(Spoiler alert: Do not keep reading if you have not seen this week’s episode of “Game of Thrones”)
“Game of Thrones” showed us the Battle of the Bastards this week, but it wasn’t the only battle.
This episode, phenomenal even by high “Game of Thrones” standards, opened in Meereen, where a recently-returned Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is none too happy with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) for allowing the Masters of Slavers’ Bay to attack. Yet he warns her not to fall into the trap of destruction that caught the Mad King.
Instead, Daenerys decides to meet with the Masters to discuss surrender. Clarke plays the scene perfectly as we realize that she is there to discuss their surrender, not hers. Her dragon Drogon makes a surprise-but-not-that-surprising appearance. She climbs on its back, and her two other dragons soon join them in flight.
In one of the most impressive visual-effects sequences in the show’s history, Dany and her dragons then set the Masters’ ships ablaze.
In the meantime, the whole of the Dothraki nation — led by Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) — arrives at the gates of Meereen and kills members of the Sons of the Harpy. With their comrades dead, the Masters’ army runs and they are left defenseless.
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) kills all but one of the Masters, and Tyrion reminds us why he’s a fan favorite when he instructs the remaining Master to tell everyone what happens when you cross the Mother of Dragons.
Jon turns the tables when he challenges Ramsay to single combat, which Ramsay refuses. He taunts Jon’s men that his hounds haven’t eaten in a week, and wonders which of their body parts the dogs will eat first.
Sansa continues her hot streak of badassery when she informs Ramsay that he is going to die The next day.
She also steps up during Jon’s strategy meeting and tells him everything she knows about Ramsay and what he can do. She pleads with Jon to wait until they have more men, but he is determined to press forward. She then tells him that she will not return to Winterfell alive should Ramsay live.
Later, Jon meets with Melisandre (Carice Van Houten). He instructs her not to resurrect him again should he fall on the battlefield. She tells him that his whole life is part of the plan of the Lord of Light, and he must accept that.
Davos (Liam Cunningham), unable to sleep the night before the battle, wanders from the encampment, the same encampment Stannis previously used before his ill-fated march on Winterfell. He finds the site where Shireen was burned alive in Season 5 and the wooden stag he carved for her.
Back in Meereen, Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara (Gemma Whelan) arrive and pledge their ships to Daenerys. The Mother of Dragons is intrigued by Yara’s desire to rule the Iron Islands. Daenerys agrees, but demands that the Iron Born cease any future acts of piracy.
Jon assembles his army, and there is an eerie calm before the battle. Ramsay has set several flayed men on fire on the battlefield, just in case there was any doubt of the atrocities he is willing to commit.
Ramsay then leads Rickon (Art Parkinson) out onto the field on a rope. He draws a knife, but instead of cutting Rickon’s throat, he makes Rickon run to Jon. But there’s a catch, like there always is: He proceeds to fire arrows at Rickon as he runs. Jon rides out to save his brother’s life, but one of the arrows cuts Rickon down.
It’s not long before the battle commences. It is the most ambitious battle ever undertaken on the show, and that is saying something. Riders on horseback bear down on Jon. He draws Longclaw and stands directly in their path, but his own riders clash with the Boltons first.
Ramsay has archers fire arrows into the fray, even though he will kill some of his own men in the process. We follow Jon as he cuts a bloody swath through the field in one amazing, minute-long sequence that at least appears to be one continuous take. (The show may have slipped in some edits while we blinked away tears.)
Davos gets tired of sitting out and leads what remains of the Stark force onto the field. Ramsay’s infantry completely surrounds Jon and his men. But the Free Folk aren’t going down without a fight, and they try to punch a hole through the line. At one point they’re packed in so tightly it looks like Jon might suffocate.
Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) does battle with Smalljon Umber (Dean S. Jagger) and manages to rip the treacherous lord’s throat out with his teeth. Just when all seems lost for Jon, the knights of the Vale ride to his aid, at the behest of Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Sansa.
The men of the Vale make quick work of the Bolton army, and Jon steels himself to fight Ramsay, but Ramsay tucks tail and flees like the coward he is. Jon, Tormund, and Wun Wun (Ian Whyte) chase Ramsay back to Winterfell. Wun Wun crashes through the gate, but succumbs to the dozens of arrows now stuck in him.
Ramsay finally agrees to face Jon. In a moment that no doubt made every fan of the show happy, Jon beats Ramsay to within an inch of his life, but leaves him alive.
Sansa goes to see Ramsay after he is left tied up, and he says, ominously, “You can’t kill me — I’m part of you now.” Which will only feed the horrifying fan theories that she is pregnant with their child.
Sansa watches as Bolton is eaten alive by his own hounds — the ones he hasn’t fed in a week. She allows herself a smile.