GoT: Book of the Stranger Review

Be wary of spoilers

Episode 4 of season 6 gives us perhaps the best overall episode of the season yet. Families are reunited, deals are made, fires are started and yes, Ramsay does his customary murder.

“We should never have left Winterfell”

Truer words might not be spoken in the rest of the series. The episode opens with perhaps the most heartwarming scene we’ve ever had in Game of Thrones. Brother and Sister are reunited as Brienne and Pod escort Sansa to Castle Black to see Jon. I might be mistaken but I think this is the first scene Jon and Sansa have shared, at least one on one. Keeping this in mind it’s a testament to Kit Harington and Sophie Turner, and of course the writers and director, that we totally buy their relief and happiness in seeing each other alive. It’s eluded to that Jon and Sansa were never particularly close, Sansa even says she didn’t treat him very well but lets not forget the Stark children haven’t seen each other in years, so this is kind of a big deal. This relationship is so much more important now that it ever has been. It was a really nice scene, the two of them sat in front of the fire, reminiscing. It was a moment for us all to reminisce about Winterfell in early season one, when we thought nothing bad would ever happen to the heroic Stark family. It’s a bittersweet moment. Everything’s still going to shit but at least they have each other now. At least there’s a moment of happiness.

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Sansa tries to convince Jon to march south and take back Winterfell but Jon is tired. He’s tired of fighting. He fought and he lost. And he died. He fought for years for what he knew was right and he got betrayed and murdered for it. Why fight on after that?

We also get what is probably the most socially awkward scene ever to occur in Westeros. Brienne, Davos and Melissandre convene in the Castle Black courtyard. Davos asks Melissandre about Shireen, Stannis’ daughter, who Melissandre burnt as a sacrifice last season. Awkward. To spare her blushes however, Brienne turns up to confront the pair. Davos is pissed ’cause she killed Stannis and Brienne is pissed because Melissandre killed Renly. Told ya, really awkward.

“The defender of The Vale!”

Little (not any more) Lord Robin of the Vale makes his first appearance of the season as does Littlefinger. He’s back from King’s Landing after previously marrying off Sansa to Ramsay in Wintefell. He manages to manipulate the simple Robin in to ordering an attack on the North in an attempt to rescue Sansa from the Boltons. The Knights of the Vale are about the join the frey. Will they team up with Jon and Sansa? Regarding Petyr, I honestly don’t know what this guy’s angle is. Maybe he just likes fucking with people. He’s good at it, I’ll give him that.

“A dwarf and a eunuch”

Tyrion finally gets some good material. He’s been wasted up until now this season. He’s such a clever character and we get a reminder of that this episode. With Daenerys AWOL, Tyrion’s taken it upon himself to take responsibility for the ruling of Mereen. He opts to make a deal with the slavers (who we think are funding the Sons of the Harpy) rather than seek revenge. The conditions are that slavery will not be outlawed for a further seven years, giving the businessmen time to adapt without losing money. In return, they cut off support for the Sons of the Harpy. This is a scene emphasising why Tyrion is such a great character. He’s not an idealist like Daenerys or Jon Snow or Robb Stark. He’s a realist. He opts for peace over war and accepts the cost of that. He’s choosing the lesser of two evils. It’s a tactical decision, a rational, considered and calculated decision. Finally, someone thinking with their brain instead of their emotions. He knows the cost of peace and has the nouse to take that option for the benefit of everyone in the long run.

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The people of Mereen, Grey Worm and Missandei at the forefront, are not happy about this deal and want the slavers brought to justice. I’d imagine Daenerys would agree with them, too. It’s a scene that emphasises the difference between a politician and a freedom fighter.  Daenerys is the latter and she hasn’t learnt how to be diplomatic or how to compromise yet. And that’s why a lot of stuff has gone wrong for her. She’s so hell-bent on doing things her way, a lot of the time it blows up in her face. She’s a great hero sure, but is she a great leader? I’m not sure. Surely she’ll have to change if she wants to successfully sit on The Iron Throne. Or not, she does have dragons after all. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what she thinks of Tyrion’s dealings when she gets home. But more on that later.

“I’m very attached to this knife”

Speaking of Daenerys, Jorah and Daario work out that she’s in Vaes Dothrak, where the widows of dead Khals are supposed to be. We’re given a timely reminder of Jorah’s greyscale as Darrio notices it. I wonder how long he’s got? The pair sneak into Vaes Dothrak in the darkness only to find that Daenerys has her own plan of escape. We also get a nice reminder of how truly unpleasant the Dothraki are.

“The high sparrow has no respect for kings or queens”

Margaery’s stil in jail but on the bright side she’s lucky enough to be this week’s victim of the High Sparrow’s preachings. Man that guy is dull. Anyway, he allows her to see Loras, who’s in a bad way. He’s totally given up. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. It’s just not worth it. It’s not worth he suffering. Much like Jon, his sister is the one telling him to stand up and fight. It’s a nice moment for two characters we’ve not seen enough of in recent times. The Tyrells are alright.

Tommen and Cersei share a similar moment and Tommen warns his mother not to antagonise the High Sparrow. Cersei has other plans, however.

In the small council chamber, Olenna Tyrell, Pycelle and Kevan Lannister are joined by Jaime, Cersei and The Mountain. They’re not happy to see each other to say the least. But Cersei has finally done something that’s not annoyed me. She’s actually come up with a plan that’s actually well thought out and rational. She’s a bit fed up with the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. He’s somehow amassed a great amount of power and the fate of the Seven Kingdoms are in his hands according to Cersei. She’s not happy that someone with nothing, no money or familial power has managed this and thinks it’s about time to knock him off his perch.It’s an interesting look at class war. She wants the poor to remain just that, whereas the High Sparrow want to bring down the established authority.

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The High Sparrow has cleverly managed to turn to two most powerful houses against each other and in doing so has seized power. Realising this, Cersei makes a request of the Tyrells to attack and bring in the High Sparrow. It’s a good moment for her, she’s constantly making bad decision after bad decision and usually her motives are fuelled by petty revenge. It’s good to see her do something which is actually productive.

While this scene was a massive improvement of the recent ongoings in King’s Landing. I can’t help that feel that all the goings on at King’s Landing are somewhat redundant, given the threat from the North. Soon it won’t matter who sits on the Iron Throne. Winter is coming.

“I’m sorry”

Theon returns home to the Iron Islands and learns of the death of his father. He doesn’t seem too upset. That guy was a dick. His sister, Yara gives him a bit of a grilling until Theon offers to help her campaign to sit on the Salt Throne. It’ll be interesting to see what impact he has on the Iron-born. Will he convince them to team up with the Starks to fight the South and then the threat from the beyond the Wall? It’ll be interesting to see where the Greyjoys fit in when it all goes down.

“I’ve seen worse”

They don’t come much worse than Ramsay Bolton I’m afraid, Osha. And he proves it once again here by brutally murdering her before she can kill him. Is this proof that Rickon and Osha were there to assassinate Ramsay at the Umber’s doing? Probably not. I’d imagine anyone within ten metres of Ramsay would try and kill him given the chance. It was a sad ending for a character who was a massive part of Bran and Rickon staying alive for so long.

“To the traitor and bastard Jon snow”

Back to the happy family reunion at Castle Black then and Tormund is hitting on Brienne over the dining table, imagine how scary those kids would be…Jon receives a letter from Ramsay telling him to send Sansa back or Rickon gets it. He’s basically taunting Jon. He’s really teeing himself up for a really brutal revenge murder by the Starks. Turns out this is just the motivation Jon needs to take up arms and try to take back Winterfell for the Starks. To be fair, it’s as good a reason as any. He won’t fight for mankind but he’ll fight for his family. He’s a good ‘un. That’s what we love about Jon, he’ll do what’s right regardless of personal risk. He’s willing to die (again) for what’s right. He’s desperate to just give up, he was finally at peace but he’s been brought back into the chaos and for what? He wants to give up and lie down but he just can’t.

It’s an interesting crossroad for Jon. What happened to fighting the White Walkers? Is he giving up on that now? It certainly looks like it. I guess family comes first. Is this a mistake though? He died because he knew fighting The Others was more important than silly politics south of The Wall and doesn’t that matter anymore?

“You are not going to serve…you are going to die”

Back to Vaes Dothrak and Daenerys is brought in front of Khal Moro to be judged. Only, she has different plans. She declares that the khalasar is now hers before setting the tent ablaze, brutally murdering all inside. She emerges unscathed and instantly gains the respect and service of the khalasar. I know people are raving about this scene but to me, it felt a little underwhelming. It felt a bit repetitive. She’s done this sort of thing so many times before. Her big ‘fire/ dragon’ moment. It’s weird, she’s now kind of back where she was in season 1. She’s got a second shot with a khalasar although it feels like she has their full respect this time around. It’ll be interesting to see what she does now. Will she go back and re-conquor the cities of Slavers Bay? Will she undo Tyrion’s good work by waging war on the slavers? To be fair, I can’t imagine her losing with this force behind her. Lets hope it’s not just another false dawn.

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There’s a recurring theme in this episode of fighting on when you don’t want to do anything other than give up and make peace. Jon and Sansa, Loras and Margaery, Cersei and Tommen and even Daenerys and Tyrion. Is it worth surrendering for peace? Is it worth just giving up, just to stop the suffering? Is it worth making peace with your enemies rather than rage war? The men of Westeros seem to think so. The women have different ideas.

 

★★★★☆

EXCELLENT. Episode 4 is perhaps the best episode of the season so far, every single scene moved the story forward. We’re finally gathering some momentum after a ponderous season 5. King’s Landing is finally kicking into life, is Daenerys finally getting into her stride after being knocked back? Tyrion’s back to his best and the Starks are catching something that looks like a break.

Enjoyed this? Check out our reviews of the previous episodes.

Episode 1: The Red Woman

Episode 2: Home

Episode 3: Oathbreaker

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5 thoughts on “GoT: Book of the Stranger Review

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