June 20, 2016


Who Runs the 'Game of Thrones' World? Girls


WARNING: Spoilers!

Game of Thrones' "Battle of the Bastards" is being championed as one of the best episodes of the show's six-season run, a dazzling display of gritty warfare with enough awe-inspiring imagery and satisfying plot points to evoke actual applause from viewers. Yet the main takeaway from Sunday's episode was not that Jon Snow is a fearless leader (we knew that already), or that Ramsay Bolton sucked (ditto), or that the giant Wun-Wun will be missed far more than we thought he would be (RIP, big guy).

No, the main conclusion from "Battle of the Bastards" is that the women have gotten much better at the game than the men.

The most obvious example, of course, was Sansa Stark being right about literally everything when it came to the Battle of the Bastards. As she professes the night before the clash, she was the only one with any insight into Ramsay's demented mind, and she understood that her little brother, Rickon Stark, was marked for death before the battle even began.

Sansa also understood that the forces that Jon and the Wildlings had gathered were not going to be enough to thwart the occupying army at Winterfell, and that she was going to have to play the Littlefinger card, in spite of her fury over Petyr Baelish's past betrayal. Sure enough, Jon and his comrades were going to lose the battle without Littlefinger's forces from the Vale, and sure enough, it was Sansa who can claim credit for House Stark taking Winterfell back. 

After Ramsay tortured her as his unwitting bride, Sansa got the last laugh on the Bolton bastard by swallowing her pride and playing the game to her benefit. She even got to walk away from Ramsay's demise with some burning-car-in-Waiting to Exhale badassery. 

Across the sea in Meereen, Daenerys put the masters in their place with the help of her dragon children, once again demonstrating that cackling men underestimating a powerful woman can be deadly for said men. We've seen this flaunting of brutal force before from the Mother of Dragons, most recently with the flayed Dothraki Khals; her scorching of the slavers' ships was swift and predictable.

Yet the appearance of the Greyjoys in Meereen showed how diplomacy can work when the men are relegated to the background. With Theon deferring to his decisive sister Yara and Tyrion's objections to Ironborn silenced by Daenerys' inner wisdom, a deal is struck between the two women, who link arms and form a mutually beneficial partnership. 

Their terms are realistic and respectful; they both admit that their fathers were awful as rulers, and vow not to repeat their mistakes. This scene is more than Daenerys beginning to get her fleet, or Yara increasing her claim to the Iron Islands. It shows what the Game of Thrones world will look like if the dicks of the map stopped getting in the way of common sense.

From Arya's slice-and-dice teachings to Brienne's knack for heroism to Melisandre's revival of you-know-who, the female characters of Game of Thrones have served as the locomotive of Season 6, but "The Battle of the Bastards" underlined how much more important women like Daenerys, Sansa and Yara have become to their male counterparts. If Cersei wreaks havoc on the High Sparrow next week, we'll have one more episode of Game of Thrones bowing down to the Beyoncé Declaration. Who runs the Game of Thrones world? At this point, certainly not the dudes.

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