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

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Pincer? I hardly know her

Helen Sloan / HBO

In the Game of Game of Thrones, battles are our Christmas. Having a character in a battle is a minimum of 50 points; having multiple characters in a battle can double your score for the season. But can you put a price on sucking? Say there was a character in Game of Thrones — a character who got lots of kills, a character who even made that rare "coming back from the dead" score, a character who has taken up plenty of screen time this year. If he mega sucks, does he still win the Game? How sweet can that victory be?

We start in Meereen, I suppose because we have to get Meereen over with sooner or later. Actually, I take that back — the Meereen segments this week were perhaps the most purely enjoyable, especially for those of us who subscribe to the Mad Queen theory and want to see Daenerys Targaryen become a ruthless tyrant. (Why would I want such a thing on my fun TV show when there are so many bad rulers IRL? I guess it would make the show more interesting to watch again someday when I have the flu or something.) Benioff and Weiss are starting to telegraph this development pretty hard, as well giving us our weekly reminder of the continued existence of a bunch of wildfire underneath King's Landing. HMM!

Nice of Viserion and Rhaegal to finally join us!

After Daenerys, in full psychopath mode, calmly counts off the ways in which she'll make the Masters suffer, Tyrion Lannister takes a break from sputtering lame excuses about his mishandling of her city-state and reminds her that a tendency toward what we'll politely call overreaction runs in her family. "Yeah, but this is different, because I don't even have any wildfire," Daenerys says, then summons her three enormous DRAGONS to spit all-consuming flames all over everything (+50). Oh yeah, did I say dragons plural? Congrats this week to Viserion and Rhaegal for finally deciding to leave their dungeon, what, seven weeks later? Where were they when the Masters first started bombing the city? I question their timing, but still award them +25 because they are both clearly indoor kids and this was a big step for them.

Game of Thrones

Elswhere, the long-lost Sons of the Harpy are out murdering a bunch of randoms who were hanging out outside the gate for some reason (+50) until the Dothraki ride up on them and Daario Naharis scimitars one of their heads off (+10) which I suppose takes care of that. Two of our glamorously eyelined Masters get their heads chopped off by Grey Worm (+40) and the third is allowed to return home and warn everyone not to fuck with Daenerys Stormborn. Because that warning has stuck so well up til now.

Daenerys gains a fleet, or at least, a fraction of a fleet that her dragons haven't toasted (+25). Still, ships is ships, and as Tyrion says, our queen does love ships. She barely has time to dry shampoo before Yara Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy arrive on her steps. Again, great timing! Is everyone just waiting for Dany to whisper "dracarys" in their ear before they can be expected to do anything useful? Tyrion takes some valuable time out of this 59-minute episode to berate Theon for a season one slight nobody remembers, but then Daenerys and Yara get to chatting, and it gets REAL fun.

Yara is a smooth operator

Much of the joy of Game of Thrones is watching characters that you never could have imagined being in the same room two years ago cross paths. The meeting of Daenerys and Yara was not high on my wish list until a few weeks ago, but it is without a doubt the most satisfying of these encounters we've seen yet. I love how Yara blatantly appeals to Daenerys' SJW feminazi leanings. I love Daenerys' smirk even as she knows she's being pandered to. I like how Yara isn't afraid to slam Dany's crazy dad. I like how they both realize they have that in common. I just love this whole interaction, even if it seems a little rush-delivered. Yara is such a smooth operator, and a hell of a lot better at this than Euron would be. When Daenerys checks to make sure Yara's alliance doesn't come with a marriage demand, Yara gets the line of the night: "I never demand, but I'm up for anything, really." (+15). Daenerys straight swoons. It's telling that she'd rather have 900 fewer ships than be forced into another political marriage, but our girl is also crushing, so. The meeting ends with Daenerys and Yara spitting on the memory of their evil dads and making a pact to castrate the realm (+25 to each) as "Who Run The World" pipes in through the pyramid sound system and Angela Merkel and Beyoncé descend through the roof flanked by a bevy of male dancers in skimpy dragon and squid-shaped codpieces. Happy Father's Day, everyone!

Who run the north? BOYS! Prior to this week's titular battle, the titular bastards meet up to negotiate and / or discuss terms of surrender, and Ramsay Bolton gets a +5 right off the bat for the bonafide laugh line, "I am a man of mercy." Jon Snow, for his part, has an equally implausible plan: he wants to decide the battle man-to-man. Sansa Stark, who has dutifully come to back up her half-brother and is now rethinking that decision, makes a face familiar to anyone who's stood behind a 16-year-old trying to order a drink at a wedding.

Sansa and Jon

Sansa and Jon

Sansa and Jon

This is as irritating to Ramsay as it is to us, so he throws the late Shaggydog's head at Jon, which sends him into a tizzy that he never quite recovers from for the rest of the episode. Sansa sees this thread is devolving quickly, so she declares "You're going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton" in the first of several mic drops this week (+10), and rides off. The boys hang around for a while and trade jabs, unable to accept that this conversation is over.

In the war council, Jon Snow continues to be a doddering fool, smirking like an idiot and being all "No, you don't understand, Tormund, you simple wildling. It was I who made him angry. I'm kind of an expert at emotions. You just don't understand big boy strategy." After all the guys leave, Sansa really lets him have it; joining a proud tradition of redheads telling Jon Snow that he knows nothing, to no avail. Sansa is like, "Good chat! I'm going to go kill myself now." Then Jon is like, "I'll avenge you, sis! Remember, your rape makes me even more angry than it makes you!" And to that, Sansa replies with her second scorcher of the evening: "No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone." (+10).

"Good chat! I'm going to go kill myself now."

The next few scenes are that part before a big boss fight in a Final Fantasy game where everyone chats and you just have to press X over and over again to get through the dialogue. Tormund Giantsbane is a wine snob (+5). Davos Seaworth mourns Princess Shireen and teaches Tormund about metaphors (+10). Jon asks Melisandre to not bring him back if he dies in battle. We at home second that request. Melisandre is like, "Maybe I won't have to! Maybe your resurrection was only a massive troll on the part of HBO to drum up interest for the sixth season of this show! We're all living inside a snow globe inside the mind of George R.R. Martin, I mean, the Lord of Light."

Game of Thrones

The next day, after miraculously not having been set upon by dogs in the night (the first sign of several that he is under divine protection today), Jon's army meets Ramsay's on the battlefield. Ramsay brings out Rickon Stark, frees him, and has him run back to Jon while Ramsay shoots arrows at him, as a callback to his and his late boo's favorite pastime. Rickon, who admittedly has not been socialized very well these past few years, does not know to RUN IN A FUCKING ZIG ZAG and is taken down before reaching Jon (+30 to Ramsay).

What follows is perhaps the most aggravating this show has ever been without being out-and-out bad. After everyone who advises him told him to wait for Ramsay to charge first, Emotional Jon Snow emotionally runs at the Bolton army, forcing his army to back him up and abandon their pincer plan. This, of course, results in massive casualties to everyone but Jon Snow, who somehow remains in an impenetrable bubble, Gyllenhaal style. Oh sure, he swings around and gets a fair share of redshirt kills in (+50), but otherwise he's kind of got a Christmas Carol cloaking effect on him. Eventually, it is Jon's army who gets pincer'd, because — once more with feeling — YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW.


Once they're surrounded, Wun Wun and Tormund and the wildlings are forced into some major damage (+50 to each, with an extra +15 to Wun Wun for style; nobody else on this show can rip dudes apart with both hands.) Then Smalljon Umber shows up on top of a pile of corpses and kills some more folks (+50). Tormund kills Smalljon by I think ripping out an artery with his teeth? (+35.) I can't be sure; it starts to get reeeeal sloppy out there. (Though we don't see Davos kill anyone on screen, I'm still giving him +25 for getting out there in the thick of it.)

Things start to get reeeeal sloppy out there

As Jon Snow started to get buried by corpses and screaming soon-to-be-corpses, I had some time to reflect. What is the moral of the Jon Snow, Chosen One plotline? Is it that experience with zombies actually isn't that useful when dealing with bad humans? Is it that sometimes the gods choose complete duds to be their conduits for change? Would Jesus have been a good military strategist? Kind of makes you think, but not really. Anyway, Jon makes it out, after presumably zero bones in his body were crushed and zero of his lungs collapsed. And then: enter the Rohirrim Knights of the Eyrie! With a side of Littlefinger! (+25)

Sansa makes another good face. This one is like: See? This is how you win a battle. By keeping your secret huge army a secret until literally the last second and causing thousands of casualties in the interim. Also by reconnecting with that creepy pedophile you used to hang with til he sold you to a known rapist. But yeah — that's how it's done. Any questions, muthafuckaaaas? Sansa OUT.

The theme of the week is timing, and everyone fails.

The Arryn army tramples the Bolton army, and Ramsay and his goons retreat to Winterfell. That works for about five minutes before Wun Wun wun-wuns the hell out of the flimsy Winterfell gate, wipes out some more dudes, then collapses, as he has been rendered an oversized Voodoo doll by all the arrows stuck in him. Ramsay gets the last shot (+40), but I'm giving our sweet giant friend a bonus +30 for dying memorably, and crucially breaking into Winterfell while doing so. Wun Wun's death was very sad. I love Wun Wun! Bring back Wun Wun! Kill Jon Snow!

This would all be more satisfying if Jon Snow didn't suck so horribly

Ramsay tries to shoot Jon, but Jon picks up a Mormont shield (what does it mean???) and blocks every shot. Then he beats Ramsay to a pulp (+18) which would have been more satisfying if JON SNOW DIDN'T SUCK SO HORRIBLY. But yeah, hooray, the battle is over! Starks / Snows / Boltons take Winterfell! (+60 split between Jon and Sansa, I guess.) All's right with the world! We've just got one more piece of business to take care of.


Game of Thrones

"Your house will disappear. Your name will disappear. All memory of you will disappear." (+10)

Game of Thrones


(+45 to Sansa for killing Ramsay, via dogs.)

(+30 to Ramsay for dying memorably — I KNOW, I HATE IT, TOO, but rules are rules.)

(-25 to Jon Snow for being the worst.)

The Verge's league rankings:

  1. Loren Grush: 586 (Top scorer: Ramsay Bolton, 105)
  2. Kwame Opam: 550 (Top scorer: Jon Snow, 73)
  3. Kaitlyn Tiffany: 475 (Top scorer: Sansa Stark, 105)
  4. Andy Hawkins: 471 (Top scorer: Smalljon Umber, 50)
  5. Michael Zelenko: 300 (Top scorers: N/A)
  6. Liz Lopatto: 251 (Top scorer: Yara Greyjoy, 40)
  7. Ross Miller: 245 (Top scorer: Wun Wun, 90)
  8. Bryan Bishop: 230 (Top scorer: Grey Worm, 40)
  9. Jamieson Cox: 195 (Top scorer: Petyr Baelish, 25)
  10. T.C. Sottek: 170 (Top scorer: Dragons, 75)

For the full list of updated stats visit The Game of Game of Thrones on Fantasizr.

Learning the Game of Thrones theme on a futuristic keyboard