true, most probably won’t but I want to hear yours on Twitter @CharlieWisco . I also want you to follow me there because I am close to 10 thousand followers and that makes me feel validated because I like attention. Talk to y’all next week.
Things I believe will happen in next week’s episode:
-Cersei tries to burn Kings Landing to the ground with Wildfire. Jaime is forced to make the decision he made when King Aerys pulled the same stunt. Instead of killing the woman he loves most, he lets the city burn.
-Dany sails towards Westeros with her army at her back.
-Arya sails towards Westeros to head to Kings Landing to kill Cersei.
-One shot of the Night’s King with his army and the Wall is in plain sight. This might be the last scene of the season.
-Bran takes us to the Tower of Joy and we learn Jon’s true parentage. This might also be the last scene.
This week Clem and I were joined by Barstool OG Rear Admiral to discuss the Bastard Bowl, as well as the Mereen appetizer and Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Listen here:
And if you want to pick up a shirt, have at it.