Season Six, Episode Four — “Book of the Stranger”
By Jarrod Jones. An odd thing occurred on Game of Thrones this past Sunday night. It wasn’t a sighting of Nymeria (where you at, girl?) or a sequence of Jaime Lannister trimming his nails. (How does he do that, by the way?) It was a happy interlude for House Stark. The planet, it seems, has gone mad.
Was Podrick keeping time for Lady Brienne as she delivered Sansa to The Wall? Because Brienne’s arrival to the Knight’s Watch felt like greased lightning. And while the prevailing thought concerning Jon and Sansa’s reunion in the deep North was “that was fast,” in context to the series as a whole their squee-inducing hug was a long time coming. Jon and Sansa are both a little older, and infinitely wiser to when they last threw shade at each other in Winterfell during the autumnal trappings of Five Seasons Ago. Ramsay Bolton would do well to hide under the bed.
The pairing was but one of several productive moments in “Book of the Stranger”, an all-business episode that furthered this season’s implied mission statement that it would create severe paradigm shifts by June 26. And it appears that those shifts come with an amazing subtextual heft: in its fourth episode, Season Six has not only established that the patriarchy is patently responsible for the myriad conflicts embroiling within Westeros and Essos, the concept as a whole has become the latest to be set upon the chopping block. Look no further for proof of this than Dany’s almost-gleeful castration of the Dothraki people this week — as the primary obstacle in her quest to take King’s Landing by force, Dany simply removed the Khals from the playing board. Look at the horrified faces of the Khals as death took hold: no way could a woman have done this to them. And that’s why they are now no more than soot at the bottom of her feet.
WHAT WORKED: There’s nothing more satisfying than watching the disparate strings pull tighter around Game of Thrones. For too long (approximately: the entirety of Season Five) we’ve watched our beloved (and not-so beloved) characters luxuriate in overlong subplots, almost to the detriment of the series’ own momentum. (And, presumably, to stall die-hard fans while GRR wraps up his next book.) This season has gone out of its way to wrap up lingering plot threads in record time in order to get down to the more pressing matters — the Battle for Winterfell, the Battle of the Four Armies (Dany’s Horde, The Tyrell Army, The Sparrows, The Lannister Army), and ultimately, the Battle for Westeros. (Those White Walkers look awful busy right now — check out the Preview video below.) Game of Thrones hasn’t been this much fun in years.
WHAT DIDN’T: I’m still waiting to see what fruit the Iron Born saga will bear — right now, the Greyjoys are getting crammed into the middle of every episode, lousy ground for any subplot to find traction. (Just ask the Brotherhood Without Banners — or the Sand Snakes.)
Sansa: “I was awful, just admit it. ” Jon: “You were occasionally awful.”
“Our lord has spoken. Gather the knights of the Veil. Time to join the fray.” – Littlefinger.
Jorah: “You didn’t have much discipline as a child, did you?” Daario: “None.”
BEST MOMENT: Jon and Sansa hug it out. How long has it been since the Starks knew happiness — even the fleeting kind? For Jon, perhaps it was the caves with Ygritte. For Sansa? Um… Winterfell? Why did we ever leave, she asks her (purported) half-brother. Hindsight provides all sorts of clarity, but what’s in the past has definitely forged these two into a force to be reckoned with. Jon wants to catch some rays, Sansa wants vengeance — both will get what they want, sooner or later. But first, winter. Their long-in-the-waiting embrace signifies yet another power shift for Game of Thrones. The Starks have dug their heels in. Ramsay Bolton hasn’t a chance.
EPISODE’S MVP: Dany. Even though we took the long road with Dany (six seasons to claim one gigantic Dothraki horde?), a big payoff came for the character this last Sunday, fittingly enough in the form of fire. Now where in the hell is Drogon already?
– Tormund Giantsbane just found himself a new conquest in the form of Lady Brienne. Yeah, it’s kinda cute how he makes eyes at her during this week’s episode, but real talk? I hope she knocks him on his ass the second after he tries some shit.
– Davos and Melisandre were seconds away from having dialogue about Princess Shireen. If justice continues to prevail in this season, I hope Shireen Baratheon gets avenged sooner rather than later.
– If there was one human being I’ve never wanted to see age, it was little Lord Robin of the Eyrie. *shudder*
– Farewell, Osha. You deserved better than Ramsay.
– Anyone else think that Drogon should have flown past our screens during that closing shot of the Vaes Dothrak?
– Not present for this week’s skirmish: Elaria, Bronn, Arya, Jaqen, The Waif, Sam, Ginny, Euron. (Balon Greyjoy didn’t just fall off that bridge, y’know.)
8 out of 10
Next: “The Door”, soon.
Before: “Oathbreaker”, here.