Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9: Battle of the Bastards

By Nick on

About Nick

Founder and co-host of Cast of Thrones. Say hello on twitter. @rbristow


Battle of the bastards


I really want to call this the greatest episode in Game of Thrones history, and for some that is completely the case. Watching this episode in basically a theater with 60 of your best friends was an experience that can’t be replicated.

We had so much pay off this week its crazy and out of character for Game of Thrones. Dany finally comes into her own and we have an amazing stand off with the slave masters. Jon and Sansa finally kill the crap out of Ramsey, whats not to love.

And then there is the production quality. And the cinematography, the best they’ve ever done. The battle is frantic and beautiful. I forgot I was watching TV. Yes, we nitpick some of the writing and poor decisions of the characters, but it was an amazing ride.

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  1. I really like your teams podcast very mature and thoughtful discussion. However I feel that the discussion for this episode could have benefited from input from someone with military experience to provide some context and analysis of the military decisions made by the characters in the Battle of the Bastards. I am veteran Army officer with experience in combat zones and as a planner on the staff of an Infantry Division which is commanded by a two star General. Here are more thoughts and interpretation of the Battle of the bastards

    1) Jon had a Feasable Battle Plan But It was Poorly Executed – Jon’s battle plan was based on the Battle of Cannae which wss a victory for Hannibal in the second punic war. However… 1) Jon led with his heart and let the plan and control of the army slip from his mind when he charged forward 2) Davos not Jon gave the order to charge thus further excaserbating the departure from the plan and 3) Davos did not move up the archers to within range of ramsey’s advancing infantry which may have attrited tyhier strength or within range of Ramsey’s archers to disrupt the effectiveness of their volleys, instead Davo decided to charge with the archers into the direct combat pit and thereby negated the arieal firepower that the archers could have brought to Jon’s side of the fight

    2) Jon and Tormund are Warriors not Soldier/Stratergists Like Tywin Lannister; Davos by his own admission is neither – Jon’s experience to date has been with fighting simplistic battles (charge the enemy or defend a wall)against warrior bands (Widlings) not trained professional armies. This may have been different if he had the opportunity to be mentored by his father however this was not the case. Same goes for tormund. Davos by his own admission to Stannis and Jon is not really a soldier. He is a great Hand type counselor but neither him or Jon have significant experience fighting professional armies and strategically planning wars – this is indicative of the whole Stark leadership team presumably now to include Littlefinger. You can see the lack of military experience throughout the various choices made by the Stark Leadership team which will be a fatal flaw going forward

    3) Jon is seemingly being maligned in Social Media for not listening to Sansa and perhaps being sexist however a) Both Sansa and Lady Mormont are at the parley with Ramsay and Sansa is in the war council so I don’t see Jon as being sexist b) Sansa could have spoken up but was at fault for waiting to be “asked” Sansa chose not to act I don’t think Lady Mormont would have waited to be “asked” that is what a good leader does I think this shows Sansa still has some maturing to do before she is ready to be a ruler on par with Danny or even Lady Mormont c) Sansa does not communicate her concerns in an actionable or insightful way to Jon. She basically said “don’t be stupid and fall into Ramsey’s trap” When Jon asks how she offers no clarifying insights. In retrospect it would have been helpful to say something like “Jon you fight and lead from your heart but don’t let whatever Ramsey does distract you from leading all of your troops and sticking to your battle plan” “You are a great man to man fighter but that is weakness and Ramsey will exploit that to pull you away from control of the army, they will be come a leaderless mob with you” Having developed and briefed operations plans to multiple Generals saying something generic like “the enemy is devious and will try to trick you into something stupid” is of no value at very senior leadership levels. Speak to something specific such as watch out in the leader’s personality or the enemy’s way of fighting that you can plan against or be aware off. d) Combat moves so quickly that you are in the trap before you know it and you will be quickly be overcome by events – Jon got nothing from Sansa that would have provided some idea where the trap may have been – in his own personality and man to man fighter tendacies

    4) Sansa herself set-up Jon’s Rickon Delimma by Goading Jon into attacking Winterfell and saving their brother and their home in Episode (7) – She has some agency in setting up Jon to fall into Ramsey’s psychological trap

    5) I wont even get into Sansa’ lack of communication on the potential reinforcements from the Vale – a)) The Stark army has been needlessly attrited and may not have the numbers for a future battle vs the Lanister/Freys – Sansa displayed very short sighted thinking here – you always have to fight and yet conserve your force for the next battle because there is always a next battle. b)I hope this is not some part of Sansa’s plan to eliminate Jon as a potential threat to her power. However, I don’t think Jon wants to be a “king” in seven kingdoms politics – I think he will be more interested in saving humanity by fighting the white walkesrs.

    Thanks for providing a commentary outlet

    • Thanks! Yeah, I really cannot understand what we are supposed to think about Sansa…like…is there anyway to not be real mad at her? Sure, Jon was a ding-dong too, but Sansa didn’t help at all. I will say that her warning was better than you put it but worse than she could have put it. It was for sure not clear.

  2. Thanks for the podcasts, just starting listening this season and your crew adds to my understanding and appreciation for the show.

    This weeks show was intense to say the least and I was amazed by the production value, was as good as any big budget movie.

    Was a little disappointed by the Vale – for me it was because it was so obviously going to happen and just at the last moment. Getting a little tired of that… Brienne saves Sansa and just in time, Benjen saves Bran just in time, etc…

    I did a cheesy simple contest for my friends to guess how the season finale will go… feel free to play along

    Thanks again for the podcast!

  3. Was gonna say something about Sansa too but then I read that first comment. Her just withholding information pissed me off. Even Brienne asked Sansa why she didnt tell Jon where she got the info from on the Blackfish taking back Riverrun. I wouldnt know what Sansa’s answer at that time is.

    Action scenes were great. Baffling writing.

  4. Here’s my theoretical argument for why Sansa ABSOLUTELY needed to keep the Army of the Vale from Jon: LITTLEFINGER.

    If Sansa had told Jon (and the gang) – Sansa would have been pushed to the side and her advantage over Littlefinger would be wasted. Worse yet, Jon & Davos would be making an allegiance with Littlefinger! Littlefinger would basically eat Jon for breakfast before even starting to play his daily Game of Thrones. She knew Jon would be brave, bold, and stupidly honorable. He swore to protect her that night and then the very next day was basically suicidal on the battlefield after attempting to rescue Rickon. So much for trying to protect her!

    Sansa has seen what happens to people who still fight with courage, honor, and love. She also has seen Littlefinger:
    throw his own “wife” out the friggin moondoor
    seen him betray the Lannisters who gave him everything
    plan to betray the Boltons, even as he married her off to Ramsey
    -and more

    Yes, she knows Ramsey, but she definitely knows Littlefinger.

    She also knows it’s WAY better if Littlefinger is paying off a debt to her, than for Jon to make an allegiance with Littlefinger. Plus, in Littlefinger’s scrambling to get back in her good graces, Littlefinger even revealed what weakness he would take advantage of in Jon: he’s a bastard. We all know Jon would absolutely fall for whatever manipulation Littlefinger would exert over Jon with “I know you your mother is” and from that crypt scene in Season 5 – I’m pretty sure Littlefinger knows R+L=J. Sansa was both protecting Jon from Littlefinger while risking Jon/Rickon for Winterfell in the same game move. The little bird has become a killer. Here’s hoping the Hound gets to see what has become of Sansa. That’s going to be fun.

    I actually believe that Sansa was emulating Lady Olenna: Willing to risk Jon & Rickon as innocent pawns (Sansa herself had been one in Joffrey’s murder) and keep your mouth shut until the deed is done and enemy defeated. She’s lucky that Jon survived. That is the part of Jon that Sansa doesn’t know – JON ALWAYS COMES BACK.

    Did thousands of men need to die? I guess. But Jon & Ramsey both are just as guilty of that consequence. There are show examples of commanders being tricky and smart with their attacks Tyrion, Tywin, Stannis. Sansa wouldn’t know these things but she was hoping Jon would try something. Rob Stark sacrificed 1000s of men to make the Whispering Wood attack work and capture Jamie. He knew it and felt terrible about it as well, but he had to do it. Of course, he had the men to do it and they were all his men, pledged to him. If Jon had the Vale army “pledged” to him – that would mean Littlefinger would be pledged to Jon – Sansa knows better than to that arrangement. That is how Ned got himself killed.

    Again, it’s a theoretical argument and only on Sunday will we know if she is a badass who is manipulating Littlefinger by playing off his predictability, or if Sansa is as stupid as Arya walking around Bravos with septic shock. I’m hoping it’s the former. I think Sansa will have Littlefinger by the balls and will act very much “thank god you rescued me, how can I ever repay you?” but will actually be setting him up for all that he has done to her, her family and especially because – she doesn’t even need him anymore. She has Winterfell, Jon, and the allegiance of the North. Littlefinger is worthless and wants her. And she knows that.

    • I like a lot of this and I think you make some good points. I mostly disagree with you though, ha ha. There are some small things but the major one is – an allegiance with Littlefinger is far better than owing Littlefinger your whole dang ass. Like, how much swagger is he going to have? More importantly what percentage of the reformed Northern army is going to include the Vale? A lot. I feel like he can demand whatever he wants.But! I do like what you say about Sansa sacrificing a lot to get what she wants. I prefer ruthless as opposed to being a ding dong. You could make the argument that she will now have much more say within the Northern politics since Littlefinger will side with her. We will see in a few short days!

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