Sunday night offered two epic showdowns, catching the eyes of millions of eager television viewers. On one end, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors attempted to be crowned this year’s NBA champions against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a final showdown that had been brewing for weeks and would feature arguably the two best players in the game in today. However, only a few channels away on HBO, another equally titanic face-off was occurring. For weeks, those watching the current season of “Game of Thrones” waiting in anticipation for the battle to claim Winterfell and just like the NBA finals, at the center were two larger than life figures that viewers were eager to see square off.
On one end, Jon Snow; the bastard son of Ned Stark (or is he?) and brave soldier of the Night’s Watch who managed to cheat death earlier this season. On the other end, Ramsay Bolton; basically the most twisted and evil character to grace the show since King Joffrey. Ramsay helped fill that super villain void the show seemed to be missing after season four and the jury is still out on which character- him or Joffrey- has been more despised and maniacal. As for Snow, he’s gone from being one of the series least interesting character to one of its most, no doubt in large part to do with actor Kit Harington’s improved acting over time.
But before the battle for the North could commence, audiences were treated to a little dragon action over in Meereen. While dunks and three-point shots went on during The Finals, Daenerys Targaryen made her own half-court shot by unleashing her dragons upon the invading slavers seeking to reclaim the city. With her enemies in the East destroyed, Daenerys finally looks West and is getting some unexpected help. The Greyjoy siblings arrive with their fleet of ships, which must have rocket boosters of something because they made that long sea trek in only two episodes, in order to square a deal with the mother of dragons.
As long as both parties agree to support each other’s right to rule, the Greyjoys will let Daenerys and her army travel to Westeros, where she can take the Iron Throne. As part of the agreement, the Iron Islands will gain their independence, so long as they agree to live out that independence peacefully. This brings up an interesting side to Daenerys rule. She mentions to Tyrion afterwards that she is willing to grant households their independence, so long as they do it nicely. It would seem she is no longer interested in a complete, full force rule over the seven kingdoms. Perhaps she has learned through he travels in the East that she can not control the whole. What might be more strategic is to help those who see eye to eye with her take control of certain areas on the map, allowing less strain on her.
That being said, it would not be unlikely to assume that a similar deal might be made between Daenerys and the Starks, who manage to reclaim their home at the end of the episode. The battle for Winterfell takes up the bulk of the hour plus episode and proves to be probably the most thrilling sequence displayed in the series since the Blackwater episode in season two. However, here the stakes seem higher. While there were individuals on either side of the Blackwater battle that viewers loved, such as Davos or Tyrion, no one likely was raising banners hoping that either the Lannisters or the Baratheons would be victorious. Yet, this time the battle is literally between good and evil.
The fighting itself is probably the most brutal battle sequence the show has given to date, imagine that carnage of “Saving Private Ryan’s” first 20 minutes with a medieval setting. Beginning with Ramsay gleefully murdering the young Rickon Stark in front of Jon, the battle is far from a glorious heroic sequence as men lay screaming on the ground with guts pouring out their side while others are nearly trampled in the bloody mud during the chaos. There is a long shot at the center of the battle that follows Jon as he becomes trapped in the middle of the chaos. Soldiers appear out of nowhere attacking him, arrows dart through the sky and a horse with a decapitated rider darts past him. What we witness is not a rousing climax, but unrelenting carnage.
The episode even dares to tease that certain characters, Snow included, will not make it till the end. It’s only until Sansa, Little Finger and the Tully army arrive that victory begins to seem possible. And while basketball fans might not have gotten to see Curry and LeBron square off in a one-on-one match, those watching “Thrones” did get to see Jon and Ramsay get their own personal face-off, which ended with Snow beating his opposing bastard to a pulp in the castle courtyard. So does that mean Snow was the MVP? Almost. Jon is the star of the episode, but the battle could not have been won without Sansa reaching out to the Tully household. Plus, after all the pain and suffering that she has been through over the course of the series, it is rather satisfying to watch her feed Ramsay (the man who brutally raped her) to his own carnivorous hounds. So congrats Sansa Stark, you are this week’s episode MVP.