Game of Thrones 'Battle of the Bastards' Leaves You Gasping for Air

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In all my years of watching television, never have I felt such despair after watching what should have been cause for joy. But in the end, the epicenter of 'Battle of the Bastards' was portrayed with such dark reality, that it needs to be discussed.


In the second to last episode of this year's GAME OF THRONES, we witnessed the liberation of Winterfell and the defeat of the 'Masters' at the hand of Daenerys and her Dragons. And while I'm always up for Dragon's raining down fire on slavers (or anyone for that matter), the focal point of the episode, 'Battle of the Bastards' was the most powerful of the two themes.

Jon Snow found himself in a position of hopelessness as he matched wits with the despicable Ramsay Bolton. Challenging Ramsay to one-on-one combat, knowing that his forces were drastically outnumbered, Jon hoped to demoralize the Bolton army, by suggesting their Lord would not die for them, as he asks them to for him. Meanwhile Sansa looks on, stoically, with an assurance that Ramsay would die. Later that evening, as Jon works out his plan of attack, Sansa grows frustrated that he hasn't looked to her for advice as she knows Ramsay better than any of the men in Jon's war tent. When Jon finally relents, she only asks that he doesn't do what's expected of him and to be wary of the traps Ramsay Bolton tends to set.

And set them he did.

Sending poor Rickon across the battefield to run for his life, Jon recognizes that if he doesn't close the gap his younger brother's life is forfeit. Ramsay toyed around as he loosed arrows aimlessly toward his target, only hitting his mark just as the brothers were reunited. With Jon Snow isolated hundreds of yards away from his army, Ramsay sent his calvary out to greet him. Realizing his mistake, Jon drew his sword and courageously prepared to meet his end. His army had seen through the ruse in just enough time, though, and met the Bolton's head on, saving Jon's life.

The ensuing battle was relentless. And suffocating.

The audience at home was thrust onto the battlefield alongside Jon Snow, watching helplessly as men died around him. As he butchered his way through Bolton's forces, his life was saved several times by his own soldiers. Men were gutted, beheaded and dismembered as steel tore through flesh and hacked against bone.

The brutality of war was on full display.

When the second wave of Bolton's army was dispatched to surround the depleted forces of his attacker, all hope seemed lost. Behind a wall of shields they corralled Jon's forces, poking at them with spears. Those who tried to escape over a barricade of dead bodies, were swiftly killed. As Jon attempted to clear a path, he fell and was trampled by his own men seeking refuge. Bodies fell on him, burying him further beneath the pile of death.

I couldn't help but gasp for air as I watched Jon Snow struggle to free himself. Would they really kill him a second time? I could feel the weight on my chest and adrenaline coursed through my body as my own panic set in.

Finally, after moments of being buried under the dead, Jon freed himself in time to discover that Ramsay had sent a third wave of soldiers to finish the job. Suddenly, banners adorned with a white dove appeared on the battlefield, as Sansa arrived with the assistance of Petyr Baelish and his army from the Eyrie; inherited when he married Lysa Arryn and subsequently tossed her to her death via the 'moon door'.

Ramsay retreated back into Winterfell, but it was only moments later that the Giant, who had been so loyal to Jon Snow, crashed through the gate allowing the attack on Winterfell to continue. Realizing he is beaten, Ramsay reconsiders the request for one-on-one combat only to have his face beaten to a bloody pulp by a tired and enraged Jon.

The episode ends with the gruesome mauling of Ramsay Bolton at the jaws of his own hounds, as Sansa watches with satisfaction.

I should feel a sense of relief and joy to see the direwolf adorning the walls of Winterfell once again. I wanted this to happen, as did many. However the journey left me feeling empty, exhausted and filled with despair as the battle drained me of any emotion I had to give.

War is a violent hell, full of death and brutality, that suppresses any victory with the weight of its cost. 'Battle of the Bastards' portrays the savegery of combat like no other work of fiction I've ever seen.