The ninth episode of After the Thrones, HBO’s in-house “Epic Weekly Recap Show,” has arrived. You can watch it on HBO Go, HBO Now, HBO on Demand, and HBO.
Hosts Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald immediately dive with great gusto into the “Battle of the Bastards.” Chris reminds us that “Game of Thrones always shows us that war is hell.” Adds Andy: “And there was very little heroic about the way [Jon] won. It was just ugly.” I was blown away by the cinematic scope of the episode ,and Andy comments on how this installment really gave us a movie-type experience:
I’ve spent a lot of years writing about TV’s supremacy in ways and how it’s sort of taken the role of movies in the larger culture, certainly in terms of emotional storytelling and audience affection . . . the thing that movies have always had over TV is pure physical spectacle . . .a blockbuster kind of feeling. This episode did that for me. It took the crown from movies.
With so much territory to cover, the hosts immediately bring guest expert (and great GoT t-shirt wearer) Mallory Rubin on board for REWIND THE THRONES. The gang tackles the end of the episode first, with Chris and Mallory debating Andy’s selection of Sansa as the character who WON THE WEEK.
Andy: “The thing that really impressed me about Sansa this week, is that she was much more clever about what was going on than a more traditional hero like Jon. She was right about Rickon. She did not look at the world through sentimental eyes any more . . . Rickon, as soon as he was in Ramsay’s possession, was as good as dead . . . Ramsay is exed out now. She won.”
Chris responds, arguing that Sansa both bailed on Rickon and withheld the possibility of Littlefinger’s cavalry coming to the rescue, information which may have helped Jon plan for a different and less costly kind of battle against Ramsay:
Chris: “Look, this is a very satisfying end to her story (in this episode) but I think there is some ambiguity to the way it ends: her smirks at the end, the way that’s she’s sitting next to Littlefinger–she doesn’t exactly high five Jon coming off the battlefield, I think there is a little tension there.”
Moving on to the “thrilling, thrilling experience” of the battle, the gang immediately gives a shout-out to director Miguel Sapochnik, and then move on to the ramifications of the victory, starting with Sansa’s deal with
the devil Littlefinger:
Mallory: “What’s the key line Littlefinger actually issues to Ned Stark? ‘It’s only treason if you lose.’ That’s his entire M.O. and always has been. We talked a little bit a couple of weeks ago how Sansa is better positioned than any character on the show to know what trusting Littlefinger can do to your life.”
After a fond farewell to Wun Wun in a lighthearted who WUN THE WEEK segment, the conversation turns to Rickon’s north-south running pattern, a bad tactic when trying to escape a north-south traveling arrow, and Dany’s current situation in Meereen, armed as she is with a new navy and Dothraki cavalry, not to mention her Unsullied, Second Sons, and three dragons. One big question is the nature of Dany’s growing sense of absolutism and how she might be following in the villainous footsteps of her father, the Mad King.
In THE BIG IDEA of the episode, the idea of “breaking the wheel” comes up. Mallory revisits Daenerys’ previous dialog and Chris summarizes the idea as “you could smash history, that you could get out from under these cycles and start something new.” Chris notes a “subtle shift” in this episode from patriarchy to matriarchy with Sansa in the North and Dany and Yara in Meereen. Andy and Mallory add to the discussion on Dany:
Andy: “Is Daenerys in love with the idea of radical change more than actual accomplishment? This fits her narrative very well, that we are going to overturn everything. There is a very intense line in that scene (Yara and Dany in Meereen) where they talk about our fathers made the world bad and we’re going to make it good. That is very neat and tidy and one thing we know about the show is neatness and tidiness rarely work out.”
Mallory: “And there is such great baked-in irony. How is she (Dany) trying to affect that change? By making the same mistakes over and over again.”
The conversation moves on to how the potential winner on Game of Thrones may well be one who can recognize their own failures. Candidates are welcome.
This was a neat, naturally flowing episode, improving as the format gets looser.