Game of Thrones is filled with death, deception, depravity, the occasional act of decency, and dialogue acrobatics. Each week, we break them down. Let’s dive into Season 6 episode 4, “Book of the Stranger.”
My watch has ended
This episode is about brothers and sisters reuniting: Sansa and Jon, Margaery and Loras, Theon and Yara. While each situation varies, they all share one commonality: the sisters are keen to soldier on while the brothers are ready to give up. Sansa and Jon’s reunion is by far the most compelling and emotionally resonant. Their silent reactions say more than a drawn-out dialogue could: Their mutual sense of shock at seeing each other — can something good really be happening? — their long, hesitant look, and finally, their hug. The emotion in their hug is earned because of the hesitation before it.
Of course, we get a satisfying dialogue scene too, in the form of an apology from Sansa (“I spent a lot of time thinking about what an ass I was to you”) and a perfect, self-aware response from Jon (“I can’t have been great always sulking in the corner while the rest of you played”). In their new dynamic, Jon is all resigned hesitation (“I’m tired of fighting”), Sansa is all about action (“If we don’t take back the North, we’ll never be safe”).
As viewers, we’re thrilled, but we’re also waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, this is GoT — tender-character moments usually means someone is about to die. Luckily, we don’t have to wait long to find out: Rickon is in danger, and that’s the push Jon needs to support Sansa’s plan to take back the North. Otherwise, she was ready to do it on her own, Jon be damned.
The North Remembers
Though Osha the wilding gets a predictable death in a tiresome, “look how evil Ramsay is!” scene, she at least gets in some nice zingers. When Ramsay asks if his flayed banners worry her, she says, “Do you eat them after?” and when he says no, she merely says, “I’ve seen worse.” So though her death is telegraphed from the moment she steps in the room with him, it’s a stronger scene than the usual “let’s watch Ramsay be sadistic for the 100th time” song and dance.
The Lannisters Send their Regards
There isn’t much plot movement in King’s Landing this week — Jonathan Pryce is a great actor, but the High Sparrow is beginning to wear out his welcome with his lofty anecdotes. Luckily, like Ramsay, the show seems aware of that, and his time looks to be dwindling. Margaery is determined to beat him even if Loras wants to give up, and Cersei and Jaime team up with their sassy uncle Kevan Lannister and the perpetual sass-master Lady Oleanna to wreak some havoc against the Sparrows. As Kevan points out, this could very well lead to civil war, which means King’s Landing and Jaime’s plot won’t stay quiet for long.
What is dead may never die
Theon and Yara’s reunion is, understandably, more strained than Sansa and Jon’s, with Yara feeling threatened in her leadership aspirations. “You happened to show up on Pyke right before the Kingsmoot,” she sneers. Having a character voice an overly convenient plot point is a writing trick that series use to excuse themselves from overly convenient plot points, and this is no exception. But the moment is saved by Theon’s genuine anguish and his pledge to help his sister rule.
Dragons with Daenerys
Daenery’s plot line finally gets movement too this week, with her pulling a Daenerys The Unburnt 2.0 and emerging naked from fire just as she did in the Season 1 finale — though this time, she stands alone without dragons. And in a throwback to Season 3’s final episode, everyone bows to her and adores her. Is the moment earned? Time will tell. Meanwhile, Daario and Jorah’s trip turns out to be utterly pointless, as Daenerys accomplishes the burning without them. But the greyscale issue is no longer dragging on: Daario finally notices Jorah’s affliction and pledges to kill him before he becomes a Stone Man.
Uneasy is the head that wears the crown
Tyrion singlehandedly accomplishes in one scene what Daenerys failed to in five seasons (“Our Queen recognizes that she erred by abolishing slavery without proposing another system to replace it”). Instead of ruling with Deanerys’s black-and-white outlook, Tyrion proves himself a just ruler by proposing a compromise of gradually phasing out slavery.
Spare coins from the Iron Bank
- Sansa: “We never should have left Winterfell.”
- When that master says to Tyrion, “We want you to leave Slaver’s bay, take your dragons and your mercenaries and go,” every audience member eagerly agreed.
- Tommen to Cersei: “You don’t like Margaery, do you?” Oh, Tommen.
- Cersei says of the High Sparrow, “In a few days, he’ll have a trial for me.” Let the Cleganebowl hype continue.
- There isn’t a lot to say about Littlefinger’s return yet, but he seems resolved for a collision course with Sansa and Jon. This should be interesting.
- Although character meetings are sweet, it’s safe to say Brienne, Davos, and Melisandre are not about to become fast friends.
- Ramsay’s note to Jon is clearly meant to be threatening, but it’s so over-the-top in its Bond villain mustache twirling, it verges on comical.
- Jon to Sansa: “Where will we go?” If your heart wasn’t warmed by that, you might be a Stone man.