The last time a Game of Thrones episode aired on Father’s Day, Tyrion Lannister put a crossbow bolt through his father’s heart. This year, the show gave us “The Battle of the Bastards,” in which illegitimate heirs Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton (née Snow) duked it out for their philandering fathers’ legacies. Technically, it was a victory for House Stark and an inglorious defeat for the Boltons, whose name Sansa assured Ramsay would vanish from the land just before she fed him to his own dogs. But in Meereen, where many of this season’s most fruitful discussions about the nature and uses of power have taken place, we were reminded that when it comes to securing a safe and prosperous future for their offspring, Game of Thrones’ fathers have been pretty terrible across the board.
Daenerys Targaryen greets Theon and Yara Greyjoy with skepticism when they turn up on her doorstep in Meereen, and this is heightened when she learns that it’s Yara and not Theon who’s vying for the Iron Islands’ Salt Throne, which has never been held by a woman. But Yara smartly converts Dany’s dubiousness into solidarity, pointing out that Westeros, which the Mother of Dragons plans to conquer, has never been ruled by a woman, either. Sure, Yara’s father, the late, unlamented Balon Greyjoy, was “a terrible king,” but Dany’s father was, too—worse, even, since mad king Aerys planned to torch of all of King’s Landing with hidden stashes of wildfire rather than give up the throne. True, Dany could wait a while and let the Iron Islands’ current king, Euron, come to her with his spiffy new fleet and his “big fat cock,” but once a murderous usurper, always a murderous usurper. Better, Yara argues, to throw in with her, a pact free of treachery or marital obligation—although, Yara winks, “I’m up for anything, really.”
In short, things are looking pretty bad for the patriarchy. Dany and Yara forge an alliance with nary a cock—not even Theon’s—in sight; the Lannisters’ last male heir has betrayed his family and is exiled from the marriage bed; Ramsay Bolton murdered both his father and his father’s trueborn son and then got his face chewed off; and though Jon Snow finally emerged victorious, he would have been both literally and figuratively crushed had it not been for the last-minute intervention of his sister, Sansa, and the arrival of reinforcements from the Vale—troops who were loyal not to Sansa’s father but to her mother. Add in the fact that next week’s episode is likely to feature a) the revelation that Jon is not Ned Stark’s son at all, and b) Cersei blowing up her own son, and Westeros’ next generation of leaders is looking pretty darn weak.
Well, male leaders, anyway. Perhaps House Mormont’s tween Lady Lyanna, who turns up at Bastardbowl on horseback looking like a pint-sized badass, is a harbinger of things to come. With Rickon dead and Jon’s paternity in question, Sansa seems like the natural choice for queen of the North: She’s Ned Stark’s eldest living child, and despite her inexplicable decision not to mention that more troops were on the way, she showed more cool-headedness in the face of battle than Jon Snow did. (Men: always letting their emotions get the better of them.) Dany still needs some tempering: It took Tyrion to remind her that “burn your cities to the ground” should be a last resort and not an opening gambit. But even that can be chalked up to her father’s influence. The Battle of the Bastards wasn’t a battle of the sexes, but it looks like one side won, anyway.