*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6*
Arrows whizz forebodingly through the air, hailing down from the sky, penetrating armor and piercing skin. Blood, mud, sweat and tears splatter and smear on thousands of men, pumped up on adrenaline and fear. One man — drawn into the masses of the helpless, suffocating under the footfall — claws himself free. That man is Jon Snow.
The breathtaking and bloody battle from Game of Thrones episode "Battle of the Bastards" was, above many other things, Snow's most challenging and defining moment (impressively, even more so than coming back from the dead). Awe-inspiring and grand, it's no surprise the dual cleared up at this year's Emmys.
There are many elements that made the episode great. But before an exploration of the nitty gritty and the reasons why it's recognition is fully deserved, here are all the accolades the single episode picked up across the last night's Primetime Emmy Awards, and last week's Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards:
- Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Miguel Sapochnik)
- Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (David Benioff and D. B. Weiss)
- Outstanding Make-up for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)
- Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama series
- Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Series
- Outstanding Special Visual Effects
Game of Thrones smashed records by winning three awards last night (including Outstanding Drama Series for the second year running) bringing the total for this season to 12. The achievement of six wins for "Battle of the Bastards"makes the epic the joint-top most awarded single episode in history, putting it on a par with Boardwalk Empire's esteemed pilot. It could've even become number one, if Kit Harington didn't lose out to Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) in the Best Supporting Actor category.
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Is "Battle of the Bastards" The Greatest Ever Episode Of TV?
So, is the episode deserving of its premiere position in Emmy history? In short: Yes (you didn't expect anything less, did you?). The fantastical medieval conflict— based on elements from George R. R. Martin's novel, The Winds of Winter, and inspired by the Battle of Cannae and the American Civil War — took a colossal effort to transfer to the screen.
Written by Game of Thrones TV gurus David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, director Miguel Sapochnik had the mammoth task of bringing everything together. He was chosen after previously directing "Hardhome," the chilling (pun intended) eighth episode of Season 5 that introduced the Night King.
Sapochnik managed 600 crew, 500 extras, 70 horses and 25 stunt men and women, who worked together across 25 days to capture the suffocating, adrenaline fuelled action. An average episode of Game of Thrones is filmed across one or two weeks, and costs an eye-watering $10 million. In comparison Martin Scorsese's Boardwalk Empire's richly awarded episode cost almost double at $18 million, but "Battle of the Bastards" may've approached a similar price tag.
For all the cost, the final product emphatically delivered, justifying its hefty price-tag with an exhilarating, visually stunning and ultimately satisfying 60 minutes that is Game of Thrones at its finest. As well as the nature of the battle itself — which wouldn't look out of place in a mega-budget Hollywood blockbuster — the episode evoked the entire spectrum of emotion.
Jon Snow marched on gallantly, finally coming face-to-face with fellow bastard and castration-enthusiast Ramsay Bolton, punching him to a pulp. Sansa's full evolution to badass was also complete, going behind Jon's back to utilize Littlefinger's cavalry and killing Ramsay by feeding him to the dogs (literally) in one of the most satisfyingly gruesome TV deaths.
Away from the Battle of Winterfell, Dany was reunited with her dragons and introduced to Yara and Theon Greyjoy, appearing to form a sisterly bond with the former, joining forces to use the Iron Islands fleet to start her quest toward Westeros.
Satisfaction Mixed With Tragedy
This is Game of Thrones, though, and audiences can never have their cake and eat it. The episode also provided a slice of tension by killing off Rickon in a final act of depravity from Ramsay, who turned his potential survival into a sick game of "dodge the arrow." And the giant Wun Wun went out in a tragic blaze of glory after breaking down the gates of Winterfell.
Cersei's calculated and brutal journey back to power in the finale was unforgettable for a number of reasons, but "Battle of the Bastards" had the hallmarks of a show at the top of its game, unleashing mayhem and providing a spectacle rarely seen on the big screen, let alone television.
With two seasons left to go, Game of Thrones continues to maintain quality and attract accolades. The considerable bulk of HBO's epic continues to disgust, delight and surprise. With the White Walkers imminent arrival and the battle for the Iron Throne heating up (not just because of dragons), expect even more Emmys to come.
Where do you rank "Battle of the Bastards" in TV history?