Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Game of Thrones season 6, episode 9 ahead
The final showdown between the two great bastards of the North - Ramsay Bolton née Snow (Iwan Rheon) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) - has been building for a long time now on Game of Thrones, and in the latest episode, "The Battle of the Bastards," all of the pieces finally moved into place. Jon Snow, whose army was outnumbered by Ramsay's two-to-one, decided to march on Winterfell in the hope of saving his half-brother Rickon (Art Parkinson) and reclaiming his childhood home. Ultimately he succeeded in one of those goals, though it came at a high price.
"Battle of the Bastards" also saw the end of one of the show's most hated (and most entertaining) villains, as the defeated Ramsay Bolton was tied to a chair and devoured by his own starving hounds while Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) watched. Fans may miss seeing the latest horrifying developments in Ramsay's sadism, but an entire episode and an exceedingly bloody battle spent building up to his death is quite a send-off.
Rheon spoke to EW last fall, in an interview published today, and didn't seem to be too bothered by Ramsay's demise. "It's cool. I’ve had four lovely seasons here," the actor said, adding that he believes Ramsay's death was "justified" and that it was the right time for it, since the character had "reached his peak." When asked about his final scene with Sansa and the hounds, Rheon said that it was "a great scene to go out on."
"Afterward, Ramsay still thinks he’s won. He’s so arrogant and self assured he thinks he’ll still be fine — until the last minute. He always thinks he’s going to be okay... It’s a gruesome death. It’s so ironic. He’s been banging on about those hounds all this time... I think it was great. It’s a good scene. It leaves Sansa in an interesting place as a character, because he’s saying, 'I’m inside you now.' [Rheon shudders] It’s horrible, and I think he probably has done some damage. He’s gotten in her head."
Game of Thrones has frequently depicted the underdogs of the Seven Kingdoms' various houses rising to power: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has gone from being sold like property to becoming the conquering ruler of Slaver's Bay; Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) has gained the loyalty of most of the Iron Fleet and is set to become the first Queen of the Iron Islands; and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), mocked as the "imp" of the Lannister family all his life, is now a chief adviser to Daenerys. Ramsay and Jon are no exceptions, both rising to lead armies despite their illegitimate birthright. It's because the two characters have that in common, Rheon says, that this showdown was so exciting.
"Anyone who has asked me, 'Who would you like Ramsay to meet?' my answer has always been 'Jon Snow.' He’s the antithesis of Ramsay. They’re almost a yin and a yang. They both come from such a similar place yet they’re so different. And even though they’re enemies, they’ve both risen so far as bastards, which is almost incomprehensible, and now they’re both here facing each other. They couldn’t be any more different, yet more similar."
Of course, Jon's victory against Ramsay came at a severe cost. Most of his army was massacred, and the rest would have been as well were not for the intervention of Sansa and Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen). Moreover, Rickon Stark was killed at the start of the battle - another tragic loss for the beleaguered Stark family. Moreover, the biggest fight is still to come, as the Night King and his overwhelming forces push ever further south. Still, at least there's now one less monster to deal with in Westeros.
Game of Thrones returns with the season 6 finale, "The Winds of Winter," next Sunday @9pm on HBO.