Week in 'Game of Thrones': Breaking Down the "Battle of the Bastards"

All "Bastards," all the time.
Courtesy of HBO

Before season six, Game of Thrones was already well-versed in the epic battle episode: "Blackwater," "Watchers on the Wall" and "Hardhome," to name the most prominent examples. But this year, those episodes met their big brother, an out-and-out "Bastard."

The penultimate installment of season six, "Battle of the Bastards," massive in scale and hype leading up to the episode's release, exceeded many viewers' expectations for what Game of Thrones specifically and television in general can accomplish … no easy feat for a show about fire-breathing dragons and ice-cold zombies, six years in.

It's no surprise, then, that the week's Thrones conversation centered almost entirely on fallout from Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton's ultimate showdown. Here are all the highlights:

Breaking Down the "Bastards"

Hundreds of cast and crew members were on hand for the filming of "Battle of the Bastards," an undertaking more than two months in the making, according to Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane).

"We spent at least a month on the battlefield," he told THR. "Everybody felt like we were going to try to do something that hadn't been done on television before. I think [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss], [director Miguel Sapochnik] and some of the producers found all the fighting sequences ever filmed and they looked at them and said, 'How can we top this? How do we make this even more dramatic? What can we gain?' We were over 700 people at lunch every day. It was big."

The harsh conditions of the battle weren't just for show, either. Speaking about the sequence where House Stark's men are surrounded by House Bolton forces in a tightened circle, Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) candidly admitted it was "not my favorite day of filming in my entire career," surviving the experience only through a sense of humor.

"Because long days like that — physical days, running horses, weather, mud, and this beautiful storytelling... it's difficult to shoot," he said. "But you look for your reward further down the line. You just try to get through every day. You fall asleep very quickly when you hit the bed."

The Fog of War

Perhaps the most impressive sequence of the episode comes in the form of the uninterrupted minutelong focus on Jon Snow (Kit Harington) fighting through the battle, watching his men die, and killing several enemies on his own. Sapochnik referred to this scene as "the fog of war," a period where Lord Snow loses a bit of his humanity.

"Our idea was that after the chaos subsides, Jon must fight to survive, but when his men are killed in front of him, it kind of breaks something in him and he becomes somewhat of a monster himself," he said. "I was trying get to the idea that sometimes it's not being a hero or a great fighter that means you make it through a battle; it's a miracle, or sheer luck."

The Young Wolf Falls

While the Starks emerge victorious, not all of them live to see the next day … including Rickon Stark, the youngest of the siblings, shot through the heart, and Ramsay Bolton's to blame.

"It's quite an emotional scene," Art Parkinson told THR of his character's death. "At first, Rickon's feeling disbelief. There's no trust there between Rickon and Ramsay. When I threw that look back to Ramsay, I imagined Rickon was questioning whether Ramsay was being truthful and was actually going to let him free. He couldn't believe it at first. So that's the first emotion. Then there's a seriousness. He decides, 'OK, I really need to go,' as soon as he turned around and saw Ramsay being handed the bow. That's when Rickon started understanding the game. Then, it's pure determination. After that, whenever I was finally shot, it was just, almost a sad release. It was disappointment. But at the same time, I think Rickon knew he put everything he had into that final run."

The Dogs of War

Ramsay Bolton doesn't exactly escape the fight unscathed, either. After he's beaten and imprisoned, Sansa (Sophie Turner) pays Ramsay a visit and unleashes his own hungry hounds on the monster. It's a brutal death for one of the show's biggest villains, and one that actor Iwan Rheon supports wholeheartedly: "I think it's very fitting. I think it's quite rewarding. He keeps going on about those dogs, doesn't he? I think it's just that they're finally the ones who got him."

"It definitely felt that way to me. Every season, really," Rheon added, when asked if he thought Ramsay's death was inevitable. "He's such an extreme character, and you get to a point where it's difficult for him to do anything worse. He reached his natural conclusion, I think. In terms of the storyline, it's great that the good guys won. It helps move us toward this great conclusion that I think we're all waiting for on the show."

Somewhere East

As if the war for Winterfell wasn't monumental enough, "Battle of the Bastards" contained a second battle sequence set in Meereen, as Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) fried her enemies with dragon fire. Later, she forged an alliance with Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), adding further firepower to her growing forces. It's a boon for Dany, but perhaps an even bigger boost for Yara, who had everything to gain and everything to lose in her meeting with the Mother of Dragons.

"This is her Plan A, and there is no Plan B, so she has to land this," Whelan told THR. "She can't pussyfoot around. She likes the cut of Daenerys' jib, and I think the feeling is mutual. There's the two men slightly mistrusting each other, in the middle of us, as we're making this pact. Yara's quite excited and thrilled about meeting a kindred spirit in Dany."

The "Winter" Forecast

Finally, we turn to the finale. The last episode of season six looms large, boasting a powerful title: "The Winds of Winter," the same name as George R.R. Martin's as-yet unpublished sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series on which Thrones is based. Judging solely by the previews, it's destined to be one of the show's more action-packed finales — a tall order, given the huge events of "Battle of the Bastards" one week earlier.

But there's more to judge the finale on than just the trailer, as members of the cast and crew offered brief words to preview the episode. Whelan described it as "thrilling, epic and overwhelming," while Cunningham promised it would break from the mold of past season finales: "There are very big events that are going to happen."

Sapochnik, who also directed the season finale, puts it in an even simpler and more urgent way: "People die." Last call for death predictions, everyone.

Watch the video below for more finale predictions:

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