REVIEW: Game of Thrones S6E9 Battle of the Bastards
IN WHAT is by far the bloodiest ever episode of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark were victorious in their battle against Ramsay Bolton (dubbed The Battle of the Bastards).
But winning Winterfell back from the Boltons didn't come without a hefty price.
The epic battle, which reportedly made this the most expensive single episode of Game of Thrones yet, decimated Snow's Wildling supporters and resulted in the deaths of Rickon Stark (at the hands of Ramsay in a twisted game that forced Snow's hand) and Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun - the last remaining giant from north of The Wall.
There was plenty of action across the sea in Meereen as well, where Danaerys destroyed the threat of the masters once and for all and forged a new alliance with Yara and Theon Greyjoy.
Here are four key things we took away from season six episode nine:
"A city without Masters proves nobody needs masters"
Daenerys does not look impressed at all.
The Masters' bombardment of Meereen opens this explosive episode, and the Mother of Dragons' return at the end of last week showed we are in for a new Daenerys.
This isn't the same Daenerys that led the Dothraki earlier this season. This is an empowered Targaryen who does not take a backwards step.
Danaereys ice-cool demeanour was initially mocked by the Masters, but the arrival of Drogon put her on the front foot.
The sight of Daenerys' three dragons in full flight and her new Dothraki force's attack on the Sons of the Harpy sets the tone for a fiery penultimate episode.
Battle of the Bastards is the episode we have all waited for.
"Remind them what happened when Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons came to Meereen."
Tyrion Lannister's words are a sharp and stern warning, but it's nothing compared to what's to come.
Tyrion is next seen talking to the "good" Greyjoys: Theon and Yara.
The Greyjoy siblings, on the run since Euron swept to power at the Iron Islands, have finally arrived at Meereen to meet with Daenerys.
Yara is a refreshing injection to Game of Thrones, and one-liners like "I never demand but I'm up for anything really" (when asked by Daenerys as to why the Greyjoys won't offer marriage) is another great exchange.
It appeared as if Yara was set to fail when Daenerys challenge the Greyjoy to abandon their "way of life" (rape, pillage, etc.) but a new, exciting alliance may now be on the cards.
"Let's settle this the old way: you against me."
It is the battle we have all been waiting for.
When Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton face off, Bolton initially thinks he is in control as he calls for Snow's surrender but the former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is not about to give in.
Their verbal joust is a top-quality precursor to the physical battle on the field, but it's Sansa Stark who steals the scene.
She doesn't have to say much, but her "you're going to die tomorrow" is one of her best moments.
Snow and Sansa butt heads when planning the battle, and it is one of the best scenes of the episode.
Sansa questions why Snow would not consult or talk to her about the battle plans, citing her knowledge of how Ramsay operates.
Her final missive, that she won't return to Ramsay alive, is incredibly powerful.
It is a powerful moment between the two which only serves to raise the stakes ahead of their battle.
Ramsay arrives at the battlefield with Rickon in tow (literally), but decides to cut the ropes. The Bolton bastard offers the young Stark to play a simple game: run to the other side, to Snow's waiting forces.
It is an incredibly evil move.
As Rickon runs towards his brother, Ramsay fires arrows at the young Stark.
Snow's earlier plan of making Ramsay angry is exactly the same as the bastard Bolton's plan: if you make your adversary angry, they are more likely to misstep.
Ramsay is an awful human, but he again proves he is a master tactician.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the scenes with Snow in the heat of the battle are some of the best of the entire series.
They are particularly brutal, and it maintains Game of Thrones' tendency to stage some of their biggest and best set pieces in the season's penultimate episode.
A well-timed return by one of our least favourite men
An almost-identical finish to Lord of the Rings' battle at Helm's Deep, Jon Snow and his army were saved by a well-timed return.
It had been predicted for weeks, but Sansa went behind Snow's back to seek help from Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale.
Just as it appeared Snow's forces were doomed, surrounded by Bolton's forces' phalanx and a growing pile of bodies, House Arryn's blue-and-white sigil appeared on the horizon.
We knew Sansa was crafty, and we still question why she didn't tell Snow of her plan, but it was perfect nonetheless.
We also saw another, scary side of Sansa, as she faced Ramsay when the bastard Bolton was held captive.
Ramsay's hounds, who he said earlier had not eaten for seven days, were bound to reappear, and what better way than for Sansa to oversee his final moments.
Davos discovers the fate of young Shireen
Davos Seaworth, Stannis Baratheon's former right-hand man, has become one of Game of Thrones' only bright light.
If a character is to be Game of Thrones' moral compass it is Davos, and his discovery of a carved stag, which he gifted to Shireen, in a pile of burned stakes is a shock to the man.
Shireen, Stannis' daughter with whome Davos shared a close friendship, was burned on a pyre as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light at the Red Witch Melissandre's urging.
It was a short but harrowing moment as Davos discovered the stag.
A confrontation between he and Melissandre was teased towards the end of the episode but it unfortunately came to nothing this week. The preview for next week's season finale teases the confrontation, but what will come of it?
The season six final of Game of Thrones airs next Monday at 11am on Foxtel's Showcase channel.