Don’t read this is you haven’t watched things. Or read things too maybe.
This episode has me torn. On one hand, I wanted to shout “hell yes” about a million times. On the other, I’m disappointed in how completely face value everything in the televised version has become. Have we lost the intrigue? The schemes and machinations? The titular battle was spectacular, and brutal, and intense. But everything was face value- it was exactly what I expected. And that aspect bored me.
Hear me out.
Weeks ago we saw the reintroduction of Smalljon Umber and his captive, Rickon Stark. Everything seemed fishy. Why would he keep Rickon and Osha around for all that time? Why would he refuse to kneel to the Boltons? Why does that Direwolf’s head seem so small? There was an explosion of fan theories to all of that. The North Remembers after all.
Only no. No it doesn’t. Because the Umbers and everyone else allied with Ramsey was actually allied with Ramsey. Despite the fact that he refused to fight, that he killed his own men, and tortured a child, the Umbers and the other Bolton-allied Northern houses had no trickery up their sleeves. I feel that in earlier seasons (that relied more heavily on the books) that schemes and shadowy plots were more apparent, but as we sprint to the end of the series everything can be taken at face value.
Take Sansa’s role in it all. People wanted to hope that she wasn’t just writing to Littlefinger… but she was. The most obvious outcomes are more correct than not this season, for better or worse.
Speaking of Sansa, my girl was on point. People are arguing that she let soldiers needlessly die, that she needed to trust Jon, etc. But I see it a little different. First, she tried to make the case that they needed more men. Jon refused her. She tried to explain Ramsey’s mindset. She was ignored. Sansa is trying to protect House Stark- Her House, not Jon’s house in her eyes. She is the last of the (known) Starks now, and while she is not a military leader, she knew that Jon could not play the game and win. She took matters into her own hands and brought in the much-needed cavalry. Now, just how long those soldiers were waiting around is unclear- I’d like to think they got there as fast as they could, hence her last minute pleas to stall- but they unequivocally saved the day. And for real, do people not have scouts? Have scouts not been invented? How would Ramsey miss a 10,000 man army? How will all of this play out in the books where Sansa was never married to Ramsey? Write faster George.
Anyway, the lack of trust in her half-brother/cousin/whatever he is is still a red flag, and it looks like some confrontation will happen next week over it, but Sansa was not wrong in her actions. She knew Rickon was a goner, she knew how Ramsey’s mind worked. She warned Jon to not fall into a trap and he did. Where Sansa will end up now is anyone’s guess, but she has grown into a fascinating character who is one of my favorites without a doubt. Plus she was absolutely ruthless with Ramsey at the end. Savage.
While most of this episode dealt with the North, we did get a brief trip to Mereen where Danaerys and her Dragon Squad (The other two are free! Let Tyrion ride one pretty please!) take out the Slavers and take over their remaining ships. Tyrion actually got something worthwhile to do after half a season of crap, talking her down from going full-Aerys-crazy. She needs him to succeed, that is now very clear. Without a voice of wisdom, the Dragon Queen would set fire to the world. Tyrion’s rationality keeps her in check.
Mereen also brought some of the best dialog that continent has had in ages. The Yara/Danaerys negotiation was wonderful, and I guess I could get more on board the Targ-train if Yara is going to be there too.
This episode was all about lady power, and it was fabulous. Now just give Lady Mormont a bigger role. Her tiny cameo was simply not enough.