With 2019 coming to a close and a new decade on the horizon, Entertainment Weekly is compiling a look back at the movies, music, TV shows and more that changed the pop culture landscape during the 2010’s. And is anyone surprised that something from Game of Thrones on the list? Frankly, I’ll be more shocked if it’s the only thing that GoT makes this list for.
That “thing” is the legendary Battle of the Bastards, from the Season 6, Episode 9 episode of the same name, in which Jon Snow and Sansa Stark defeat Ramsay Bolton’s forces and take back Winterfell. At that point in its evolution, Thrones had become a show of massive proportions — both in its storytelling and its production values — but in spite of this, people were still unprepared for the epic nature of the battle (and the episode itself) when it premiered in 2016.
“There are certain battle sequences committed to film that are unforgettable, and the Battle of the Bastards ranks with the best of them,” said Netflix executive Channing Dungey, who was interviewed for the EW piece. “Dave [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] devoted a decade of their lives to Game of Thrones, and all that work is evident in what feels like the pinnacle moment of the series. The degree of difficulty here is just massive — night shoots, stunt work, the CGI dragons — and director Miguel Sapochnik delivers all with incredible scope and specificity.”
Action aside, the episode is also a masterful example of the emotional, character-driven storytelling at which Thrones had excelled in earlier seasons, from the moment Ser Davos finds Shireen’s burnt toy stag in the ruins of her funeral pyre to the conversation between Daenerys and Yara in Meereen about doing better than their fathers. And who doesn’t love seeing Ramsay being fed to his own starving hounds by a steely-eyed Sansa?
The episode won seven Emmys, including for writing and directing, and “overnight erased any lingering perception that TV is in some respects less than cinema — while also raising the bar for all competitors to come,” according to the EW piece. We couldn’t agree more.