Battle of the Bastards
|"Battle of the Bastards"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
The battle between Jon Snow's forces and the Bolton army took 25 days to shoot
|Directed by||Miguel Sapochnik|
D. B. Weiss
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Fabian Wagner|
|Editing by||Tim Porter|
|Original air date||June 19, 2016|
|Running time||60 minutes|
"Battle of the Bastards" is the ninth episode of the sixth season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and its 59th episode overall. It was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
In the North, the armies of the eponymous bastards, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), face off in a battle for control of Winterfell. The Bolton army defeats most of Jon's forces, largely composed of Wildlings. However, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) arrives with Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and the Knights of the Vale and they defeat the remaining Bolton army. Ramsay retreats to Winterfell, where Jon beats him into the mud, locks him in the kennels and Sansa feeds him to his own hounds. In Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) refuses to surrender to the Masters, mounts Drogon and begins burning the Masters' fleet; this forces them to surrender. Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) arrive in Meereen and offer their ships to Daenerys, swearing to help her take the Seven Kingdoms.
"Battle of the Bastards" was praised as one of the series' best episodes, with one reviewer calling it a "masterpiece". Critics described the battle in the North as "terrifying, gripping and exhilarating" and Daenerys's reunion with her dragons at the beginning of the episode as "thrilling". Its eponymous battle took 25 days to film and required 500 extras, 600 crew members and 70 horses. In the United States, the episode had a viewership of 7.66 million in its initial broadcast. It earned Game of Thrones several Primetime Emmy Awards (including Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing), and was Harington's choice to support his nomination for the Outstanding Supporting Actor.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) discuss dealing with the slaver fleet. Daenerys, Tyrion, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) meet with the Masters, who offer to let Daenerys return to Westeros in return for keeping Missandei and the Unsullied and killing the dragons. She counters that the meeting was called to discuss the Masters' surrender, not hers, and rides Drogon into the bay with Rhaegal and Viserion and burns the fleet. Missandei tells the Masters that Daenerys has ordered one of them to die as punishment for their crimes. Although they offer the lowborn Yezzan (Enzo Cilenti), Grey Worm kills the other two masters instead and Tyrion tells Yezzan to warn the other masters of Daenerys' power. Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) leads the Dothraki to slaughter the Sons of the Harpy, who are massacring freedmen outside the city.
Daenerys and Tyrion meet with Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) and offer Daenerys their fleet of ships in exchange for help in overthrowing Euron, recognizing Yara's claim to the Iron Islands. Daenerys agrees to assist them if the Ironborn will stop reaving the mainland, and Yara reluctantly agrees.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) meet with Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and his advisors before the battle. Ramsay offers to pardon Jon for breaking his Night's Watch vows if he hands Sansa over. Jon offers to settle their dispute with one-on-one combat; Ramsay refuses, saying that he may be unable to defeat Jon but the Bolton army can beat the Stark loyalists. When Smalljon Umber (Dean S. Jagger) proves that Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson) is captured by presenting Shaggydog's head, Sansa tells Ramsay that he will die the next day. Ramsay tells Jon and his advisors that his hounds will enjoy eating them.
After Jon discusses the battle plan with Tormund and Davos, Sansa criticizes him for attacking without gathering more men and predicts that Ramsay will defeat them. Jon insists that the army is the largest one possible; when he asks Melisandre (Carice van Houten) not to resurrect him if he dies in battle, she says it is up to the Lord of Light. Davos and Tormund discuss their time serving Stannis and Mance, respectively, and acknowledge that they may have served the wrong king all along. Davos discovers the pyre where Shireen and the wooden stag he carved for her were burned.
The armies gather outside Winterfell the next morning. Ramsay brings Rickon out, and tells him to run towards Jon's army. When he does, Ramsay shoots arrows at him and one pierces his heart. Jon charges at Ramsay (who orders the Bolton archers to fire and his cavalry to charge), and Davos orders the Stark force to shield Jon. The battle leaves hundreds of Bolton and Stark soldiers dead in hand-to-hand combat and from Bolton arrows, creating a wall of corpses. The Bolton infantry forms a phalanx around the Stark forces. Although the giant Wun Wun (Ian Whyte) kills some Bolton soldiers, Tormund panics and sends the Wildlings towards the wall of bodies and Smalljon's forces (who cut them down). Jon is trampled by the Wildlings, but struggles to his feet. The Stark forces appear doomed when a horn sounds in the distance as Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Sansa arrive with the Knights of the Vale, who smash the phalanx and defeat the Boltons; Tormund kills Smalljon.
Ramsay retreats to Winterfell, followed by Jon, Wun Wun and Tormund. Wun Wun breaks down Winterfell's gates before he is shot dead through the eye by Ramsay, who tells Jon that he has reconsidered the one-on-one combat. Jon blocks Ramsay's arrows with a shield and begins to beat him to death, stopping when he sees Sansa and ordering him imprisoned. The remaining Boltons surrender, and Winterfell is again the seat of House Stark. Sansa visits Ramsay after he is placed in the kennels with his hounds, whom he had starved for the previous week in anticipation of feeding them Jon and his advisors. Despite Ramsay's insistence that his hounds will not turn on him, they devour him as Sansa walks away, with a slight smile on her face.
"Battle of the Bastards" was written by the series' creators, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Elements of the episode are based on the sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, which author George R. R. Martin hoped to complete before the sixth season aired. In an "Inside the Episode" segment published by HBO shortly after the episode aired, Benioff and Weiss said that the final battle was primarily inspired by the Battle of Cannae and the American Civil War. According to Weiss, "We went back to the Roman fight against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Cannae where the Romans got caught in an encirclement by Hannibal and just slaughtered to the man. We used that as our model". Benioff said, "The 'Battle of the Bastards' becomes incredibly compact. All these men, all these combatants, crammed into this incredibly tight space on the battlefield. You read accounts of the battles in the Civil War where the bodies were piled so thick it was actually an obstruction on the battlefield". Episode director Miguel Sapochnik said in an interview that the Battle of Agincourt was the original inspiration, but the concept was adapted to fit budgetary constraints.
Weiss said that they wanted to depict a full-fledged battle: "From the beginning we knew that one thing we'd never had on the show was a true medieval pitched battle where two sides bring all the forces they can into play in some battlefield that's somehow negotiated or agreed upon and they go at each other until one of them wins and the other one loses. This is a staple of human history, and we started to look through film samples of it. There really wasn't one that both made you feel what it was like to be there on the ground and gave you a sense of the geography of the battle." According to Benioff, they also wanted to demonstrate the role luck plays in battle: "Just to feel the kind of randomness of it where there's arrows are falling from everywhere, people are getting killed, people are getting trampled by horses, and so much of it is just luck. Jon Snow is a very skilled combatant, but part of the reason he survives this battle is just he gets lucky."
In the "Inside the Episode" featurette Benioff said about Daenerys Targaryen's transformation during the series, "I think Dany's been becoming a Targaryen ever since the beginning of Season 1". According to Weiss, "She's not her father and she's not insane and she's not a sadist, but there's a Targaryen ruthlessness that comes with even the good Targaryens". Benioff concluded, "If you're one of the lords of Westeros or one of her potential opponents in the wars to come and you get word of what happened here in Meereen, you have to be pretty nervous because this is an unprecedented threat. You've got a woman who has somehow formed an alliance where she has a Dothraki horde, a legion of Unsullied, she's got the mercenary army of the Second Sons, and she has three dragons who are now pretty close to full grown. So if she can make it all the way across the Narrow Sea and get to Westeros, who's going to stand in her way?"
It was the final episode for actor Iwan Rheon, who had played Ramsay Bolton since Game of Thrones' third season. His first appearance was in "Dark Wings, Dark Words", as a then-unnamed "boy" who helps a captured Theon Greyjoy. Before he was cast as Ramsay, Rheon auditioned for the role of Jon Snow. In an interview, he described learning about his character's fate: "I had received half the scripts, five episodes, then I got the call. They joked, 'Isn't it great Ramsay ends up on the Iron Throne?' As soon as they said that I said, 'He's dead, isn't he?' It's cool. I've had four lovely seasons here. It's been great to be involved with such an amazing show. I think it's kind of right he goes down. Because what else is he going to do after this? He's done so many things. It's justified and it's the right thing to do. It's the right path. He's reached his peak. It's nice for the audience that he goes out on this high, if you will." In that interview, Kit Harington talked about Rheon" "I love Iwan's work. He's an incredibly detailed actor who's created a character who's remarkable and despicable."
"Battle of the Bastards" was also the last episode for recurring character Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), who had appeared since the series premiere episode "Winter Is Coming". In an IGN interview, Parkinson said that he was tipped off about his character's death: "Whenever I was told that I was coming back for Season 6, before they sent me through the scripts and stuff, they sent me through a ring just to say, 'Listen, so that you don't get a shock whenever you read the scripts, just know that you die this season.'" He continued, "Whenever I came back, I was excited to come back, and the scenes all seemed pretty amazing. I was so happy to re-embrace the character." According to Parkinson, he was sorry that Rickon would die but his manner of death was a compensation: "It was a cool death, and it was always going to be a good death, so at the same time, I was pretty happy."
Another character departure was Smalljon Umber, played by Dean S. Jagger. In an interview, Jagger talked about his casting: "I prayed for it. When I heard I got the part my knees buckled. It was a life-changing moment." Before becoming a professional actor, Jagger dug trenches and worked at a mattress factory to pay his way through acting school and was a professional rollerblader. Ian Whyte also made his last appearance in "Battle of the Bastards" as the giant, Wun Wun; he had played Gregor Clegane during the show's second season. Special-effects supervisor Joe Bauer said about Whyte's casting as Wun Wun, "We wanted a large performer because somebody who would be 14, 15 feet tall would have more weight and mass to move around, and a person who's a normal size would have a very difficult time pulling that off".
Battle of Winterfell
"Battle of the Bastards" was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who had directed the fifth-season episodes "The Gift" and "Hardhome". In an Entertainment Weekly interview before the episode aired, Sapochnik said he was brought on board by Benioff and Weiss after his previous-season success; "Hardhome" won several awards, including Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. About how the episode should be shot, he said: "Every battle on Thrones is unique. I think that's why Benioff and Weiss keep doing them. In the case of 'Battle of the Bastards' – or 'BOB' as we affectionately called it in production – David and Dan wanted to do a thing of spectacle, a strategic pitchfield battle they hadn't had the resources to do back in season 1 or 2. I was particularly interested in depicting both the horror of war and the role of luck in battle." Benioff called Sapochnik's work on the episode some of the best in the series' history.
It took 25 days to film, requiring 500 extras, 600 crew members and 70 horses. Benioff described the difficulty of coordinating horses in battle scenes, which is why they are rarely used except in "big budget war films". Weiss added, "Miguel's really outdone himself. Fully fleshed out medieval battles require a tremendous amount of resources and choreography to get them right. It feels like we're doing something fresh that you don't see on TV and movies very often." Four camera crews were used for the battle scene. The 500 extras were largely the Snow and Bolton armies as Wildlings, archers, swordsmen and spearmen. Each army was trained separately to create off-screen rivalry between the two groups, and visual effects were used to expand the army to thousands. Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund Giantsbane, said about the intensity of filming the scenes: "It was pretty intense, actually. When you have 20 people running around getting squeezed together, and you're trying to chop at another bearded guy with a sword, you are not out of danger. You're laying down in the mud, and one wrong step, you won't have a face anymore. It was very intense, and Miguel insisted on making it that muddy and messy. War is not beautiful. Sometimes you see action sequences where battles seem organized. I know that from how the Vikings fought. It's not beautiful. It's hard. It's hard work. We had to shoot moment-to-moment, chronologically. We would shoot one sequence 80 times per day."
In an interview after the episode aired, Sapochnik detailed the process of filming the battle and called Akira Kurosawa's Ran an inspiration in shooting the scenes: "I watched every pitch field battle I could find (footage of real ones too), looking for patterns — for what works, what doesn't, what takes you out of the moment, what keeps you locked in. Interestingly one of the things I noticed is that staging of these battles through the years has changed dramatically. Back in the day you'd see these huge aerial shots of horse charges and there were two big differences. First, it was all real — no CGI or digital replication. And second, often when the horses would go down, you can kind of tell they got really hurt. Nowadays you'd never get away with that, and nor would you want to."
Asked about the greatest challenge in filming the battle, Sapochnik said: "Every time we charge the horses it takes 25 minutes to reset all the fake snow on the field and rub out the horseshoe prints. So how many times can we afford to charge the horses each day knowing we need to give time for a reset that's 10 times longer than the actual shot? Another thing was how to make 500 extras look like 8,000 when you are shooting in a field where there's just nowhere to hide your shortfall. It becomes a bit like a bonkers math equation. And finally: How do you get these guys riled up enough to run at each other and get covered in mud and stand in the rain and then run at each other again and again for 25 days, 10 hours a day, without them just telling you to piss off?" In an interview, he said that the single most difficult thing he was asked to depict was "having 3,000 horses running at each other, especially after we discovered that horses cannot touch each other. It’s illegal — it’s a very valid rule about protecting the horses. So the very thing we were trying to do was not allowed. And we only had 70 horses ... [The solution was] you would have one guy run into the frame, and then the horse rider would pull the horse, which means make the horse fall and lie down on its side. Later we would digitally superimpose another C.G.I. horse and make it seem like it had impacted the live one."
According to the director, the scene was filmed on privately-owned land in Saintfield, Northern Ireland, and they had only 12 days to shoot. After reading the script Sapochnik came up with a 48-day shooting schedule, which was whittled down to 25 days. The CGI of Ghost, Jon Snow's direwolf, in the episode presented difficulties; he was "in there in spades originally, but it's also an incredibly time consuming and expensive character to bring to life. Ultimately we had to choose between Wun Wun and the direwolf, so the dog bit the dust." Sapochnik said that a crucial scene was filmed off-script. After three days of rain, unable to finish filming as scripted, he suggested a scene in which Jon Snow was trampled and nearly buried alive by bodies; the director described the character pushing his way out as "rebirthing."
In an interview about the "rebirthing" scene, Kit Harington said that it intended to mirror the Daenerys Targaryen scene at the end of the third-season episode "Mhysa" when Daenerys is held up by freed Yunkai slaves; in "Battle of the Bastards", Jon Snow emerges from the crushing crowd of the battle: "When the crush starts happening, he slows down, and there's that thing of peace where he thinks: 'I could just stay here and let it all end.' And then something drives him to fight up, and that moment when he comes up and grasps for breath, he is reborn again, which I found weirdly reflective of the scene where Dany is held aloft at the end of season three."
"Battle of the Bastards" was the first episode in which Kit Harington and Iwan Rheon filmed scenes together and met on-screen. Rheon said that he had always wanted to film scenes with Jon Snow: "Anyone who has asked me, 'Who would you like Ramsay to meet?' My answer has always been, 'Jon Snow.' He's the antithesis of Ramsay. They're almost a yin and a yang. They both come from such a similar place yet they're so different. And even though they're enemies, they've both risen so far as bastards, which is almost incomprehensible, and now they're both here facing each other. They couldn't be any more different, yet more similar." In an interview, Harington talked about the fight scene with Rheon: "I actually did punch Iwan in the face twice by accident, which he took really well. He was really nice about it." According to Rheon, "The way I see it, if you don't get hit a couple of times doing that, you're not doing it properly."
Battle of Meereen
For the Daenerys scene at the beginning of the episode where the three dragons burn part of the Masters' fleet, Sapochnik credited VFX supervisor Joe Bauer and producer Steve Kullback for post-production work: "For this sequence David and Dan said that what they wanted to see was a 'demonstration' of what's to come. So I tried to approach it in the most elegant, epic, big-movie way I could." The director tried to design the shots with relative realism, inspired by footage of World War II Supermarine Spitfires in action. He based the dragon shots on wildlife footage, allowing them to break the frame: "These things should be so big and fast it's hard to keep up with them." To insert Emilia Clarke (as Daenerys Targaryen) into the scene, she rode a "multi-directional, computer-controlled hydraulic gimbal device shaped like the upper shoulders of the dragon"; Clarke was filmed separately in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
"Battle of the Bastards" featured the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen and Yara and Theon Greyjoy, and Yara's first meeting with Tyrion Lannister. Gemma Whelan, who plays Yara, talked about filming the scene: "Oh my goodness – I was so excited when I saw that I had a scene with those two [Daenerys and Tyrion]." About the dynamic between the two women, Whelan said: "It's clear as the scene plays out that Yara quite likes Dany. We share a lot of little looks and there's some playful language in how we talk to one another – Dany asks if the Iron Islands ever had a queen, and Yara says, 'No more than Westeros.' They recognize the girl-power undertow between the two of them."
"Battle of the Bastards" was watched by 7.66 million American households in its initial telecast, slightly more than the previous week's rating (7.60 million viewers) for "No One". The episode competed with game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals. It had a 3.9 rating in the 18–49 demographic, the highest-rated show on cable television that night. In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 2.450 million viewers on Sky Atlantic (the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week) and had 0.118 million timeshift viewers.
"Battle of the Bastards" was praised as one of the series' best episodes by critics and viewers, with Matt Fowler of IGN calling it a "masterpiece." Critics cited the size and scope of the battle in the North and Daenerys's scene with her dragons at the beginning of the episode. It has a 98-percent rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes from 49 reviews, with an average score of 9.2 out of 10. According to the site consensus, "'Battle of the Bastards' delivered one of the greatest battle sequences in the show's history, and some savagely satisfying vengeance as well." The episode had a perfect-10 score on IMDb for several weeks after its release before dropping to 9.9, one of the few episodes rated that highly on the website.
IGN's Matt Fowler wrote in his review, "At this point, it seems like the pattern when it comes to the ninth episode of a given season of Game of Thrones is tragic death, amazing battle, tragic death, amazing battle, and so on. And this being Season 6, it was time to land on a phenomenal clash of swords and shields - and 'Battle of the Bastards' certainly delivered." He continued, "Game of Thrones did not disappoint when it came to this season's great northern battle, as Jon and Sansa's differences were spectacularly highlighted in a savagely strong war chapter that saw House Stark overcome huge odds to reclaim their home. Plus, Daenerys got to soar, as her dragons quickly stopped a violent siege with fury and fire." Fowler gave the episode a top score of 10. Jeremy Egner of The New York Times also praised the episode: "As directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who also oversaw last season's terrific 'Hardhome' episode, the lengthy sequence was terrifying, gripping and exhilarating, sometimes all at once, a sweeping display of all the different ways one can die on the battlefield." Egner called Ramsay's death an episode highlight ("Ramsay Bolton's demise was arguably the most eagerly anticipated death ever on Game of Thrones and the show handled it with flair, dispatching him in a poetic, canine-fueled fashion that was no less satisfying for being telegraphed early on"), and concluded about Daenerys's scene: "Daenerys Stormborn had a few words for the slave masters who launched their attack last week. Those words included 'surrender or die' and 'thanks for the ships', as we saw another thrilling action sequence that I believe reunited the dragon triplets for the first time since they were quite young." Myles McNutt of The A.V. Club wrote in his review, "This battle works as a climactic moment for Game of Thrones as a cultural event, selling us on the scale and ambition of the producers and their production teams, all who should be commended for the accomplishments from a technical perspective." According to James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly, "Was this the show's best episode? It's hard to immediately process that question. Maybe? Probably. It's almost certainly the most exciting hour and had the most jaw-dropping battle sequence we've seen yet on TV."
Ed Power of The Daily Telegraph discussed the episode's refreshing strong-women theme: "Game of Thrones has been justly criticised for employing young actresses as wobbly-wobbly window dressing and, though the toplessness has been dialed back this season, it's still very much a calling card. However there are reasons for suspecting that the series is attempting to make amends – by arguing that Westeros would be far better off with women in charge. Even as Sansa was turning the tide at Winterfell, in Meereen, Daenerys and Yara Greyjoy were striking up a lady bromance – and seemingly rock-solid alliance – for the ages." Laura Prudom of Variety agreed: "After seasons of criticism over the show's misogyny (sometimes earned, sometimes not), it's thrilling to see an episode like 'Battle of the Bastards', where women like Dany, Sansa and Yara — and emasculated men (either figuratively or literally) like Tyrion and Theon — break the gears of war and the familiar patterns of violence by attempting to 'leave the world better than we found it', despite the examples set by the 'evil men' who came before them." According to Sarah Larson of The New Yorker, "Sansa watches calmly, then smiles. You've come a long way, baby. Or she's become a monster, and so have I. The women of Westeros are on the warpath."
The episode received a record six Primetime Emmy Awards, including awards for writing and direction.
|2016||68th Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series||Kit Harington as Jon Snow||Nominated|
|Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series||Miguel Sapochnik||Won|
|Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||David Benioff and D. B. Weiss||Won|
|68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Make-up for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)||Jane Walker, Kate Thompson, Nicola Mathews, Kay Bilk, Marianna Kyriacou, Pamela Smyth||Won|
|Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama series||Tim Porter||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Series||Ronan Hill, Richard Dyer, Onnalee Blank, Mathew Waters||Won|
|Outstanding Special Visual Effects||Steve Kullback, Joe Bauer, Adam Chazen, Derek Spears, Eric Carney, Sam Conway, Matthew Rouleau, Michelle Blok, Glenn Melenhorst||Won|
|Gold Derby Awards||Best Drama Episode||Nominated|
|Australian Production Design Guild||3D Award for Visual Effects Design||Iloura||Won|
|Hollywood Professional Alliance||Outstanding Sound||Tim Kimmel, Paula Fairfield, Mathew Waters, Onnalee Blank, Bradley Katona, Paul Bercovitch||Nominated|
|Outstanding Editing||Tim Porter||Won|
|Outstanding Visual Effects||Joe Bauer, Eric Carney, Derek Spears, Glenn Melenhorst, Matthew Rouleau||Won|
|2017||44th Annie Awards||Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production||Nicholas Tripodi, Dean Elliott, James Hollingworth, Matt Weaver||Pending|
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Battle of the Bastards|
- "Battle of the Bastards" at HBO.com
- "Battle of the Bastards" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Battle of the Bastards" at TV.com
- The Real-Life Military Strategy Behind ‘Game Of Thrones: Battle Of The Bastards’ at The Huffington Post