Alright, I’m about to jumpstart this blog again from its long hiatus, but before I post the first update on Whispers of a Machine, here’s a little write-up about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, just to get some writing done.
A layman’s thoughts about the Game of Thrones episode “Battle of the bastards”, with emphasis on the battle
I’m not a full fledged Game of Thrones aficionado – I haven’t even read the books, and my recollection of the events and characters in the show typically reach back some season or two – but I’d like to share my opinions anyway, because this is my blog and I can pretend to have interesting things to say if I want to.
Before I turn undeservingly critical, I’d like to point out that I think the action scenes in this episode, and especially the battles, were among the tightest, most intense and also most realistic depictions (dragons excluded) of medieval warfare I’ve ever seen, and I’m geeky enough to have seen a fair amount. BUT… there’s still some aspects of them that I’d like to bring into question.
But before we pick the battle apart, here are some more general conundrums.
- Where do all men come from? And the follow-up question; surely there must be a huge surplus of women in Westeros?
I’m asking this because whenever a king or a warlord, no matter how insignificant, decides to go to war, there’s always this enormous train of soldiers seen traversing the landscape. Since the show started (which is a matter of months judging by how some plot lines have unfolded, or many years judging by how some of the younger characters have aged) there’s been a number of huge battles, and they all seem to have ended in universal slaughter.
When the Lannisters had troubles liberating their own queen mother from a bunch of monks, I assumed it was because their military resources were completely depleted, owing to all the battles they’d been force to fight, but only minutes after Jamie is tasked to retake Riverrun (which ended up being a completely irrelevant plot line), he appears before their gates (mysteriously fast, considering some characters take entire seasons to travel the same distance) with some 6-7 thousand men, as if they were picked up along the way like common groceries.
Now, the curious circumstance that prompted my initial question is the seeming lack of cities. Apart from King’s Landing, all we see of Westerosi settlements are sporadic – and largely empty – castles and the odd hovel. Where the heck do all men come from? It’s almost like what we see in the show is the brief version of events that take place over hundreds of years, so that new generations of men can grow up and be enlisted by those untiring warmongers.
- Where was Brienne? For being someone who’s sworn to protect and aid and constantly be in close proximity to Sansa, she was oddly absent during the most pivotal and potentially dangerous time thinkable. Was she still rowing about with Podrick?
- Was that all we got from the Tully/Riverrun plot line? That was useless. I assumed Edmure was re-introduced so that he could do what his absurdly stubborn uncle couldn’t – take their men to Stark and help reclaim the north. Instead Blackfish died having achieved nothing, and Edmure agreed to be a prisoner forever after and kind of uselessly fade out of existence, and the show (again).
Okay, with those questions still unanswered, let’s move onto the battle of the bastards.
Oh, and I’ll make this a bullet list as well. I like bullet lists.
- Why did both parties (Jon and Ramsay, i.e.) seek to provoke the other when they had absolutely no strategies to counter the other’s rushing in? Ok, that was complicated, let me explain. When they first meet to trade insults the day before the battle, as is customary, we understand that both attempt to provoke the other into doing something rash and foolhardy, only that Jon suck at talking smack – to the point that Sansa must intervene and deliver something even remotely scathing – whereas Ramsay excels at it.
This provokation strategy peaks when Ramsay kills Rickon before Jon’s eyes, which prompts the latter to rush solitarily into the battle field, even though everyone, especially Sansa, has said repeatedly that they shouldn’t let themselves be provoked into rushing in foolhardily, lest they’ll surely fall into Ramsay’s traps. This in turn forces his cavalry to engage, even though everyone, especially Sansa, has said repeatedly that they shouldn’t etc etc.
- While we’re at the subject of archery: This may be a bit too obvious a criticism, but why didn’t Rickon side-step even once, or better yet zigzag the whole way to Jon? Readers of the book will probably tell me that Ramsay is the best archer throughout the seven kingdoms or something, but that doesn’t matter; an arrow spends so long time in the air, skills cease to factor in when the target is moving unpredictably. Did Ramsay mind-control Rickon’s movements? Also, arrows rarely insta-kill like that, especially not over hundreds of yards, but hey, let’s not get too technical.
- Related to the previous point: Why didn’t Ramsay shoot Jon while he was at it? That was rather strange. Did he suddenly run out of arrows?
Actually, Ramsay’s reluctance to shoot at Jon is again shown inside the courtyard, when he opts to hit the giant with an umpteeth arrow instead of simply killing Jon. Jesus, Ramsay, Wun Wun was already drawing his last dying breaths, whereas Jon looked ever so fit and hungry for revenge. Set your priorities straight, dude!
- Okay, back to the battlefield. Now, at this point I assumed that Ramsay had prepared all sorts of traps, maybe even the good ol’ soak-the-ground-in-flammable-liquid-and-ignite-with-firearrows-from-afar, but nope. Not even a pesky trip wire. He just deploys his own cavalry. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE JON, OR THE CAVALRY FOR THAT MATTER, RUSH IN?
- Why didn’t Ramsay use his pikemen instead of his own cavalry? Okay, this was a segue from the first point, but that point was getting wordy.
Everyone who’s seen Braveheart knows that the best way to counter an oncoming cavalry is to wait and wait and wait and then wham! – pikes. And who happens to own the most disciplined and effective phalanx (I don’t actually know how many that is, so just play along) of pikemen Westeros has ever seen? That’s right, Ramsay does.
Not only do the mounted warriors completely obliterate each other, which must be a severe economic setback even for a super villain, Ramsay adds to the mutual devastation by launching salvo upon salvo of arrows into the mix. That’s a weird way to waste your most expensive military unit. It’s one thing if Ramsay had treated a bunch of hired axe-weilding hillfolks in this fashion, but knights on horses? Ah well.
- Where were the 60 warriors from bear island? I had anticipated a nice montage of warriors of various houses, sweeping past the especially bad-ass-looking, albeit few, elite… bear…looking… fighters that the mormont girl agreed to send. I guess they were simply nothing special.
- Why did the wildlings and whoever of the regular forces that were still alive let themselves be surrounded by the pikemen? They looked so flabbergasted when the shield-bearers came shuffling in I personally thought they’d already surrendered, and were to be captured by the least cool units as a sort of insult.
Note to wildlings – don’t let yourselves be surrounded. Pikes and shields are only useful together and in that exact fashion – picked apart and in close combat they’ll turn to awkwardly long sticks and lonely guys holding shields and no weapons.
Buuut… over all this was an awesome episode, no question about it.
Okay, this is when you can comment and tell me how I was wrong. Thanks for reading!