Game of Thrones S6E4 “Book of the Stranger”
More often than not, “table setting” episodes don’t have amazing spectacle type moments. The key words here being “more often than not” because “Book of the Stranger” is as table setting as an episode can be, but the table setting is as awesome as can be. If characters go on a season long journey from point A to point Z, “Book of the Stranger” probably only moved most people a couple of letters down the list, but the episode is filled with the kind of moments that make people say the journey is better than the end destination. The Stark reunion between Jon and Sansa at Castle Black, and Dany seizing control of the entire Dothraki people in one fell swoop highlight an episode filled with exciting transitions that also included Tyrion trying his hand at diplomacy to much negative reception, Theon returning home, more manipulation by the High Sparrow, and Littlefinger getting back into the swing of things. Let’s take a closer look at it all.
Once again, we kick off the episode up at Castle Black. Jon’s final scene last episode was a dramatic fake-out as he didn’t leave Castle Black, he actually went back to his room to pack up his things. Edd tries to talk him out of leaving but Jon is done with the night’s watch, he’s been here for years and it’s basically just been one long fight that got him killed for doing what he thought was right. Before they can keep arguing, they are interrupted by horns indicating visitors. Jon steps out into the courtyard and can hardly believe his eyes when he sees his sister Sansa. The two share a heartwarming embrace as we get our first Stark reunion since they all went their separate ways back in season one. Jon and Sansa didn’t really have a strong relationship when they were growing up, but that doesn’t matter now. After all Jon and Sansa have been through, they both cherish that they have each other.
After sharing their respective stories, Jon and Sansa ponder what’s next. Sansa asks Jon where he plans to go but Jon tells her wherever he’s going, she’s coming with him because they have to stick together now. Sansa agrees and tells Jon they should go back to Winterfell. Jon is hesitant to do so because he knows that would entail more fighting and that’s the last thing Jon wants to do now. Sansa pleads with Jon to take Winterfell back with her but insists that if he doesn’t help, she’ll do it by herself.
Luckily for Sansa, she won’t have to take back Winterfell herself and rather ironically, she has Ramsay to thank for it. At dinner, Jon is given a letter sent by Ramsay that is just begging him to challenge Ramsay. Ramsay cautions Jon that if he doesn’t return Sansa to him, he’ll march to Castle Black, kill all the wildlings, have his sister gang-raped, and he will then be killed, only after watching all of this. The letter also makes mention of Ramsay having Rickon, who will also be killed if Jon doesn’t comply. Jon can’t just sit back and ignore the problem any longer. When Sansa asks if he’ll join her now, he says that he will. It’s going to be a challenge though. Sansa says that Ramsay has roughly five thousand soldiers while right now, all they have for an army are the male free folk, who Tormund puts a count on at two thousand. Those numbers certainly aren’t encouraging for Jon and Sansa so they’re going to have to get more men from somewhere.
Luckily for Sansa and Jon, there seems to be an army that’s headed right their way to help them! The long awaited return of Littlefinger takes place in “Book of the Stranger” and it’s only one scene, but it gets down to business. Littlefinger comes to visit Robin, who’s being warded by Lord Yohn Royce. After Robin greets his stepfather, Royce immediately questions Littlefinger as to why Sansa is married to Ramsay Bolton when he said he was taking Sansa to The Fingers. Littlefinger shows off his expert manipulation skills by saying that they were ambushed by the Boltons and that Royce was at fault. With the tables being turned, Royce begs Robin to give him another chance and Littlefinger easily manipulates the young lord of the Vale into doing so. Littlefinger then tells Robin that Sansa escaped Ramsay and went to Castle Black to find her brother Jon, but tells him that she probably won’t be safe with Ramsay still out there. Once again, Littlefinger gets what he wants as Robin comes the conclusion that they should help Sansa. Littlefinger tells Royce to prepare the knights of the vale for war.
In King’s Landing, the High Sparrow continues to show that he can play the political game just as well as anyone. He meets with Margaery and asks her what she would do if she were let go today. Margaery answers that she would go to her family. The High Sparrow appreciates the love she has for her family, but warns her that family will lead her to sin again. He then recalls his younger days, where if you believe him, the High Sparrow was a drunkard whoremonger and then devoted his life to religion when he one day saw how empty and meaningless his ways were. He then allows Margaery to see her brother. While Margaery has stayed pretty strong in prison, the same cannot be said for Loras. Margaery sees that her brother is completely broken and defeated. Margaery pleads for Loras to stay strong as he’s the future of their house and the faith will win if he can’t stay strong. A desperate Loras says he doesn’t care if the faith wins, pleading his sister to do anything to make it stop. Margaery is a very strong willed person while her brother is not. The High Sparrow knew this and this is why he allowed Margaery to see Loras. Margaery would never break on her own. She would need something to bring her down and an utterly defeated family member may just do the trick. Good job High Sparrow, you clearly know what you’re doing.
Elsewhere in the capital, Cersei plans the demise of the High Sparrow. Through a conversation with Tommen, Cersei learns that Margaery will soon have to make a walk of atonement. She brings this matter to the small council and a horrified Olena agrees when Cersei and Jaime suggest that she bring the Tyrell army the day of the atonement and destroy the faith militant once and for all. Kevan is reluctant to go with the plan because he has orders not to start a military action but Cersei points out that it isn’t his army so all he could actually do is order the Tyrells to stand down, and he doesn’t have orders to stop another army from attacking the faith. She also appeals to Kevan’s human side, telling him that this is his best shot at getting his son Lancel back, who we know has become quite the fanatic. Kevan agrees to stand down so Cersei it appears actually has a good plan this time. Pretending to care for Margaery so the Tyrells will launch an attack to end the faith militant, all so she can get out of her own impending trial, nice work Cersei.
Over on the Iron Islands, Theon returns home for the second time this series and receives a similarly cold reception. Yara hasn’t gotten over the fact that she risked everything to save him a few years ago and he refused to come with her. No amount of apologies are making this any better and things get worse when Yara assumes that Theon came back so he could claim the salt throne and rule the iron islands. Theon says he didn’t hear about their father’s death until they arrived and he doesn’t want the throne anyway. Theon then reveals he wants Yara to rule the Iron Islands and asks her to let him help in any way he can. This broken sibling relationship is going to take time to mend itself but I like what Theon’s doing here, if he can help Yara get on the Salt Throne, that’s a big step towards fixing things.
In Meereen, Tyrion pitches a proposal that gets met with very poor reception. The slave masters from Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis sail into Meereen and are brought to the great pyramid to discuss peace talks. Things initially get intense when Missandei and the masters argue over the past and Tyrion decides to defuse the situation by cutting to the chase. Tyrion tells the masters that slavery will never return to Meereen, but their cities will have a seven year grace period, to allow them to find their way in a world without slaves. In return, they must cut off all support of the Sons of the Harpy. Tyrion leaves the masters so they can think the offer over and as soon as he does, he is bombarded with poor reception. As soon as he steps into the throne room, former slaves are waiting there, voicing their displeasure that Tyrion would try something like this. Missandei and Grey Worm reluctantly support Tyrion’s plan in front of the former slaves, telling them this is the best way to go. Once in private though, Missandei and Grey Worm make no attempt to hide their disapproval of the plan to Tyrion. Missandei insists that he may know the way of slavery, but he doesn’t understand, and Grey Worm tells him that even though he thinks he’s going to use the slave masters to his advantage, it’s actually going to turn out to be the opposite. Nobody’s really liking this plan but Tyrion’s hand was forced here. Violence hasn’t worked in the past and even if you wanted to go down that road, you’d have to pull out Meereen’s army and march them towards the other slave cities, leaving the city very exposed. It was time for a new approach to an old problem. Let’s hope the results are better than the reception though.
To wrap up the review, we head to the Dothraki city Vaes Dothrak. Jorah and Daario scout the city from a nearby hill and Jorah tells them they should pretend to be merchants from the nearby market. He then tosses his weapons because they’re strictly forbidden in the city. Daario does the same, but is a bit hesitant to leave a knife of his. At night, the two infiltrate the city but run into trouble when two Dothraki blood riders catch them and don’t believe that they’re merchants. Daario gets one of them to chase him, making it a one on one battle for each of them. Daario easily takes care of his guy while an aging and greyscale infected Jorah struggles to fight his man. Things are looking pretty bad for Jorah up until Daario reveals he actually kept his knife and sends it through the blood rider’s back. Jorah insists that they cannot leave it looking like a stabbing because the Dothraki will know there are outsides in the city so Daario smashes the corpse in with a rock multiple times before they continue their mission.
Daario and Jorah eventually make it just outside the Dosh Khaleen where they find Dany and her friend Ornela. It turns out Jorah and Daario’s grand plan was to just try and escape the city but with the whole Dothraki race here, Dany says that they’ll never get out. Luckily for them, Dany has quite the plan ready. The time comes for khals to meet and discuss Dany’s fate and they do so in the Dosh Khaleen. Letting her stay or selling her for horses are the leading candidates but Dany voices her displeasure for both of them, saying she would rather rule. This gets a laugh out of the khals and Khal Moro then decides that instead of letting her stay, everyone will take turns raping her instead, even the horses if she’s still alive by the end of it. Dany very quickly and dramatically turns the tables by flipping over the braziers inside the hut and the place very quickly turns into an inferno given the floor is mostly made of straw. The khals sprint for the doors but it’s hopeless as Dany had Jorah and Daario kill the guards and bar the door. All of the Dothraki come to the flaming hut to see what’s happening and they’re all amazed at what they see take place. Calling back to the season one finale where she stepped out of the pyre unharmed, Dany emerges from the flaming hut naked and completely unharmed. In pure awe, all of the Dothraki (and Jorah and Daario) bow down and take Dany as their khaleesi. When she pulled the fire stunt in season one, there were only a few people left from Drogo’s khalasar to witness it, but this one is on a much grander scale. Dany now has the entire Dothraki race supporting her. Daenerys is the Unburnt, and she put it to masterful use here.
Didn’t really fit in with the rest of Castle Black’s recap so I’ll put it here. Davos once again asks Melisandre what happened to Stannis and Shireen and Mel doesn’t seem like she wants to answer (I wonder why). Brienne interrupts them and tells them she personally executed Stannis after the battle and after he admitted he used blood magic to kill Renly. Mel gets out of mentioning Shireen’s fate for now, but you just know Davos is going to find out sooner or later.
Over at Winterfell, one questions why they brought Osha back just to have Ramsay kill her like that. It didn’t do anything for either character. Osha was always loyal to the Starks, and Ramsay is a bad dude. I figured Osha would die, but I was expecting something grander considering she was brought back after a two season absence.
Jorah accidentally revealed to Daario that he has greyscale. It’s going to serve as a nice contrast because I’m pretty sure he’s going to intentionally tell Dany about the greyscale as a last ditch thing to show her how much he cares about her. Time is running out for him though, if she exiles him again, who knows if he’ll live long enough to try and change her mind again.
Tormund has a crush on Brienne, and I never knew how much I wanted these two to be a couple. That look Tormund gave her over dinner was all kinds of awesome.
I talked a lot about how touching the reunion between Sansa and Jon was but I’d just like to mention, this was the very first episode that Sansa and Jon actually share scenes together, and it was still heartwarming. I’m going to get so emotional if (please be when) Jon and Arya reunite. Those two had an actual deep sibling relationship so I’d love to see them reunite.
Remember when Mance Rayder had a wildling army 100,000 strong? Now there’s only two thousand free folk left that can fight. If this battle doesn’t turn out well, the free folk might actually go extinct. How times can change.
“Book of the Stranger” proves transition episodes can be just as good as climactic episodes as Dany becomes the Khaleesi of the entire Dothraki in one fell swoop, and Jon and Sansa vow to take Winterfell back from Ramsay.