“Game of Thrones” Season 6, episode 9, was the cathartic release fans were hoping for from "Battle of the Bastards." There was bloodshed, complete chaos, but a clear victory that changed the future of Westeros in many interesting ways.
Warning: “Game of Thrones” Season 6 spoilers ahead.
“Battle of the Bastards” was pitched as a war between the underdog House Stark and the favored House Bolton. Before the battle, Jon Snow finally meets his enemy. Ramsay Bolton continues to be a horrible, cunning character whose calculated words are meant to deal as much emotional damage as possible. Calling Sansa Stark his "beloved wife" and "Lady Bolton" is one way to throw the Starks off their game.
Jon Snow's offer for a duel was always going to fail as Ramsay has more than enough strategic sense to know his army gives him the best chance at victory. The Stark contingent angrily heads back to camp after Ramsay produces the head of Shaggydog as proof he has Rickon. Before leaving, Sansa boasts that this will be Ramsay's last day on Westeros.
Back at camp, “Battle of the Bastards” establishes the long odds the Stark army has to overcome. Tormund and the Wildlings have zero strategy and no clue about even the most basic tactics. Building trenches to avoid getting outflanked is an obvious battle plan, something that Sansa quickly notices.
The development of Sansa Stark into a powerful figure was derailed briefly with the marriage to Ramsay Bolton, but "Game of Thrones" Season 6 has been her coming out party. She's made her opinions known, confronted Littlefinger and served as the catalyst for the coming battle. When Jon Snow blindly presses forward with his plan, she clearly points out its weakness. When she sees that they don't have enough men, Sansa sent for help.
At camp, Sansa reminds Snow that he knows nothing about Ramsay Bolton. Sansa has been ignored when her insights could lead them to victory. His arrogance could potentially be their downfall. Sansa has also accepted the death of Rickon, which shows just how far she has come since the beginning of “Game of Thrones.”
In the event of defeat, Sansa would rather commit suicide than return to Ramsay. Snow does not want to be resurrected if he falls in battle, but Melisandre says only the Lord of Light could decide his fate.
There are some quiet moments where we learn how some men deal with jitters before battle. Tormund likes to drink while Ser Davos likes to take long, pondering walks. One of those walks takes him near the old Stannis camp where Davos stumbles upon some burned remnants. In the charred wood is the toy stag given to Shireen by Davos, which confirms his suspicions of what happened before Stannis' army was slaughtered by Ramsay.
Davos' confrontation with Melisandre will have to wait because it's time for the big battle of “Game of Thrones” Season 6. The armies are lined up at opposite ends of an open field with Ramsay's army dwarfing the combined forces of House Stark. Before the battle, Jon Snow preached patience in the face of a superior foe, but logic is completely forgotten the moment he sees Rickon.
Ramsay had one last trick to play on the poor Stark family. After bringing Rickon to the front of the line, Ramsay cuts him loose and orders him to run to Jon. Ramsay nonchalantly begins firing a few arrows at Rickon before Jon Snow realizes what's happening. As Jon races to Rickon, an arrow plunges through the chest of the youngest Stark. Rickon's death triggers a reckless charge from Jon, who is soon confronted by a wave of charging horses. Before he's trampled, his forces join in the battle. The next moments are a furious blur of horse, human and blood.
The battle at the heart of “Game of Thrones” Season 6, episode 9, was as dramatic as any cinematic fight. Director Miguel Sapochnik keeps the action pretty tight, with only a few wider shots dedicated to Ramsay, Ser Davos or a quick scan of the battlefield. With only a limited visual range, the battle is chaotic and brutal. For Jon Snow and the others at heart of the fight, it's a guessing game as to where the next attack is coming from. It's so brutal that a wall of bodies has formed during the fight. While Ramsay continues to fling arrows without care, Ser Davos realizes his archers are useless.
With all of the Stark army committed to the fight, Ramsay unleashes a phalanx of soldiers moving in a half-circle to cut off the Stark forces within the wall of bodies. House Umber leads a charge from the rear, which pins the Starks within this deadly formation. Tormund and the Wildlings try to break through the ranks, but there are too many men. Jon Snow is getting trampled before he manages to climb through a pile of bodies to take a gasping breath.
Just when it appears the Stark army will be defeated, knights from Vale arrive triumphantly from the rear to completely destroy Ramsay's phalanx. With the tide turned in favor of the Starks, Ramsay flees back to the safety of Winterfell. The Starks don't have enough men for a successful siege, but that doesn't matter when you have a giant named Wun Wun. After many arrows, Wun Wun has enough strength to crash through the gate of Winterfell. Unfortunately, Wun Wun takes an arrow from Ramsay that kills the giant. A desperate attempt by Ramsay leads to a short-lived duel with Jon Snow battering Ramsay before he realizes Sansa has returned. At one point, Ramsay appeared to be smiling through the pain.
With the battle over, House Stark has reclaimed Winterfell. Ramsay's end comes after Sansa visits him in his cell. She tells him that he won't be remembered and his house will disappear before she unleashes his hounds on Ramsay. The dogs make short work of their former master.
Somehow, “Game of Thrones” Season 6, episode 9, also had enough time to wrap up Daenerys' storyline in Meereen. The Great Masters continue their assault on the city that quickly ends with the introduction of three dragons. Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal make quick work of the Masters' ships. Within the city, the Sons of the Harpy are quickly vanquished by the Dothraki army. Peace has been restored to Meereen, but there's still the matter of heading to Westeros. Luckily, Yara and Theon have arrived just after the attack on Meereen. Tyrion is not fond of Theon, but he seems to be convinced enough that he's a changed man. Yara pledges her ships to Daenerys in exchange for freedom for the Iron Isles and recognition as the rightful queen of Pyke. The queens shake hands on the promise to make the world a better place.
With “Battle of the Bastards” in the books, there's just one episode left in “Game of Thrones” Season 6. There are a lot of storylines to cover, including the aftermath at Winterfell, the disappearing act of Dorne and the turmoil in King's Landing.