Let me preface by saying that I could use a good cup of tea with a double-vodka chaser, an entire pack of chewable antacids and perhaps a heart transplant, because mine exploded from stress somewhere between Jon galloping for Rickon and the Knights of the Vale arriving à la Riders of Rohan. And maybe a change of pants. Jesus Christ.
We open on the twisting cogs and ropes of a trebuchet as a projectile is loaded, set on fire and catapulted through the sky towards the Great Pyramid of Meereen. Note: the terrible wigs, off-screen action and sparse extras from this season’s previous episodes make much more sense as this one progresses – it’s clearly gobbled up 90% of the allocated season 6 budget. HBO wants Emmys, dammit!
Inside the Great Pyramid, Daenerys is brooding and Tyrion is jumpy. In between explosions Tyrion explains that the attack indicates progress; the wise masters know that a thriving city free of slavery is bad for business.
Dany concurs, and asks: ‘Shall we begin?’. She intends to kill the masters, set their ships afire, kill every last one of their soldiers and return their cities to the dirt. Maybe lay off the roids for a bit, Dany.
Tyrion disapproves and compares her approach with her father’s plans to nuke King’s Landing with wildfire that time. He then considerately provides information as to where the caches of wildfire are, including UNDER THE SEPT OF BAELOR, wink wink! There’s going to be a royal barbecue next week, and Cersei’s dishing up fried sparrow.
Right now, however, Tyrion would like to try an alternative approach.
Cut to Dany, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei meeting with the Three Wise Masters outside Meereen. The masters believe they’re there to accept Dany’s surrender. They’re actually there to completely shit themselves when Drogon appears (bigger than ever, I might add), lands at Dany’s side and totes puts his wing out in a ‘Climb up, little lady’ gesture. Drogon so smooth.
Dany climbs aboard Drogon and heads for the ships in the bay. Rhaegal and Viserion burst through the wall of their pyramid prison and join them. As the dragons head for the water, we pan down to outside the city walls where the Sons of the Harpy are having another stab-fest. I’m not sure what these people were even doing out there, logically speaking, but I’m too pleasantly distracted by the spectacle of thousands of Dothraki screamers – led by Daario Naharis – descending upon them to care. If you have to choose between logic and Dothraki screamers, you choose Dothraki screamers – shithouse wigs and all.
Back to the bay, where Dany chooses one lucky ship to receive the dracarys treatment. Ship burny. Men screamy. Dragons happy…I guess a ship is kind of like the dragon version of a Kong.
Tyrion thanks the Three Wise Masters for the armada and explains that one of them must die for breaking the pact they agreed to. Two of them volunteer the lower-born master. He falls to his knees. Grey Worm steps up and slashes the throats of the masters still standing. Best joke ever, Grey Worm.
Tyrion urges the surviving master to tell his people what happened when Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons came to Meereen. Best summarise it though, dude… leave out the whiny bits. And most of season 4.
Aaaaand we’re in the North. It’s at this point my stomach starts nervously churning bile, like I’m waiting to undergo a surgical procedure but just overheard the nurse say something about no anaesthetic. And the nurse looks like Ramsay in drag. AAAAAGGGGH SO TENSE.
Jon and Sansa wait to parlay with Ramsay. It’s been weeks since we’ve seen the psychopathic little leprechaun in person, and I feel sympathy dread for Sansa.
Ramsay’s party arrives. Ramsay greets Sansa, thanks Jon Snow for returning her, and invites them to kneel to declare him the true Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. If they do, all will be forgiven.
Jon declines, and suggests one-on-one combat so that thousands don’t have to die. Ramsay knows he’s no match for Jon, but points out that he has an army twice the size. Jon lands one by pointing out that his army might not want to fight for a leader who won’t fight for them. Jon: 1, Ramsay: 0.
Ramsay cuts the crap and threatens Rickon. Sansa asks how they know he even has Rickon for realsies. Once again, Lord Umber pulls Shaggydog’s head out of a bag and throws it to the ground. Does he just carry that thing around like a credit card all the time now? For everything else, there’s Shaggydog.
Ramsay starts to say something but is interrupted by Sansa, who has had enough of his tiny-headed-psycho-leprechaun bullshit: “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.” She turns her horse and gallops off before he can respond. Ramsay looks sort of impressed.
Stark War Council meeting. Jon explains trenches to Tormund. Davos exposits that it’s crucial Bolton’s men charge at them first, so you know that’s precisely what’s going to go tits-up. Jon tells Tormund that he challenged Ramsay to a one-on-one in order to make him angry – that way he’ll come at them full tilt. I don’t know about this tactic… I’ve always thought Ramsay is more menacing when he’s having a great time, like on his horrific wedding night.
Sansa observes the men’s discussion in cold silence. She alone knows the depths of Ramsay’s cunning and depravity. As a man of honor like his father/unconfirmed uncle before him, Jon lacks the perverse imagination necessary to predict Ramsay’s monstrous potential manipulations.
Sansa knows he’s underestimating the enemy, and tells him so. Jon grumps that he hasn’t spent the past few years creating Pinterest boards – he’s been defending the wall from worse than Ramsay Bolton. Personally, I’d take a White Walker over Ramsay. But okay.
Sansa tells Jon what the rest of us already know: Rickon’s a dead-Stark-walking. She pleads with him not to do what Ramsay wants. Jon scoffs that that’s a bit obvious. It is, isn’t it Jon? Like, for example, if he were to bait you with someone you love because he knows that your compulsive hero complex is your weakness, you’d totally not fall for it. Because IT’S FUCKING OBVIOUS.
Back to Meereen, where the Greyjoys have arrived to propose an alliance with the Mother of Dragons. Tyrion holds a grudge against Theon for making dwarf jokes six years ago at Winterfell. Theon tells Daenerys that he has relinquished his claim to the salt throne in favour of Yara. Daenerys and Yara bond over the Westerosi glass ceiling and their arsehole fathers. They’re totes flirting, and I’m momentarily distracted by the potential ship names…Daeneryara? Yaraenerys? Targreyjoyaryen? My brain hurts.
Dany tells Yara and Theon that she’ll accept their ships and support their claim as long as they promise to respect the integrity of the seven kingdoms. The what now? Yara agrees and they shake on it. Boaty Spice and Flamey Spice are go.
Back to the North, and shit is about to get real.
With Winterfell in the distance, the two armies stand at the ready on opposing sides of the battlefield. Jon takes his position at the head of Team Stark. We see several burning, flayed bodies lashed to crosses, and the well-equipped Bolton army beyond.
Uh oh. Ramsay on his horse, pulling something on a rope. Flayed-carcass Rickon? Head of Rickon? Rickon à la Mode?
Oh. Okay. Just Rickon.
Maybe the kid’s going to be okay after all? It’s possible, right?
Ramsay: “Do you like games, little man? Run to your brother”.
Ramsay grabs his bow. Rickon takes off. Jon panics and gallops for Rickon. Rickon hauls arse over the empty battlefield. Ramsay starts firing arrows. Everyone shouts zig zag! ZIG ZAG! at their TV.
Ramsay misses. Twice. Three times.
Rickon gets close. Jon holds out his hand. The brothers almost touch.
Ramsay’s arrow spears Rickon through the heart; he falls to the ground and dies as Jon watches.
Tormund urges Jon from afar not to charge at the thousands of armed men whose sole purpose is to take him out.
Jon charges. The Bolton army release their arrows, some of which hit Rickon’s dead body. Jesus – too soon, shitheads!
From here on shit gets chaotic, so I’ll try keep it simple:
The Stark army charges.
Majestic slo-mo pony-cam. These horses have much better hair than those Dothraki dudes.
Jon insists on being a fucking idiot.
Jon’s horse is down.
Ramsay’s cavalry charges Jon.
Jon realizes he’s been played. Here’s a statement I never expected to make: you should have listened to Sansa.
In a move reminiscent of Stannis back when he realized he was up shit creek, Jon draws Longclaw and braces for battle.
The armies clash together: it’s utter carnage.
Long tracking shot of Jon being awesome…but what a cluster fuck this scene would have been to film.
Arrows flying. Bodies piling. Blood spraying. Horses collapsing. Men screaming. Ramsay yelling orders. More arrows. The dead bodies making a wall.
Davos charges with the Stark’s remaining men. Ramsay orders the Umbers to lead the next offensive.
Kit Harington covered in blood and mud; I’d prefer jelly and glitter.
Wun Wun charges. Wielding shields and spears, Ramsay’s foot soldiers encircle them. THIS IS SPARTA!
The wildlings throw themselves at the wall of shields, but not even Wun Wun can penetrate their defenses, though he does manage to tear one Bolton soldier clear in half.
Horror everywhere; desperate, limbless bodies, a man scrambling to hold his guts in, screaming and indiscriminate stabbing, people being crushed to death.
The Stark forces attempt retreat via the wall of bodies. Jon briefly comes face to face with Smalljon Umber before getting stomped into the mud and drowned in bodies.
Tormund takes on Umber. Jon struggles beneath the crush and can’t breath. Sad we’re-going-to-kill-someone-you-like-suckers violin kicks in….really? Jon’s croaking again? WHY DO YOU HATE ME??
Nope. He surfaces and draws breath in time to watch his army fall apart. All is lost. Ramsay’s preposterous lucky streak is holding out. But then…
A horn in the distance. Gandalf???
Tormund very satisfyingly bites Umber’s nose off.
Cut to a white falcon on blue; it’s the VALE, motherfuckers.
Ramsay gets this look on his face which doesn’t even look like panic or anger. It’s more annoyed confusion, like his wife has told him her mother is coming to stay while her house gets completely renovated.
The Knights of the Vale – thousands of them – flood the battlefield. Jon’s face is all thank fuck.
Cut to see Littlefinger smiling to himself, Sansa by his side. She’s sending Ramsay some major vibes: you’re fucked, Lord Bolton.
Tormund stabs Umber in the eye. Again, very satisfying. Teach you to kill Shaggydog, traitor.
The knights of the Vale sweep through the Bolton soldiers. Wun Wun swats at Ramsay’s men with their own shields.
Jon claws his way over the mountain of the dead, wild-eyed and covered in gore. He sets his sights on Ramsay, and the look on his face is pure, animal rage.
Tormund and Wun Wun appear. Ramsay spots Jon, staring him down. Jon’s coming for you, bastard. The anticipation I feel at this point is like every Christmas morning ever, wrapped in crispy bacon. Goosebumps.
Ramsay heads for Winterfell, with Jon, Tormund and Wun Wun in hot pursuit.
Ramsay rides into the yard. They close the gate and he smugs that he still has the castle; all they have to do is wait it out.
Knock knock! Giant Avon calling! Or a really pushy Jehovah’s Witness.
Wun Wun pounds away at the gate. Ramsay disappears as his men try to take the giant out. Wun Wun breaks through, runs into the yard and falls to his knees. The wildlings storm in after him, and take down the remaining Bolton men.
Jon runs in and stops beside Wun Wun, who is dying. Waaah! Jon reaches out to touch the giant, and that’s when Ramsay finishes off Wun Wun with an arrow to the eyeball. Seriously, this guy cannot die enough times.
Ramsay says he’s reconsidered Jon’s offer of one-on-one combat, and draws another arrow. Jon throws down his sword and grabs a Mormont shield off the ground. Ramsay shoots an arrow at him. And another. And another. Jon keeps coming; he’s a man possessed. Obviously I’m not remotely rooting for Ramsay, but surely he might want to try shooting Jon in the leg?
Jon reaches Ramsay, knocks him to the ground, and pounds away at his face. Like, wails on him. Woooot! Beat-A-Bolton-Bloody time! We’ve been starved of retribution like Ramsay’s dogs for too long. Honestly, they should make a screensaver of just this. Do people still make screensavers? Jon tenderises Ramsay’s pinchy face until he notices Sansa watching, and then remembers to save her the best bit.
Bolton banners fall to the ground, and the Stark banner takes its rightful place once more. Stick a fork in me; I’m done. It can’t get any better.
Wrong! As Rickon’s body is carted off to the crypts, Sansa asks Jon where Ramsay is. It’s time to make good on yesterday’s promise.
Cut to Ramsay, tied up in the dog kennels. He comes to and sees Sansa, looking strong and regal, on the other side of the fence. It’s all very Silence of the Lambs.
Jon didn’t manage to beat the psycho out of Ramsay – he still makes a power play by promising Sansa that he’s a part of her now. She doesn’t deny this, but rather chooses to remind him: “Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear”. It’s the perfect cut-down for a man who loves nothing except power.
And with that, it’s time for dinner. Ramsay’s dogs appear. Ramsay, getting nervous now, tells Sansa that his hounds are loyal. She tells him they were…now they’re starving. And very accustomed to adrenaline-salted human flesh, might I add.
A hound gets right up in Ramsay’s face. It’s head is bigger than his. Ramsay’s all ‘Down! Down, boy!’. Nah. Fido chomps into his face, then proceeds to tear the meat off him. If this is wrong I don’t ever want to be right.
Cut to Sansa, watching on as Ramsay screams. She sort of turns to go, then changes her mind and awesomely leans in even closer. Pretty sure that’s what most fans are doing right now too.
Sansa finally turns and walks away with a creepy, cat-got-the-cream smile on her face as Ramsay continues to scream. Just hand them the Emmy, already. Only Game of Thrones can make a man getting eaten by his own dogs a happy ending.
Next week: Who gives a shit? I’m not greedy. My bloodlust was more than satisfied by this episode. Okay, fine. Cersei and Loras on trial. The Lannisters and the Freys send their regards. Jerks. Jon and Sansa need to trust each other, and Dany’s in the great game now.