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

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The fire lit under Game of Thrones‘ ass right now has no end in sight, and would-be queens and kings are emerging from it. But the most notable aspect of “Book of the Stranger,” besides the clearly here-to-stay accelerated pacing, has to be all the callbacks to season one. That said, the attention to the show’s history is only pointing us toward the end.

But what kind of ending will that be? With the darkness that descended onto the show after Ned’s death, we’re finally being fed morsels of hope. This is an episode that starts with the first Stark reunion since, uh, they split up in season one and ends with Daenerys emerging from the fire once more, but this time to a country on its knees devout to her. In a way, there’s tension missing from season six, but it’s making up for it in rewarding moments we’ve been building to for years. I bet I wasn’t the only long-term fan struggling to keep my eyes dry when Sansa and Jon hugged. The Starks have been all but obliterated over the seasons. This reunion between siblings who both separately saw the ugly side of the world was truly a beautiful moment. After some cute memories shared from their childhood, Sansa gets down to business. She wants Winterfell back, but Jon’s seen enough for now. But, in the very same episode, Ramsay sends a letter to the former Lord Commander threatening him to give up Sansa or he’ll kill Rickon. This battle for Winterfell is coming. But, as it stands, it’s 5,000 of the Bolton’s soldiers versus Jon and 2,000 wildlings. That makes this the perfect time for Littlefinger to be influencing Robin Arryn to help the Starks. As predictably as this is all unfolding, a big victory for a growing grouping of the show’s heroes will be worth watching no matter what.

But victory is in sight in more places than just the North. Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion and Daenerys are separately working toward fixing the mess they’ve made. Tyrion brings in leaders of the other cities Dany conquered to adjust the slavery ban so they’ll stop funding the Sons of the Harpy. It’s a controversial decision that Tyrion will have to deal with more directly when Dany eventually returns to Meereen. When that happens, it appears Khaleesi will also be the ruler of the Dothraki. Returning to the visual that closed season one, the Mother of Dragons emerged from the fire she used to kill the Khals to a whole new group of followers. She always had to come back to rule the country that abandoned her when her husband died. Now she looks upon them with confidence, prepared to burn anyone who doesn’t kneel.

Meanwhile, the seat of the throne in the Iron Islands is still up for grabs. Theon is already back, but not posing the threat to Yara she though he might. He tells her he wants to see her on the throne and that he’ll help in any way he can. I’m glad to see the writers go quick and to the point with this storyline that doesn’t involve any of the beloved characters in the cast.

Though while Thrones is injecting some necessary life into its previously frustrating or extraneous storylines, it’s not eradicating those problems, just shifting them. So despite all the great work done in the plots across the Narrow Sea and in the Iron Islands, the High Sparrow struggle in King’s Landing may have officially worn out its welcome this week. Unlike the rest of the show, this storyline is crawling, or at least it did this week. The quiet war that’s been going on for seasons now between the Lannisters and the Tyrells may have finally ended, though. Cersei and Jaime are trying to convince them to use their family’s army to destroy the Sparrows. Both families can benefit, but to what end? With the rest of the show clearly heading toward its endgame, the problems in King’s Landing feel middling. Are they just going to regain their power for Dany to finally sail across and try to take the throne? Either way, it’s hard to see a satisfying place for this all to go, which just makes long scenes of the High Sparrow supposedly turning Margaery even more pointless.

Still, “Book of the Stranger” had big moments surrounding this now frustrating storyline to keep this episode great. The Stark reunion alone was another moment of pure joy in a show that so rarely delivers them. And with Daenerys coming full circle with the Dothraki, this show is paying off some of its longest running storylines. Season six is still Game of Thrones unhinged, and that makes for damn good television. Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • RIP Osha, sorry you got brought back after two seasons of absence to just get killed in your second scene.
  • Speaking of, at this point, Thrones is seriously trimming the fat on its vast supporting cast. That’s like the fifth relatively major death this season so far.
  • I loved the scene where Brienne flat-out told Davos and Melisandre about how she killed Stannis. The collection of characters at the Wall is pretty huge and delivering some great moments for characters who’s connection have been loose up to this point.
  • It was a nice touch to have Dany befriend one of the younger Dothraki widows. Before she murders the country’s leaders, she proves her kindness once more.

By Matt Dougherty

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