Ladies and gentleman, pop the popcorn, put on your warpaint, and pick your sides–tonight on HBO is “Bastard Bowl”–also called “Battle of the Bastards” by some–and it is bound to be an event of sportlike, violent proportions.
On this evening’s episode of Game of Thrones, main character and veritably-top-ten favorite Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is facing off against Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon), formerly ‘Snow, who is but a doctor’s note away from being a clinically-insane sadist, sociopathic Warden of the North.
This episode, unlike practically any in the past before it, may be the first time that Game of Thrones fans will have a fairly coherent plot-line for what is about to happen. In the teaser for the episode last weekend, the events depicted Snow with a flock of wildlings and a pittance of allies behind him staring off Ramsey and his much more solidified army before colliding in the snow. And, unlike last weekend–which exclusively featured characters in the South or overseas (in all-around warm places)–this episode is likely going to only include occurrences in the North, perhaps even devoting a total majority of its time to “Bastard Bowl.”
In case the onslaught of complicated events in the rest of Westeros have erased your memory of why Jon and Ramsey are facing off in a wintry arena, here’s what you need to know–both of these men are bastards, hence the name. Jon Snow, son of Ned Stark (Sean Bean), has never been recognized to full Stark-hood, especially since he abandoned the family to be a part of the Night’s Watch. Since his death and resurrection, however, Jon believes that he’s no longer bound to the Watch, which has a “til death do us part” condition. Instead, Jon has decided to aid his half sister Sansa in trying to reclaim Winterfell for the Starks.
Ramsey, on the other hand, was naturalized as a full-named Bolton by his father for his excellence in the field, which could prove challenging to Jon. Ramsey also sent a gruesome letter to the Stark-and-Snow, suggesting that he would kill Jon and Sansa’s brother Rickon, who had been given as a gift to Ramsey by the Starks’s enemy. The Boltons have also had full ownership of Winterfell since murdering the older Starks and scattering the rest, with permission from the Lannisters. Neither side has backed down, and tonight’s battle is likely going to be the kind of show-stopping slew of fight scenes that fans have seen in the past in “Blackwater” in season two and “Hardhome” last season.
Incidentally, tonight’s episode is the brainchild of the director of “Hardhome,” according to Deadline, so there is a very good chance that the battle will be as violently orchestrated as the White Walker attack last year.
Even if it isn’t–even if the episode spends a considerable amount of time on characters like Bran, who hasn’t been seen much since Hodor’s death, or Daenerys, who only had a two second cameo in the last episode–fans will likely be treated to a bloodbath. Tonight will also be a very drawn out example of how much the show-runners, Benioff and Weiss, are willing to stray from the original plot-line. After all, in the books, Jon and Ramsey have no set intentions to ever cross paths; in fact, in the books, no one even knows whether Jon Snow is alive.
Either way, tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones will certainly be one for the top ten lists, years after the show has aired its final time.