A Few Thoughts on: Battle of the Bastards

SPOILERS…BUT YOU KNOW…GAME OF THRONES…SO SHUT UP ABOUT IT.

While I don’t feel like doing a full-fledged review, I can’t not talk about last night’s Game of Thrones. Long anticipated, “Battle of The Bastards” finally brought to a head two of the show’s most important storylines and did so in a way that I legitimately never thought I would see on TV.

Below is a series of completely unconnected thoughts that I’ve been batting around since last night:

MIGUEL SAPOCHNIK NEEDS AN EMMY AND A BLOCKBUSTER NOW

HO. LEE. SHIT.

I know what you’re thinking: “Brandon, just because it’s a huge battle doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better than anything else the show has done.”

First off, when did the joy leave your life?

Second, true, but overall, this is likely the best directed episode of TV I’ve seen since Mad Men. Director Miguel Sapochnik, having previously brought us the heavy metal album cover battle of “Hardhome,” brought not only his A-game but a full-on TV A+game, bringing forth a series of sequences that not only feel effortlessly communicative of a world and battle that is pregnant with meaning, but also feel enormously cinematic in a way we’ve never seen.

This isn’t just a group of folks running at each other, but two armies with tactics who  fight in brutal, ugly wars. Sapochnik conveys the terror and chaos and the difficulties of these battles and conveys an actual sense of thought, not just barbaric warfare. I mean, look at this:

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That sheer terror of Jon facing down the storm, the confusion and chaos on his face watching the armies clash. The whirling dervish of dirt kicked-up fury. I’ve never seen a show convey the weight of cavalry coming down on you quite like this.

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The suffocation in this scene, the sheer crush of bodies.

And even in all this chaos, grace. A beautiful moment before the battle:

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(By the way, using .gifs because cinematography only works in motion)

Sapochnik gives this episode such a weight and power, every shot is gorgeous and full of purpose, there’s an amazing visual eye that really understands the scale and scope of what’s happening. He’s not just the best director of Game of Thrones, he’s one of the best TV directors working.

This battle doesn’t just work because of what it is. It works because of the weight he gives it.

IT’S TIME TO START EXPECTING THE EXPECTED

I’ve had a long running theory about Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire in general. And it goes a little something like this:

The whole idea behind this series is that we’re seeing what fantasy tropes look like in a world that operates more like our own. It isn’t so much about how they’ve been enacted, but rather the people that populate those tropes and how a real world reacts to them. I fully believe that the ending of this story will look like a very standard high fantasy story, and I think the most interesting thing will be how fantasy and reality will end up colliding.

This episode absolutely proved it. The stories are all beginning to fold into Jon (Kit Harrington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), the two most traditional fantasy protagonists. The chosen warrior and the exiled royalty reclaiming her kingdom. The other evils are beginning to be extracted from the kingdom to clear the way for the ultimate evil. It’s becoming incredibly clear that this show is moving towards an ultimate good vs. evil clash, the Game of Thrones will be in the bittersweetness of the conclusion.

In that case, it might be time to get used to the new mode of the show. It’s going to be a lot more traditional fantasy and a lot more big good vs. evil. So, I think expecting the usual moral gray in the conflict might not be good to go forward, keep an eye on those characters though.

SANSA FINALLY BECOMES A PLAYER IN THE GAME OF THRONES

I’ve never actually bought the whole “Sansa was becoming a player in the Game” thing. A bit of training and a costume change, but I always thought her progress was more hopeful than actually progressed in the story.

Until last night.

Let’s be real here, Sansa won that Battle. She called every play in the beginning and she knew Jon would likely fail. She played her card and got her revenge and won the battle by bringing in the Vale. It remains to be seen what she’ll do with what she may owes Littlefinger, but for now she’s won and I’m excited to see what Sansa does with the Stark banner flying over the North.

IS STUPIDITY A WRITING FAILURE?

This is something I’ve been seeing and it’s an argument I’ve never really trucked with. There’s an argument that Jon’s charging into the Bolton army and Sansa’s holding back the army of the Vale are both failures of the writing.

Let’s get something straight first: Good writing allows characters you like to make mistakes.

The latter (Sansa) is something easily explainable and ties into Sansa’s new role in the Game. She held back the army to make sure she needed them and specifically to not lead them into the trap that she knew Ramsay would lead Jon into.

The former (Jon) is because it’s all demonstrably true parts of Jon’s character. His temper, his brashness, and the fact that he’s still young and still coming into his own as a commander. The fact that Ramsay is a manipulator. The fact that the show basically TOLD US that this would be happening.

Remember, just because you don’t like what happened doesn’t mean it’s not what was supposed to happen. Good writing doesn’t mean every character acts wisely. Breaking Bad should have made that clear.

THIS IS THE BEST SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES

Still holds. This show is clearly moving towards an epic end and I’m impossibly thrilled to see where it goes. Nothing is quite like this show when it’s all clicking, and last night was this show firing on every cylinder.

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