Seven hells, y’all! We all know that Game of Thrones has that one episode every season, but last night’s episode was so intense. And so very satisfying.
The episode opens in Meereen, which is still under bombardment from the Masters’ ships in the bay. In the face of Daenerys’ obvious displeasure at the scene she returned to, Tyrion tries to defend himself. Finally, accepting Tyrion’s explanation, Daenerys decides to move forward with her plan—a plan that basically consists of “annihilate the Masters and level their cities.” After reminding her about her father and how his plans to level King’s Landing is what prompted Jaime to kill him, Tyrion offers a suggestion.
They meet with the leaders among the Masters to discuss terms of surrender. When the Masters begin listing their terms for Meereen’s surrender, Daenerys corrects them: “We obviously didn’t communicate clearly: We’re here to discuss your surrender, not mine.” The Masters, being the arrogant jerkfaces they are, laugh it off and tell her that her reign is over. Dany looks past them into the distance, watching Drogon approach, and tells them that her reign has only just begun; then, boom! Drogon lands on the pyramid, scaring the bejeebus out of the Masters and their soldiers, and extends his wing so that Dany can mount.
As Drogon carries Dany over embattled Meereen, we see Viserion and Rhaegal finally break free of their captivity. We also see the Sons of the Harpy slaughtering Meereenese citizens at the gate. Their victory—in as much as anyone could claim the massacre of unarmed civilians a victory—is short-lived: Daario Naharis and Dany’s bloodriders (i.e. every member of her khalasar that is capable of fighting) come riding in and make very short work of the Sons of the Harpy. Meanwhile, Daenerys and her fire-breathing kiddos fly out over the bay, pick a ship, and Dracarys! Yesssssss!
Back up on the pyramid, as the three leading Masters and their soldiers look on at the destruction, Grey Worm steps up and speaks to the soldiers directly: Stay and fight for the Masters or go home. Wisely, the soldiers lay down their arms and skedaddle, leaving the three Masters to their fate. Tyrion and Missandei waste no time in telling them what that fate will be: because they broke their pact, one of them has to die. Two of the Masters immediately throw the third under the bus. Grey Worm steps forward and the third Master falls to his knees, begging for his life to be spared, leaving the opening for Grey Worm to dispatch the other two in one swift motion. Tyrion tells the remaining Master to go home and spread the word about what has transpired and that he only survived by the grace of the Queen.
The show then clips away to the fields outside of Winterfell, where Bolton and his bannermen are riding out to parlay with Jon, Sansa, and their supporters. Ramsay looks at Jon and Sansa’s party with that twisted smile of his and tells his “beloved wife” how much he’s missed her, and thanks Jon for returning her to him. *shudders forever* He then proceeds to tell Jon that there is no reason for thousands of men to die; if Jon will dismount, kneel, and declare Ramsay the true Warden of the North, everyone, including “these treasonous lords,” will be pardoned. Oooh, y’all! The look on Lady Lyanna Mormont’s face!
After some more back and forth, including Ramsay’s refusal of Jon’s challenge to single combat, Ramsay has to go and bring Rickon into it, asking Jon if he’s really willing to risk his brother’s life for pride. Sansa speaks up and asks how they are supposed to know that Ramsay actually has Rickon; his bannerman tosses Shaggy Dog’s head to the ground as proof. When Ramsay starts to open his smug mouth again, Sansa cuts him off: “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.” Then she just rides off, like #ByeFelipe. It was beautiful. Get it, grrrrrl! Of course, the jerk keeps running his mouth after she rides off, threatening Jon and his supporters with his hounds—hounds he hasn’t fed in seven days.
Then we’re in Jon’s war council, with Sansa looking on as he, Davos, and Tormund draw up battle plans. After Davos and Tormund leave Jon’s tent, Sansa lays into him for not involving her since, out of all the people present, she’s pretty much the foremost expert on Ramsay Bolton. She keeps trying to make him understand how Ramsay works, but Jon, in his desperate frustration at the terrible odds they’re facing, won’t listen. She also explains that they’ve already, for all intents and purposes, lost Rickon: He is a trueborn son of Ned Stark and, as such, represents a greater threat to Ramsay’s legitimacy than she or Jon. She argues again that they shouldn’t be attacking until they have more men, but does not mention the raven she sent, presumably, to the Vale.
While Jon tracks down Melisandre and tries to demand that, if he should die in battle, she not resurrect him again, Tormund and Davos are talking as they walk through camp. After some discussion, Tormund invites Davos to get drunk, but Davos declines: He can’t sleep the night before a battle, so he thinks and walks “until [he’s] far enough from camp that no one can hear [him] shitting [his] guts out.” After they part ways, Davos starts his walking and thinking. Since they are currently camped in the same place Stannis had made his camp, when he stumbles upon snow covered piles of charred wood, he takes a closer look. And he finds the stag that he’d whittled for Princess Shireen.
Back in Meereen, we see Tyrion talking to—holy crap! It’s Yara and Theon! When did they get here? That was really fast. Anyway, they make their case to Daenerys and, while interjecting some flirty banter, she agrees to support Yara’s claim to the Iron Islands (and possibly kill some uncles), but only if Yara agrees that the Ironborn will no longer reave, raid, rape. Yara agrees and goes to shake on it, but I don’t think Dany’s ever shaken hands with anyone before so, it’s kind of awkward and endearing.
And then we’re back at Winterfell and there is still another 36 minutes-worth of show left to go! Clearly, shit’s gonna get and stay really real. And, boy howdy, does it ever! Both armies are lined up and staring at each other through the flickering flames of burning, flayed men—I’m sure we can guess whose handiwork that is. Jon and Ramsay ride to the front of their respective forces, but Ramsay has someone in tow: Rickon. He pulls Rickon out where everyone can see and brandishes a knife, which he then uses to cut Rickon’s binds. Then he tells Rickon to run to his brother, and then grabs his bow. Jon tries to shorten Rickon’s sprint by riding out to him and, because Ramsay is Ramsay and just categorically evil, Ramsay keeps intentionally missing Rickon until he is just feet away from being scooped up by Jon. Knowing that Jon’s going to react, Davos commands their army to prepare to charge. Jon, of course, just barrels toward the Bolton line. This is the thing that Sansa was trying to tell you, Jon!
Bolton’s army rains down arrows on Jon, taking out his horse. So, Jon’s out in the middle of the battlefield, alone and unhorsed. Naturally, this is when Ramsay gives the order for his cavalry to charge, because overkill awfulness is his shtick. Maybe the fall from the horse rattled his brain out of seeing nothing but red, but now Jon sees the situation he’s in and basically says, “welp,” and draws his sword, preparing to die swinging at an entire mounted cavalry. Thankfully, Davos had their forces go on and charge because because they are able to reach and clash with the approaching cavalry before they just trample Jon to death.
It’s bad. Bodies are piling up everywhere. Jon, for all his skill, is just really lucky. Tormund gets the crap kicked out of him, then resorts to literally biting the dude’s jugular while he’s distracted. All the while, a Bolton shield wall is surrounding and closing in on Jon’s forces, in what is, basically, a Westerosi reenactment of Hannibal’s win at the Battle of Cannae. Just as it looks like Jon and his army are done for, in come the Knights of the Vale! Sansa just saved Jon’s skin. I mean, it’s probably coming at a high price—Baelish never does anything for free—but, for right now, let’s just focus on survival.
Ramsay recognizing his force’s defeat retreats to Winterfell like the craven piece of crap we know him to be. Jon, Tormund, and Wun Wun are having none of that and chase after him. Wun Wun, already looking like a pin cushion with the number of arrows he’s got sticking out of him, breaks down the gate and charges into the castle yard, but Ramsay takes him out with a final arrow. Ramsay sees Jon and declares that he’s changes his mind about single combat and then picks up another arrow to nock on his bowstring. Jon grabs a shield and blocks each of Ramsay’s shot as he stomps toward him, finally using the shield to hit Ramsay. Jon then turns into Tyler Durden and just wails on Ramsay’s face until he sees Sansa out of the corner of his eye. As much as he wants to kill him with his bare hands, Jon knows that Sansa’s suffered far worse at Ramsay’s hands and their new captive is subject to her retribution.
After the Bolton banners and shields have been taken down and the Stark banner has been returned to its home, Sansa asks Jon where Ramsay is. We next see her just outside of the kennel, looking in on Ramsay who has been tied to a chair. Even beaten, bloody, locked up, and tied up, this hellspawn-in-a-people-suit is still trying to play mind games with Sansa. Finally, like the badass she is, Sansa shuts him up with a short speech that iterates the one thing he is, and really all abusers are, always afraid of hearing: how insignificant he is. Then she lets the hounds that he’s used as an extension of his murderous impulses have at him: They’re hungry, after all; he hasn’t fed them in a week.
*Mic drop* Sansa wins!