Game of Thrones fans beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect. If you're in need of a catch up, you can read this to get you up to speed. This week: Fiiiiight!
Dany and Tyrion negotiate terms of surrender. Not theirs.
Just in case you thought Team Thrones had decided to give everyone else the night off and spend all their cash on the Jon Vs. Ramsay clash, we do at least check in with Dany, Tyrion and the rest in Meereen. Also surprisingly, they're still under siege from the Masters, which is surprising considering we saw what looked like the dragons screeching away to make short work of the attackers. But no... First we have Tyrion and the Queen "negotiating" with the Masters, when in reality they were just waiting for the "Oh, snap" arrival of Drogon. Not exactly the most surprising plot twist for Dany, is it?
Jon and Sansa meet Ramsay.
Warfare more psychological than physical to kick off the night before the main battle. And Ramsay really is obsessed with those dogs of his. Wonder if that's a Chekhov's Gun situation – he mentions them now, and they come into play later. Also, we really hope one of them is called Mitzi. Just 'cos.
At Jon's encampment, Davos visits Shireen's pyre.
More calm before the storm as the men meet to discuss battle plans and Jon is then rebuked by Sansa who, if we're honest, knows Ramsay far better than any of them. Jon talks to Melisandre and warns her to never, ever bring him back again? Nice try, Jon boy, but she's not buying. Carice Van Houton is at least given something to do other than stare this week, even if it's not a long scene.
Bonus points for a fun warrior-to-warrior chat between Davos and Tormund, sharing pre-battle rituals. Tormund's sounds much more fun, even if his grog of choice isn't exactly appealing. And for anyone wondering why poor, flammable Shireen was mentioned in the Previously section, having Davos find the scorched remains of the stag he carved for her was heartbreaking. Round of applause also for that glimpse of the sun rising behind him. They deserve some sort of cinematography award just for that shot.
Yara and Theon have a proposition for Dany.
Everything's coming up Daenerys! Nice to see Theon and Yara have a good day for once, forming their pact with Dany. Even if Theon has to withstand a snarky tongue-lashing from Tyrion for all his dwarf jokes back in the day. Mostly it's fun to see Yara and Dany bond over their plans to make the world a better place – by conquering it, admittedly.
The battle of the bastards begins.
And so it begins, #TeamStark vs. #TeamBolton. The production really went all out on this one, and the long filming stint and careful attention to detail pays off. At a certain point, it's easy to become numb to the sheer amount of blood spraying, limbs and heads being hacked and clashing steel against shields. But the writers (show co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) and director Miguel Sapochnik make sure to keep things grounded, leavening the battle chaos with Jon's struggle or Ramsay's reactions. The death of Rickon, expected though it is, hits hard, and it's easy to worry that Jon is badly overmatched. But, as with Dany, surely no one was surprised when the forces of the The Eyrie arrive in the nick of time to help sway the battle in Jon's favour? Predictable, yes, but no less triumphant for that. See also: Ramsay's mockery of single combat coming back to punch him in the face many, many times.
Jon and Sansa reclaim their home.
The sight of Stark sigils unfurling on the walls of Winterfell brings a lump to the throat, but surely the best moment is Ramsay getting a taste of his own dog-feeding medicine. The cameras thoughtfully cut away, but you have to love Sansa's quiet smile as the man who abused her and murdered members of her family gets his just desserts.
If last week was the slightly ponderous buildup (but no less entertaining for that), tonight was Thrones in Full-On Fight Mode, which has been traditional for almost every season of the show. When the series goes all out for a battle, especially with such high stakes as these, it's always impressive, even if it's sometimes oppressive to have so much of the running time devoted to clanging swords and thundering hooves. But Battle Of The Bastards gives us all the cathartic end we crave, and at least there were those side trips to Meereen, bursting full of choice spinning from Tyrion as the walls shake under attack. And even more than before, you can see the battle lines being drawn for the final seasons. Dany Vs. Jon?
Highlight: Feeding time.
Lowlight: The long-winded "negotiation" between Dany and the Masters.
Kill of the week: Who else? Bye bye Ramsay, you utter pratweasel.
Quote of the week: "No one can protect anyone" – Sansa, who should know, and who smartly predicts Rickon's death.
MVP: Wun Wun the giant, who smashes ranks, breaks down doors and finally gives his life for the cause. We'll miss you, big guy.
Random thought: For all his previous victories, we're still not sure we trust Jon to lead a toddlers' parade, let alone an army.
Season 6, Episode review guide