Review of Game of Thrones S6E4: Book of the Stranger
Remember when I said that S6E2: Home was probably Game of Thrones’ best episode to date?
Yeeeah, I might be revising that opinion now.
After what felt like a down episode last week, S6E4: Book of the Stranger was just on fire – literally. (We’ll get to that.) Once again, the scenes were largely strong, with little to no fluff or filler.
We got what may have been the single most heartwarming scene on the show to date – Jon and Sansa’s reunion. I don’t think they could have chosen better when picking which two Starks to reunite first; giving us Jon and Sansa, who were never really close to begin with, was a lovely way to demonstrate how much pain both of them have experienced and how much they have both grown. Sansa insists Jon forgive her for her failings, but in light of everything since they last saw each other, those failings are so small that they can laugh about it too. Oddly enough, they are now closer than they ever have been.
They also needed each other, more than Bran or Arya (though not necessarily Rickon) needs their family. Jon needs someone to jolt him out of his semi-depression as he struggles with his feelings of betrayal and the pain of returning to confront his murderers. Sansa needs someone to help her take back Winterfell and get rid of Ramsay, and that cause is just enough to force an unwilling Jon out of his mood.
These scenes were so good it made me leery of the rest of the season, because good things NEVER happen to the Starks on this show, not without some kind of devastating payback later.
The other scenes happening in the North were equally fantastic. I am hardcore on board with the Tormund/Brienne shippers, because Tormund would have so much respect for Brienne that I’m not sure she would find elsewhere. Davos confronting Melisandre about serving Jon was a nice reminder of how mistaken and infallible Melisandre can be, but it confirms that she plans to serve Jon as she once served Stannis.
But the kicker, the WONDROUS kicker, was Brienne confronting Davos and Melisandre, reminding them that she witnessed Renly’s murder and then throwing it in their faces that she personally killed Stannis. (For a second I wondered if she was going to tell Davos that Melisandre burned Shireen, which definitely would have wedged a surprisingly friendly Melisandre and Davos apart, but alas – it was not to be.) The look of shock on Davos’ face…priceless.
I have never really cared for the North plotlines in the books, but damned if the show isn’t making a good run at turning them into my favorites.
Next up – Baelish is back! There were many cheers in my household when Baelish stepped out of that carriage, and even more cheers as he put the manipulation whammy on Lord Royce. Baelish looked like he was going to eat Royce alive when he accused Royce of treachery in front of Robyn, who is clearly wrapped around “Uncle Petyr’s” finger. It showcased the power that Baelish wields in the Vale very well, and it set up next week’s mission into the North to “rescue” Sansa.
In YET ANOTHER oddly touching scene, Yara and Theon’s reunion was also well-handled. I actually prefer this version over the books, because here we have Theon straight-up recognizing that he is not the right person to rule the Iron Islands and putting his support behind his sister. It caught her off-guard and softened her, reinforcing that she does care about him still. It’s also another step to Theon picking up the pieces of his life and getting rid of Reek.
After a few weeks of languishing, the King’s Landing storyline is finally poised to deliver some action. This time Cersei and Jaime came armed with a common cause, and it’s a good one – getting Margaery away from the Faith. And we actually got to see Margaery and her brother this week! Margaery has been one of my favorites for some time, and it did me proud to see that she remained unbroken, at least until her brother begged her to give in. It sounds like the Tyrell armies will be in town next week or the week after, and I highly doubt that Olenna will back down until her grandchildren are free. (Additional pro to this week in King’s Landing – no mention of the Dornish Fiasco!)
Meereen was better than usual this week, not that that’s saying terribly much. Tyrion is actually trying to make some progress on fixing Dany’s mess, hampered and questioned along the way by Missandei and Grey Worm. The writers continue to put a lot of the show’s best quotable lines in Tyrion’s mouth, and this week was no exception, with his line about both slavery and war being evil and being unable to stop them both. If Dany would just stay away a bit longer, Tyrion might be able to get Meereen on stable ground.
Speaking of Dany, holy hell. Dany’s refusal to leave wasn’t necessarily puzzling in and of itself, though I was curious how she thought she could take over the Dothraki without Drogon, but once I saw her put her hand on that brazier in the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen…
This is what Dany is best at – fire and blood, her house’s words. She’s not good at governing, but she’s damn good at setting things on fire and using awe and fear to build a following that helps her seize power. And regardless of whether Book!Dany is immune to fire, the show is clearly operating under the assumption that she is. The image of her yet again walking out of the conflagration unharmed is a powerful one, and now she’s acquired yet another large army. It’s about to be bad news bears for the cities of Slaver’s Bay.
On the whole, this season has re-energized my enthusiasm for the characters and the story. I’m chomping at the bit again to get each week’s episode in a way that I just couldn’t muster for the last two seasons, and I have a feeling this will be my favorite season to date once it’s complete.