Game of Thrones: Season 6 Episode 4, Book of the Stranger Review

The scene starts where we see Jon starting to pack up and leave his history of Castle Black to the past. Edd at first inquires where he intends to go and Jon replies south to get warm (hey, Jon has a sense of humor now!). However, Edd understands what’s beyond The Wall and feels slightly betrayed by Jon’s decision to leave the Night’s Watch. However, Jon points out that his own Brothers had assassinated him and that he had given up everything. A horn blows and we hear the approach of a new crew at Castle Black.

Jon and Sansa Reunited

Season 6 Episode 4 does not waste time in the first Stark children reunion where Jon Snow and Sansa Stark meet up at Castle Black. It’s a very heart felt meeting and one of the most anticipated moments. All past issues are swept under the rug for the half siblings. Sansa admits her past faults for mistreating Jon while Jon pokes fun as his own grimness. She asks forgiveness and Jon formally provides that which gives both some level of closure. Still she finds out that Jon has decided to quit and leave The Wall. He does say that he will go with her and vows to protect her. However, Sansa tries to convince Jon that he needs to use his lineage and help rally the North to retake their home. Sansa suggests using the Wildlings to help them retake Winterfell but there’s a great amount of doubt in him.

Sansa, Brienne and Podrick at Castle Black

Sansa Smiling

The conversation between Jon and Sansa also revolve a bit around a recent theme that popped up: time. Both muse over never leaving Winterfell and possibly going back in time to prevent themselves from making the same mistakes. Jon replies to Sansa, “How could we know?” It’s an interesting idea because we have seen Bran with his time traveling powers and possibly the ability to influence time and perhaps correcting history. Could that be something that comes about where Bran changes things to prevent this mess from happening?

In addition, what’s great about this scene between Jon and Sansa is their self-realization and how they’ve grown up. Both started out with vastly different if not complete opposite ideals of what them leaving Winterfell meant. After their horrible experiences, both now see a larger picture. Sansa understands the importance of home. Also, she’s smarter about how the world works. She knows running will do them no good. They’ll constantly be hunted by the Boltons and thus must make a stand for their survival. At the same time, the gungho/grim faced Jon might appear more prudent than before, not desiring to dive head first into battle in coming to terms with what death really is about.

From there we see Melisandre encountering Ser Davos. With Jon Snow leaving, Ser Davos wonders what Melisandre will do now that Stannis is gone and her purpose at The Wall was revealed in her successful resurrection of Jon Snow. Melisandre now will remain loyal to Jon Snow because she’s now convinced that he’s the Prince that was Promised. However, Ser Davos interjects and argues that before it was Stannis. She provides no immediate rationalization for the retort but you get the sense that this isn’t the first time Melisandre has switched sides abruptly. On top of that, despite her faith having been restored at the moment with Jon’s revival, Melisandre still has issues resolving her visions. It’s clear that she still is uncomfortable with a lot of her actions.

Ser Davos Inquiring Melisandre

Still Ser Davos doesn’t let these issues hang and further confronts Melisandre about Stannis’ fate for which Melisandre shows some possible pangs of guilt if not being wrong. His real concern though is over Shireen’s fate. Yet Brienne interjects and reveals her perspective in being a witness to the battle. She still is angered by Melisandre’s doing. Ser Davos does tell her that it’s in the past. Also, Brienne confirms executing Stannis here. It’s clear that the three don’t like each other. But if the battle of the Boltons comes to pass and especially the White Walkers, then their problems need to be cast aside for the larger causes at stake.

Unforgiving Brienne

Taking a moment from the review, I want to talk about the idea of forgiveness. We saw a brief glimpse of forgiveness between Sansa and Jon Snow. Here, the three oddball characters of Melisandre, Brienne and Ser Davos are at odds with each other as they refuse to handle the past very well. Ser Davos tells Brienne that the past is the past. Yet ironically he’s being a bit of a hypocrite in the way he treats Melisandre. The question is whether people can discard these old hurts and find a true common cause whether it’s the Boltons, the South or the impending White Walkers.

From there we travel to the Vale where Robin Arryn practices archery. Petyr returns to the Vale to rally the forces. Most importantly, he’s there to gain support from the weak Robin Arryn. We see that his skills as a warrior have not improved by any significant amount and that his mental condition is still lacking. Petyr gets challenged by Yohn Royce who is none too happy about seeing the devious Littlefinger skulking about. However, Petyr relies on the direction of the wind for making his decisions. For instance, Robin at the end of the day supports Sansa but there’s a moment of doubt. You could see Petyr hesitating and only supporting whatever decision Robin would make so that his own cause would be furthered. If Robyn went with Ramsay there’s no question Petyr would swing in that direction. However, when Royce attempts to corner Petyr, Petyr shows that he’s able to manipulate Robyn and gain Royce’s (begrudging support). Petyr even implies that Royce had secret knowledge of Petyr and Sansa’s destiny and accuses Royce of possible treason, where Robin suggests hurling Royce from the Moon Door. That puts Royce back in line if for just the moment.

Littlefinger Back in the Vale

Over in Meereen, Tyrion gives everyone a Petyr Baelish quote, “A clever man once told me we make peace with our enemies.” At the moment, Missandei and Grey Worm have little trust in Tyrion so Tyrion must attempt to gain their trust. Still, he has a pompous act about him which creates that distance. Tyrion likes to believe he knows things. However, Missandei points out that Tyrion’s knowledge is mostly academic especially when it comes to slavery, a subject he only knows from a brief period. However, Tyrion wants to play a dangerous game with the other slavers by making friends with them so he lure them in. The way Tyrion attempts to try diplomacy is by negotiating the slow change of slavery. That leaves the people supporting Daenerys’ cause confused and equally untrustworthy of Tyrion.

Meereen With Tyrion

One of the interesting things about this scene to me was how both Missandei and Grey Worm reacted begrudgingly against Tyrion. Tyrion tries to point out the practicalities of the situation where things don’t happen instantly. Both Missandei and Grey Worm are very static characters in their positions where they accept things as they are and expect things to change on a whim. On the other hand, Tyrion injects a taste of reality despite how he is an academic. Still I very much enjoy how Tyrion spells out in detail how things ought to operate in coming up with his plans. He feels very real in trying his hand at politics whereas Grey Worm admits outright, “I am a soldier not a politician.”

Negotiating With Slavers

In Vaes Dothrak, Ser Jorah and Dario face off a bit in alpha male competition. Ser Jorah shows his age in not being able to handle climbing the hills while Dario does his best to try and trigger Ser Jorah. Ser Jorah explains where the Dothraki would take Daenerys and mentions that they both need to remove their weapons because of the sacredness of the city. Ser Jorah accidentally reveals his greyscale to Dario. Dario does not want to leave his dagger though. As both sneak through the city in search of Dany, they encounter two of Khal Moro’s fighters and are forced to kill them. Dario stabs on through the back and is forced to smash his head in to make it look as though someone else committed the act. Ironically, it’s Dario that saves Ser Jorah but that goes to show their mutual need for one another at this stage.

Bro Down

Ser Jorah's Greyscale

Inside the temple, Dany speaks with the other women in the temple, learning about her fate. However, she gets new ideas of how to handle her situation. She tries to ally with one of the younger Dosh Khaleen. Dany excuses herself to “make water” with her new friend. As both round a corner, Ser Jorah and Dario grab the girl. She shows kindness towards the girl and begs for her to have faith in her in trying her plan with the aid of her two council members.

dany

At King’s Landing in the Black Cells, Margaery is taken to meet with the High Sparrow. We learn how he came to be, how he at one time lusted for the better life but received enlightenment once he realized what the luxurious life represents. After that he left and sought the opposite: poverty. The crowning statement was when he points out “My ceaseless struggle to maintain my position.” That’s a really powerful quote. It resembles the larger picture of the squabbles each of the lords and people on top do in maintaining their power that we see in this series. Essentially, you could call it the bare building blocks of the game of thrones. After discussing his own enlightenment, he allows Margaery to see her brother, Ser Loras. Margaery feels she understands what the Sparrows want but Ser Loras wants the torture to end. He’s completely broken now and Margaery hugs him protectively.

margaery

margaery_loras_meeting

Elsewhere, King Tommen receives counsel from Pycelle. But gets interrupted by his mother. It’s obvious that everyone is using Tommen and trying to gain favor with him. But Tommen has no true self. What he does not understand is that he has to make sacrifices and compromises in order to keep things running. That means being able to make the hard decisions and making certain people unhappy. My feeling is that Tommen will be crushed under the pressure of guilt in being able to handle the responsibility of taking matters into his own hands and make decisions that will lead to an ideal outcome. I think that part of the commentary here on power is that even if a person has a good heart, there are always going to be losers at some point. But it’s a matter of both being able to make those tough decisions while accepting responsibility and hopefully choosing the best option. It reminds me of Plato where you have to deal with selecting between the lesser of two evils. Eventually, you simply have to choose.

tommen_receiving_counseling

At any rate, that leads to a Small Council meeting where Cersei talks to Kevan Lannister and Olenna about reuniting as houses in order to fight back agains the Sparrows. Margaery will make her own walk of shame it appears and possibly confess her sins. But neither Olenna nor Cersei want that to happen. Yet it’s obvious that Cersei’s true intent is to humiliate Margaery and gain some vengeance against House Tyrell which is why she appears to hold a truce with Olenna in dealing with the sparrows. Olenna hints that violence will be the result but shows no concern as long as its not them. Yet there’s a glimmer from Cersei’s eyes alluding to her own desire for chaos to break out in the streets.

In the books, Cersei’s manner of mishandling the Small Council and trying her hand at politics completely misfires at her, ultimately resulting in her imprisonment and walk of shame. Part of that was to get Margaery into trouble, which we have already seen. Yet I think Cersei is plotting to ruin the Tyrell’s completely and probably the Sparrows. If anything the idea of civil unrest in the city is the best revenge as she probably feels everyone has wronged her. She already admitted burning the whole city to the ground if she was forced and this probably is the first major step towards fulfilling those words for her.

Over at the Iron Islands, Theon returns home. He reveals his purpose in wanting to help his sister rule especially with the King’s Moot coming up. Yara treats him with disdain and feels betrayed, almost as if she has incorporated the spirit of their dead father. She’s at first suspicious that perhaps he could’ve assassinated father but once he tells her he wants to help support her, her mood changes. It’s unclear if this really is his motive and more importantly why. Theon has nothing to outwardly gain out of all of this so what will happen to him and his sister, especially with the imposing Euron seemingly ready to usurp the Iron Islands for his own?

Theon Returning Home

Back at Winterfell, Ramsay peels away at an apple. Osha is sent in and both have a discussion on what her purpose is. At first, Osha attempts to seduce Ramsay but Ramsay learned from Theon how she manipulated him and managed to escape with the younger Stark boys. Osha tries to kill Ramsay by getting close but Ramsay stabs her first in the neck. Cya Osha. Never trust Ramsay with a knife is the lesson here.

Bye Osha

At Castle Black, we have an awkward meal between the least likely of companions composed of Tormund, Edd, Sansa, Jon Snow, Brienne and Pod. Just before that one bannerman from the Boltons arrive and Jon is given a letter. Essentially, this it he infamous Pink Letter sent by Ramsay to get Jon Snow to return fake Arya. In this case, Ramsay wants Sansa back, mentioning that their brother, Rickon, is now held captive with Shaggydog dead. Tormund becomes emotionally vested once he hears how Ramsay intends to slay the Wildlings who crossed over The Wall. They talk numbers but it’s clear that Ramsay has a larger force. Nonetheless, Jon finally agrees that they have to do something, if not for their home then Rickon.

The Pink Letter

Lastly, in Vaes Dothrak once again, the khals gather to discuss Daenerys’ fate as well as learning of Khal Moro’s slain bloodrider. Daenerys challenges them in offering a counter solution to her fate: that they die and she leads the Dothraki. The khals laugh at her believing her insane because she has no apparent power. However, Daenerys knocks over a brazier filled with fire, igniting the temple. She continues knocking over braziers, causing the khals to attempt to flee in panic. The doors are locked and the men are trapped while Daenerys burns the temple down. As the entire Dothraki people come to check out the commotion, the temple door burns down, permitting Daenerys, naked once again, to emerge unscathed. Immediately, the populace drop to their knees in witnessing something supernatural.

dany_fire_brazier

So this last scene I actually liked very much. Thus far, Daenerys has relied on her dragons to enforce her power. If not them, then others who would do her bidding such as the Unsullied or her warrior council members. For once, Daenerys uses her wits to best the khal and gain the respect of the dothraki people. It’s also worth noting here that by killing the khal, Daenerys has managed to prove her own strength on top of exhibiting her unnatural powers (even if thus far she is a one trick pony). The main thing is that she accomplished this act mostly on her own, which is important as she was someone who commanded respect out of entitlement. This episode gave her a few new dimensions to her personality which has been sorely lacking for some time.

dany_unburnt

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