The strongest episode of the season focuses on just two storylines: the Masters’ attack on Meereen and the Stark’s reclamation of Winterfell. I’ve been hoping the writers would get back to this type of storytelling for the entire season, since it’s much more fulfilling than forced, quick dips into multiple characters’ lives. In contrast, this episode’s action focused on the heroes’ strengths, rose to a climax, and found resolution. As a result, the writing was much, much better than that of its predecessors—so much better that we’re back to the quality we got when the writers were still on-book.
The show begins with Daenerys’s return to Meereen during the Masters’ attack. (Great timing, Dany!). Though she’s ready to crucify her enemies, Tyrion, with political and intellectual finesse, talks her down and makes a plan that will not destroy the city they have sworn to defend. Although Daenerys’s dragons trounce the invaders, every strength she has assembled—from Tyrion’s savvy to Grey Worm’s power to the Dothraki’s battle skills— plays a crucial part in the Masters’ defeat. Her own magical powers, particularly those involving fire immunity and dragon control, will serve her very well upon her inevitable return to Westeros next season. And the Seven Kingdoms seem much closer at hand now that Yara and Dany have made a pact to support each other when the time comes.
Back in the North, Jon Snow leads a too-small army against Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell. On the eve of battle, Jon, Tormund, and Davos plan the attack, then Sansa insists that Ramsay can still outsmart them. Sansa’s insights play out the next morning when, just before the battle begins, Ramsay frees poor little Rickon, letting him run almost all the way to his family before shooting him down.
As the GoT directors explain in the aftershow, the battle is based on both classic scenes from the American Civil War and a famous ancient battle between the Romans and the Carthaginians, inventors of the shield-circle. Jon is nearly crushed under the weight of bodies, and we’re lead to believe that both he and Tormund are about to die. Then, just in the nick of time, Sansa pulls through when she arrives with Littlefinger, Moon-Door aficionado Robin Arryn, and some serious cavalry, allowing Tormund, Davos, and the Giant to chase a fleeing Ramsay into Winterfell. The giant dies after breaking through the castle door, sacrificing himself to give Jon unfettered access to Ramsay—poor Wun Wun! Soon after, the battle ends, Jon walks through Ramsay’s arrows, and gives the murdering bastard an old-fashioned beat down that makes it clear Jon wants to end him in the most personal way.
When Sansa shows up, Jon realizes that Ramsay isn’t his to finish. Sansa, whose horrible experiences have made her into a new and powerful woman, feeds Ramsay to his beloved dogs—an ending so apt that the writers might have problems topping it in the show’s subsequent, all-too-few remaining episodes.