Game of Thrones: Book of the Stranger

"We never should have left Winterfell."

Having picked up the pieces from the end of season five over the last few episodes, season six - and the new Game of Thrones, that belongs almost as much to Dan Benioff and D. B. Weiss as it does to George R. R. Martin - is really kicked off in this episode.

Well, this was much more like it. The first couple of episodes of this season were all about moving people into place and getting through the inevitable resurrection of Jon Snow, and even last week's was still primarily picking up the pieces and shifting them around. This week, though, things really started to happen.

I have to admit, I was weeping when Sansa and Jon hugged at the beginning of this episode, having almost cheered when Sansa, Brienne and Pod appeared at the door just in time to catch Jon before he could run off somewhere else. It was nice to see Sansa and Theon reunited last season, but the circumstances were so horrible, they rather detracted from it, plus although Theon regretted betraying Robb, he had rather firmly declared himself not a Stark in season two. This is the first time two Stark siblings (to conspiracy theorists - yes, I know, just go with me here) have been in the same place since Bran and Rickon split up in season three's generally traumatic 'The Rains of Castamere', the first time Sansa has seen one of her siblings since season one's also traumatic 'Baelor', and the first time Jon has seen any of them since episode two. The scene that followed, as they talked about their childhood and acknowledged their formerly prickly relationship while celebrating the love and fondness they share anyway was really beautiful.

Not only have two of our six young heroes finally been reunited, they are moving forward as well, though their hand has been slightly forced by Ramsey Bolton. I'm not quite sure why Sansa is so sure that Ramsey has Rickon, other than plot convenience, but the audience knows it's true, so fine, whatever, let's go with it. Even if Edd - who should totally be the new Lord Commander - isn't convinced, Tormund and the people with him have been directly threatened as well, and Brienne and Pod will go where Sansa does. I'm guessing the answer to the problem will involve Melisandre as well, as long as Davos doesn't find out what really happened to Shireen, cause I think if he did he'd finish her off then and there.

Other stories took similar forward steps - things may not actually be happening in all of them quite yet, but people are starting to form more specific plans, rather than just sitting around despairing of their lot. Tyrion is getting the chance to practice politics and play the game again for the first time since season two, and Cersei and Olenna have a plan to save Margaery - a bit of a mad plan, but they have one. Theon hasn't explained exactly how he plans to make Yara queen of the Iron Islands, but it's more direction than he's had in years, and Littlefinger, the master planner, is working out how to deal with one of his plans taking an unexpected direction.

The big scene of the episode, though, is of course the triumphant return of The Unburnt at the episode's climax. We were reminded throughout the episode of Danaerys' commitment to freeing people from slavery, and while the women of the Dothraki may not have been chattel slaves, they had no more control over their lives or their bodies than if they were. The idea of Dany being spirited away by two men in the night seemed completely off, but it was hard to imagine another option. that, however, was because I had forgotten one of her titles.

Presumably with some help from Jorah and Daario, Dany steps into the fire once again and repeats her actions from the first season finale, except this time, despite the absence of baby dragons, on a much larger scale. The scene clearly mirrored that earlier scene down to the detail of Jorah kneeling before her, and acted as a statement of intent - once again, Danaerys has been re-energised and her inner fire rekindled. It was wonderful to see the Khaleesi back again (and long overdue). Now, hopefully, she'll be reunited with Drogon and things can really start to happen...

Bits and pieces

 - I was really disappointed to see how quickly Osha was dispatched, having only just returned. I loved Osha, and Natalia Tena's performance. It seemed such a waste for both her and Shaggydog to be gone for so long and then killed almost immediately on their return.

 - Robyn Arryn is really tall now, but just as irritating.

 - Margaery's still awesome, and I'm glad poor Loras is still alive, even if he's looking distinctly worse for wear.

 - The looks passing between Brienne, Tormund and Edd at the dinner table were the best awkward glances since Community's brilliant "there's no reason any of us couldn't get romantic with each other" scene.

Quotes

Jon (to Sansa): If I don't watch over you, your father's ghost will come back and murder me.

Danaerys: You are small men. None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will.

Three out of four long-awaited reunions.

Reminder: The comments on these episode reviews are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our Season Six book spoiler thread.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

10 comments:

Mark Greig said...

All this episode had to do was bring Jon and Sansa together and I would’ve loved it unconditionally. Well, it did and I am still crying over was beautiful it was.

Josie Kafka said...

"[P]eople are starting to form more specific plans, rather than just sitting around despairing of their lot."

Thank goodness! Finally! It's so nice to see some forward movement on this show. I was starting to get bored.

I ship Tormund and Brienne now. Anyone else?

J.D. Balthazar said...

Josie, I can't help but jump in on that ship too, it made me smile how Tormund kept staring at Brienne. I think she might even appreciate it, because she made it clear at one point that no one has ever really looked at her like that before.

Jon and Sansa reuniting was probably one of my favorite moments in the series, and I don't think they actually shared much if any screen time in that first episode anyway. To have any Stark's share a familial moment is just wonderful.

Dany is back, Dany is back!!!

Docnaz said...

"IT's about time!" was what I thought when 2 of the Stark children finally reunited. This is surely the signal that the end of the series is near. "We should never have left Winterfell" is the understatement of all time." Of course, it was their father's fateful decision to leave that caused the rest of his family to splinter apart. Sansa''s character has grown. It was great seeing Brienne appreciated. I can't wait for next week.

Logan Cox said...

Such a shame they did Osha like that. I loved Osha. Fuckin' Ramsay.

They're getting a lot out of Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow. I should hate this guy, as fanatical and crazy as he is, but he's somehow one of the show's most captivating villains.

I'll admit, I wasn't a big fan of them retreading the iconic rebirth scene (but BIGGER), even though it does finally get the story going in earnest and contained the fourth instance in four episodes a character (Khal Moro) says "fuck" multiple times to make a point.

I was more excited to see how much Sansa has changed. Her calculating, war hawk attitude and desire to take back Winterfell from Ramsay; the little bird's out of her cage. This is something I've been waiting for since S1 ended, whereas Dany's boasting and posing is kind of old hat for me, at this point.

Tarthmond Giantsbrienne is, indeed, an amusing ship, but I feel like it will take a backseat to Brienne/Jaime. Though, Tormund is probably way less likely to break her heart than Jaime. It's cool that Tormund, in stark contrast to every other man in this series, is not disgusted when he first sees her, but awestruck.

And, of course, the Stark reunion was lovely. Harington and Turner are awesome; they're characters went from being among the ones I wasn't really a fan of to being at the top of the list of people I'm rooting for. I love that they actually acknowledge their annoying past selves.

Anonymous said...

as much as the high sparrow has that interesting Tyler durden vibe, I cant help but not take them seriously. I just dont get why they are still alive. lannister is the king. there are no other wars at the time and the sparrow has like, a 100 homeless guys with pointy sticks. It would take like half a day to wreck them.

considering the other options osha got out easy.
I did like that smug laugh ramsey made when osha said, Ive seen worse. He was like."you have no idea"

CrazyCris said...

Anyone else feeling sorry for poor Rickon? Osha had it easy compared to what the Bastard will do to the youngest Stark the moment Jon and Sansa (she's totally in charge, love it!) approach Winterfell... :o(

I think Sansa believed Ramsey's statement because (a) she knew Rickon and Bran were alive and (b) supposedly everyone else believed them to be dead (including her - to everyone else's knowledge-) so there would be no point in lying to her about that.

And as amazing as that final flaming and kneeling scene was, the Stark reunion wins my heart! Could watch it on a loop. :o) Who's next? Arya or Bran?

Docnaz said...

Logan, get out of my head!

As much as Dany's standing in the fire was cool, it wasn't that much different than her past walking out of fire or calling on her dragons to kill slavers or being saved by her dragon. All those were epic moments. Now, it is getting a little mundane. Seeing the bruised but not broken Stark children finally finding each other was the epic moment to me.

I also have to say that the book and TV show really showcases tong women, almost to the point of making the men appear wimpy. But that is OK with me.

Logan Cox said...

Docnaz, lol. I agree that while at times it's kind of weird to see in this medieval world, the story has totally earned it, considering how often pretty much all of the women on this show have been oppressed at one point or another. And the growing wimpiness (I and Bull Durham would prefer "weariness") of the heroic male characters could be a result of all the horrific battles, injuries or deceptions they've had to endure. Or the writers just like strong female characters.

Also, really great choice for a photo, Juliette. After the one I chose the previous week, I think we've gone right along with the now very strong Ice and Fire parallels between Jon and Daenerys.

Heather said...

Juls,
Thank you, I enjoyed reading this and I also nodded my head a lot. I slammed the last 4 episodes in rapid succession and you helped me process this one rather elegantly -- I appreciate it! Loved, loved, loved the embrace between Jon and Sansa.