For a show that frequently leaves its viewers in anguish with all the pain it puts us through, last night’s episode (“Book of the Stranger”) was a refreshing reward. Sometimes, we have to sit through a painful, shocking death that leaves us speechless. Other times, it’s a slow moving character arc where all a character has done is sit and talk for extensive lengths of time (cough Daenarys cough) David Benoiff and DB Weiss (the show’s producers) make their viewers earn the great moments. And last night’s episode was sandwiched around two of those.
The first was the show’s first Stark reunion. The honorable family that’s been splintered in every direction since the series premiere finally had two of its members reunite. And no, they were not the closest of kin while growing up in Winterfell. But both Jon and Sansa recognized quickly how special of a moment this is and how much (particularly Sansa) both have grown since that first episode.
The other was the return of bad ass Daenarys Targaryen. Ever since she burned that slave master in the third season, Dany has been absurdly lame. First, she sat in a tent while her men took down the city of Astapor. Then, she took the third city (Meereen, her most recent home) off screen. The rest of the last two seasons were spent inside a pyramid talking (and not in one of those cool, commanding languages she uses when she has someone burned). Every once in awhile, we visit a dragon and think, “It’s going to get cool again.” But then we go back to the pyramid where Queen Dany was the Game of Thrones edition of C-SPAN, discussing Slaver’s Bay politics while we yawned and sought our smart phones for entertainment.
But tonight, we returned to the queen everyone (well most everyone) rallied behind when the series started. Dany’s coup of the Dothraki, killing the Khal’s while she walked out burn free, breathes life back into a character who was really struggling to keep our attention. And with the way things are starting to boil in Meereen, she’s needed now more than ever.
So let’s start tonight’s recap at the Wall, where that Stark reunion was only a frozen North away.
The Wall continues its season six role as the leadoff hitter, picking up with Jon Snow gathering his things for a march south. Edd pleads with Jon to stay and live up to his vows, but Jon is having none of it. Now, this plan by Jon to march “south” by himself really doesn’t seem that well thought out. But I’ve never been stabbed by the men who I was leading and brought back to life. So who am I to judge?
Then, the horn blows one time (remember, one blow means a member of the Night’s Watch or at least a friend) and Jon walks out to see Sansa. His sister has arrived at the Wall with Brienne and Pod. I should scrutinize the timeline of how they were able to span the North so quickly. But I just don’t care about that. Starks are reuniting!!!! And I don’t think another family in Westeros deserved this more than the Stark clan.
It also seems her ordeal in the frozen northern woods has strengthened Sansa’s resolve. She wants the North back and thinks Jon should lead the charge. But Jon is hesitant because he’s tired of fighting. Once again, I try not to judge because of the whole “I’ve never been brought back from the dead issue,” but I’m not sure how Jon can be hesitant here. He knows what’s coming (Umm…Whitewalkers) and more bloodshed’s inevitable, but he’s struggles to agree to this nonetheless. I guess it wouldn’t be dramatic if it was easy to convince him.
A letter from Ramsey arrives at the Wall and it reveals to them that they have Rickon. Ramsey wants his bride back or he intends to ride North and attack. Then he will allow his army to each take turns with Sansa. With Tormund providing 2000 men, it looks like the Battle of the Bastards is on!!! Let preparations begin.
Another really good scene (though it was short) tonight was the conversation where Melisandre and Davos begin discussing (before being so rudely interrupted) what happened to Stannis. Davos has been a little distracted with the whole “Jon Snow’s dead, but I know this crazy hot red head I don’t really care for that might be able to revive him” situation, so he hasn’t had time to ask what happened to Stannis and Shireen. He gets the answer on one of those this evening as Brienne walks over and tells the two of them she struck him down. Melisandre, however, withholds that she had Shireen burned at the stake; information I don’t think Ser Davos is going to take too kindly to once he finds out.
Petyr Baelish is back folks, and he wastes no time manipulating the key players in the Vale. Also wasting no time playing the part of the useless Lord of the Vale is Ser Robyn, whose training under Bronze Yohn as apparently not improved is archery skills at all.
Baelish arrives and is confronted by Bronze Yohn Royce for taking Sansa to Winterfell instead of to the Fingers (Baelish’s home). Baelish quickly turns the tables on Bronze Yohn, getting Robyn to casually suggest dropping Ser Royce through the moon door if he doesn’t fall in line. All Lord Littlefinger needed was a falcon to get Robyn to fall in line with his commands. Bronze Yohn is allowed to live as long as he leads the armies of the Vale in the battles to come. And Baelish means for them to join Sansa and the attack on Winterfell (which Baelish has been predicting would happen all along).
The Meereen plot this season is taking on a similar dynamic to the Wall in Season Five. Much like the men of the Night’s Watch had been conditioned to hate Wildlings, the people of Meereen were conditioned to hate slavers. Both hates were justifiable. But the long term survival of both of these areas required a change in thinking.
Enter Tyrion playing the part of Meereen’s Jon Snow, who decides to make a deal with the enemy. And just like the men of the Night’s Watch, the people of Slaver’s Bay do not approve. Let’s hope Tyrion’s efforts yield a better result than Jon’s did.
Comparing Daenarys and Tyrion in their respective diplomatic abilities is like comparing US Congress and British Parliament on C-SPAN. The former is so boring and dull when they do business, while the latter is entertaining and full of brilliant one liners. Tyrion makes a deal with the slave masters, giving them 7 years to end slavery and adjust their economies properly. In return, they will stop funding the Sons of the Harpy. This way, if the Harpys continue to kill, Tyrion will know the slavers aren’t living up to their end of the deal.
Of course, Grey Worm and Missandei do not trust the slavers or Tyrion’s diplomatic abilities. Tyrion’s response: “Slavery is an abomination that should be ended immediately. War is also an abomination that should be ended immediately. I can’t end both today.” We’ll see if the people of Meereen will get on board with Tyrion’s way of thinking. But I expect things will get worse before they get better (if they get better) in Meereen.
Another political game this week involved the High Sparrow and his persistent attempts to get Margaery to confess. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe the Sparrow genuinely believes in what he’s doing. But he’s not above a little mind manipulation to get what he wants. First, he tells Margaery his story of how he came to be where he is. He was a shoemaker (ironic, considering he never wears shoes) for some of the wealthiest families in Westeros. But one day, after he had spent that money on women and getting drunk, he woke up and saw what everyone looked like when the giant orgy (or something like that) was over. He walked away to join the peasants in the streets, becoming the religious fanatic we see today.
Margaery, however, knows what he’s doing. She says as much when she’s allowed to see her brother for the first time since their captivity. But they’ve treated Loras much harsher than they have Margaery. He’s been beaten and just wants it to stop. His sister pleads with him to stay strong. But Loras just wants it to end.
Margeary may have to make a choice to confess just to see mercy brought to her brother. But the Lannisters and Tyrells do not mean to let that happen. Cersei seems to have realized how her beef with the Tyrells allowed the High Sparrow to rise to power. She wants an alliance again and Jamie recommends taking the Tyrell army to the Holy Sept to rescue the Queen. Apparently, the Sparrow told Tommen in their discussion last week that he means to send the Queen before the people to confess her crimes. Cersei and Olenna agree that cannot happen, creating this uneasy, but necessary truce between the two of them.
The Iron Islands
You thought the Stark reunion was touching? Let’s not forget the Greyjoys reunited as well this week. Ok, so it wasn’t the same, but it did continue the redemption arc the former man named Reek is on. Theon is back in the Iron Islands, just lacking the confidence he had last time he was sent there by Robb. Remember when Yara (Theon’s sister) went to Winterfell to save her brother only to have him refuse to go with her? Well she sure didn’t forget. And she thinks Theon is only here to claim the Iron Chair for himself. But this weakened Theon wants no part of the Iron Chair. Instead, he wants to help his sister claim it. The Kingsmoot is coming next week!!!!
Ramsey is sadistic and twisted, but he’s not stupid. And tonight’s another example of this. When Osha first returned to Winterfell last week, I assumed she would be a major threat to Ramsey from the inside much like she was to Theon. But Ramsey understood this as well. As Osha reached for a knife, Ramsey stabbed her in the throat. I hated to see it happen, but this absolutely was the best strategic move for the Bolton bastard.
We also get another week of “Have we mentioned Ramsey’s a sick, demented freak?” as he eats his apple, cutting it with the same knife that he just stabbed Osha with (and no, the blood was not cleaned off). Yes, Ramsey literally just drank the blood of his fallen enemy.
Daario and Jorah arrive at the home city of the Dothraki. Using his extensive knowledge of their customs, Jorah tells Daario to leave their weapons here (because that would be some insult to the savages that have sex in the middle of the streets and kill each other at weddings).
The two men take advantage of the darkness (and the Dothraki are partaking in the first of those rituals I mentioned in the previous paragraph). But they do run into opposition that Daario takes out with a knife he snuck in. They find Dany going for a walk and are ready to try and sneak her out of here. But she believes they would never get out of Vaes Dothrak alive and the Mother of Dragons has another plan.
She’s brought before the Khal’s, where they discuss what to do with Daenarys. Khal Mogo (who seems to be the leader of this bunch) says her place is in that temple (Dosh Khaleen or something like that. As we know now, that name’s really not important anymore) with the other former Khals. But the slavers in Slaver’s Bay are willing to trade 10,000 horses to have the Breaker of Chains (look at me using all Dany’s names) in their possession.
Dany changes the subject, lecturing the Khal’s on how her man Drogo wanted to conquer the world and everything they want is small potatoes in comparison. Khal Mogo doesn’t take kindly to this insult of their manhood and says they’re all going to take turns sexually with her now. But then, Dany puts her hand on a pot of fire and feels nothing. Remember back in Season one all the signs that Daenarys was immune to fire? That is brought back into focus here as Dany shoves over the pots of fire that were lighting the room. The Khals run to the doors to avoid the flames and try to escape. But the doors have been locked, leaving them no way out.
The burning temple gets the attention of the Dothraki, who come over to see a nude Daenarys, untouched by the fire stepping out as the Khal’s burn alive. The Dothraki, Daario, and Jorah all bow to the queen. No character needed a moment like this more than Daenarys. Now, lets see how she follows up on it.
-I think tonight showed how a Daenarys/Tryion alliance could be the perfect partnership to succeed in Westeros. Dany is the one people will follow, while Tyrion is the diplomat who could work on deals when burning an entire room of Khals is not appropriate
Character Callback/Bronze Yohn Royce: Bronze Yohn is one of the main nobles in the Vale. His family fought with the Arryns for control of the Vale centuries before. His son was one of the members of the Night’s Watch who was killed by Whitewalkers in the show’s very first scene.
Character Callback/Robyn Arryn: He sucked on his mom’s tits for most of his adolescence. But now, the young Lord of the Vale is a pawn in Baelish’s game in Westeros. We last left him in the training of Bronze Yohn. But what we saw this week seems to show that training has done little for the Lord of the Vale.
-“A knife wound would raise suspicion you say? Let’s just beat him over the head with a stone so they don’t notice the knife wound.” A nice touch by Daario the completely worked in keeping his crime of bringing a knife into Vaes Dothrak secret.
-When Tywin told Tommen “A good king listens to his advisors,” I don’t think he realized how literal Tommen would take it. This week, Pycelle and Cersei both took turns telling the king what to do. Add their names to the long list of people who lecture the king from week to week.
-Did anybody else have a bad feeling when Osha reached for that knife? It was way too soon for a potential Ramsey assassination to happen, sealing the former Wildlings fate.
-Daario now knows Jorah has greyscale. I’m curious how his knowledge of this in the future will be used by the show.
-Nice touch at the awkward dinner at the Wall with Tormund checking out Brienne. Of course a man who brags about having sex with a bear would be interested in Brienne of Tarth.
-So here’s the current sides that we have for the battle in the North:
Jon Snow Ramsey Bolton Wildlings Karstarks The Vale Umbers
-How will the show get Daenarys back to Meereen with the Dothraki and keep it interesting? What will her response be to Tyrion’s deal? And is Drogon returning to the Mother of Dragons anytime soon?
-Who else will be joining the Battle of the Bastards in the North?
-Will the Lannisters and Tyrells successfully get Margaery out of the Holy Sept? Or will she be made to confess?
-How will Ser Davos respond once he finds out Melisandre had Shireen burned?
Next week, we’ve got a Kingsmoot, a new red priestess, Sansa confronting Baelish, a potentially awesome vision seen by Bran, and the return of the Whitewalkers!!! See you next week.