The North is finally back in Stark hands, but what was the price of returning it to its rightful owners?
Jon Snow seemed to feel the weight of the “Battle of the Bastards” cost near the end of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones Season 6. While manyepisodes don’t flinch when it comes to violence, it’s been a long time since we saw the true brutality of two armies smashing into each other. And the show did not look away; a good portion of the hour was spent outside Winterfell as the two armies clashed.
Ramsey Bolton has taken up the “Most Hated Man in Westeros” title since Joffrey kicked the bucket in Season 3, and while we all were certainly hoping for his death during this fight, everyone recognized he’d have some final dirty tricks before his curtain fell.
Everyone except for Jon.
Jon has certainly gone toe-to-toe with plenty of people, but generally all those foes have straight-forward tactics. Despite his half-sister’s warning about Ramsey’s duplicitous and evil tactics, Jon planned a simple siege, and walked right into a snare set by the house of the Flayed Man.
One thing we can say for Ramsey: He knows how to push buttons. He used Rickon Stark (who is how old now?) as a plot device and emotional tool to make Jon lose his cool and abandon any nice plans about holding back. So much for baiting his army to come to you.
Though, somehow, we only lost one other named character in that battle (RIP Wun Wun, best giant ever). Jon’s hot-blooded, emotional reaction cost them severe troop losses, and if the Knights of the Vale hadn’t ridden in, it would have been a catastrophe. It shows that Jon, despite being adept at striking peace with Wildlings, still has a lot to learn about leading men.
The rise of Sansa Stark
In contrast, Sansa has come out the other side of trauma as a real player in the game of thrones: cold, calculating and more aware of her foes.Her talk with Jon the night before the battle perfectly foreshadowed everything that was about to happen, including to her little brother.
Rickon’s death was no surprise. In fact, it was hardly as sad as a giant full of enemy arrows. It was actually more a plot convenience than anything else.
Rickon’s easy death made the show much more interesting for Jon and Sansa.
as Sansa pointed out for the audience, neither would have a claim on Winterfell if Eddard Stark’s youngest son was still alive. Sansa would be a prize to be married off again and Jon would remain a bastard. (It seems everyone assumes Bran is dead, and it’s unlikely that three people can also be Lord of Winterfell.)
The larger question is what will asking for Littlefinger’s help after shunning him only a few episodes ago cost Sansa? And why, when Jon asked where will they get more men to fight Ramsey, did she remain silent about the letter she had written the episode before? As much as she may despise Littlefinger for what he did to her, she may also not want to admit how valuable he is.
This episode played a lot with the themes of women’s strength: Dany riding a dragon to defeat Mereen’s attackers, Yara’s treat with Dany in exchange for ships, Sansa’s savaging of Ramsey. It could offer foreshadowing into the future of Westeros; Dany seemed to bond with Yara about having terrible fathers and being the first women to try to take their respective thrones.
Could we see a precedent, now that all the Stark men are dead, for Sansa to remain as Lady of Winterfell, especially if Daenerys actually manages to sit on the Iron Throne?
Either way, we’re a long way to that point. But we do know that Sansa may know when to ask for help, but she’s done being protected. As she told Jon as they prepared for battle, after he promised to keep her safe from Ramsey,“No one can protect anyone.”
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