battle of the bastards recap

HBO hasn’t been shy about letting everyone know that “Battle of the Bastards” would feature the biggest battle we’ve seen on Game of Thrones and for the most part, it delivered. However, this episode wasn’t just about the action. The bloody showdown between House Stark and House Bolton marked a huge turning point in the fortunes for many of the show’s most important characters and a few major characters were wiped off the game board entirely.

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Daenerys and Tyrion Reach an Understanding

Last’s week episode concluded with a cliffhanger in Meereen, with Daenerys finally returning from her “sabbatical” to find the city of Meereen under siege courtesy of the Masters. From her perspective, things had clearly from bad to worse – a city at war with itself was now at literal war. The expression on her face, directed at Tyrion Lannister, said it all: What did you do to my city?

While the bulk of “Battle of the Bastards” was centered on the gruesome goings-ons in northern Westeros, the episode also found plenty of time to start tying up loose ends in Meereen and the relationship between the Imp and the Mother of Dragons was one of the most subtle-but-important of them all. It may have looked like Dany was prepared to give Tyrion a stern talking-to (or something much worse), but her newest advisor managed to talk his way out of this particular jam. After all, talking is his great talent. He notes that Meereen was peaceful and that the city was safe once more and commerce was returning. He had negotiated them out of a tight spot and prosperity was on the horizon. They’re only being attacked because they were faring so well.

Daenerys is a woman of action, the kind of person who want making grand, sweeping decisions and pointing armies in the right direction. However, she lacks the tact and guile of Tyrion, who proved himself to be her most valuable new ally several times this episode. He not only explained the complicated situation with the Masters’ fleet, he showed total fearlessness by standing up to his new boss and talking her down from considering drastic action that would have put her on the same psychopathic level as her father, the late Mad King. Madness runs in the Targaryen DNA, but with the help of someone as level-headed as Tyrion, those worst impulses may be kept in check. Not even Daario or the long-gone Jorah had the nerve to do that.

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Terms of Surrender

In a rare Game of Thrones moment, the clash between Daenerys and the slavers wrapped up with an unqualified victory. Dany faced off against the bad guys and won. No strings attached. It was almost unpredictable in its predictability – it was such a traditional outcome that you don’t expect to see it happen on this show.

Let’s run down what happened real quick. Daenerys and her dragons, who seem to have fallen in line now that big, bad Drogon has been tamed, put on a show of roasting one of the enemy ships. An excessive show of force – that’s Dany’s power. Meanwhile, Tyrion kept the fleet’s leaders busy in negotiations, offering a charming and malleable mouthpiece for them to bounce against. A masterful conversationalist – that’s Tyrion in a nutshell. And then Grey Worm ruthlessly executed two of the Master leaders, leaving only one to tell the story of just how badly they got their butts handed to them. A man willing to get his hands dirty – that’s Grey Worm. Toss in Varys and Missandei and Daario, briefly seen leading the Dothraki forces into battle, and you have a team that covers all of the bases. This wasn’t just a definitive victory for Team Fire and Blood. This was a test run for how well they’re going to operate across the Narrow Sea in Westeros…and they’re looking pretty darn good.

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The Targaryen/Greyjoy Alliance

Shippers, prepare your fan fiction. If there aren’t thousands of pages of Yara Greyjoy/Daenerys Targaryen fanfic floating around the internet by the time the week is over, then I don’t understand this planet anymore.

In all seriousness, the arrival of the Greyjoy siblings with their one hundred ships and their offer of loyalty is huge. Of all the great houses I could have imagined joining the Targaryen cause a few seasons ago, this was the absolute last one. But desperate times call for desperate measures and Yara and Dany hit it off instantly, kind-of-sort-of flirting their way toward an agreement. They will lend their power to Daenerys’ cause and help her take the Iron Throne and she will deliver them the Iron Islands (and remove Euron from the picture). The one caveat, and this is a biggie, is that Yara must pledge to stop doing all of the pirate business that has defined her kingdom for centuries. In other words, Daenerys has demanded that her new ally swallow her pride and force her homeland to grow up. It’s the kind of conversation that would have never ended well if Euron (or let’s face it, just about any man) was involved. This season has leaned heavily on its female characters outsmarting the patriarchy, if not directly battling the men who dominate their world. In Daenerys and Yara, we have found two women sidestepping the traditional systems altogether to form a pact that could completely change their world. Westeros is a gigantic mess right now and this collection of people – dragon queens and pirates and sellswords and exiled lords and former slave soldiers and Dothraki warriors – may be the only thing that can save the kingdoms from themselves.

Also, when is Theon going to find time for a conversation with Grey Worm? If anyone is going to help him learn to cope with his condition, it’s him. However, the verbal smackdown he gets from Tyrion, which is rooted way back in season one, was oddly satisfying.

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