Thoughts on Thrones: A deal with the devil to kill off a demon

The Herald's in-house Game of Thrones experts take a deep dive into season six, episode nine, The Battle of the Bastards.

Robert Smith: It wasn't that hard to predict the big plot moves in the latest Game of Thrones. It was always highly likely that the Knights of the Vale were going to show up to save everybody, that Daenerys would use her dragons, and that Ramsay Bolton was going to meet a grisly and poetic end.

But the execution of these plots was still jaw-droppingly epic and grimly realistic, in a way most movie blockbusters would kill for. The episode starts with Daenerys unleashing her dragons into full battle for the first time, and only escalates when focus shifts to the north.

The Battle of the Bastards is frequently astonishing, outstandingly gory and horribly tense. Jon Snow staggering around the middle of the fight, as arrows and horses fly through the air around him, is the most epic thing this show has tried to do, and then it tries to top it with the horrific wall of dead bodies and the suffocating nightmare of a losing battle.

While there are sacrifices - and you have to raise a glass to Rickon Stark, the great Wun Wun and several thousand nameless extras who also died horribly - there are signs of hope. There's a new alliance between the cool Greyjoys and Targaryens, the Bolton line has been destroyed, and a Stark is back in Winterfell.

It's a shame nobody is going to get a chance to catch their breath, because winter is still coming.

What about next season?

Cameron McMillan: Game of Thrones tied up some pretty big loose ends last night with just two storylines, which is very efficient since there is often five or six locations on the go at one time. But what will it mean for future episodes? Here are the key meetings I'm looking forward to next season.

Cercei and Daenerys
Finally we have a solution to the 'Meereenese knot' (the George RR Martin one, not the Petyr Baelish one). The Greyjoys have provided the ships, along with the Masters, and Dany can now set sail for Westeros. It's looking like pretty good timing with the Lannisters as her only real opposition. That means a potential meet and greet between two of the most badass female characters on the show and possibly TV history.

Bran and Jon
They were so close to meeting up in previous seasons, first when Jon was with the Wildlings and again during the raid on Craster's Keep. It would be nice to see Bran finally get south of the wall, have a decent clean, catch up with Jon at Winterfell and start planning for the White Walkers. Maybe do some warg parkour on the Winterfell roofs as well.

Tyrion and Sansa
Sansa just fed her second husband to the dogs, while her first husband looks set to return to Westeros. I'm really looking forward to these two catching up. I imagine if Daenerys reaches Westeros, Winterfell would be her first stop with the connections to Sansa and through Theon. Would Sansa and Tyrion remarry? Sansa needs to find a man now or would that ruin Tyrion's plans for Imp's Delight due to the poor grape growing conditions in the North? Either way just these two discussing how the Purple Wedding went down would be a delight.

Brienne and Tormund
A bit gutted that Brienne missed the big battle but she'll probably arrive at Winterfell, finally fall in love with Tormund and then they can fight White Walkers side by side in-between romantic getaways to Tarth.

Arya and anyone/direwolf from Westeros
Whether it's the Hound, her missing wolf Nymeria, a Stark sibling or even Hot Pie, it will be great just to see Arya catch up with a Westerosi once again.

Hail warrior queen Sansa

Sophie Ryan: It's not often you finish an episode of Game of Thrones and want to immediately watch it again. But, that is exactly what happened last night. This was the episode I'd been waiting for. The cinematography, the score and the special effects were all spectacular and you could see why this was the episode the creators submitted for the Emmys.

There's so many elements I could pick apart, but I wanted to focus on Sansa. She really rose to the occasion as the warrior queen I'd always imagined she would become. Her understanding of Ramsay was totally correct, and she wouldn't stand for Jon Snow ignoring her advice. "Did it ever once occur to you that I might have some insight?" she asked Jon. "You don't know him." He back-tracked and wanted to know more about what Ramsay would do ahead of the battle and Sansa said what we'd all been thinking, that Rickon wouldn't be reunited with the Stark siblings.

Sansa's moment of vengeance against Ramsay for all the pain he inflicted upon her was equal parts horrifying and satisfying. Ramsay was torn apart by his "loyal" hounds as the blood from Jon's beating dripped down his face. Sansa's speech to him: "Your words will disappear. Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear," was perfection. The sound of the hounds feasting on Ramsay echoed out of the kennels as Sansa walked away with an unsettling smirk on her face. As awful as the scene was it was totally captivating. Since his introduction, the show has been Ramsay's torture and death, but when it finally arrived I didn't want it to end.

Earlier in the episode, Daenerys and Yara Greyjoy were introduced to each other. The conversation between the two leaders was brilliant while they bonded over their psychotic fathers. After seeing Sansa's performance this episode, I could imagine her being on the same level as Yara and Daenerys. Surely the Ironborn will only have good things to say about the Starks to the Mother of Dragons. Could an alliance be on the cards when the thousand ships bring Daenerys and her army to Westeros?

After two back-to-back viewings I'm certain this was the best episode of the entire series.

Gone to the dogs

Chris Schulz: You know you're watching a great episode of Game of Thrones when Wun Wun rips a man in half above his head, then howls like an angry Chewbacca as entrails spill around him.

And it wasn't your favourite moment.

You also know you're seeing something amazing when, during a thrilling one-shot take, Jon Snow is seen in the heat of battle, swinging his giant sword, slicing off heads and plunging it through chests as arrows, horses, blood and bodies rain down around him.

And it wasn't your favourite moment.

You also know you're watching magic unfold when Tormund, fresh from battle and a bloody mauling rips off the ear of sell out Smalljon Umber, spits it onto ground and howls wildly like the beautiful feral beast that he is. Brienne, come back: you needed to see this.

Nope, the greatest bit of last night's brutal, nightmarish, incredibly satisfying, possibly-the-greatest-hour-of-TV-I-have-seen-or-will-see, was when RAMSAY-MF-BOLTON HAD HIS FACE RIPPED OFF AND EATEN BY HIS VERY OWN DOGS WHILE SANSA SMIRKED IN FRONT OF HIM.

Sorry for the all caps, but it deserved it. Because that episode was so epic I watched it twice, and smirked like Sansa the entire time.

Do we even need to show up next week? Because after that, surely this season of Thrones is done. Stick a fork in it, because TV doesn't get better than that.

What did Sansa really say?

Siena Yates: If this wasn't the most perfect episode of anything ever, I don't know what is.

It had all the action, gore, fantasy, revenge and character development you could ever want, plus a bit of comedic relief courtesy of Tormund and Yara.

But there are two things I have to address, the first being Ramsay Bolton.

As much as I tended to fling insults at the screen whenever he came on, I loved that guy. He was potentially my favourite villain since Freddy Krueger ruined my life back in '97.

He was sadistic, and weirdly endearing in his complete awfulness. He was funny, he played games, he was truly terrible and without him, who else is there?

The White Walkers aren't as terrifying as villains because they're inhuman. The reason villains like Bolton are scary is because they could be literally anyone - that quiet woman down the other end of the office could be a Ramsay Bolton in waiting. He's scary because he's entirely possible.

So RIP, Ramsay Bolton. We loved to hate you, and you will be missed.

The second thing is something Sansa said to Jon. I didn't really catch it the first time 'round, but when I re-watched it, she said the line with such purpose I had to wonder if maybe there was more to it.

When Jon vowed to protect her, Sansa said: "No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone".

No one = Arya Stark.

And Arya Stark is on her way home. And we all know that nobody undergoes vigorous ninja training to simply do nothing with it. Besides, Jaqen H'ghar's last words to Arya before she left were: "Finally, a girl is no one".

That's it, that's my two cents.

Until next time: Bonus points go to Yara Greyjoy, for unashamedly flirting with the Mother of Dragons and doing a better job of it than any man ever did.

A deal with the devil to kill off a demon

Rachel Bache: Usually, I'm not the biggest fan of long drawn out battle scenes. I deliberately avoided the third Hobbit movie for this exact reason. So I was a little apprehensive going into Battle of the Bastards, but the episode proved me very, very wrong. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole thing. I also loved that they split the episode between Meereen and Winterfell.

Getting to see Daenerys play her cards - her horde of Dothraki horseman, her ability to play political games with the best of them, and finally seeing all three of her dragons in action - has been a long time coming. Also, the meeting between her and Yara was priceless, especially Yara's "down for anything line". So perfect. Now Dany has a fleet of ships and she's ready to own the seven kingdoms. Hopefully, her Dothraki crew don't get too seasick.

Then when we finally got to the battle of Winterfell, it was like being in the middle of the battlefield right beside Jon Snow. I want to rewatch the episode in 3D or VR, because the way each scene was choreographed made for beautiful chaos - from the arrows flying everywhere to the horrific wall of dead bodies, and let's not forget that headless horseman riding around the battlefield.

Also, how satisfying was it to finally see Jon finally unleash all of that pent up rage in the form of his fists into Ramsay Bolton's face? And then seeing Sansa get her vengeance of her captor/torturer/husband? Although it didn't happen how I had predicted, it was still so good! Game of Thrones, the show known for killing off the good guys has finally given us what we want.

But after watching the preview for the finale of season six, I'm still a bit worried for new badass Sansa Stark. It seems like calling in a favour with Littlefinger for the Knights of the Vale to come save the day might not play out so well for her in the long run.

She may have just made a deal with the devil to kill off a demon.

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- NZ Herald

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