Sunday, July 17, 2016

GAME OF THRONES' Bastard-bowl delivers

For those who are following the sixth season of “Game of Thrones” and who are beginning to have the opinion that Iwar Rheon’s character of Ramsay Snow, now Bolton, was such a chaotic evil producer’s pet villain sue, they can now somewhat take it easy – for one more week at least – as episode 9, the “Battle of the Bastards” finally puts one of the series’ major villains, probably one of the only true-black villains, to his final rest in the aftermath of an epic battle and in a brutal, ironic way.

Let’s first get out of the way the events that are happening east of the Narrow Sea. After being away for most of the season, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) finally returns to her capital in Mereen just in time to save her followers from being overrun by the armies and fleets of the resurgent slave- masters from Astapor and Yunkal, along with Volantis and the Sons of the Harpy sell-swords. After the slaver leaders insult her with some lopsided surrender conditions, Dany gives the lot of them a “hell no” via her dragons, who proceed to burn the bejeezus out of the slaver fleet, in a showcase of how much the series’ CGI tech and budget have improved since 2011.

In the aftermath however, her advisor Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) has to restrain Daenerys from damning the freed slave cities who have risen against her to dragon-fire, pointing out that she’s beginning to sound like her crazy pyromaniac father Aerys II and telling her of the Mad King’s plot to raze King’s Landing way back during Robert’s Rebellion. She denies the similarities of course, but viewers have been well aware that Dany’s Targaryen-ness has been in full swing from the get-go of her conquests, just not to the extreme pyromania yet. Still, she had made plans to move her forces to re- conquer Westeros under Targ rule, and unfortunately Mereen has lost its ships since episode 1 and not a lot of the slaver fleet remained unburned.

That’s when the Greyjoy siblings Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara (Gemma Whelan) arrive with their (warp drive-equipped) Ironborn fleet, offering to ferry Dany’s forces into Westeros if she would help overthrow their creepy evil uncle Euron as king of the Iron Isles (The Dragon Mommy in turn gets their sworn word to stop their people’s raiding and pillaging lifestyle). It becomes painfully obvious to sharp observers here that travel time mechanics have lost all sense of realism in the narrative, witch characters simply popping up at a location when it’s most convenient to move the story forward. It has been in play since episode’s past, and this will not be the last we’ll see this mechanic on this ep.

We return to the North, where Stark loyalist and wildling forces led by Heroic Bastard Jon Snow are preparing to do battle with the Bastard Sue Ramsay and his army of turncoat Northern houses for control of the Stark ancestral castle of Winterfell. Also present is Sansa, the oldest true-born Stark left of the family. Surprisingly, there’s conflict between the half-siblings over how to fight the admittedly lopsided battle. Jon is focusing on trying to rescue the youngest Stark, Rickon, who is Ramsay’s prisoner. Sansa though, hardened by her torturous life till now, seems to have written off her baby brother as a lost cause. As it turns out, she called it right. Ramsay theatrically kills Rickon in an emotional trap to get Jon to commit his army into a bad position for battle. That unfortunately makes the subplot of the youngest Stark, his wilding nanny, and his larger-than usual Direwolf a story named after the beast’s name: “Shaggy Dog”. It’s bad writing in my opinion, though it probably jives with GRR Martin’s theme of wrecking story clichés with mass deaths.

Still, we have our hero and his men in dire straits until a literal cavalry rescue from the knights of the Vale commanded by another slimy bastard, “Littlefinger’ Baelish (Aidan Gillen). The Bolton alliance gets stomped, the world’s last giant dies, Ramsay gets MMA’d by a vengeful Jon, and later is fed to his starved hounds by Sansa.

So House Stark – what’s left of it – gets their home back after some four season’s worth of episodes. But there are issues left of course from this chapter and the ones before. Baelish will have a price hanging over Sansa for his aid. King’s Landing is on the verge of falling apart (and probably burning). Bran Stark and his little party are still stuck north of the Wall with White Walkers in pursuit. Daenerys’ army might finally be on their way to Westeros. Winter is coming very close. And an ominous last word from dead Ramsay implies that his twisted nature may have now passed on to his former victim Sansa a la “Saw”, if her method of executing him is any indication.

Perhaps some of these threads will get resolved when the season finale airs June 26. It’s the longest GoT ep yet, and entitled “Winds of Winter” after the still unreleased sixth book of Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, although rumors are it’s gonna be soon. HBO plans to have 2 more seasons for “Game of Thrones” in the future to wrap up the story. Me, I’m still not quite convinced that the whole thing is not going to end up a world-snuff. Can D & D prove me wrong?

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