Game of Thrones just gave us everything we wanted.
Not merely the obvious — Sansa letting slip the dogs of war to turn her sadistic tormenter and the show’s biggest villain into kibbles and bits — but everything else was pitch-perfect thrilling, too. We wanted a massive battle that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before, and we got it. We wanted to see Dany’s three dragons fighting an enemy all at once. We wanted Theon and Yara to meet Dany and form an alliance. We wanted to see resurrected Jon Snow in action-hero mode. We wanted Davos to get a clue about Shireen. We wanted Jon and Ramsay to have an actual conversation — and for them to fight one on one. We wanted the Starks to reclaim their home. And of course, yes, we wanted comeuppance for Ramsay and sweet revenge for Sansa.
Sure, there was tragedy in “Battle of the Bastards” too — Rickon, Wun-Wun. But can we be honest with ourselves? On some level, we wanted that, as well. What we don’t want is a huge climactic episode 9 battle without any loss. That would not be war, and that would not be Game of Thrones.
Was this the show’s best episode? It’s hard to immediately process that question. Quite possibly. It’s almost certainly the most exciting hour and had the most jaw-dropping battle sequence we’ve seen yet on TV.
But we start with…
Meereen: Oh Thrones, you’re so Thrones! Here we’ve been teased with this incredible battle in the North this week with publicity photos, previews, and interviews. Yet the BastardBowl isn’t the only huge action sequence in this hour — there’s this whole other clash in Meereen that was kept entirely hidden from view.
As you’ll recall, at the end of last week, mom returned home and found her kids had trashed the house and a party was raging out of control.
We open with the sounds of war, setting a theme straight away. Within seconds of the fade in, we get an awesome point-of-view shot of a makeshift cannonball being fired at the city.
In the pyramid, Dany is pissed. Tyrion is spinning his stewardship while the city burns, selling a tale of “the rebirth of Meereen.”
Dany’s initial idea is to dragon-nuke the other Slavery’s Bay cities whose masters are attacking Meereen. Tyrion points out her Mad King father once had a similar reaction to an invading army. It’s admittedly a bit worrisome that a varation on “burn them all!” is Dany’s first instinct. He dares to push back on her, suggesting a different approach. While he arguably mishandled running the city, he re-earns his status by giving strong advice.
They meet with the trio of masters. They arrogantly order her to surrender. “My reign has just begun,” she tells them. She mounts Drogon as her two less-appreciated dragons, Rhaegal and Viserion, bust out of their prison and finally get to stretch their fully grown wings.
Then it’s on: an extraordinary sequence where the dragons torch the attacking ships. There’s this swooping sense of aerial movement to this sequence that we haven’t felt when Dany has been on Drogon before that makes you feel like you’re watching the action from a dizzying height. It’s almost like some dragonfire fantasy version of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Director Miguel Sapochnik tells us he studied World War II fighter footage for making this sequence (as did George Lucas for making the dogfights in Star Wars); he wanted to have shots where the dragons “break the frame” — as if the dragons were really there and the cameraman is having difficulty capturing the fast-paced action.
What’s also clear for the first time is that Dany can fully mentally control her dragons now — Drogon appeared right on cue, Rhaegal and Viserion burst out to help, and they all attacked in unison. Dany commanded “dracarys,” but she probably doesn’t have to say it aloud anymore. We just get the feeling that she likes to say it. Burn ’em all!