Game of Thrones, Season 6, Ep 4 “Book of the Stranger”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

I always watch the opening credits sequence with interest. I like the music, and I noticed a big difference going from watching episodes on my iPad (via Foxtel Go, their on-demand app – which I could not find any easy way to stream to a TV) to watching on a TV from DVDs. The bass sound is of course much fuller from my home sound system, complete with subwoofer, than from iPad speakers. It really makes watching these episodes more of an experience.

Also, while watching the opening credits, I look with interest to see the various geographical places featured. I noticed Pyke, in the Iron Islands, appearing for this episode. And then I noticed a very odd thing. Normally, in my memory, the map looks flattish, or perhaps curved convexly like a globe, as it should. But in this episode I noticed quite forcefully that the map appeared to be concave, as if the world had been turned inside-out. I wonder if this is merely my memory and eyes playing tricks on me, or if this was indeed done deliberately, to sort of symbolically represent a change in the world order, and perhaps a significant redirection of the flow of events.

Castle Black: Oh. It looks like Jon didn’t simply walk out of the gates of Castle Black, never to return. In the opening shot we see a sword handle, and I think I recognise it as Jon’s sword, sitting on a table in a dim room. Someone comes up to the sword and picks it up carefully. For a moment I think Jon has also left his sword behind in Castle Black, and reflect on what a stupid idea that is – walking off into the snow without his sword. And indeed, as the camera backs away, we see that it is Edd holding the sword. Jon, you idiot!

But then the camera turns and we see Jon is there in the room as well. Either he’s changed his mind, or or walked off into the snow and then suddenly remembered he forgot to take his sword and came back for it. Dialogue clears things up, as Ed begs Jon to stay, saying they were at Hardhome together and saw the White Walkers, and they know they’re coming, and how can Jon leave them now? He swore an oath, to devote his life to the Night’s Watch. Jon points out that he already gave his life once for the night’s Watch. Now he’s back, and he feels no obligation to do it again.

Suddenly there’s a commotion and a call to open the fort gates. Outside are Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick! They walk in, through blowing snow. Jon emerges to see what’s happening, and he and Sansa recognise one another. After a moment of disbelief, he races down to hug her. The scene cuts to Sansa and Jon having some hot soup inside, presumably after they’ve told each other their stories of what’s happened over the intervening years. Sansa asks what Jon will do now, and he says he doesn’t know. Sansa has an idea! They can go retake Winterfell from the Boltons! Jon is reluctant, saying he’s been fighting ever since he left Winterfell and he’s sick of it. Sansa, showing a surprising amount of backbone, declares she’ll take Winterfell with or without Jon’s help.

Outside, Davos is asking Melisandre exactly what happened, and will she follow Jon now? She says he’s the Prince who the Lord of Light prophesied to her, so she’ll do whatever he asks. Davos says he thought that was Stannis, and Melisandre gives a shrug, like, “Eh, mistakes happen.” Brienne approaches and says to Melisandre, “So you’re the one who arranged to have Renly killed by a demon?” Davos urges Brienne to forget that, it’s all in the past. Melisandre asks if Brienne knows what happened to Stannis. She answers, “Yes, he admitted your plot to kill Renly right before I executed him.” Brienne informs the two of them that although it’s in the past, she neither forgets nor forgives.

Later, Sansa is having a meal with Jon and Edd and Tormund and a few others. Sansa looks askance at the mystery meat in her stew, and Edd apologises for the quality of the food, but Sansa says it’s fine. A messenger arrives with a letter and gives it to Jon, calling him the Lord Commander. Jon says he’s not the Lord Commander any more, but the messenger gives him the letter anyway. Jon sees the wax is sealed with the flayed man, the sign of the Boltons. He reads out loud the message from Ramsay, which says he has Rickon in his dungeon in Winterfell. Ramsay demands that Jon send him Sansa, or else he will kill Rickon, attack Castle Black, kill all his wildling friends (Tormund furrows a brow),… and then Jon trails off and says, “and more of the same.” Sansa demands that Jon continue reading. Reluctantly he does so, reading Ramsay’s words saying that he will let all his men rape Sansa while Jon watches. Sansa finds new determination, saying they have to march on Winterfell and capture it from the Boltons, and save Rickon.

Jon asks how many men the Boltons have. Sansa says five thousand. She asks how many wildlings there are. Tormund says two thousand in fighting condition. Jon says there’s no way they can win. Sansa stands up, takes charge, and says that Jon can rally the people of the North. He is the son of Eddard Stark, and the people of the North are loyal – they will follow him for the cause of retaking Winterfell. We’ve never seen Sansa so gritty and determined. Jon looks at her and knows he can’t get out of this. He nods.

All right! Finally, finally, at long last, we see an actual reunion of members of the Stark household. Seeing Sansa at the gate was a huge release of tension built up over multiple seasons of episodes. Finally, something positive is happening! But it was a near run thing – if Jon had left already then Sansa could easily have missed him by mere hours. Honestly, that would have been more in keeping with the tragedies that have befallen the Starks up to now, but I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way. And that Sansa is maturing and showing some serious fight. I just hope that they really can take Winterfell, and aren’t the victims of some other horrible tragedy. But there’s still the shadow of the White Walkers looming over all of this. How can the depleted Castle Black possibly hold them off from advancing into the North? And what about Melisandre, and Brienne? Brienne seems like the sort of person who will execute Melisandre if given half a chance. It’ll be interesting to see their relationship play out.

Winterfell: Ramsay is peeling an apple with a knife. A bright green apple. The door opens and a servant pushes Osha into the room. Ramsay put the apple and knife on the adjacent table and starts questioning Osha, who has been bathed and dressed in a cleanish robe/dress/nightie sort of thing. You can see her eyes flash briefly towards the knife on the table. Does Ramsay see it too? He asks what she was doing with Rickon. Seeing an opportunity, Osha starts making up a story about how she was planning to turn him in for a huge ransom. She climbs on to Ramsay’s lap and starts to seduce him, while reaching an unseen hand out for the knife…

I’m really hoping she manages to do this! But the knife is a bit too far away… she’s almost there… But then Ramsay moves suddenly and brings another knife he had hidden in his hand up and through her neck. Oh dear. Osha collapses on the floor and bleeds out, while Ramsay calmly wipes the blood of his backup knife and slices his apple with it and eats it. Ramsay really is rather good at not being killed. I’m hoping this doesn’t last long enough for him to do away with Sansa and Jon.

The Eyrie: Young Robin Arryn is doing archery practice, and failing rather badly. You can see his escort of soldiers rolling their eyes at the martial incompetence of their Lord. A carriage pulls up, and Petyr Baelish emerges. After he says hello to Robin, a large captainy type guy says he heard that Sansa married Ramsay Bolton, and asks what happened – Petyr was supposed to be taking her to somewhere else. Petyr says well, he got attacked by a large force of men. Then he says he has a gift for Robin, and reveals a falcon in a cage, which Robin is immediately entranced by. Petyr then says to the captain that he wonders how Bolton’s men knew where he was travelling, and that the captain was the only person that he told… Petyr wonders aloud what should be done with traitors. Robin, not even looking away from the falcon, declares, “Throw him through the Moon Door!” (i.e. the open hole in the bottom of the Eyrie, above the cliffs)

The captain is shocked, as all the guards around approach him menacingly. Petyr holds up a hand. Well, he says, “maybe we can give you a second chance, if you swear absolute loyalty, what do you say, Lord Arryn?” The captain stammers that he does, and Robin reluctantly agrees to give him a second chance. Petyr then mentions that Sansa has escaped from Winterfell and has gone to Castle Black, but she – Robin’s cousin – needs help. Robin pauses for a moment, then says yes, let’s go help her. The captain realises he’s going to have to lead a bunch of men into conflict with the Boltons, thanks to Petyr’s clever manipulation of Robin. Petyr looks at him and grins.

Well, Petyr has done a number here, but it may have a positive outcome. Add an army from the Eyrie and Jon’s chances against the Boltons seem better. It seems Petyr really does want to help Sansa, at least, and perhaps all of the Starks to overcome the Boltons. But no doubt he’ll have a price for his assistance when the time comes.

Iron Islands: A ship approaches, with Theon on board. He enters the big room with the giant stone octopus carved above the fireplace, where Yara sits, brooding by the fire. She strikes a pose very reminiscent of her recently murdered father. She’s not happy to see her brother, and accuses him of causing the mess on the mainland, leading to his capture and the retreat of Yara’s army. Theon can barely look at her, and she orders him to look her in the eye. She accuses him of arriving conveniently soon after their father’s death, in an attempt to claim the throne. She doesn’t outright accuse him of murdering their father, but the implication hangs in the air. Theon says no, he doesn’t want to be king. He says Yara should be the ruler of the Iron Islands, and he will help her gain the throne in the meeting or lords that is to come.

Not much to say here, except that Yara might be a better ruler than her father. She’s almost as grumpy, though. I suppose it comes from living on a bunch of rocks in the middle of the ocean where it seems to be always rainy.

King’s Landing: Margaery is still languishing in the dungeon of the High Sparrow. The evil nun comes and gets her and takes her to see the High Sparrow, who starts with one of this “I’m so humble and you’re so sinful” speeches. He tells her a story about he he used to be a cobbler, and spent lots of time adding pretty but non-functional decorations to shoes, that rich people then bought for lots of money. He says he was trading his time for money, but eventually realised how meaningless it all was. I’m not sure of the point of this, other than to bore Margaery to tears.

He lets her go see her brother Loras. Loras is in a bad way, being the pretty-boy that he is and not a tough nut like Margaery. She tells him to keep it together, but he is seriously cracking up and cries to be let out. Margaery steels her resolve, thinking she’ll have to be tough enough for the both of them.

Tommen meanwhile is telling Cersei that they have to do something about the High Sparrow, otherwise Margaery will have to make a walk of atonement like Cersei did. But he’s too afraid that if he attacks the Sept, the Sparrow will have Margaery killed. Cersei goes to the Small Council and tells Olenna that her granddaughter will be made to do the walk of atonement. Olenna says that must not happen, and pledges the Tyrell army to help stop the High Sparrow. Kevan Lannister, the Hand of the King, however, says that Tommen has ordered his men not to move against the Sparrow. Cersei says don’t you want to get your son, Lancel, back from his indoctrination into the faith? Kevan says of course he does, but his hands are tied by the king. Cersei says, well, if you’ve been told to stand down your men, then if the Tyrells attack the High Sparrow, you can’t interfere, right? Kevan thinks for a second and then agrees.

Yay!! Finally some action. I can’t wait to see the Tyrell army smashing their way into the Sept and sticking it to the High Sparrow. But I wonder if it will go as smoothly as they hope. Nothign ever seems to come easily in this story.

Meereen: Tyrion meets with the masters of Astapor and Yunkai, convivially, over some wine and snacks (with Grey Worm and Missandei in attendance). He tells them that in Westeros, there have been no slaves for centuries, and things are fine over there (well, more or less). He says they just need to replace slavery with a different economic system, and things will work just fine. Daenerys’s mistake was banning slavery all at once. Tyrion will give them seven years to transition. He says that in return for being allowed years to end slavery, they must promise to stop funding the Sons of the Harpy. Honestly, this doesn’t sound like a great deal from Tyrion, and the masters are understandably sceptical, and ask why they don’t get to talk to Daenerys herself. Tyrion assures them that she will be back soon (although he has no idea where she is).

Leaving the meeting, a bunch of people from Meereen confront Tyrion and complain that they are being left to rot while he parties with the enemy. Grey Worm and Missandei back up Tyrion, and the people leave. But then the two of them caution Tyrion that he is dealing with corrupt people, and they will try to turn his deal back on him to their advantage. I don’t think the slave masters of the other cities will ever listen to anything – they need to be conquered by force. Fortuntely, something might happen soon…

Vaes Dothrak: Jorah and Daario have indeed successfully tracked Daenerys to the Dothraki encampment. Daario teases Jorah about being an old man, too old to sleep with Daenerys like himself, as Jorah’s heart would probably give out. Jorah takes this rather well, considering. Overlooking the city, Jorah says they will have taken her to the big building in the centre. He instructs Daario to leave all weapons outside the city, because they are forbidden. If they are spotted with weapons, they will be killed, but if they have no weapons they can pose as merchants. Daario very reluctantly sheds his sword, and a knife that he says he is very fond of. They sneak in and bump into two Dothraki in an alley. Jorah says they’re merchants, but they don’t believe him, and a fight breaks out. Jorah is about to be beaten by one, when Daario stabs the Dothraki in the chest, saying, “Told you I was very fond of this knife.” Jorah says if the others find a body with a stab wound, the whole city will be searching for them. Daario picks up a rock and pummels the dead Dothraki several times to hide the wound, while Jorah looks in in growing disgust.

Inside the ex-Khaleesi hut, Daenerys starts chatting with a young Khaleesi, learning her story of woe. They bond, and head outside for a toilet break together. Who do they bump into? Daario and Jorah! They propose to smuggle her out of the place, but she says they’d never make it, there are too many Dothraki. She has another plan…

We cut to the gathering of the Khals, where Daenerys’s fate is to be decided. Supposedly the tradition is that Khals’ widows live out their days in the ex-khaleesi hut, but apparently this is not true for foreign blonde women. They decide instead that they’ll all have their way with her, and then let their men do the same, and then finally the horses(!). Daenerys defiantly tells them that none of them are worthy to lead the Dothraki. Khal Drogo was going to accompany her on ships to invade Westeros and conquer mighty kingdoms, while they all sit here and decide which tiny villages to raid. She says she’d make a better leader than any of them. They are not impressed, and make moves to approach her. But Daenerys grabs a burning brazier in her bare hands and tips it over, spilling fire all over the floor. It spreads quickly, and as she tips more over, the Khals are all caught in the flames and burnt alive, while Daenerys of course is immune to the fire. It looks like there’s oil or something on the floor, soaked into the rushes, to make the fire spread so quickly – maybe that’s part of the plan that she got Daario and Jorah to do – sneak into the meeting place and spread oil around.

Everyone in the Dothraki city gathers to watch the hut burn down, flames leaping high into the sky. Daenerys emerges, her clothes burnt off her body, and stands on the flaming landing at the top of the steps, surveying all around her. The Dothraki are awed, and bow before the only person to emerge alive from the gathering of all the Khals.

Awesome. Again, finally some positive action! All the Khals are dead, and the Dothraki are now awestruck by Daenerys. She’s going to effectively become the leader of all the tribes, in one go. Nice work. And hopefully she can use them to march on the cities of Slavers Bay and clean them up, before assembling her huge army of Dothraki plus all the soldiers of Slavers Bay, and hopefully her dragons, and finally, at long last, head to Westeros.

This has been a great episode overall for action and the promise of exciting things to come. Jon and Sansa dealing with the Boltons and retaking Winterfell, with the help of the Arryns and their allies too. The Tyrells tearing down the High Sparrow. And Daenerys getting her act together and mustering vast armies of followers. It’s all great! Now all we need is Arya to finish her training and leave Braavos and get stuck into things in King’s Landing, and were all set! Very much looking forward to the next episodes.

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