It has been a while since I’ve ranted here about the problems on a television show, but here goes a short little thing where I do just that – last night’s “Game of Thrones” was insanely disappointing. Listen, the Mereen stuff was fine, but the Battle of the Bastards was really not very good.
Glad you asked, I’ll tell you… but there are definite spoilers coming. You’re not going to get a second warning about this is, they start in the next paragraph and just keep going.
Sansa tells Jon (and therefore us) before the battle ever starts that Ramsay is going to try to throw off Jon’s game by doing something like killing Rickon. So, right up front during the battle, Ramsay throws off Jon’s game by… killing Rickon. And, because apparently he’s learned nothing from all his time at the Wall, Jon bites on this stupidity despite having been told the night before that this is exactly what was going to occur.
Beyond it not being a surprise that it’s going to occur, it doesn’t work terribly well for us in the audience because Rickon hasn’t been a character in the show since… well, maybe he was in season one? Maybe not even then? For us it has no emotional impact which makes it more difficult for us to accept Jon’s biting. We have the appropriate distance to recognize Jon’s foolishness for what it is.
Then there’s the battle itself. “Game of Thrones” already killed Jon Snow once, so they weren’t going to do it again last night – that quiver is empty. No excitement could be garnered from the question of whether or not Jon would live through the battle, he had to live because he was just brought back to life. Killing him over and over wouldn’t work dramatically.
Looking at the basic numbers of the battle, the Stark army is far smaller than Ramsay’s band. That means that we all know going in that it is going to take something special for the Starks to win. But, things go exactly as one would expect. There are no surprises, things go badly for the Stark army and then get worse for them. They are being beaten just as we knew they would be.
Where is the drama there?
Right, there isn’t any and the lack of drama means that the producers are going to try to impress us with something big that we don’t know about. But, by the only possible solution to this dilemma being a surprise, there is no surprise.
I kept figuring it was going to be Gandalf who would rescue the Starks. Come on, what did he say about the morning of the fifth day? What is the bit in “Lord of the Rings” about help unlooked for? It was like “Game of Thrones” was just wholly borrowing from Tolkien last night.
Watching the battle the question is not how Jon is going to win, but rather who is going to show up to help him. It had to be someone we’ve seen this season but not in the past few episodes. So… Dorne or the Vale. No surprise then there either.
There was only one way this fight was ever going to end and there was not a single surprise along the way… how is that exciting? How is that gratifying?
I can’t even root for Sansa when she ends Ramsay’s life at the end of the episode. The Starks ought to be idealistic, they ought to be doing the right thing and fighting the good fight and concerned with loftier things. Sansa gives in to her baser instincts at the end of the episode and we are meant to be excited that she does. I am not. I can’t be.
I’m sorry, I’ve loved this season as a whole, but not this episode.
photo credit: HBO