Yes, we know, that's quite the statement to make, but we're going to go right ahead and say it - you know it's true. The only episode it could even be compared to is season five's 'Hardhome', with both sharing the same director, Miguel Sapochnik.
Expectations were high for 'The Battle of the Bastards', which promised to be bigger than anything ever seen before on Game of Thrones, and it did not let down, delivering what was undeniably the best battle ever seen on television, let alone Game of Thrones.
Filmed in County Down in Northern Ireland, it took 25 ten-hour days to film, with 600 crew members, four camera crews and 65 stunt people. All of which must have been contracted up to their eyeballs to not mention the fact that Kit Harrington was hanging around on set, you know, not being dead and all that.
Director Sapochnik described it as "the most logistically complicated thing" he had ever been involved in, explaining how the episode was inspired by historical battles, with Ramsay Bolton's terrifying 'pincer move' - where troops surrounded Snow's army on both sides - used by the likes of Alexander the Great and also in the Battle of Stalingrad in WWII.
The battle itself however kicked off with the heartbreaking death of Rickon, the youngest member of the Stark clan. We know, we know, as soon as he walked in the doors of Winterfell and was left under the 'care' of Ramsay Bolton he was inevitably a goner, but they certainly made us root for the little dude right up to the final moment, as he was mere SECONDS away from reuniting with Jon. The internet was not happy with Rickon's decision to run in a straight line away from Ramsay either (as opposed to zig-zags), but sure who knows what you'd do until you're running from a crazed lunatic aiming a bow and arrow at you as you race into the arms of your recently resurrected half bro.
Had a good run #shouldazigzagged
— Art Parkinson (@art_parkinson) June 20, 2016
Ramsay's stunt meant Jon, like Sansa had feared, had fallen exactly into Bolton's trap. Although in fairness he was always going to do all he could to save Rickon, and Ramsay knew that. His brother's death may have left Jon (and the rest of us) absolutely bulling for Ramsay's head, but it also pretty much meant Jon was left up sh*t creek without a paddle - or a horse as it turned out. It did make for one of the most incredible shots of the season however when Jon is faced with a cavalry of horses galloping towards him - and no CGI here folks - that was actually Kit Harington standing there facing seventy or so horses coming at him at full speed.
The battle itself was a highly-coordinated masterclass in filming that would rival any battle ever seen on the big screen. Yes, we're even talking about the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. The absolute horror of battle was so realistically portrayed, it pretty much felt like you were taking part yourself.
Sapochnik made a conscience decision to let the camera follow only Snow throughout, while one of the most powerful scenes of the battle was only added in last minute. Due to filming constraints, the director had to come up with a last minute alternative plan which led to the terrifying scene where Jon almost gets crushed to death by a stampede of panicking wildings. As Sapochnik told Entertainment Weekly; "No VFX, no fighting, just Kit giving a stellar performance and a crazy top shot as he pushes his way back out (we affectionately called it the “rebirthing” shot)".
It was really starting to look like all might lost for Jon and the gang, and we knew SOMETHING had to give here. We all remember the "Stannis Inquisition" moment of season four, but who was going to step in now to save the day? Why it's only Sansa and Littlefinger! We get that this was a huge powerplay moment for Sansa, and arguably the one where she justified that she is the rightful Queen of the Mother Truckin' North, but you'd think she might have, I don't know, maybe mentioned to Jon there was a chance they could have got a helping hand.
The episode didn't fail to give us the showdown we were waiting for between Jon and Ramsay either, and while it was no Oberyn vs The Mountain, it did let us see someone finally getting to beat seven shades of sh*t out of Ramsay. We all knew it was Sansa though that ultimately deserved to be the one to see her former husband/abuser take his final breath, and man, did she do it in style, calmly telling Ramsay - whose biggest insecurity was always his lack of identity and legacy;
"Your words will disappear.
Your house will disappear.
Your name will disappear.
All memory of you will disappear."
Ramsay was then ravaged by his dogs, as Sansa walked away and smiled, free forever of her tormentor.
G'wan the Sansa.
And then we all collectively breathed out for the first time in an hour as the credits rolled on what was one of the most gripping hours of television ever shown. Yes, the deaths were predictable (R.I.P Wun Wun too, the hero), in fact the whole outcome was what was to be expected really, but it still managed to be the most suspenseful, visually stunning and downright spectacular episode of Game of Thrones we've ever had. We haven't even got to Daenerys kicking ass with her dragons in Meereen in the opening minutes yet, but there was never really a doubt that the day would come that the Queen of Dragons would be able to fly and control those bad boys.
Next week's 69-minute finale is also set to be a momentous episode, and you'll be happy to hear it's directed by Sapochnik too. Entitled 'The Winds of Winter', it will see Cersei's trial take place in King's Landing, Ser Davos confronting Melisandre over Shireen's death, and we'll finally be heading back to see what Bran Stark is up to behind the wall with his uncle Benjen. Perhaps we may even get to see what Ned Stark found in that Tower of Joy... dare we hope that season six could deliver fans the truth about Jon Snow's parentage?
At the rate this slow-moving season has suddenly catapulted into action this week, anything is possible.