TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 Episode 4 “Book of the Stranger”
****PLEASE NOTE SPOILERS BELOW****
Synopsis: Sansa arrives at Castle Black with Brienne and Pod and reunites with Jon. An emissary arrives from Ramsay Bolton. Littlefinger manipulates Lord Robin Arryn in the Vale. Across the sea, Tyrion attempts to negotiate a peace with the great masters of Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis. Daario and Ser Jorah attempt a daring rescue of Dany who has her own plans. Back in King’s Landing Queen Margaery is finally allowed to see her brother Ser Loras. Meanwhile Jamie and Cersei confront the small council with a bold proposal. Theon returns to the Iron Islands only to find a cold reception from his sister. Dany once again proves that fire cannot kill a dragon.
Review: I think you can sum up “Book of the Stranger” in two words: GIRL POWER. This was probably the most female-centric episode we’ve ever had on Game of Thrones and I loved…every…minute…of it. Dany, Sansa, Cersei, Yara, Margaery–they all had their moment to shine. The best part was that it wasn’t anything that whacked you in the face like a sledge-hammer. It was a natural progression of the narrative which is exactly what you want. If you listen carefully you can hear the cacophony of fanboys and Men’s Rights Activists crying out in nerd rage across the world. Drink in the sweet sweet tears of the mental midgets oh ye of open minds.
Looking at the teaser for last week’s episode, I thought once again we would be subject to another Stark sibling near miss. Thank the Old Gods and the New that didn’t happen. The reunion between Jon and Sansa was much more heartfelt than I expected. Despite their still relatively young ages both have had the child slapped right out of them. I’m overjoyed that the creators of Game of Thrones have taken Sansa from the weak damsel in distress to a true Stark of Winterfell. How could you not feel the steel in her voice and be inspired when she tells Jon “we’ll take it back.” Ultimately Sansa is the one who convinces Jon to take the fight south after the less than subtle letter from Ramsay. Although he’s a bastard* she believes that the North will rally to him.
After quite an absence, Lord Littlefinger finally rejoins the fray, meeting up Lord Robin of the The Vale, who, not surprisingly is still a milquetoast brat and easily manipulated. So much so that he almost gets Yohn Royce (Robin’s master at arms) thrown out the Moon Door. It’s patently obvious now that Baelish’s plan all along was to marry Sansa to Ramsay and rally the Vale to rescue her once Ramsay had wreaked havoc. Then the Vale could combine forces with the houses of the North, Ramsay would be killed, Sansa married to Robin, and the North secured with Baelish pulling the strings in the background, and becoming the de facto Warden of the North. Unfortunately he hasn’t counted on Sansa’s fire and determination. Petyr Baelish is unquestionably a survivor. However, how long will his luck hold out?
As Tyrion said recently, “I drink and I know things.” One of those is clearly diplomacy. Tyrion inviting the masters from the other three major cities in Essos was a coup. Although I admire Dany (who according to Daario’s dig at Ser Jorah is apparently a demon in the sack) she’s kind of an all or nothing person and isn’t much on diplomacy. The Imp on the other hand is. Yes he’s vehemently against slavery but he’s smart enough to recognize that this practice can’t end overnight. Consequently, he proposes a seven-year time-table to eliminate slavery and yet maintain the level of income the masters are used to. Convincing them that they can still make profits without slavery was a key point. Not sure how much Dany is going to approve of that when she returns. Grey Worm and Missandei certainly don’t.
The High Sparrow is also a “my way or the highway” type of guy. Yet he candidly talks to Queen Margaery and allows her to speak to her brother Ser Loras. I was definitely intrigued by the High Sparrow’s story of how as a former cobbler he became a Septon. It’s not unlike many real world people who have had an epiphany after wallowing in sin for years. Having said that, he’s clearly attempting to manipulate Margaery much like he’s manipulating King Tommen. His story could be complete bullshit. For just a moment I thought Margaery was falling for it, until she sees her brother and implores him to stay strong. However, Ser Loras is broken and it’s only a matter of time before he reveals his homosexuality. I’m thinking he might even reveal that Littlefinger, Olenna, and the Tyrells conspired to kill Joffery.
As it turns out Tommen may not be as persuaded by the High Sparrow as I thought. Tommen confesses to his mother that Margery will soon be doing a walk of shame which Cersei brings to the small council. Cersei’s manipulative powers are in full effect as she plays on the fears of both her Uncle Kevan (the current Hand of the King) and Olenna Tyrell. Kevan desperately wants his son back and Olenna wishes to prevent Margery’s walk of atonement. There’s only one outcome here: violence. The plan to bring in the Tyrell forces to confront the Faith Militant will unquestionably lead to blood in the streets. A lot of it.
There may soon be a lot of blood in the Iron Islands as well. A Kingsmoot is pending just as Theon Greyjoy returns to Pyke. His reunion with Yara possessed less warmth than a cold Kraken kiss. She’s disgusted with him. Even though I pity Theon I’m getting a little tired of him. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he dies this season. He’s served his purpose by helping Sansa escape. What more can he add to the story? And how much is Theon’s support for Yara going to count? It’s like Kevin Smith endorsing Supergirl.
Ramsay kills Osha. And that’s pretty much it for that scene.
I mentioned early that Sansa has evolved from the “Damsel In Distress” cliché to a woman with steel. Dany meanwhile never really has been a DID and she shows it definitively in the final scenes of “Book of the Stranger.” Not only does she get the Dosh Khaleen on her side but when Daario and Ser Jorah try to rescue her (a real “Damsel In Distress” moment) she stops them in favor of a different plan. And oh what a plan. Dany confronts the Khals, the MEN who are deciding her fate, and shows them that no man controls her destiny, by burning them alive. (“Don’t you want to know what I think?” PERFECT.) She gave them an opportunity to serve her and they declined. They must have forgotten that fire cannot kill a dragon. It’s the pinnacle of misogyny on the Khals part. This was a strong empowering feminist moment the likes of which we need more of on television. Watching Dany stride out of that burning building with the commanding expression not just of a leader but a warrior and a conqueror on her face, was priceless. It was a throwback to the finale of season one. And now Dany has 100,000 Dothraki at her back. I’d call that a good day. Now if she can just get some ships…
Next week’s episode “The Door” looks very promising especially as it pertains to Bran’s storyline. Season six is getting it’s legs under it and to quote Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, “I’m just gettin’ warmed up.”
My rating: 10/10 Severed Ned Heads
*Something worth mentioning. The common theory regarding Jon Snow’s parentage is R+L=J. Which is Rhaegar Targaryen + Lyanna Stark= Jon Snow. The Targaryens were known to be polygamous. If Rhaegar married Lyanna, then that means Jon is actually Jon Targaryen, a true-born son AND…wait for it…the presumptive heir apparent to the Iron Throne. I’ll give you a moment to collect the pieces of your head…which just exploded.
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