Historic Recap: Battle of the Bastards, Season 6, Episode 9

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Episode 9 – “Battle of the Bastards” – of Season Six Game of Thrones is epic – not because it necessarily surprised anyone but because the battle scenes were so phenomenally well produced. This episode has tons of historic tidbits for history lovers – and this recap will take you through a few of them.

The episode only has two storylines: Meereen and Winterfell. Both places are under attack.

This week’s recap focuses on a few specific historical events from the episode rather than recapping the full episode.

Meereen: Yara & Daenerys, Grace O’Malley & Elizabeth I

After Daenerys defeats the Slavers by dragonfire from above, Daenerys cuts a deal with Yara and Theon Greyjoy that evokes Elizabeth I’s meeting with Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen.

Yara (Asha) and Theon Greyjoy arrive in Meereen to try to make a deal with Daenerys and save their skins. The Greyjoys offer Yara’s 100 ship fleet to Daenerys for her support. When Daenerys becomes queen, they want Daenerys to back Yara’s claim to the Iron Throne, kill the uncles that oppose her, and liberate the Iron Islands so they are no longer under Westerosi rule.

tyrion-theon-yara-dany-meereen-allies

Tyrion watches as Daenerys talks to Yara on her level — instead of from the dais. Theon is in the background. (c) HBO.

Otherwise, Daenerys will be left to cut a deal with Euron Greyjoy. He has a 1000 ships but he wants Dany to marry him as part of the deal.

Daenerys has often been compared to Elizabeth I — the unwed female ruler of the Dragon-emblemed Tudor dynasty. When Daenerys hears that Euron wants to marry her, she sees right through his intentions.

Like Elizabeth I, Daenerys realizes that Euron would be another suitor from abroad who intends to dominate Daenerys and rule on her behalf, assuming that he can because he is a man. And, like Elizabeth I, Dany is having none of this.

Daenerys finds Yara, as a female Ironborn, leader intriguing. As a female ruler and commander of men, Dany sees common ground with Yara.

When Dany meets Yara, their introduction is taken right out of the pages of history. Yara is like Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen from the sixteenth century.

Like Yara, Grace (“Granuaile”) was the daughter of powerful ruler — in Grace’s case, an Irish chieftain and sea captain named Owen O’Malley. Although Grace had a half-brother, he was unsuited to being the clan chieftain (either because he drank too much or spent too much time playing the pipes (or both)).

Grace’s father came to accept her desire to sail the seas, captain ships, and fight like a man. When he died, she became the effective leader of his clan. She lead a band of pirates and patrolled Clare bay in her longboat-type ships, extracting tolls from any ships who wished to navigate the waters.

When Grace O’Malley Met Elizabeth I

Grace O’Malley was the O’Malley chieftain in sixteenth century Ireland, in County Clare. She came into conflict with Elizabeth I’s government due to Elizabeth’s Irish foreign policy, which aimed to prevent war with Spain.

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Daenerys with her unwedded rule, distinctive hair, and literal dragons (vs. Elizabeth’s emblematic Tudor dragons) is not unlike Elizabeth I.

When Elizabeth I decided to try reduce the power of local chieftains and anglicize Ireland (to prevent an alliance with Spain), one of her agents — Connacht governor Sir Richard Bingham –caused a great deal of pain and suffering for County Clare’s inhabitants. Case in point: After burning and pillaging County Clare, Grace and her people were forced to live on ships due to famine-like conditions.

To the English government, Grace was a pirate and traitor.

Nonetheless, Grace O’Malley decided to plead her case directly to Elizabeth I in person and request safe passage. Elizabeth corresponded with Grace for several years. She claimed she only committed the acts she had because Bingham made her. She was protecting her sons and people. In the spring of 1595, safe passage finally approved, Grace sailed for England to plead with Gloriana in person.

Now, this was pretty gutsy of Grace. The English could have easily backed out of their safe-passage agreement and thrown her into the Tower of London for piracy. Just going to England was putting her in a lot of danger. After all, the English government hung pirates.

-John_Hawkins

John Hawkins

It’s worth pointing out that piracy didn’t necessarily offend Elizabeth. She supported privateers like Francis Drake and John Hawkins, and she’d feign offense when the Spanish accused these sea captains of piracy. There was a pretty thin line between privateers and pirates, and Elizabeth employed these skilled sailors as architects of her navy and so on.

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Francis Drake by Marcus Gheeraerts.

Knowing these men would make Elizabeth understand exactly who Grace was and the skills she’d need to possess to lead a fleet of pirates.

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A portrait of Elizabeth I circa 1595 at roughly 62 years of age.

By the time Grace and Elizabeth met, Grace likely fascinated Elizabeth. Both women were in their early 60s and, in some ways, Grace was like a mirror of Elizabeth. They both played men’s roles. They both ruled people. Unlike Grace, however, even though Elizabeth was heralded as commander of men and captain of the seas, she’d never been to sea or set foot on a battlefield. For Elizabeth, Grace would have been the real deal. She commanded ships and fought like a man (likely using two swords even!).

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Grace O’Malley (L.) meets Elizabeth I, as depicted in this image from the eighteenth century. Source: Wikipedia.

Meeting Grace likely amused if not entertained Elizabeth. After Grace sailed up the Thames, the two women met at Greenwich.

Grace entered like the audience chamber like a visiting regent. When she came before Elizabeth, Grace refused to curtsy. She held her head high like she was the Elizabeth’s equal. The courtiers were scandalized. The only people who didn’t bow or curtsy before the queen were other rulers.

If Elizabeth was offended though, she played it cool. The two women retired to sit by the fire and chat about their similar lives, including the trials of having to deal with jealous men.

Yara Shakes Daenerys’ Hand

When Yara negotiates with Daenerys, she never curtsies or bows before the Dragon queen. Technically, if Yara is recognizing Daenerys as the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, Yara should show some deference. When the two women reach an agreement, they shake hands like equals and this is a near perfect replay of Grace O’Malley’s lack of deference to Elizabeth I.

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A faintly surprised Daenerys shakes “hands” (shakes forearms?) with Yara, and her lack of deference evokes pirate queen Grace O’Malley’s meeting with Elizabeth I. There’s no bowing or kissing the ring for Yara. (c) HBO.

The deal that Yara ends up cutting with Daenerys is questionable though. Yara basically sells out her people’s way of life by agreeing they will stop reeving and raiding. Yara wants less war, but nobody has ever said that she wants to change their culture. After all, she’s the pirate queen!

Is this even a promise that Yara can keep? Is she intending to back out of it? There is no food to speak of on the Iron Islands. How will the Ironborn survive without raiding?

The Battle of the Bastards

Although this episode didn’t end in an especially surprising way, the battle and the poetic justice ending – Ramsay eats it (or gets eaten) more than delivered.

By far, this was one of the best medieval battles I’ve seen portrayed on any screen size. It drew from real-world history in numerous places. I started to recap it, but it was so much fun breaking down the battle that I’m going to turn it into another article.

After Jon’s foolishly followed his heart, Sansa saves the day when she anticipates a brutal loss and gets the Vale army’s from Petyr Baelish.

Wun-Wun stops a potential siege when he smashes through the wooden doors at Winterfell. Sadly, by the time he is through the doors, he is covered in so many arrows that he dies. Ramsay fires the death arrow through Wun-Wun’s eye, but the poor old giant didn’t have much hope even before that.

In the books, Roose doubts Ramsay’s ability to be the leader of a house because he lacks formal military training. What men would follow him? He is essentially a peasant, a savage. It’s a cruel indictment from a father.

Sadly the truth of Ramsay’s military skill emerges when he tries to fight off Jon Snow. Ramsay’s chief weapon is the peasant weapon: the bow and arrow. Like the smallfolk, Ramsay can hunt. In fact, he is all too good of a hunter. But, you can’t win with a bow and arrow in close combat. Ramsay’s arrows are useless once Jon gets close enough.

Once Ramsay is beaten into unconsciousness, he wakes up in his own kennels. Sansa leaves her husband strapped to a chair so he can be devoured by his own dogs. It’s poetic justice — especially since Ramsay’s main crimes seem to be against women — and often with those terrible dogs. (You could argue that people like Theon were criminals, the Ironborn were prisoners of war and some of the other people he killed were traitors.)

Sansa is now a widow, and Warden of the North — if the North can have a female leader. This means that there might be three female rulers in Westeros (and area). Yara may become the queen of the independent Iron Islands and Daenerys may get the Iron throne.

Although given the Dragon queens increasing penchant for ruthlessness, perhaps we will see that female leaders aren’t necessarily the path to a kinder more peaceful world any more than men are. Does any gender really have the moral high ground?

 

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

43 Comments

  • Reply June 20, 2016

    Apocalyptic Queen

    I love the analogy between Elizabeth I/ Daenerys and Grace O’Malley/ Yara. It didn’t cross my mind to consider why she didn’t bow to Daenerys! It seemed Dany viewed Yara as her equal and a victim of gender politics, mirroring Grace’s meeting with Elizabeth.

  • Reply June 20, 2016

    Richard

    There were problems that others and I had with this episode:

    1. OK, Jon Snow reverted back to Stupid Jon Snow because of Rickon’s death, but the Stark-loyal lords of the north of the books (outside of the Karstarks) would not have been fine with Rickon being cut down by Ramsay. Actually, Manderly handing over Rickon in the first place doesn’t make much sense at all. It doesn’t fit historical sense either. With nobody actually liking Ramsay, if this took place in the real world, the nominally Bolton-supporting Northern lords (outside of maybe the Karstarks) would have hung around to see who the winner was instead of going all-in for Bolton.

    2. Sansa not telling Jon Snow about Littlefinger and Vale makes no sense (unless Sansa was playing some devious game where the Boltons and JS’s rag-tag group beat each other up leaving the person who controls the Vale knights in control of the North, which would also be completely out of character).

    3. In an open field battle, you simply wouldn’t have such big mountains of dead.

    4. Shooting arrows in to your own men is a great way for them to say “eff it all” and just take off (yes, Ramsay flays, but he has to win first).

    5. Once they caught sight of the Vale cavalry, infantry on the Bolton side (especially the non-Bolton forces) would have taken off or surrendered instead of waiting to get rolled up.

    6. Speaking of the Vale knights, no one bothered to cut off Ramsay’s little coterie?

    7. A giant can break through a wall of pikes. No one thought to give Wun-Wun a giant club so that he could sweep away the enemy?

    8. If you want to avoid an arrow, once you see the arrow take flight, you change the path of your run, Rickon.

    Basically, D&D can’t do plot as well as GRRM.

    • Reply June 20, 2016

      Richard

      Sorry, I meant Umbers when I said Manderlys.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Jun

      Indeed, Dave and Dan cannot plot a fraction as well as GRRM. Benioff is very into machismo in his own writing, I’ve heard. As visually stunning as the episode was, it does not have nearly as much impact on me as an Asha chapter about the frozen march toward Winterfell in snow or a Theon chapter with unbearable tension among the “allies” of Roose Bolton inside Winterfell. The mysterious assassinations that kept happening, driving the houses into frenzied suspicion at each other. Mance Rayder’s women lurking in the shadows, under the threats of being flayed by Ramsay. Bone-chilling stuff. Plus I really like the five-chinned lord of White Harbor. 🙂

      GRRM would never have used the same device twice — A fresh army riding into the battlefield in the nick of time! First Stannis’ and now Littlefinger’s. He’s too proud to use deus ex machina even once.

      • Reply June 21, 2016

        Jamie Adair

        Ha. What do people think of Dany’s actions in Meereen? Is she becoming too ruthless? I was seriously troubled that she thought about burning cities. Is she going to be our next villain?

      • Reply June 21, 2016

        Jamie Adair

        I love that chapter in Winterfell BTW. I was really surprised they didnt use it in the show. Maybe the claustrophobia and horse kaka wouldnt have filmed well, but the murders would have.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Jamie Adair

      Lol. Well, you’re going to hate the second half because I loved the battle scene. I liked it because I haven’t seen very many medieval battles on TV or in the movies – and, when I have read about military history, I’ve always tried to picture what they were like symphonically.

      I saw a lot of stuff in the battle scene that I’ve read about, so I really liked that.

      I do agree about the realism of the mountain of the dead. I found myself thinking, “Where are the stackers?” But I loved the mountain as a plot device. I thought the whole scene showed brilliant strategy on Ramsay’s part. (And I love Ramsay; he is such a great villain!)

      You make a good point about Rickon and the arrows. I still really liked it though. Compare the battle with say, the Battle of Bosworth in The White Queen… hands down, this is better. In fact, plot holes and all, I still think it is better than most battles I’ve seen. Of course, I am not a battle aficionado so I may have a low standard!

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Jamie Adair

      I assumed that Sansa rode off in the night after she talked to Jon. Had she already sent Brienne? Id like to think Sansa hasn’t become so ruthless she wouldn’t tell Jon just so she could be the 11th hour hero.

      • Reply June 21, 2016

        Richard

        But why not tell Jon about the raven to LF?

        I hope there’s a decent explanation in the last episode.

        A lot of details in the battle scene were realistic (minus the mountains of dead; and it wouldn’t have been so frenetic; and swords made of ordinary iron/steel wouldn’t stay sharp after hitting armor a few times, so medieval battles were really bludgeoning affairs where guys kept whacking each other). But it had the mud and gore (if not as much of the emotion) of the battle scene in “Henry V”, which was much more realistic than medieval battles before it.

        • Reply June 21, 2016

          WATCHER ON THE COUCH

          I thought maybe Sansa is still traumatised because of her recent experiences and found it difficult to trust people. I saw a documentary once where someone who had been a prisoner in one of the Nazi death camps said that after he had been freed it took him a long time to “become normal”.

        • Reply June 21, 2016

          Jun

          It seems to me that the writers made a number of not-very-logical decisions just so that we get to see the battle of bastards in this way. If Sansa had told Jon about Littlefinger’s army or, better yet, accepted LF’s army in the first place, we would not have had this up-and-down journey over the season, nor would we see Jon Snow almost lose with a surprise reverse that tugs at our heart strings. It seems to me that they started with how the battle has to look like and went backward. I don’t see any convoluted conspiracy in the whole thing. Fans came up with all sorts of conspiracy theory after Arya was stabbed, but it worked out very straightforward.

          The battle scenes were well done. The POV shots of Jon being buried in the dead are amazing. Technically this was a well choreographed and well filmed episode.

          I have not seen anyone commenting on the fact that no one, except the Bolton army (but not Ramsay) were wearing full armor and full helm. I have read and heard writers, including GRRM, complain or make fun of this for years. But the audience has to see the pretty faces of the heroes and villains, and actors really hate doing fight scenes in clunky costumes.

        • Reply June 22, 2016

          Jamie Adair

          I figured out how the bodies got there after watching the scene about 20 times. (I’m writing an article about the battle strategy – because frankly I love it. Plus it gives me an excuse to talk about Agincourt, longbows, etc.) Ramsay deliberately orchestrates the mountain of the dead in that location. He does it by having the archers shoot their volleys at that area at specific intervals or when a lot of people approach the edge. Admittedly, I do think the mountains of dead looked a little too neatly piled.
          I’d say I wasn’t sure Ramsay’s corpse-mountain orchestration was realistic, but then again, medieval and ancient generals pulled off stuff that’s equally crazy so I think HBO gets a pass on that. 🙂 Plus it does let them make the double entrapment that much more dramatic, so I don’t mind…

      • Reply June 21, 2016

        Jun

        Haha, Jamie, you love Ramsay. Maybe you should write about that. 😀

        I look at the frustrating problem of ruling Meereen as two separate issues:
        1) Can slavery in Essos be peacefully abolished?
        2) Is Dany a ruler in peace?

        I’m inclined to give “No” to both answers. The war of Meereen is inevitable, which is why Dany has to be in Meereen at that time to abolish it. But Dany is not Lincoln and therefore she needs to get out once slavery is abolished by force.

        The first question seems to go to GRRM’s discussion about whether war in and of itself is evil. He has said many times that, while he refused to go to Vietnam, he believes war is not black or white, good or bad, but rather full of shades of gray.

        I don’t know how the TV series will handle the ending, but I am pretty sure that Dany will not be ruling Westeros in the novels. IMO no Bollywood ending. Sorry. 🙂

        • Reply June 22, 2016

          Jamie Adair

          ROFL. I might write about my love for Ramsay, Jun! After all, somebody had to replace Tywin. 😀

          I really didn’t like book Ramsay though. I can’t tell whether I like TV Ramsay better because I love a good villain or because I love Iwan Rheon’s performance. Book Ramsay isn’t nearly so soft spoken in my mind. He is bigger and harsher. I really like Iwan’s mellifluous voice and his ice blue eyes work perfectly for the part.

          For some reason TV Ramsay doesn’t bug me nearly as much as TV Joffrey. But, I didn’t enjoy some of the *brutal* violence TV Ramsay dished out.

          • June 23, 2016

            Jun

            I really like Iwan Rhoen too. His eyes! There’s nothing in the world like them. He played a sweet young man in the series Vicious. I think he’s quite cute. I hope he won’t get typecast into psychopaths in future projects. But he did recently say in an interview that he wants to play Iago. Interesting.

          • June 24, 2016

            Jamie Adair

            He would be a good Iago. He has such an interesting voice and he can certainly play complexity.

        • Reply June 22, 2016

          Jamie Adair

          And, no Bollywood ending? You’re breaking my heart Jun. Lol.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Apocalyptic Queen

      I do agree with you. I didn’t actually like the battle scene very much. Jon seemed arrogant, dismissive, naive and dare I say it, not so bright – all of which are out of character. I agree that most would not have thriwn their weight behind Ramsay but would’ve hedged their bets. Bosworth anyone?

    • Reply June 22, 2016

      David Wright

      1. The Karstarks and the Umbers were no longer Stark loyalists, due to Rob Stark’s treatment of their fathers. Hanging around to see who the winner is can be dangerous with a psychopath like Ramsey, who would probably take neutrality as the same as enmity.

      2. Sansa didn’t know how Littlefinger or Jon would react to her request, or if the Vale knights would arrive on time. She did keep asking Jon to wait for more men, but couldn’t tell him if, or when they would arrive.

      3. It was no longer open field when the Bolton infantry arrived and before that the Starks and the Boltons were killing each other and Ramsey was killing them both. Mounds of dead are historically accurate.

      4. When you are fighting from your life, you are disorientated and it is difficult to know where the arrows are coming from.

      5. The Vale knights charged into the back of the Bolton forces, who were in a tight formation. The latter couldn’t go forward, because of the Starks and couldn’t go back, because of the knights. This assumes that they even saw or heard the knights, as they were fighting for their lives.

      6. Did they even see him or know who he was? They had a much bigger target.

      7. Fair point, but nobody expected the wall of pikes. Hindsight is a great thing.

      8. It is difficult to run fast forwards, while looking backwards for an arrow. A zig-zag run would be safest, but takes more time and he wanted to go to Jon as quickly as possible. Besides, Ramsay had already “missed” a couple of times to lull him into a false sense of security. Could any of us think clearly when someone is shooting arrows at us?

      I’m not claiming that my answers are correct, but this is my take on the situation.

      • Reply June 22, 2016

        Richard

        2. No, she could not say when/if they would arrive, but she could say that she made the request. And if her plan is to make JS wait for reinforcements, how is withholding the info that she sent for help going to help in that regard?

        3. Where have mounds of dead ever been historically accurate in an open field battle? Example? Only when people are fighting for a small strategic piece of land or penned in (and the Bolton pikes didn’t come until there was a mound of dead). In the open field, battle lines shift all over the place.

        4. This is nonsense. First off, if the show was historically accurate (which it really wasn’t), there would have been big lines or balls of men to fend off cavalry charges and to attack in force, not a general melee (which is a great way for your army to panic and disintegrate since you don’t keep discipline). Any everyone would have been keenly aware where death from the sky was raining from.

        5. The Vale knights sounded their horn and the Bolton pikemen would have seen them coming. And they weren’t “fighting for their lives”, considering that they had encircled the Wildlings in a wall of pikes.

        6. If the Vale knights didn’t know who or where Ramsay was, then they are even bigger idiots than the showrunners. I’m sorry, that’s just not realistic. In every battle, every side with any military know-how always tries to ascertain where the leader of the other side is (especially in the medieval era when knocking off the leader of the other side was likely to lead the other side to run away in panic and lead to a general rout).

        8. Rickon lost his brains? Yes, you zigzag and you look back. Who cares if you can’t run as fast? Dodging arrows is till paramount. And JS (in real life) would have shouted if he saw an arrow heading straight for Rickon (and he had a perfect view).

        I think, for some strange reason, you’re too generous to the showrunners.

        • Reply June 22, 2016

          Jamie Adair

          The piles of bodies are from the American Civil War.

          The battles are from Agincourt and Cannae.

          >>I think, for some strange reason, you’re too generous to the showrunners.
          I don’t know if this was directed at me or not. (I think it was directed at David Wright.)

          I’m very generous to the showrunners though because I’ve dabbled in fiction, I work as a professional writer — and there is *nothing but criticism* in my profession, and I tend to think, “Could I do better?” The answer I usually come up with is, “No.”

          I know book fans tend to get very annoyed with the show. I do get disappointed when HBO omits things, but I took a year long course about film adaptations of novels in university so I’m rarely surprised.

          I also love history so much that I have a very low bar for costume dramas/period pieces, etc. I’m thrilled to see anything from the Middle Ages brought to life. Case in point: I watched The White Queen — *and blogged about it*. And, The White Queen was *terrible*.

          With Game of Thrones, I think people often overlook the filmic value, art symbolism, etc. the showrunners weave in that are not in the book. (Don’t get me wrong: there is an awful lot of amazing symbolism in the books too. My point is just that the showrunners try to give their work a literary or filmic quality that fits their chosen genre and medium.)

          If I ever get through the mountain of work I have and backlog, I’m going to publish something about a scene where they took GRRM’s work, ran with it, and, I’d argue, improved upon his work. What GRRM and the showrunners did is quite feminist actually. I’d say more but I don’t like scooping myself. 😉

        • Reply June 24, 2016

          David Wright

          2. I didn’t say it would help, only that could be a reason why she didn’t tell him.

          3 Agincourt, where French knights are said to have drowned in their helmets, where the Duke of York probably died from suffocation under a pile of dead and where the Gesta Henrici describes three great heaps of dead.

          4. Fending off cavalry charges requires a disciplined group of men armed with spears or pikes, not a charging rabble of variously armed infantry. As for being keenly aware of where death comes from, I always remember the comment of an officer at Waterloo: “I’ll be hanged if I know anything at all about the matter, for I was all day trodden in the mud and galloped over by every scoundrel who had a horse”.

          5. If they turned to face the Vale cavalry, they would then have a group of very angry wilding at their back. If a wall of pikes breaks, they are in serious trouble. Read about the battle of Flodden.

          6. Look at the relative positions of the Vale knights, the melee and Ramsey. If a small group had been given the task to get Ramsay, they would have done; if they had been tasked to charge into the melee, they would have done. Perhaps an oversight on Littlefinger’s part?

          8. In the show, Rickon is about 11. He is terrified and being shot at, while help is straight ahead. Can he think clearly enough to zig-zag? Can Jon actually see an arrow – head on it has a small profile and Jon had his hand out to grasp Rickon, which he was concentrating.

          I am not trying to be generous to the show runners, just postulating possible alternatives to your comments. As you have obviously kept a cool head many times whilst being in the middle of medieval battles where people are trying to kill you, I will bow to your expertise.

  • Reply June 21, 2016

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    I lost a comment (I think because I am dangling on the danged dongle as my broadband connection and phone have gone awry since yesterday evening). I think GRRM does use a deus ex machina though

    BOOK SPOILER IF YOU’VE NOT READ DANCE WITH DRAGONS

    because Wyman Manderly knows the younger Stark boys are alive because Theon’s squire had been up a tree listening when they have their discussion in ACOK with Maester Lewin and the same squire then relays the information to Lord Manderly.

    Perhaps I am fortunate in that I can separate the show and the books and enjoy each for their separate strong points (that doesn’t mean I overlook their separate weak points either D&D’s Dorne was indeed forlorn and in DWD I didn’t need to keep reading Tyrion asking “Where do whores go?” 999 times – well it felt like 999 times when I was reading it and I did read the physical book in that case rather than listen to an audio book).

    I’d like to ‘white knight’ D&D to some extent in that when they undertook the adaptation of the books back in 2009 (or thereabouts I’m not actually 100% sure of the exact date) they were under the impression that “Winds of Winter” would have been published by now so they are in a difficult position of having to “adapt” something that has not been published.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Jun

      Yes, Watcher, you’re right in that TV adaptation is difficult. GRRM himself has admitted that he wrote the series with the full expectation that it canNOT be filmed. And certainly he himself has to bear the blame for the fact that the writers have no source material to fall back on to adapt now.

      BTW, Tyrion’s “Where do whores go” thoughts in ADWD is about his desperate fantasy of finding his wife somewhere. Perhaps it is merely a nod to romance novels in which such absurd coincidence would happen (GRRM seems to be well versed in romance tropes, strangely), but I often wonder if it foreshadows something …

  • Reply June 21, 2016

    Richard

    Agree with Jun that the writers wanted to set up the battle scene this way and then worked backwards, which led to some stupid logic. I can see their thinking:
    JS needs to charge in to a trap
    Ergo
    Rickon needs to be toyed with
    Ergo
    Umber has to hand over Rickon.

    Nevermind that that act (without some backstabbing by Umber) is nonsensical. What happened to “the North remembers”?
    Even if Umber hates the wildlings, real-life Umber would protect Rickon. If he has Rickon, he has the Stark heir and could rally the rest of the North against Bolton.
    Handing over Rickon makes no sense.

    The sad part is that this could have been made tense and suspenseful if they had respected the audience’s intelligence enough. In the real world, everyone would know that that Vale is coming. Thus Ramsay would have to move to wipe out JS’s crew before the Vale arrived. But there is the uncertainty of Umber and other Northern lords. And you could have tension between Sansa and LF with Sansa wanting to move quickly but LF holding back the Vale knights to let the 2 Northern forces wipe each other out first before coming in to finish off.
    What would Sansa barter for faster movement? How could Ramsay persuade the Northern lords to fight for him? Would the Vale arrive in time to save JS? This episode could have been suspenseful.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Richard

      . . . sadly, D&D went the Michael Bay way and aimed it at an audience with the sophistication of 13 year-olds.

      • Reply June 21, 2016

        WATCHER ON THE COUCH

        I wouldn’t be that harsh, Richard, but ‘twould be a dull world if we all thought alike and I will respect your opinion. Some 13 year olds are quite sophisticated. But like I say I watch the show as the show now. I’m not a great one for re-reading books though I’m not saying I’ve never done so but I appreciate the books as the books and one has to give GRRM kudos for creating the ASOIAF world by taking inspiration from history, myth and possibly ballads.

        I don’t know if anyone has seen any of the scolagladiatori videos on YouTube? The speaker there has commented on some of the GoT fights – about the ToJ fight he said that dual wielding of swords did go on sometimes though perhaps not overly frequently and he was pleased with Arthur Dayne for wearing a helmet – but not for sticking his nice sharp sword in the ground. Apparently that would not have gone on.

        Wasn’t Mors Umber a bit of a stinker in ADWD – though I’ll concede book Smalljon wouldn’t have handed Rickon over (especially if he’s dead in the books).

        • Reply June 21, 2016

          WATCHER ON THE COUCH

          Edit: I think it might have been Hother Umber who had dealings with the Boltons in the books – it’s a couple or three years since I read ADWD. In my last sentence in the posting above, for clarity, I was saying the Smalljon was dead in the books –

          POSSIBLE BOOK SPOILER

          as far as I recall Rickon and Osha – and Shaggydog – were on Skagos (sp?) in the books dodging cannibals and creatures that might be dangerous unicorns or one-horned goats.

      • Reply June 21, 2016

        Apocalyptic Queen

        I agree with you Richard. Jon was out of character, the Northern lords were out of character, and LF was out of character – all to serve some dramatic anti-climax for the big reveal consisting of the Vale lords wading in to save the day. All very Hollywood.

        • Reply June 21, 2016

          Richard

          Well, LF wants Sansa now that Catelyn is dead. And maybe Jon’s self-control died the first time (plus the Starks are reckless when it comes to honor). But Sansa not telling Jon and Ramsay not knowing about the Vale force begs belief. That last episode better explain (though nothing is as bad as anti-biotic Arya being able to ward off sepsis in a medieval era after being stabbed in the gut several times).

          In any case, GoT doesn’t believe in punishment (annoyingly unrealistically so in the show: if it was true to humans, the Northern lords would have turned on Ramsay.

    • Reply June 21, 2016

      Apocalyptic Queen

      Reading your comment, I’ve just had a horrible thought! What if Littlefinger is going on a redemption arc like The Hound and Jaime? Watching Sansa with him and the preview of the next episode, I fear the writers may have him bizarrely atoning rather than punishing him for his past betrayals.

  • Reply June 21, 2016

    Phillip Hallam-Baker

    One of the mistakes a lot of people make in criticizing the show is to say that something is pointless or gratuitous when in most cases it simply turns out that the significance only becomes later.

    This week Ramsay is fed to the same dogs he fed his brother, his mother in law and the corpse of his lover. We also discover that after surviving Ramsay, Sansa has difficulty trusting people.

    The pivotal moment in Sansa’s arc is when Brienne catches up with her and pledges allegiance to Sansa. Up to that point, Theon is in charge. After that point, Sansa makes all the decisions.

    I think the show got a bad rap with respect to Theon. Yes, Sansa gets raped. But Theon is tortured for months and castrated. And the thing that is most horrifying about that particular scene is that Sansa has just married Theon and has presumably consented to have sex. But that wasn’t enough for Ramsay, he had to rape her instead.

    One of the points of criticism was that Theon kills Miranda rather than Sansa. Which I thought wrong at the time because at the time neither was fully functional. Theon didn’t have the will to act, Sansa didn’t have the ability. If Sansa had killed Miranda during the escape, the execution of Ramsay would have had less effect. And I am pretty sure that was planned out in advance as you will recall that Miranda and Ramsay both make the mistake of trying to use a bow and arrow, a ranged weapon at close quarters.

    Jon doesn’t listen to or take Sansa’s advice. The battle is almost lost as a result. It is left to Sansa to save the day. Jon acknowledges that by giving Sansa the pleasure of finishing Ramsay off. With the murder of Rickon and Bran being absent, Sansa is now the Queen in the North.

    That may not happen in the books. But there is certainly a very powerful logic to Sansa’s plot arc that would not have been there if the show had followed the ‘lemoncakes’ plot line. But then again, book Sansa is rather younger and the timeline is intended to be rather longer.

    It is surely no coincidence that the war of five kings has resulted in a situation where Westeros now has five queens.

    • Reply June 22, 2016

      Apocalyptic Queen

      Jon seemed arrogant and patronising & he refused to listen to Sansa. I blame Jon more than Sansa for the loss of life. What I did find unusual was Ramsay’s military strategic capability, the behaviour of the houses (ie. not hedging their bets), Vale “saving the day” a la Hollywood.

    • Reply June 22, 2016

      Jamie Adair

      Phil, I really like this: “It is surely no coincidence that the war of five kings has resulted in a situation where Westeros now has five queens.” 😀

    • Reply June 25, 2016

      Apocalyptic Queen

      Yes. Sansa in the North, Daenerys in Essos, Cersei in KL, Sand Snakes in Dorne and Yara in the Iron Islands. I find this similar to the situation that transpired after the death of Edward VI when five female candidates were touted – Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Mary of Scots & Eleanor Brandon.

  • Reply June 22, 2016

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    I appreciate the point that some people have made that the troops of the Vale came in very last minute – a bit like the US cavalry in some old westerns – but I wouldn’t have put it past Littlefinger to hang back till the last possible moment. Maybe next episode will shed some light on why Sansa remained silent about having contacted Littlefinger – perhaps she wasn’t sure he would come, after all she had dismissed him pretty forthrightly at their previous meeting.

    Anyway, I must be indulging my inner thirteen year old * because I liked the episode.

    I can’t recall whether I suggested this on another thread but ASOIAF might be suited to an audio series – the BBC radio have done good “classic” serials over the years and I think it would be easier to stick closer to the books in the medium of radio – after all one would be imagining the milieu internally as one does when reading the books. Or there’s Big Finish Produtions – they are a paid for download outfit but they have done some (to me – everything is subjective) good audio plays about Dr Who and a series called “The Confessions of Dorian Gray” which is a ‘what if scenario’ as if Dorian had been a real person and had lived on past the death of Oscar Wilde. But then if HBO own all the broadcasting rights I don’t know if a radio adaptation is feasible.

    * Richard, referring my inner 13 year old isn’t meant to be snark by the way. It’s just that when I was younger I let other peoples’ opinions influence me somewhat so now I am older I keep my own opinions and I’m going to stick with liking the episode even if I’m the only person who does so!

    • Reply June 22, 2016

      Jun

      Kudos for keeping one’s own opinions, Watcher, and in such a kind way. 🙂

  • Reply June 22, 2016

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    Edit for clarity: I meant if HBO own the broadcasting rights to ASOIAF they might not be willing to let another outfit make an audio version.

  • Reply June 24, 2016

    Jun

    I don’t want to beat up the TV series too much. They are doing as good a job as they can, particularly given the time and budget constraints. I am sure GRRM would be the first to acknowledge that his novels are nearly impossible to adapt to the screen, particularly after ASOS. That does not excuse the flaws in the series — I am particularly bothered by the increasing number of logical holes cropping up — but it’s unrealistic to expect it to match the scope of the books. For a TV series, it’s good stuff, although it’s not my all time favorite.

    OTOH, the books of ASOIAF have changed my entire worldview. I am forever indebted to GRRM.

    • Reply June 27, 2016

      WATCHER ON THE COUCH

      Jun, there is no rule that says that you or any other person who prefers the ASOIAF books to the show has to agree with me. There are some people who love the books who have something of a “People who like the show are thickos” attitude – which is not a point of view I am ascribing to you. As I say, I watch the show for itself and think of the books as the books and each being interesting in their own way. I would never have read/listened to the books if it hadn’t been for the show. I’ve already said I didn’t like the way the Dorne story was changed from the books though I am infinitely grateful it only took a few moments for Maester Cresson to die of poison in the show rather than a whole chapter (or prologue) though I will likely be in the minority.

  • Reply June 25, 2016

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    If it would be of interest the video linked (which is quite long) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avtHpJyYYkQ features someone – who seems to know what he is talking about – giving a critique of some parts of the eponymous battle in Battle of the Bastards. He doesn’t give it a free pass and he states what is logical and what is not.

  • Reply June 25, 2016

    WATCHER ON THE COUCH

    Sorry – my post above was a bit short – the video is perhaps more positive than negative but the chap making it does not say everything is right.

    I will concur that the adaptation of ASOIAF has become a looser adaptation as the story progressed. I didn’t think the book version of Dorne was so bad that it needed to be altered and I quite liked book Ellaria

    POSSIBLE BOOK SPOILER

    being a peacemaker among her belligerent daughters and stepdaughters.

    Many adaptations change from the page to the screen or stage as I’m sure folk are aware. I haven’t read the Longmire or Dexter books though I’ve seen some episodes of the TV series (haven’t watched Dexter since the one where the hero had to choose between his biological brother and his adoptive sister) though I’ve heard they diverge at least a little from the books. I was mightily pleased neither of the show Daarios had a blue beard, though I suspect I might be in the minority.

    I couldn’t say the ASOIAF have changed my worldview – I read (or listened to audio versions) more for entertainment though I have experienced times when I came across a (to me) “good read” but I haven’t wanted to put a book down.

  • Reply June 25, 2016

    Argie

    The video does point out serious obvious battle issues. Wun wun could not only be intimidating, but an incredible advantage, yet they essentially having him just kicking and pushing people. They could have given him a tree trunk to swing and take out flanks of people in each swing. Similarly, he can cover more ground and would have reached Rickon much faster than Jon. When they are surrounded by Ramsay’s men, only then does he grab a shield and begin to swing. I feel that the writers are relying too heavily on the idea that the Wildlings don’t have formal battle training. That could have been an advantage. Similarly, Sansa pointed out repeatedly that Ramsay does not play by the rule book necessarily, yet they had no surprises laid out. Davos also had experience with Ramsay when he burned Stannis’ stores before the last battle, yet no surprises were discussed. When one has a horrific disadvantage in numbers, equipment and resources, there has to be one or more backup plans. In that sense, this seemed to play out only to stress the viewer and heighten tension. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it left Jon looking like a tosser. Follow him into battle again?

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned the sudden appearance of Yara and Theon. Given that the city had just been attacked by sea, a hundred ships coming out of nowhere would likely be suspect. Yet they get an audience with the Mother of Dragons just like that. I thoroughtly enjoyed their meeting and love the historical references indicated in this thread, but would have liked to have seen a bit more. Did they witness the dragons smoting the Master’s ships? Did they correspond requesting an audience like Grace did QEI? Did Tyrion give Dany a ‘briefing’ on the Iron Born? She commands they stop pirating, yet they have no fertile lands and know no other way, yet in one conversation, she’s willing to change her people’s way of life. why? What more does she really know about Dany and what she’s accomplished so far? They have spent a LOT of screen time on Arya’s personal awakening and hand to hand combat with the waif, and simply gloss over this meeting.
    When you only have ten episodes, you need to choose what gets screen time effectively. This season has been somewhat lacking in that regard.

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