An epic battle gets ‘Game of Thrones’ back on track

Actor Kit Harington as Jon Snow on “Game of Thrones.”
Actor Kit Harington as Jon Snow on “Game of Thrones.”

Story contains spoilers from Sunday night’s “Game of Thrones.”

Those hungry hounds had quite a snack on Ramsay Bolton, after he lost the Battle of the Bastards. I’m betting the show’s nastiest character tasted like jellied eels, rancid chopped liver, and Rocky Mountain oysters. Plus, the dogs probably didn’t even find a chewy treat buried at the center of their meal: the heart.

Finally, after so much suffering, Sansa got to emit a victorious grin as her tormentor was gobbled up. “All memory of you will disappear,” she’d told the man who’d raped and abused her and murdered her brother Rickon.


Yes, an epic and memorable episode. Just when this season of “Game of Thrones” was losing focus, preparing to end on June 26 with too little impact, “The Battle of the Bastards” came along and changed it all up. It was a smartly paced hour, crammed with big character moments for Sansa, Daenerys, and Jon, and at the same time it delivered two raging attacks, one slightly marred by CGI overkill as the Mother of Dragons looked oddly Barbie-like atop one of her fire-breathing babies, the other a riveting crush of mud, mayhem, and heavy metal.

The Battle of the Bastards, as Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton fought for Winterfell, rated right up there next to the show’s other big battles. Masterfully directed by Miguel Sapochnik, the fighting scenes were laid out clearly for viewers, both in terms of physical positioning and army power shifts. When you can watch a prolonged battle sequence and, amid all the splatter and slicing and screaming, know exactly what’s happening and what’s at stake at all times, you know you’re in good hands. (By the way, “Vikings” stages these battles with equal expertise, if on a smaller budget.)

The war escalated in waves of aggression, as Ramsay timed his strikes and had his troops surround Jon’s army; but finally, just as Jon was failing for good, Littlefinger’s army came and saved the day per Sansa’s request. That last-minute save was a great way to include Sansa in the triumph, as she and Jon continue to forge their understanding.


At last, the Battle of the Bastards arrived where it had started, with Jon and Sansa face to face with Ramsay.

Once again, Iwan Rheon was altogether extraordinary as Ramsay, becoming smaller — but no less snide and evil — as his death approached. At points, he looked like Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange,” at others like a child whose favorite toy had been broken. His death was cheer-worthy; the deaths of Rickon Stark and Wun Wun the giant less so. Wun Wun survived repeatedly as the fighting continued, until he didn’t.


Will Littlefinger expect some kind of romantic payback from Sansa?

How satisfying was Dany’s takedown of the Masters, with Grey Worm killing the two who turned on the third? Her preceding dragon attack was tinged with digital awkwardness, but it didn’t compromise the power of her win, or of her new alliance with Theon and Yara.

And did “Game of Thrones” just make a gay marriage joke, when Yara made a wry proposal to Dany?!

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.