Battle of the Bastards Reviewed. Loads of Spoilers
Desperate for some light relief from the cruelty and brutality of British political debate, I was delighted to relax into Game of Thrones last night.
Recently I blogged a little review of a Game of Thrones episode that picked as its defining image, something that immediately explained the title of the story and thereby constituted a massive spoiler as soon as you glanced at it.
This was wrong. I am sorry. Therefore, given the way in which posts get truncated and framed, the first few lines of this blog should contain nothing except bland appreciative gush. Wasn’t it great? Eh? I mean, wasn’t it? And the bit with all the stuff eh? I mean all the stuff that they had. And then when the guy with the thing did the other thing? Eh?
This was the sort of adventure that gets the heart-rate going. This was the sort of adventure that brings you so close to the randomness and immanence of death that you really know you’re alive.
As for the great battle of Winterfell, well it rivalked and perhaps surpassed the astonishing battle sequences in “Blackwater” and “Hardhome”. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a more convincing suggestion of what it might be like to be inside a medieval battle. I’ve not played rugby in many a year, and nobody has been in that kind of battle in five hundred years. But we were offered something with mud and shouting and a sense of chaos and suffocation on all sides creating a killing field in which nobody really knows what’s going on. Half Cannae, half Towton.
But prior to this astonishing experience, we get to see what happens when Daenerys and Tyrion work effectively together. Daenerys thinks in broad strokes and sees the big picture. Tyrion understands the details and the dramaturgy of political confrontation. Now that she’s got the two exiled Iron Island siblings onside as well, Daenerys is surely within striking distance of a proper assault on Westeros. Her invasion is clearly for Season Seven ain’t it? Not Season Eight. We can’t wait any longer.
So, everything about “Battle of the Bastards” was marvelous. Oh for sure. But here’s my problem. I’m going to miss Ramsay Bolton a lot. I’ve grown accustomed to his smile. His ups and his downs. Are second nature to me now. But of course, he got the death he deserved. Of course, it was perfectly executed. But the trouble is, I don’t know where to transfer my antipathies properly.
When Joffrey was killed, Ramsay was already growing as a character. Joffrey died with us us knowing that his true heir, the heir to the title of Most Evil Thing In Westeros was prepared for. Ramsay showed up the sheer amateurism of Joffrey’s sadism. Unlike Joffrey, Ramsay put real effort and imagination into his cruelty. If you were Ramsay’s prisoner, you sort of knew that no matter how dreadful your imagined fate, Ramsay would still somehow contrive to surprise you, still manage to make it even worse.
I will miss Ramsay Bolton because why else do we watch this show? Well, we watch it for a bunch of stuff, but one of the main reasons is because we like authentic Evil. We are connoisseurs of the complicated horrible. Jon says before the battle that he’s fought “worse” than Ramsay, but he really hasn’t. White Walkers aren’t “evil” in the sense that Ramsay is (was). They are just following their nature. Ditto dragons. White Walkers and Dragons are more destructive and threatening than Ramsay for sure – they can threaten the existence of all humanity in a way that Ramsay can’t. Ramsay can’t kill everyone in the world, if only because he enjoys killing people too slowly and he’d die of old age long before he was finished.
For “Evil” (as opposed to Terror), you need humans. So my complaint is – where is the next big Evil going to come from? The succession has not been provided for. I want someone I can hate at least as much as Ramsay. (I recognise that this is a big ask.) Cersei and Jamie love one another and their one remaining child. The Head Sparrow? Littlefinger? Littlefinger’s fascination is not that he’s Evil so much as he’s impenetrable. He is loyal at least to the memory of Catelyn – the most defining loyalty of his character perhaps.
I will also miss Bolton banners. I wonder if any Bolton warriors ever sit around and take stock of their own logo and replay the Mitchell and Webb sketch about Gestapo officers asking “Are we the baddies?”