Review: Game of Thrones season 6 episode 4 – Book of the Stranger

Tits and dragons!* They remembered! Best episode ever!

Would you look at that. One week I’m complaining about the intense lack of Daenerys nudity, one week later my prayers are answered. If I knew this was gonna happen, I’d have wished for more. Like maybe Stannis turns out to be alive after all, and hey look, it’s Oberyn Martell! He’s back too, saying his death was just a trick, the guy that got his head crushed was actually his less charismatic twin brother Bernie. They did it in that movie THE PRESTIGE, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work here. Wouldn’t even be the most improbable thing that ever happened on this show.

Joking aside, this actually was a fantastic episode that started off strong and ended even stronger. Let’s talk about that Jon/Sansa reunion. Honestly, I was not expecting that to happen – I figured by the time she arrived at the Wall, Jon would probably have left already. After all, that’s what’s been happening with the Stark siblings every single time any of them got close to another one, ever since season 1. This time though, we finally got a little bit of happiness in between the endless misery, and the moment was all the more powerful for it. It doesn’t even matter that there was never that big of a bond between these two characters. They’re family, they’ve both been through hell and they reacted exactly how I expected and hoped they would, by hugging it out. It’s beautiful stuff, just like the following scene where they’re just chatting, smiling, bringing up old memories.

That joyful mood doesn’t last long though. Sansa is a different person now, all grown up and hardened by the abuse that’s been heaped upon her for years on end. She’s done taking shit from anyone, and right now she needs Jon and his army of Wildlings to help her take back the North from the Boltons. Snow is hesitant at first, making me think Sansa didn’t divulge all the details of what happened to her when she was held captive at Winterfell, just as Jon probably didn’t mention anything about his recent resurrection. But then Ramsay’s letter arrives, revealing that Rickon is now his prisoner and taunting Jon to come get him. A nice moment here is when Jon refuses to read the full letter aloud, trying to protect Sansa from the horrible details, but then she just takes it from him and reads it herself. She’s lived through a couple of those horrible details, just reading them isn’t gonna have much of an effect on her anymore. Anyways, thanks to Ramsay’s thoughtful message, Sansa gets what she wants. Both Jon and the Wildlings agree to take on the Boltons, meaning Melisandre’s vision of Jon fighting at Winterfell is going to come true – as if anyone was still doubting that.

Speaking of Melisandre, this episode finally answers the question of how much she told Davos about the fate of Stannis and Shireen: not a single damn thing. Apparently he wasn’t even aware that Stannis was defeated, which seems a bit unlikely, but I don’t know. Maybe someone forgot to send the goddamn ravens again. Just as he’s about to learn the truth of what happened to Shireen, Brienne casually strolls up and drops another bomb on him, revealing that she personally executed Stannis. Sadly, that’s the end of the scene, so we don’t quite see how Davos is taking all this news. While I’m thinking he’ll forgive Brienne, seeing as he was witness to the whole shadow baby thing so he’ll get where she’s coming from, I expect him to take the news about Shireen quite badly indeed. Let’s see if Melisandre will actually make it to Winterfell to see her vision come to life.

You know who else is gonna be on that battlefield? Littlefinger and his buddies, the Knights of the Vale! We haven’t seen him in a long time, but here he is, handily manipulating little Lord Robyn into allowing him to take the army to help out Sansa in the North. I loved the bit where loyal old Royce dares to question Petyr’s motives for marrying off Sansa to the Boltons and almost gets thrown out the moon door for his efforts. Honestly, Royce’s question is a valid one that I would like to know the answer to myself. Why did Littlefinger drop the woman he claims to love off at Winterfell, leaving her at the mercy of a sadistic psychopath? Don’t tell me he didn’t know about Ramsay, this guy knows everything, always. My guess is he knew it would be rough on Sansa but he also knew the Boltons would never kill her, because that would mean losing the legitimacy of their claim to rule the North. But did he always plan to get her back, using his friends at the Vale, or was that just a back-up plan in case something did happen to Sansa?

So, we got a touching reunion, lots of juicy drama plus the promise of an epic battle to come, and the episode has only just begun. The next big moment comes when Osha is called to Ramsay’s room for a little chat. It’s a tense scene, only slightly lightened by a funny exchange between them (“Do you eat them after?” – “No.” – “Then I’ve seen worse.”) before ending with Osha’s tragic demise. I’ll admit I was expecting it, as it didn’t seem she had much of a role left to play in the story. We’re getting close to the finish line and the writers have been ruthlessly thinning the herd this season, killing off everyone they don’t need around for the final stretch. That’s fine with me; I’d rather get the closure of watching these characters die than just having them never be seen or mentioned again (like poor Gendry, still rowing away in his little boat). Plus Osha was a big enough character to deserve an ending on screen, having been around since the very beginning of the show.

On to King’s Landing, where things are slowly reaching boiling point. When Margaery finally gets to see her brother Loras, hoping to convince him to stay strong, she instead discovers that he’s already broken. He begs her to make it stop, says he doesn’t care about “winning” anymore. It prompts her to finally agree to her own Walk of Shame, like Cersei did at the end of last season. No doubt this was the High Sparrow’s plan all along, the sole reason for letting her see her brother in the first place. That worked out well for him then, although I’m not sure he thought it all the way through. Because when Cersei and Jaime bring the news to Queen Olenna and Uncle Kevan, they agree at last that something needs to be done. Meaning next week or the one after we’ll finally be getting that confrontation with the Sparrows. About time!

Next up is Meereen, where Tyrion is taking it upon himself to try and tackle the issues they’ve been having with the Sons of the Harpy. He does it in a somewhat controversial way too, reaching out to the leaders of the three slaver cities, making them an offer nobody on his own side is happy with. He proposes that all three cities take seven years to abolish slavery completely and get financially compensated for their losses, as long as they withdraw all support they’re currently giving the Sons of the Harpy. Missandei and Grey Worm are pissed off and even Varys has an expression on his face like, what gives, bro? But Tyrion is used to these types of deals, having to make compromises in order to (eventually) get what you want. Still, I’m not entirely convinced it’s a great plan. Why wouldn’t the masters just take the money, keep supporting the dudes in the golden masks and do fuck all about the whole slavery thing? I don’t quite see the incentive for them to cooperate.

It probably doesn’t matter though, because guess who’s just gotten herself an army of Dothraki? That’s right, after four episodes Dany’s adventures among the horse people finally amount to something as she burns the ever-loving shit out of all those Khals that have been treating her so poorly. See, that’s the downside of watching this stuff one ep at a time. During the first three episodes I was disappointed with Dany’s seeming lack of progress, but had I binge-watched the show three episodes would’ve been nothing, and I wouldn’t have complained at all. Especially since the payoff for that relatively short wait is so cool it makes me giddy just thinking about it. I think we were all expecting either Jorah and Daario to bust her out, or for Drogon to show up again like he did at the end of last season. What the writers (or possibly George R.R. Martin) have come up with instead is much better though. Jorah and Daario do show up, acting all tough and protective, but they’re pretty much told to back down and shut up. Dany doesn’t need them to escape, and she doesn’t need Drogon to turn the place into a blazing inferno either – she can take care of that all by herself. Khaleesi’s got this, you guys. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing, just sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

And enjoy them I did. In what is sure to become yet another of the show’s iconic moments, Dany stands defiant before the Khals, calmly informing them that she will rule the Dothraki from now on. They don’t respond well to that, bombarding her with rape threats, but then she casually drops a couple torches on the ground. Now I’m not sure whether the floor happened to be covered in gasoline or if those Khals ate too much Taco Bell, steadily filling the room with farts before Dany came in, but fact is the building goes up in flames instantly. The doors are barred so everyone’s trapped inside, which would be an issue for most people but not for a goddamn Targaryen – after all, fire cannot kill a dragon. So Dany happily watches them all burn and then heads outside to face the crowd. It’s a fantastic shot, her standing in the fire, surrounded by thousands of kneeling people. I’ve heard it said many times that Emilia Clarke isn’t a good actress (and if all you’ve seen her in is TERMINATOR GENISYS, I can understand why) but man does she sell that scene with the look on her face. Regal and fierce and goddess-like – I’d be kneeling too if I saw that. In fact, I got up off my couch and knelt down in my living room, because praise the Lord, Emilia Clarke apparently still does nudity! Just another bonus to what might be my favorite scene of the season so far. The Dothraki are hers now, so I bet next on the agenda is destroying the Masters of the slaver cities. And then…

Then I’d say it’s about time to book a one-way trip to Westeros.

And that’s about it for this week. I think the only thing I haven’t mentioned is the other reunion between a brother and sister, namely Theon and Yara back on Pyke. She’s not as happy to see him as Sansa was to see Jon, but who could blame her? She risked her life and her crew to rescue him back in season 4, but instead he chose to stay, being too mentally broken to stand up against Ramsay. Still, he’s home now, and he wants to help his sister become the ruler of the Iron Islands. Guess we’ll be getting deeper into that next week, when the Kingsmoot is finally kicking off. Hopefully we’ll see some more of Euron Greyjoy as well, because right now people who didn’t read the books don’t even know the dude’s name yet.

Man, I love the time of year when Game of Thrones is on. It’s all I want to talk about to people. Who cares about politics, sports or even Hollywood blockbusters** when we have this to chat about? And it’s only going to get better. Check back here next week for my review of episode 5!

* Well, not in the same episode, but still. It’s a step in the right direction.

** With the exception of CIVIL WAR, maybe.

One thought on “Review: Game of Thrones season 6 episode 4 – Book of the Stranger

  1. Definitely the best episode of the season so far! Cersei & Jaime, John & Sansa, Daenerys…they’ve all found their bad-ass side again after recent adversity. So now…less sobbing, more killing!

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