This review, as always, contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 6, episode 4 – Book of the Stranger. This is your only warning.
I mentioned last week how things are definitely simmering down to a slow boil, and it’s that pace that we’ve settled into for probably a few episodes now. Whereas before we were like an eager buffet patron, sampling small bits of everything, now we’re someone at a restaurant, savoring each meal before moving onto the next thing.
Which is my slightly clumsy way of saying that we may see less characters this episode, but each section develops things nicely. Thankfully, the showrunners are keeping up the weekly dose of Jon Snow (at least for now) and we kick off the episode with the continuation from the mic drop Jon laid on us last week. It seems being murdered and resurrected has taken the wind out of Jon’s sails somewhat (and can we blame him) as he talks about heading south, and not to Winterfell to wreck face as we’ve all been wanting.
However, from the somber, defeated Jon Snow we get one of the most emotional parts of this season so far. In last week’s preview, we saw Sansa arriving at Castle Black, but because Jon said he was leaving, some feared they would miss each other by mere moments in a classic moment of Stark syndrome. Thankfully, though, we don’t get that. What we get is a truly heartwarming scene where Jon and Sansa are just as happy to see each other as we are to see them finally reunited. Their reunion and hug was truly a touching scene, and surprisingly positive for this show.
I also have to give props to Sophie Turner here, as the conversations with Jon and Sansa are some of that character’s best moments. I’ll level with you: even when it was just the books, I never liked Sansa. Whiny, mewling, weak and spoiled – the typical entitled princess, which in a cast of strong characters (male and female) made me dislike her heavily.
However, in the show she has truly grown and changed. We’ve have seen her change from that spoiled and entitled princes to the woman she is now, stronger and with actual backbone. It hasn’t been easy at for Sansa of late, but it seems that while the experiences have been harrowing and nightmarish, she has learned and grown from them. We have seen hints of this woman before, but here Sophie’s performance was excellent, as Sansa tries to talk some sense into the defeated Jon and try to get him to retake Winterfell.
This episode also finally treats us to a little Lord Baelish, after he has been suspiciously absent this whole time. This scene is just so him, I couldn’t help but smile as he twisted the Lord of the Vale around his finger and threatened Lord Royce. Like many, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Littlefinger, given that he is seemingly 90% slime, but I can’t help but like him and his manipulative ways.
Things are also ticking over in Meereen, but the political waters there have been growing a bit stagnant. While I always enjoy Tyrion’s character, the purely political thread running through Meereen at the moment is starting to wear thin a little. We do spend a little long here for my tastes, but at least it keeps things moving, and Tyrion’s deal is sure to cause problems later on. All in all, this scene was little more than a setup for later.
The thing we all care about on this side of the world is of course, Vaes Dothrak and the fate of Daenerys. There has been a lot of speculation about what will happen with the Dothraki, with many (including myself) saying that Dany’s exploits will end with her controlling some or all of the Dothraki there. We see Dany begin to lay down plans and make allies with the other Dosh Khaleen, which all in all, don’t seem like bad people – just resigned to their fate. Dany and the Dothraki are one of the more interesting threads here, and I must admit this is the strongest we have seen from Dany in some time.
As I mentioned before, the flailing around in the political waters of Meereen is a bit dry and uninteresting to my tastes, so seeing her back in more familiar ground, plotting and making allies, was certainly refreshing. Just as things get more intriguing with the arrival of Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis, we are taken for a brief holiday in King’s Landing. I think most people have been rooting for the High Sparrow to be taken down a notch or three for some time, and it seems that Cersei, Jaime, and the Queen of Thorns will stop bickering long enough to begin doing just that.
We of course finally see the state of Ser Loras, who is faring a lot less well than Margaery. The High Sparrow’s motivations for allowing this reunion are pretty clear – he wants Margaery to repent to save Ser Loras, who seems to be lacking the infamous Tyrell backbone and will of iron. Hopefully, though, we will see the High Sparrow thrown into the Black Cells next week.
This week also saw the birth of a new pairing (which I proudly now ship), as we take another trip to Castle Black. Here, the key characters of the Night’s Watch (plus Sansa, Brienne and Tormund), are “enjoying” a meal while Tormund gives Brienne “the eye”. This scene is pretty amusing because of how uncomfortable and unsure of herself Brienne looks, as well as the amused expression on Tormund’s face at her discomfort. I must admit, I really hope they hook up, I could see them being quite the couple.
The real gem of this scene, though, is that Ramsay sent Jon a taunting letter telling him he has Rickon and wants his “bride” back. This, plus more words from Sansa and support from Tormund, seems to spur Jon on to finally take Ramsay “Mad Dog” Bolton down in what fans have been gleefully calling the “Bastardbowl”.
I mentioned earlier how after many, many weak episodes in which nothing of note was achieved, Dany was finally back on an interesting track. The showrunners have had a knack this season of closing each episodes with “Ohhh damn!” moments, and this episode would probably be the winner so far if not for the Jon resurrection cliffhanger ending. Here, we finally see Dany take out the Khals. She seems to offer them a chance to serve her, but rather predictably, they decline and threaten to rape her multiple times.
In one of the most satisfying moments this season, she says “you’re not going to serve. You’re going to die” and tips over flaming torches, whose flames rapidly spread and consume all it’s path. Dany steps out from the hut, which is merrily blazing behind her, and we are treated to thousands of Dothraki bowing in servitude.
So, it seems our dreams are coming true: Jon will return to Winterfell and hopefully give Ramsay what’s coming to him, and Dany has the soldiers she needs to teach the rest of Slaver’s Bay that she means business.
All in all, this was a very strong episode. The weakest point was undoubtedly Tyrion’s section (despite excellent performances from Peter Dinklage), which as I mentioned has been getting rather uninteresting of late. However, the rest of it gave us a segment that was not only really interesting in itself, but led on to something much more interesting in the future. All the threads seem to be converging, as the series seems to be leading up to several large scale battles. I can’t wait!