The Battle of the Bastards. Bastard Bowl. Snow Bowl. So many charming names for what is shaping up to be the most epic battle Game of Thrones has ever seen. You've heard whispers for months, and now that the trailer for episode nine has dropped, the internet is freaking out. Will Ramsay Bolton's head roll? Will Sansa Stark finally get her revenge? Will Jon Snow take back Winterfell, or will he die again? Will Littlefinger swoop in to save the day? Or will we all have to call out of work next Monday when Ramsay wins the fight? (Shudder!)
All that is besides the point, though, if you're still wondering why exactly "Battle of the Bastards" is such a big freaking deal. Maybe you've just been nodding along with your friends and co-workers and contributing an "OMG I can't wait" here and there, because that's what proud GoT fans do when they have no clue WTF is happening.
Well, there are actually quite a few reasons why BOTB is monumental, and we're here to explain them all. Here's everything you need to know to: A) Comprehend the setup and magnitude of BOTB, B) Properly lose your shit along with everybody else for the next five days, and C) Enjoy every second of next Monday's 60-minute bastards bonanza.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Episode 9 is always a BFD. Historically, the penultimate episode of the season is where all the crazy shit goes down: The Red Wedding, Ned Stark's beheading, the Battle of Blackwater.
The show-runners say it's going to be YUUGE. In March, GoT writer-producer Bryan Cogman told Entertainment Weekly that this season's action-centrepiece is a "proper battle" and “definitely the biggest [action sequence yet]." He described it as "Hardhome" — the season five, episode eight battle where Jon Snow's Night's Watch-Wildlings crew was attacked by White Walkers and wights — plus horses and a much bigger budget. "[C]ertainly in terms of numbers— number of extras, number of stuntmen, number of shooting days — it’s the biggest we’ve done," Cogman said. (Evidently, he is not one for managing expectations.)
Revenge is a bitch. The Stark-Bolton divide may have come to a head this season, but the one-time allies' bad blood runs deep. Remember that time back in season 3 when Ramsay’s dad Roose Bolton betrayed the Starks at the Red Wedding and left Catelyn and Robb Stark dead? Yeah. Since then, the Boltons have moved on in to Winterfell and brutalised any stragglers. Ramsay has brutally abused and raped Jon’s sister Sansa. He’s taken Rickon hostage and turned his direwolf into a fur rug. So yes, it’s about control of the north and restoring the Stark name to honour. But Jon and Sansa’s motives for taking down Ramsay are as personal as it gets. Oh, and Ramsay’s rationale? He’s a psychopathic sadist lusting for blood, land and power.
It should be an even(ish) fight. Okay, Ramsay for sure has the upper hand troops-wise, what with his thousands-strong Bolton army and the support of the Umbers and the Karstarks — two big houses that reneged on their loyalty to the Starks. But, like Jon Snow says in the preview, "Battles have been won against greater odds. I fought beyond the Wall against worse than Ramsay Bolton." (Though Sansa reminds her brother that he hasn't experienced firsthand what this sadist is capable of.)
But fret not. Jon Snow has proved that he knows how to do a lot with a little. He has the support of a measly 62 Mormonts and many Wildings — whose no-holds-barred fighting style could come in handy about now. Plus, they've got an assortment of bad-ass warriors like Brienne and Tormund — if they're not too busy making lovey eyes on the battlefield, that is — as well as a giant secret weapon named Wun-Wun. And remember in episode 7 when Sansa urgently wrote a letter to Petyr Baelish? It's not far-fetched to think that she was asking for some support — he kind of owes her, after all. Oh yeah, and he was spotted on the set of the battle.
There will be blood. Somebody’s dying. According to Watchers on the Wall — one of the best GoT spoilers sources around — there will be more than one major casualty. Their sneaky set spies spotted Ramsay Bolton “displaying at least two bodies upside down on X-crosses, burning during battle. They are known characters.” Ew, and shit. As if that weren’t troubling enough, Jon Snow tells Melisandre in the preview, "If I fall, don't bring me back.” Come on. Don’t kill him twice.
So, now that you know what's up with BOTB, give the preview another watch — if you don't mind experiencing some mild midday heart palpitations, that is.