Friday, May 17, 2024

Ballad of the Bastards Part 1: The North Can’t Be Bothered

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Someone tell the story, someone sing the song. Every now and then adaptations…go a little wrong. Every now and then Villain Sues are bound to come along.

Well guys, this is it. The big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for. After spending the past seven months revisiting each of the plotlines from Game of Thrones Season 6, Julie (Kylie and Julia, of course) are finally ready to take on the emotional, and financial, heart of the show: the thrilling send-off for Ramsay Sue. Oh and Jonny Snow is there too. And some chick with red hair.

That’s right, we’re back in Winterhell, and just as thrilled!

Like always, our goal is to consider the story in isolation from the rest of the season, so that we can truly understand what showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) were hoping to achieve on a character level. For that reason, we must take you through the events of this plotline, and we promise this time that we’re going to rein it in. However, since this theater does encompass the storyline of two major characters (or at least, the marketing says so) plus the ~~ultimate villain~~, this section will only be a recap, with our analysis in Part 2: Why Did You Do It Jonny? and Part 3: Sansa, Interrupted.

The Players

We know you’re eager to get into our

But first, let’s go over the players of this dramatically satisfying drama.

Like always, the full explanation behind these exceedingly clever fandom nicknames can be found in our book snob glossary. We should also note that a lack of a fandom nickname does not mean that a character is well adapted…it just means that Julie ran out of energy. Much like the North, she just couldn’t even after a certain point.

So with that out of the way, let’s make like the Manderlys and hole up for a while. Though unlike the Manderlys, we promise you won’t regret it.

“He Died For Us”

We begin exactly where we started at the end of last season. Like exactly the same place. Jonny Cardboard is still full of fresh stab wounds, but all his assailants decided to go find some soup instead.

Rover’s plaintive cries bring Davos running out. Apparently the mutineers were kind enough to lock him in a room, free of stab wounds. Too bad they weren’t embarking on D&D’s mission to save the CGI budget. We are treated to at least 20 seconds of slow body-moving, as Davos, Dolorous Edd, and a few randos we’ve never seen before rush to Jon’s aid. Burnt screentime is going to be a common theme here for the next few episodes.

Once Jonsicle is safely in the room with Rover, The Room of Plot Requirement, the boys discuss their predicament. We guess Davos really really bonded with Jonny (off-screen, of course), because he’s suddenly super protective of his body, and protective against inexplicable danger. He knows he’s dead, right? Dolorous Edd is especially dolorous, because these randos in the room are the only people they can trust, despite Jonny having just won the popular vote, like, two weeks ago. (What IS the timeline?) Also, trust them with what? What is happening?

No, really, for the next couple of episodes, we’re supposed to accept the premise that Thorne and the other mutineers are going to kill Davos, Edd, and the randos, so they must hide themselves with Jonsicle in The Room of Plot Requirement. We don’t know if this is because they want to kill all of Jonny’s friends, if it’s because they’re truly after Rover (not that he’s mentioned even once in the dialogue), or if Thorne is after Jonny’s body for no reason and Davos & Co. are big deterrents. We have watched this twice and spent longer than we care to admit trying to figure it out. There’s no in-verse explanation for why anyone is acting this way. We’re touched that the randos are willing to die on this hill of Jonny’s body, but power to them.

Mel pops into the room and is all, “oh I just realized that my visions were about Jon, not Stannis.”

Meanwhile, Thorne is giving a rousing meeting to the rest of the Night’s Watch, who are all reasonably upset that their Lord Commander with a mandate is dead. Somehow Thorne is able to spin his betrayal into collective responsibility, because apparently “We committed treason. All of us.” This could be about the Wildlings, we suppose. He owns up to murdering Jon, but points out how he never disobeyed an order, so it’s really just a wash. Smart Lord Commanders explicitly instruct their men not to stab them.

It’s important to note that there are five or six Olly reaction shots through all of this, though sadly the kid’s been demoted to extra, so he has no lines. The gist is, Wildlings suck, and everyone else needs to stop fixating on the whole “murder” thing. This is 100% convincing to them.

Back in the Room of Plot Requirement, Davos suddenly remembers, “oh wait, those thousands of Wildlings who are about twenty feet from The Wall probably still like Jonny. They’d be totally willing to help us protect his corpse!” Edd volunteers as tribute and goes to get them, while Davos instructs the randos to bar the door and hope they don’t have blasters.

Who are you??

Getting bored? Good, it’s time to leave The Wall and head to Winterhell proper, where we have the privilege to witness Ramsay Sue eulogizing Myranda, his other abuse victim, for at least a minute. We appreciate that Iwan Rheon needs clips in his reel, but seriously? Ramsay seems legitimately sad, and if we’re seriously meant to pity the guy, we’re going to scream. Though it ends with him feeding her corpse to his dogs, so we’re sure it’s just to remind us how evhul he is.

Roosey B. doesn’t think so, though. He’s super impressed with the heroics of the real protagonist in Winterhell, since last he checked, Ramsay Sue gave them a decisive victory against Stannis. However, he also woke up and realized “Huh. We committed treason by marrying my son to Sansa Stark, who is wanted by the crown.” He sort of frames it as Ramsay’s fault, even though he was totally the dipshit sending ravens to Batfinger to arrange this, of all people. Whatever, apparently Sansa is really important and they can’t hold the North without her. This was totally obvious in Season 5. And we’re sure it will amount to something here…

Also, Roose’s wife is pregnant and might have a boy! Which he reminds Ramsay of! Again! Who doesn’t love painting bullseyes on loved ones?

Just outside Winterhell, the Key to the North is running with Theon to an epic soundtrack, until horrors! A frozen river! This face of Sansa, Fansa, is easily intimidated by things like this, and says she can’t cross it because it’s too cold. Theon insists it’s the only way to lose the dogs chasing them. (We’re torn, because Fansa being passive is really annoying, but at the same time this does seem like a sure-fire way to get hypothermia and die.) However, he was totally wrong, because after they cross, the dogs tracking them still find them in a matter of seconds. We’re not sure how; they had a foolproof hiding spot.

I am hiding in a tree, I’m a fragment of the day.

Theon decides he needs to create a diversion to let Fansa run for it, though she needs a lot of convincing since, “I won’t make it without you.” Again, we’re torn, because The Wall should be quite a ways away, and yeah, this face of Sansa doesn’t seem up to it. But also, fucking really?

Doesn’t matter, Theon’s heroic sacrifice amounts to nothing, since the dogs find Fansa literally right away. Never fear! Brienne the Brute is here in the nick of time! Good thing her telepathy allowed her to realize that Fansa and Theon had left Winterhell. “It’s a bloody woman!” one of Ramsay’s dudes shouts, because he’d be able to parse that out with a charging blur.

After a scene where everyone gets to do some slaughterin’ except for Fansa (this includes the literally hobbled Theon), Brienne offers her services once again. Fansa accepts her, but not before she gets a nod of approval from Theon, and Pod needs to remind her how the words of the oath go. We guess courtly ritual isn’t something Fansa excels at.

Back at The Wall, Thorne still REALLY wants the Jonsicle and he’s willing to negotiate for it, giving Davos and the randos “until nightfall” to leave The Room of Plot Requirement. Davos seems to think they’re dead either way, but at least they have a few solid hours for no reason. The randos say that Edd is their only hope, but Davos insists, “no, there is another.” He means Melisansbra.

We cut to her sitting in front of the fireplace, looking like she could really use a nap. So she does! End scene.

Oh yeah, she also takes off all her clothes to be super restful, and we learn that she’s an incredibly old woman. The horror of her saggy boobs closes the episode.

*Cue dramatic music*

Luckily you won’t need to be kept in suspense for a week, since when we pick back up in “Home,” we learn that “It’s time, Ser Davos.” That’s right, nightfall came, so now Thorne is ready to bust down the door for…reasons. Inside The Room of Plot Requirement, we learn that Shireen’s book snob ways rubbed off on Davos, since he apologizes to the audience for what they’re about to see. We don’t know what this is either, buddy.

You know who’s also ready to tear down a door? Wun Wun the burninator. Yup. In the nick of time (another of D&D’s favorite motifs), all the Wildlings come pouring through the southern entrance. “Yo. Stop it,” they say. “Aight,” Thorne’s men say, except Olly, who hilariously lunges at Beardy. We get that he’s a traumatized kid, but given the melodrama of that moment in a situation that is the narrative equivalent of a glass of milk spilling over, we can’t really help but find some amusement.

And yeah, that’s it. Thorne never considered that the thousands of people who just poured in through the gates, his main grievance, might have a slight issue with the murder of the dude who saved them from the ice demons.


Beardy is taken to Jonsicle and has the only sane reaction that anyone’s had to this corpse so far, which is to say that it should be burnt. Because why are they hanging onto a corpse?

Back in Winterhell… As impossible as it is to believe, what remained of Ramsay’s 20 Good Men were unable to locate Sansa and Theon, probably because she’s always shifting into another part of the Sansa Stark Construct. But the good news is that Lord Karstark is there, and he is totally into the Boltons because he wants “new blood in the North.” Wonder where he was last season, unless he was also cool with Stannis taking the North. New blood all around!

Roose also suddenly realizes that his son is kind of out of control and yells at him for being a “mad dog.” Even though in this particular scene, he’s being super reasonable. It sort of seems like he’s even the reason Lord Karstark is there. For instance, Ramsay points out that Jonny Snow is a huge threat to the Bolton claim, despite being a bastard. And he’s…right? We’re agreeing with Ramsay Sue? What is happening?!

The maester decides to interrupt this on-screen character transformation (growth?) with some important news: Walda gave birth and it’s a BOY. Ramsay offers a congratulatory hug, and it’s kind of sweet (uh) because Roose assures him that this won’t change anything—Ramsay will always be his first born.

Oh well, SHANKED.

And yes, D&D brilliantly paralleled Roose stabbing Robb here. It’s like poetry, it rhymes.


Karstark just stands there, and we’re not 100% sure if the actor even knew he was supposed to be reacting to anything, since he’s totally zoned out. The maester, however, is horrified. But luckily for him, it’s not Faullaria who did the stabbing. Ramsay understands maesters serve the castle, and he instructs the guy to send ravens about Roose’s death, but to say it was poisoned food sent by their “enemies” (convincing) that did it. He also asks the maester to send for Walda, and the poor guy starts to be like, “she literally just gave birth and has half the placenta still hanging out,” but Ramsay Sue waits for no afterbirth.

So, yup, we’re treated to a scene of poor cinnamon roll Walda limping through the courtyard with this swaddled baby that probably still has amniotic fluid on it, while Ramsay very clearly leads them to the place he’s going to murder them. Turns out it’s the kennels, or at least there are dog-shaped lumps on our screen and barking. (It’s very dark.) Ramsay slowwwwwllllllyyyyy opens the cages while Walda begins to beg for her life, and two minutes and fifty seconds pass to bring us this foregone conclusion. Not that we counted.

Meanwhile, outside Winterhell, Brienne finally tells Fansa that Arya is alive, and that she was with “a man.” A thousand SanSans just started crying into their popcorn. Fansa is feeling a little strange, because she’s beginning to shed her exoskeleton and change into her next form: Brittany. She’s suddenly aware of how stupid it was for her not to have accepted Brienne’s help in the inn, and not to have lit that tiny-ass candle earlier, and she apologizes. “It was a difficult choice, my lady,” Brienne tells her. Oh, okay then.

Fansa/Brittany then pops over to check on Theon, because he just heard the call of the plot and is having a moment. She tries to get him to go to The Wall with them, saying she’ll protect him from Jon (yeah, it’s Brittany), but Theon read the script and knows he has a salt moot to go to. There’s actually another touching hug. It’s so wonderful to see a shared moment of caring between two characters that have a history together at this point. So of course they have to be split up.

Speaking of The Wall, Mel looks like she wants another nap, but before she can go down, Davos pops in and apologizes for interrupting her watching the flames religiously. She’s just like, “nope I was warming my toesies.” We think her faith is shaken.

Then Davos…how do we put this? He just, casually and randomly suggests that she raises the dead. “Do you know of any magic that could help him? Bring him back?” What, like those ice zombies you’ve heard about?

Mel very hesitantly is like, “yeah, I knew a guy, but this seems like a terrible idea.” So Davos puts on his best skirt and whips out his pom-poms, because YES SHE CAN. You see, it’s okay that she doesn’t have much of a belief in a god now, because miracles are not contingent on religious faith.

“I’m not a devout man, obviously. Seven gods, drowned gods, tree gods, it’s all the same. I’m not asking the Lord of Light for help. I’m asking the woman who showed me that miracles exist.”

Mel finds this convincing enough to at least give it the ol’ college try.

Also she thought that Jonsicle was very poorly tended, so she strips him naked and cuts his hair. The Asshole would be proud. Then she pulls a Peppermint Butler with his corpse.

And like Pep-But’s gem healing, nothing happens. So one by one, the Jon fanclub leaves, including Beardy, who was inexplicably on-board with resurrection. Wildlings aren’t superstitious, right? Especially not about reanimated corpses.

Finally, it’s just Jonsicle on a table with Rover (were they just going to leave his body indefinitely? There wasn’t even a funeral planned?), and the camera does that lingery thing on Kit Harrington, so you know something’s going to happen. And also so you know that he hasn’t quit the gym since Pompeii. And, yup. His eyes pop open and he GASPS for air.

We did not see that coming.

What’s a god compared to a bowl of onion soup?

The next episode picks up with Davos back in the room. Let’s pretend he heard the super loud gasping. Despite still being full of these gaping stab wounds, Jon is alive again, and all things considered, Davos is pretty chill about this. Mel comes rushing in and demands to know what Jonny saw on the other side, but D&D were good boys who read The God Delusion, so they know it was “nothing.” Is this show nihilistic or something?

Instead, Jonny’s main memory is being betrayed by Olly, and he’s very hurt about it. Mel then gets busy with some ret-cons, calling him “The Prince that was Promised,” which we’ve never heard before. We suppose she merely subscribes to the popular fandom theory that the prince is the same as Azor Ahai, though now that we think about it she only referred to Stannis in amorphous terms, like “Warrior of Light.” Maybe next season she’ll call him “the Last Hero”!

Cheerleader Davos whips out yet another pep-talk, this time telling Jonny that it’s okay he failed and his brothers stabbed him. He just has to go out and fail again! Win one for the Zipper.

Eventually Jonny decides to go put on his coat and see what everyone else is doing. If they’re Wildlings, they’re worshipping Jon now, since they’re all about reanimated corpses, and see him as a kind of god. This checks out. Only Edd, of all people, has the wherewithal to be like, “well at least your eyes aren’t blue.” Yeah! That would be a very valid concern up here, wouldn’t it?

Well, the Wildlings sure don’t remember this danger, just like the North doesn’t remember anything about their oaths to the Starks. Or they remember and just don’t care? You see, the famous Lord Umber, bff of Randyll “Wildling-hater” Tarly, has come to grace Winterhell with his presence. He likes Ramsay’s kinslayin’ ways, because his dad sucks too! (What.) And you know what sucks even more than his dad? Wildings. They’re the worst. No wonder Randyll went over and beyond to make his boyfriend proud.

Ramsay tries to conduct this bizarre meeting like a proper lord, and asks for an oath of fealty, but Lord Umber is a Cool Dude™ that he tells Ramsay “Fuck kneeling and fuck oaths.” This makes a ton of sense in the cultural context. It’s okay, because he has a gift. Not the gift, mind you. Ramsay and Karstark exchange a rape and pedophilia joke while the gift is unmasked: it’s Osha and Rickon! Ramsay thinks the kid might be a little tall and post-pubescent to be Rickon (what’s the timeline again?), but Umber has fool-proof evidence: Shaggydog’s tiny and very well-preserved head.

People very cutely tried to use this as evidence of the Northern Conspiracy because it was tiny. Oh our sweet summer children.

If that wasn’t macabre enough, we go back up to The Wall, where “It’s time.” Time for the hangings, you see. The hangings that Jonny, as Lord Commander, ordered. And no one has a problem that it’s a zombie taking charge. Remember that group of twenty dudes who mutinied last season? Jonny is going to hang four of them. We think it might just be the people that physically stabbed him, but that also might just be us being generous here. And of course, we don’t recognize two of them anyway— it’s just Olly and Thorne who matter.

Thorne triples down on his xenophobia, and basically says that he has no regrets and would do this all over again. Olly is too underpaid angry to say anything at all. So Jon cuts one rope that hangs all of them at once (that’s efficient!), and they die. We know, because we have to spend a good half a minute watching them twitch. So brave, showing us that bloated child’s corpse. Hey, was Olly even really in the Night’s Watch? This feels odd.

Edd then is like, “well now what, Lord Commander?” At which point, Jonny reveals that he’s NOT the Lord Commander (what?) and that he’s blowing this popsicle joint. ‘Cause his watch has ended!

“Wear [my cloak]. Burn it. Whatever you want. You have Castle Black. My watch is ended.”

This checks out.

In the next episode, it turns out Jonny just stomped back to his room. Yikes. Edd pops in and is like, “about that quitting thing…” He brings up some really valid points, like “what the fuck are you going to do now?” According to Jon, “Get warm.” He also mentions that this might be desertion and that there are definitely ice zombies coming to kill them, but Jonny’s feelings were too hurt from the stabbing, so he thinks he has to go.

But hold the phone (and the suitcase): it’s Brittany, bitch! She, Pod, and Brienne finally made it all the to the Wall, which is apparently a stone’s throw from Winterhell, because seriously hasn’t only like two days passed? No, we mean it: this plotline is lined up to Winterhell’s, since we saw Mel pop back to The Wall after Stannis died. So…

Oh, Jonny and Brittany hug, and a new ship is born. We’re just happy to hear the Stark Cello of Extreme Emotional Significance again. It’s nice.

Because Brittany is such a boss-ass individual, she managed to acquire onion soup and lip gloss. We also knows she’s empowered, because she’s a Sansa-hater. She apologizes to Jonny for being so awful to him before.

No literally, there is no footage of this, since there’s also no footage on this show of Jon and Sansa ever having interacted at all.

Brittany hangs out on fan forums a lot, it seems, since she also blames Sansa for the downfall of House Stark. Sansa should have known not to go south to marry the prince! The weird thing is that Kit Harrington and Sophie Turner are playing this scene very bantery, and we’re not sure what the director is going for at all. We don’t dislike it, or Brittany, but also what show are we watching?

Brittany asks Jonny where he’ll go, which must mean that she was told off-screen about his stabbing and resurrection. We wonder how that conversation went. No seriously: how does one begin?

Jonny has zero plans still, so Brittany is like, “well I want to go to war to win back our family’s home, and I’ll do it without you if I have to.” She also points out that as members of the aristocracy of a disposed House, she and Jonny will never be safe anywhere so long as the Boltons hold the North. Oh, also, Jonny told her Bran and Rickon were alive off-screen. Right after the resurrection thing. We wonder if she mentioned Arya.

Jonny’s tired of fighting though, and he really wants to “get warm,” so the scene ends with Brittany looking super unimpressed at her brother.

Meanwhile, Mel is looking sad again (why?), but she says she serves Jon since he’s The Prince that was Promised. Davos suddenly remembers about his friend Stan, and is like, “oh hey, what did happen with him? Or that daughter of his who I loved?” Luckily, Brienne the Brute is standing right there and decides to pop into their conversation. She brags about killing Stan, and is all like “that’s what you get for blood magic!” Though it’s framed as being just about Renly, so…she didn’t really help much there.

Remember the Vale? That place where Sansa managed to build up a solid base of support for her claim to Winterhell in one conversation, but then agreed to YOLO out of there? Well, it still exists, and despite our predictions, we do see Robin again. He’s really bad at archery, and his teacher, Yohn Royce, is so scared that he’s wearing a GIANT breastplate and mackintosh for protection against stray arrows.

This isn’t excessive…

Never fear, Batfinger’s here! On his way back from Carol’s Landing, we guess. Robin is thrilled to see him for some reason, and drops all his shit to run up to the guy, going “Uncle Petyr!” It’s kind of his step-dad, but whatever. Uncle Petyr got him a falcon as a gift. However, Yohn is not so into this touching moment, since he watched Season 5 and was not impressed with the Sansa Marriage Strike. Apparently Batfinger knows it was stupid too, since he claims that Sansa was kidnapped by the Boltons to make this happen. Because no one would willingly agree to it.

Somehow, and we’ve watched this scene several times and still can’t tell you how, he puts Bronze Yohn completely on the defensive, and gets Robin to want to hurl him out the Moon Door. Pretty drastic, since they left the Eyrie. However, instead, Robin decides that he really loves his cousin too, and wants to ride North to save her. Because they bonded as well.

It wouldn’t be a dramatically satisfying episode if we weren’t reminded of how EVHUL Ramsay Sue is. We cut to a scene of him ineptly peeling an apple, and frankly he’s cutting out so much flesh with the skin that we’re convinced already. Then Osha pops in wearing Marg’s potato sack dress (sans tiny crown). The gist of their conversation is that he likes the cut of her jib and wants to have the sex, and she wants to also, so she can stab him just like she did before to save Bran and Rickon in Season 2. Continuity! But she fails and she dies, and he goes back to peeling an apple. Wasn’t that thrilling? Natalia Tena should be thanking her agent.

It’s dinner time at The Wall, and much like Horn Faire, we have to sit through 20 good seconds of people just slurping their soup. Too bad Prince Bashir wasn’t invited. He loves soup.

Brittany is being such a mensch, because even though this soup looks worse than Eowyn’s, she’s not complaining. Stupid Sansa would complain, we bet. Beardy is also busy asserting his hyper-heterosexuality by seductively eating meat in the direction of Brienne. We wish we were making this up.

A messenger comes in bearing the Pink Letter. Or rather, some bastardized version of it. Oh look, we made a pun! The long-and-short is that Ramsay decided to write how much Jonny sucks! He sucks and will never retake his home and revenge him, because he sucks! Jonny gets so verklempt at the harshness of the words that he has to stop reading, but Brittany is such a boss-ass individual that she whisks the letter out of his hands and proceeds to read the rest out loud, without a trace of fear. Even though it includes explicit gang rape threats against her.

Also, Ramsay signed the letter “Warden of the North,” so Brittany gets to point out yet again that Jonny’s “get warm” plan may not be as straight forward as he hopes. Because there’s literally nowhere he can go. Though it’s super nice that the Night’s Watch is still giving him room and board. It’s also super nice that Jonny already fucked out of his vows, so that the ultimatum this letter presents to him won’t present any conflicts of interest.

Brittany goes on to point out how all the Northern Lords will rise for them, because the Boltons are so terrible and the North Remembers how great the Starks were. She also provides an exact number of Bolton troops to show how feasible this is, because apparently when she was locked in her bedroom covered in bruises, she was able to learn military details. Off-screen. Beardy is inspired by Brittany’s braveness, and more or less commits the Wildings to the cause.

The Northern Walking Tour

We probably haven’t made this clear enough already, but watching this whole plotline is giving us the oddest impression—like D&D were trying to burn minutes of time in their super action-packed episodes. We’re confused!

Case and point, we’re treated to Brittany sewing in her room for a good 20 seconds (because boss-ass individuals understand that they can be empowered and sew), until we see her get a message. And then read it, before we cut to the next scene of her meeting Batfinger in Mole’s Town. We’re so glad we had this established, because just imagine how much would have been lost if the episode had opened there.

There’s also something else we have to talk about. We love Brittany. No, seriously, she’s a legit empowered woman who makes cogent points, shows a devotion to her family, and is more than happy to both assert herself in war councils and sew up awesome dresses. She embraces and eschews femininity in a truly refreshing way, and a way we’ve never seen on this show before.

Lil’ problem: she came out of fucking nowhere, and she’s going to disappear just as quickly. It’s for that reason though, that we don’t know what to make of this scene with Batfinger, because it’s kind of awesome, but it makes no sense.

Things start off really logically, with Batfinger saying that the Vale Lords are at Moat Cailin. Unbeknownst to the Warden of the North, we suppose. And everyone else there. It’s only the most important fortified position in the entire North!

Brittany doesn’t seem to care much about this amazing feat, or the fact that he’s basically handing her this military for her campaign; instead, she just watched Season 5, and wants to berate him for how goddamned thoroughly stupid the Sansa Marriage Strike was. She outright tells him, “if you didn’t know how bad Ramsay was, you’re an idiot, and if you did, then you’re my enemy.” This an extremely good point, and we can’t particularly blame her for not trusting him, even if this army could solve her problems, and ultimately does.

We also can’t blame her, because this can very much be read as her asserting her agency with, and independence from, the man who sold her to her rapist. To D&D’s credit, they actually make an honest attempt to portray PTSD in a way that can’t be quickly dismissed or yelled away. She also refuses to accept any of Batfinger’s apologies, because this shit can’t just be magically fixed, and she’s not going to let him off for his hand in the horribleness that was Season 5.

Like all good things on GoT though, this one is fleeting, since the scene manages to fuck itself up and give Batfinger the last word. Rejected, he suggests that Brittany reach out to her Uncle Pop-up Blackfish and try to get the Tully army. Then he sows the mistrust between The Sansa Construct and Jonny, because the Wildlings aren’t her army, but her “brother’s army… HALF-brother.” This is really deft seeding, and we’re so glad that Brittany couldn’t think of a single rebuttal. Like, “so fucking what?” or literally anything along those lines. Because…so fucking what? Looks like Jonny’s other mother is totally more of a deal breaker than the word of Uncle Petyr, we guess.

It’s alright though, because the next scene features more of Brittany’s actual empowerment. We can’t emphasize this point enough, because what show is this? Also featured: horribly inelegant exposition as Jonny and Davos tell each other things about Weisseroffi armies that they should already know. Did you know the MANDERLYS and the UMBERS and the KARSTARKS have the largest forces in the North? We get the need for exposition (sort of), but this definitely feels sophomoric.

Jonny suddenly remembered that the army of the dead is a thing, and they could really fuck with his plans to “get warm,” so he wants there to be an aggressive timeline for this fight against the Boltons.

Brittany, very assertively stating her opinion without being prompted because that’s what boss-ass individuals who have a stake in the discussion do (or even normal individuals), points out that though the UMBERS and the KARSTARKS have declared for the BOLTONS, there’s plenty of other Houses in the North—Houses that are surely turned off by the Boltons’ reign of terror, and who would remember just how amazing the Starks were. She believes they’ll rise for her and Jonny.

Davos is confused, because Jonny’s a bastard, so why would they help him when he’s just a Snow. Brittany is like, “okay, but I have the Stark name?”, though immediately has to walk it back, because that hurt Jonny’s feelings.

Well she DOES

Feudal order is rough, bro. The point is: these amazing Northern Lords would surely want to come to the aid of Ned Stark’s kids, especially given that their rightful liege lord, Rickon, is being held captive (Bran being assumed dead). Davos is super skeptical, and says that the only way to get them to join is to go knocking on their doors in person. Good thing it’s not dangerous for these two yahoos to go trotting around the Bolton-controlled North!

Brittany also tells the room that Pop-up Blackfish respawned inside of Riverrun and has an army there, so maybe they’ll help. Yet for reasons we can’t fathom, she lies about her meeting with Uncle Petyr and says she just heard it one day in Winterhell.

After this war council of obvious statements, Brienne pulls Brittany aside to be like, “I think this is all really fucking weird, especially because you lied to your brother for no reason.” Then she says that Jonny seems a-okay to her, albeit a bit too Kit Harrington at times.

“He seems trustworthy. A bit brooding, perhaps. I suppose that’s understandable, considering.”

Huh. We wonder how the conversation went when she learned of his resurrection too. It’s not a big deal.

What is a big deal, and valid though, is that Brienne thinks Davos and Mel are terrible, since she has witnessed their embrace of blood magic and kinslaying. They also seem like fair-weather friends to her, but Brittany shuts this down by saying she trusts Jonny. Then why didn’t you tell him… Just forget it.

Brittany tasks Brienne with going to Pop-up Blackfish in person, because and we QUOTE, “You’ll know how to talk to him.” We promise we’ll get into this in our final retrospective next month.

Now it’s time to set off for the walking tour, but not before Brittany shows us the fruits of her empowered sewing labor. No seriously, girl made two FULL outfits, and picked up some leather embossing skills on the way. One is a sequin-filled Stark dress for herself, and the other is a Ned Stark cosplay outfit for Jonny. It actually is cute though, since it’s like…siblings being nice to each other. And having a mutual stake in something.

We hope they don’t become rivals for no reason.

Finally, our last scene at The Wall features Beardy pining after Brienne once again, and Edd becoming the Lord Commander without an election, or explanation. This checks out!

And with that, the walking tour formally begins. First up? The Wildings that are camped literally right next to the castle they just left. The Wildling men, that is, because the women are busy doing woman-things in the background, like hanging up pelts and stuff. We wonder where the smurfettes got to.

Speaking of women, The Sansa Stark Construct changed faces again, introducing none other than Field Marshall Sandra Snark. She’s a Brittany-stan, but just a hair too stupid to understand how to properly be boss-ass. So for this entire scene, she may as well be a snow drift. Or one of the Wildling women. We wonder if Sandra sews.

There’s a random dude who looks like a thinner version of Beardy, and apparently this is the guy to convince.

We call him “Weirdy”

Jonny does a shit job at this, even though he reasonably points out that he’s the only person in the North who wants them there, and if his campaign fails, then they’re all fucked. However, when Beardy reiterates the same exact point, everyone is suddenly convinced. Beardy also tosses in “he died for us,” for good measure, and boy is it just so handy that no one has a problem with a resurrected corpse leading an army. Wun-Wun decides to play Mormont’s raven, and cries out “Snow!”, which means this pact is set in stone now. Success!

With that taken care of, since we know the MANDERLYS and the UMBERS and the KARSTARKS have the most men, and the UMBERS and KARSTARKS are already declared, Jonny and Sandra reasonably…head all the way to the west coast of The North, and take a ship to the sparsely populated Bear Island. This was also the place that sent Stannis a really rude letter, so if there’s one place they might not need to go in person, it’s here. But hey.

Since we women-folk have been so good, D&D throw us a pandering bone: Lyanna Mormont. And it’s really frustrating, since we see what they’re doing, and yet it’s really hard not to be won over by how hard this actor tries, and how perfectly inept she makes Jonny and Sandra seem.

Sandra kicks things off by trying to give her a meaningless compliment about her looks, and Lyanna immediately shuts down this sexist bullshit. Then Jonny makes his case to her, and she has the audacity to ask very reasonable questions, such as “who’s fighting with you?” “Are you a Stark?” “Sandra, didn’t you marry the Boltons?” “Why should I risk my men when you have literally nothing planned?” Jonny and Sandra stare at her with open mouths, because how could they have known that such gotcha-questions would have come up?

Damn “gotcha” questions!

D&D decided that Davos gets to be the smart character for this scene, so he convinces Lyanna to fight for them not out of Stark loyalty, but because zombies are coming. Which, yeah, and she’s ten, so okay, maybe this would convince her. We wonder what would have happened if he had promised her unicorns too. This amounts to a big victory for Team Cardboard: 62 men. Meanwhile, thousands of troops, as well as pockets full of silver, are just chilling at White Harbor. Silver that could have even bought back Stannis’s magically disappearing army, perhaps. But we’re just two women foolish in the ways of war. Surely Jonny has a better plan.

Which is…going to the Glovers, and being humiliated. Like, so badly, that the dude doesn’t even let them in his house. He just yells from his porch that these crazy kids need to get off his lawn.

No, seriously. He explains how the Boltons have been wonderful liege lords who helped him take back his castle from the Ironboors, unlike that asshole Robb who ignored this duty and ended up getting a Glover-brother killed. He also asks who else is fighting on Team Cardboard, and they have to admit that they have no one but Wildlings and 62 men from Bear Island. Shockingly, Glover isn’t into it, and the Wildlings are more or less a deal-breaker. Maybe he can join the Umber/Tarly love club.

Sandra decides now is a great time to look at her “what would Brittany do?” bracelet, so she tries to assert herself, but is so bad at it that she just yells at him for being awful, while Jonny makes this face:

Swing and a miss.

Finally, we get another scene of Jonny and Sandra just pacing around the super auspicious location where Stannis’s army had faced moderate snow flurries. Jonny is like, “well we tried, so I guess we have to take this significantly smaller force and attack the Boltons with it, like, tomorrow.”

No seriously, his justification is, and we quote, “we fight with the army we have.” His rationale is that a snow storm could hit. This is true, but (and again, we are foolish in the ways of war), having a force one third of the size of your enemies seems like a bit more a risk, especially when attacking a defense strong-hold on terrain not of your choosing? Right?

Even Sandra gets this, and is like, “you don’t even want to wait to hear what Brienne says?” (or that raven to White Harbor), and also suggests going down to Castle Cerwyn, whose Lord was flayed last season over taxes. Jonny is adamant that it could snow any day. And his Wilding and Bear Island snowflakes wouldn’t be able to stomach it. And it’s not like Mel, who brought spring before, is with them. Hey, has anyone asked how she did that last time?


We cut to a shot of Lyanna Mormont futzing with raven cages, because D&D seriously believe that their audience wouldn’t be able to follow Sandra trying to get a message to Batfinger. Which she does…she writes him at Moat Cailin, because she realizes this numbers game is wack and Jonny’s going to get them all killed. Hey Sandra, maybe mention this to Jonny! Maybe mention that you have thousands of calvary that you can most assuredly get on your side! No?

Bastard Bowl

Welp, now that Team Cardboard has the army it has, it’s time for the Bastard Bowl! We’re actually wondering whether Jonny and Ramsay agreed to a calendar date, because this just makes the opposite of sense.

It opens with a parlay, though no one brought peace banners. Yikes. Ramsay Sue has KARSTARK and UMBER with him, while Jonny brought Davos, Sandra, and Lyanna Mormont. Ramsay can be a class-act when he wants, since he opens by being like, “it’s okay, you can save face here…thanks for returning my wife, pledge fealty, and we’ll go on our merry way.” He also brings up forgiving Jonny for deserting the Night’s Watch. Yeah, remember when that happened?

Jonny instead challenges him to single combat, and smugly says, “Will your men want to fight for you when they hear you wouldn’t fight for them?” According to the script that won an Emmy for best writing, Lord Umber really likes this line, and thinks it means that Jonny “has balls.” Ramsay, however, is not so easily provoked, and pulls a Robb Stark a la Season 1.

He also is like, “I’ve got your brother hostage,” and as proof, whips out Shaggydog’s tiny tiny head again. This prop got its mileage. Then he begins to say something else, but Sandra just blurts out, “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well,” and rides off. Once she’s gone, Ramsay gets back to taunting Team Cardboard, or something, by threatening to sick his dogs on them during the battle. Hey, that might have been a good idea. Same for Jonny: is there any canine friend he could call on to help out?

Thus ends the parlay and begins Team Cardboard’s last-minute war council on the literal eve of battle. Beardy is super worried about getting caught in another pincer movement like Stannis did to him, and Jonny assures him that they’ll dig trenches to prevent this. On terrain they don’t control. In one night. This point is so important that Jonny uses three synonyms for this military movement just so Beardy understands. Jonny also seems to think that he can get Ramsay to charge him, presumably into the trenches, and thus they’ll ensnare the Bolton calvary. Or something.

Sansa huffs and puffs in the background, but says nothing.

Your Sister got your tongue?

Satisfied with this super-detailed and plausible plan, Davos and Beardy leave the tent. As soon as they do, Sandra hops up and begins yelling at Jonny for not calling on her. Honey, one of your faces had no problems asserting itself a couple episodes ago, in the exact same meeting scenario!

We do like that she calls Jonny an idiot for not asking what she knows of Ramsay’s character, since…yeah. She’d know this. And a good battle commander would have realized that.

She outright tells him that Ramsay will not be goaded into his trap, and instead that he’s going to try and play games with Jonny. Sandra urges Jonny “Just don’t do what he wants you to do,” which Jonny sarcastically dismisses, because it was “a little obvious.” However, Sandra explains the full implications of this: Rickon is a lost cause. She says Ramsay will never let him live. She also, once again, points out how fighting with this few men makes no fucking sense. Seriously, we know Sandra isn’t as smart as Brittany, but at least she’s smarter than Jonny. He digs his heels in, so she peaces out, saying she won’t go back to Winterhell alive.

HEY SANDRA: do you have an army you’re maybe going to go collect right now? Could you share that with the battle commander? Maybe that will convince him to wait a couple of hours? Or just like…twenty minutes?

Meanwhile, Beardy and Davos bond over how battles make their IBS flare up. “Happy shitting,” says Beardy.

It’s actually not bad, and makes you really think about the horrors of the calm before the storm, but it’s also not at all worth getting into. Then Davos wanders to take a dump (no, seriously), and what does he come across? Shireen’s pyre! Which he knows, because her wooden stag toy is lying in the snow, charred. A Carol-winning prop, that one is.

Jonny’s pre-battle ritual involves checking in on Mel, who once again is sitting sadly in front of the flames, looking like she wants a bath. He doesn’t want to be resurrected again if things go poorly, but she’s not super interested in his opinion. It’s all up to R’hllor, even though she also thinks he’s a sucky god now. We really can’t tell what’s happening with her crisis of faith, so let’s just ignore it.

Battle time.

Look, we don’t want do a shot-by-shot here. This is a very highly-funded, well-shot battle sequence. There’s no two ways about it. The sound editing is particularly well-done in our opinion. If you like watching 300, this is probably for you.

The important thing is that it opens with Team Cardboard down across the trenchless field, with the obviously more massive Team Bolton on the hill. Ramsay brings Rickon forward on a leash, and after a good 30 seconds of screen time, unties him and tells him to run towards his brother. That’s the game. Then he fires arrows at Rickon while he runs. 10 bucks if you can guess how this one ends.

Jonny immediately leaps onto his horse, so that he can scoop Rickon up and return to the line of safety. But horrors! Rickon is shot jusssssstttt before Jonny reaches him. This is so refreshing for Game of Thrones!

The thing is, this makes Jonny mad. Like, really MAD. So instead of going back to his own men and organizing some kind of charge, or something, he decides to just charge the entire army himself. And we literally get a reaction shot of Beardy going, “Don’t.” Because of this incompetence, Davos has to rally Jonny’s troops, shouting at them to go follow their commander. Who didn’t give an order.

Jonny’s horse gets loaded with arrows like a damned pincushion, but he’s magically fine! Then the two forces meet, and blood blood slash slash. For like, twenty minutes.

At some point, Davos, who is holding a line of archers back from the scrum, says: “We may as well be taking shits back here.” Then he proceeds to lead this reserve willy-nilly into the battle field, while Ramsay SMILES because he knows how fucking stupid this is.

He orders his infantry to go forward, and in what must be a jump-cut, a giant shield wall just surrounds Team Cardboard. Like, all of them. No, seriously, they’re all dead now.

And so begins the Battle of Cannae sequence, though it’s much less impressive since it’s the smaller force that got trapped here, and they only did so by being stupid. There is an effective moment where Jonny almost gets suffocated under the pile of bodies, but he claws his way up. Also, Beardy and UMBER have a faceoff, and Beardy bites through his carotid artery to win. Meaningful!

Nearly every single member of Team Cardboard is dead now, but it’s okay, because it’s the first light of the fifth day and Gandalf has come! It’s actually just Sandra and Uncle Petyr, and woo they have an entire army with them! These Vale troops ride roughshod over the entire Bolton force in about 20 seconds, putting Aragorn’s Army of the Dead to shame. Pwn’d.

Ramsay flees back to Winterhell with some dude we’ve never seen before, but he only is able to chill in the courtyard for about five seconds before Wun-Wun busts down the door. Wow, Winterhell’s a really crappy castle. Forget what we said about a “defensive stronghold.” Wun-Wun gets shot up with arrows and is half dead, joined by Jonny and Beardy, who don’t get shot at all. However, Ramsay gets a clear shot and decides to finish off the giant, rather than like, kill Jonny. He’s right there and he wasn’t even watching!

Then Ramsay asks if they can do that single-combat thing now, and Jonny agrees, because he’s so full of revenge. However, this single-combat is just Ramsay firing his bow over and over, and Jonny slowly walking towards him with a shield. Then he beats Ramsay into the ground with his fists, a la A Christmas Story. Sandra strolls in, despite this still being an active battle, and Jonny gets a look on his face like he got caught eating garbage.

You think about what you did RIGHT NOW!

Oh wait, according to the script, the look on his face means that he knows “this is Sandra’s kill.” Cool.

So, that’s that. That was the battle. The Stark banners replace the Bolton ones, and Mel smiles for the first time all season. We guess resurrecting someone was meh, but knowing her vision finally came true was the real gift. Davos glares at her, clutching Shireen’s stag.

Jonny arranges for Rickon’s body to go the crypt, and he apparently also arranged for Ramsay to be taken down into the kennels, unbeknownst to Sandra, who is legally the Lady of Winterhell right now. He points her in the right direction, and she goes down to get her revenge.

Ramsay is tied up in the kennels, but the thing is, Sandra (actually Asnas Krats for this scene only), doesn’t actually open any gates or do anything to facilitate his ultimate death-by-dog. So this whole conversation plays out with Ramsay’s hounds patiently waiting off-screen, because they read the script.

Asnas tells Ramsay that he’ll be forgotten and doesn’t matter, and that of course his dogs will eat him, since he starved them for seven days. She’s right, and as he experiences this brutal death, she empoweredly smiles and walks out. Don’t worry. We’re going to get into this in quite some detail in Part 3.

“I don’t care that he’s a bastard”

We open the final chapter in Winterhell with a white raven flying from the Citadel, because it’s winter now, and we really felt it looming all season. A+ very present theme.

Jonny and Mel are finally getting a chance to bond, which would have been a lot more effective if we had gotten…anything between these two other than the time she sexually harassed him in an elevator, and the time he moped about being resurrected. To be fair, we might mope about being resurrected if it was a painful process, or one that weighs on you, but we have literally no idea what being dead did to him, or how he feels. He seems totally fine.

So fine, in fact, that he’s having the audacity to bitch to a former slave about how he wasn’t allowed at the fancy high table during feasts, just one of the normal tables. Mel gets this great look on her face and is like, “you had food.”

This is interrupted when Davos comes in and tosses the stag at Mel. Awkward! He begins screaming at her for doing something so evil, and how evil Stannis must have been for ordering this, and it’s really difficult, because Liam Cunningham and Carice van Houten sell the hell out of this. Yet at the same time, it makes no damn sense that this conversation didn’t happen 8 episodes ago, and we know that the only reason it didn’t was because plot necessity. Like, in what universe would Davos have been on team “you can resurrect the dead guy, Mel!” without even bothering to ask about Stannis or Shireen first?

Mel doesn’t even try to justify it, to her credit, but tells Jonny that he’s going to need her for the war to come. Davos wants her executed, and asks Jonny for permission. Jonny, with all the authority of being…the former Lord’s bastard son, we guess, banishes Mel and says he’ll kill her if she comes back. Hey, shouldn’t you run this by the Lady of Winterhell? She’s right here!

In fact, look there she is, coming to talk to Jonny on top of the battlements! Once she gets in focus, we can tell that it’s Brittany, because she’s cool with Jonny. He tells her that he’s having the Lord’s chambers prepared for her (oh, so he does understand her authority), and she’s like, “no no, you take it.” Honey, we get that he’s your brother, but what?

She then apologizes for the sloppy Emmy-winning writing in the episode prior, and that’s how we really know it’s Brittany.

“Only a fool would trust Littlefinger. I should have told you about him, about the Knights of the Vale. I’m sorry.”

Oh, it’s all water under the bridge. It was only everyone in the North.

Jonny is audacious enough to say that they need to trust each other, even though he was the one getting a poop-look on his face when she previously mentioned that she has the Stark name. Brittany is down for this plan, because she loves Jonny with no hesitation.

Sadly, Brittany has Brittany things to do, so Sandra comes back for the duration of this episode. She heads to the Godswood to not pray, because she’s read The God Delusion and knows that’s stupid and for unempowered women. Batfinger thinks this is a nifty time to creep on her again, and she once again drags herself for doing what was socially expected of her in Season 1. Sansa just sucked before!

Batfinger then has a James Bond villain moment, and decides to reveal his secret plan: he has a vision-board of himself on the Iron Throne, married to Sansa™, and every decision he makes is with the intent of getting closer to that aim. Like marrying her off to her enemies!

He then tries to kiss her, and Sandra rejects him, though she does call their regal marital bliss a “pretty picture.” We have no clue if this was meant to be sarcastic.

And then Winterhell concludes with the most well-motivated scene in television history. Jonny’s being a space-cadet thanks to some weird cross-fade that opens this scene, and when he snaps to, he finds Bronze Yohn bitching about how the Vale Knights teamed up with “Wilding invaders.” Well, fuck you too. Beardy points out that they were invited.

Some other randos chime in that it’s now officially winter, so how about everyone just go home and hole up. They’re sure the Lannisters won’t want to take any action against them deposing of the Boltons, or at least not until Spring. Jonny rains on that parade by telling them that the true war is yet to come, and the enemy brings the storm. All things considered, these Northern and Vale Lords are pretty immediately accepting of this zombie apocalypse.

Lyanna Mormont is bored, however, so she just randomly stands up and begins berating everyone for not fighting on Team Cardboard. Lyanna, maybe you’re a book snob, but this isn’t related to anything anyone was saying! Nobody mentioned the vacuum of leadership or the Starks.

It’s slightly awesome though, because as she shames each Northern Lord, it cuts to these shots of these guys just hanging their head like, “awwwwww.”

Next time for SURE

Then she’s like, “House Mormont remembers” (uh you yelled at him until Davos brought up zombies, but okay), and proposes that Jonny is their king, since Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North whose name is STARK. We feel the need to mention, but Sansa, the legal heir of House Stark right now, is sitting right there. RIGHT THERE. It’s also weird, because Lyanna goes on to say that she’ll accept a SNOW also.

“I don’t care if he’s a bastard. Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins. He’s my king from this day until his last day.”

But but but. Sandra is…

Lyanna plops back down to no reaction from anyone, until Lord Manderly stands up and basically says the same thing. He’s mad sorry he didn’t fight. Whoops. And Jonny should be king. Suddenly everyone begins cheering. Lord Glover apologizes, and then, mirroring a scene that made a lot more sense in Season 1, the Lords of the North (and Vale?) declare him “The King in the North!”

Sandra looks perfectly content with this, until she makes eye contact with Uncle Petyr, and then it suddenly occurs to her, “but I’m a Stark!”

But I’ve *always* been a Stark at home…

And then the season ends, with Jonny as the new king, because he totally earned it.

That’s definitely a lot to take in. Fortunately, Julie plods on and discusses the fuller implications and “meaning” of this plot, continuing in Part 2. Because there was just so much meaning to be found.

Images courtesy of HBO

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