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

Normally it’s around episode four that all the disparate plot points of a Game of Thrones season begin to pick up their momentum; goals are identified, strategies are put into place, and we start to see an endgame that will no doubt be ruined by someone getting their head chopped. I’m pleased to announce that episode four of season six is no different.

Spoiler warning: Spoilers everywhere. Please watch the episode before reading this recap/review!

We have a new location in the opening title sequence this episode – the Eyrie, last seen probably in season four when Sansa, Littlefinger, and ex-breastfeeder Robin Arryn were leaving it. Daniel Sackheim also returns to direct this episode after his premiere episode last week.

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We begin the episode at the Wall. Jon Snow and Dolorous Edd are having a chat, Jon reaffirms that he’s leaving the Night’s Watch and is able to do so because he died and therefore has served his time at the Wall. He wants to go ‘home’, but where is home? Winterfell? Surely not. Edd encourages Jon to stay at the Wall because he knows what kind of threat lies beyond it, and no one else seems to be paying attention. But lo, a horn sounds and the gates open – Sansa, Brienne and Pod arrive. Tormund Giantsbane appears quite taken by Brienne. When Sansa arrives, she looks around and locks eyes with her half-brother, Jon Snow. What happens next I’m guessing is that someone was cutting onions in my house because this moment had me tearing up a little bit. We hear the Stark theme rise up in the background, and for some reason it feels like the Starks might just be back in the game.

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Side note: Jon Snow is rocking a sick man-bun this season.

Jon and Sansa reminisce on fond times at Winterfell and how they never should have left; but how could they have known that this entire story could have been prevented from happening if patriarch Ned Stark never ruined everything by blabbing about Joffrey being a bastard born of incest? Sansa admits she was an ‘ass’ to Jon when they were kids, which is funny yet true. Sansa and Jon vow to stick together through thick and thin, and Sansa proposes heading to Winterfell, to claim it back from the Boltons and claim the North for their own. Sansa basically says that if Jon is too much of a chicken to do it, she’ll do it herself. Season six Sansa is quite possibly my favourite Sansa.

Later, Melisandre and Davos have a chat, and Davos asks what Melisandre will do now that Jon has been revived. As he is the Prince that was Promised according to her faith, she will do whatever he commands her to do. Davos wants to know about Stannis and Shireen – awkward. Brienne shows up and basically confronts Melisandre about the blood magic that killed Renly Baratheon back in season two, and admits to executing Stannis – a one-two punch of awkwardness. I just realised that it was at this point that both Davos and Melisandre must have learned of Stannis’ fate. They both appear shocked. At least I finally have closure from the source that Stannis is actually dead. Davos watches Brienne as she walks away. I really hope that they don’t have a fight to the death because I love both these characters and it would really hurt to see one of them die. Brienne also dropped the line of something like, “Just because it was the past, doesn’t mean I’ll forget or forgive” – which makes me ask, are D&D giving Brienne the role of a little old phenomenon known as LSH? If so, I’ll be super pissed.

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We then see Littlefinger meet with young Robin Arryn in the Vale, breastfeeding no longer yet currently failing at archery. Littlefinger manipulates Robin into participating in a quest to retrieve his cousin Sansa from Castle Black, where Littlefinger accurately predicts she’ll run after escaping the Boltons. Robin trusts Littlefinger because he hasn’t had a reason not to so far, apart from Littlefinger’s straight-up murder of his mother. I have absolutely no idea what Littlefinger is doing, but whatever it is, it had better not be a waste of screen time.

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Back in Meereen, Tyrion has invited some enemies from Yunkai, Astapor and Volantis to the city to discuss their present situation and to negotiate an ending to slavery. He negotiates a seven-year deal where slavery will slowly dissipate and slavers will be compensated for their monetary losses. In exchange, funds are to be cut off from the Sons of the Harpy who are terrorising Meereen. Then Tyrion offers his enemies some prostitutes and wine. Unsurprisingly, the people of Meereen aren’t happy, and neither are Grey Worm and Missandei, both of whom have experienced slavery first hand. This storyline is blessed with some wonderful dialogue, but yet this is the storyline that is really dragging for me the most this season. Tyrion appears out of his depth in this political climate, thinking of things in Westerosi terms.

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Then, Daario and Jorah are still looking for Daenerys. They find the sacred city of Vaes Dothrak and have to leave their weapons outside due to ancient custom. They fight over Daenerys like total dudebros, and Jorah accurately predicts that Daenerys will be kept at the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen; there’s a lot of accurate predictions by characters this season. When removing his weapons, Daario notices Jorah’s greyscale, which is getting worse and worse.

In a scene that’s simply too dark for my television to handle, Jorah and Daario sneak in to Vaes Dothrak by nightfall. This scene feels like it’s straight out of the Game of Thrones Telltale video game series. Jorah and Daario are sprung by Dothraki fighters and they attack, but Daario saves the day by stabbing one of the Dothraki with his beloved lady-shaped knife that he smuggled in. In order to conceal the fact that weapons are in the city, Daario masks the stab wound by smashing the dead body’s wound hole with a rock, to look like a beating instead. There’s nothing really significant about this moment, I just thought it was a clever move.

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We then see Daenerys and the Dosh Khaleen. Daenerys meets a young woman who was married off to a Khal at age 12, kind of like Daenerys was in the books. There are not-so-vague threats to Daenerys’ wellbeing, and she and her new friend decide to go for a walk. Who should they bump into but Jorah and Daario, here to rescue Daenerys and save the day! But no – Daenerys has a better idea. They can do more than smuggle her out. I, for one, can’t wait to find out what that is!

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Back to Margaery Tyrell, still in a cell in King’s Landing. She is led to see the High Sparrow, shying away from the light as she must have been stuck in the dungeons for a long time. She and the High Sparrow have a discussion about sin, extravagance, opulence, the shallowness and futility of it all. It turns out that the High Sparrow used to be quite the sinful fellow before becoming a militant fundamentalist. Margaery recites a passage from the Book of the Stranger, which is a book from the Faith of the Seven in the Thrones universe; and is also conveniently where the title of the episode comes from. This is a nice reference to the idea that pretty much all of our beloved characters will die, where the passage talks about walking through cemetery and understanding the futility of life, or thereabouts. During the High Sparrow’s monologue, was he breaking the fourth wall or was that just me? There was a wonderful performance by Jonathan Pryce here. He’s one of my favourite guest stars, I think. The High Sparrow offers for Margaery to see her brother, and she does so, but he’s weak and wants to surrender, for it all to be over. Margaery wants them to stay strong, and it looks like she’ll have to be the backbone for the two of them.

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As Cersei approaches her son King Tommen, she interrupts the Grand Maester Pycelle talking into his ear about enemies “within and without”. She tells him to leave and he shuffles off, claiming he was just providing counsel to the king. Tommen admits to Cersei he’s been thinking about the High Sparrow, and that they should be careful in dealing with him. Tommen accurately predicts that Cersei dislikes Margaery but as Cersei says, that’s not important right now; their keeping control is the most important thing. Tommen tells Cersei a secret that the High Sparrow told him. I assumed it might have been something about Tommen’s parentage, but instead, Cersei and Jaime go to reveal to the Small Council later that the High Sparrow intends to make Margaery do the walk of shame like she had to last season. Cersei and Lady Olenna Tyrell agree that this can’t be allowed to happen. Jaime and Ser Kevyn Lannister come up with a plan to prevent the High Sparrow from continuing to ruin King’s Landing and take away their power.

Finally, something is happening with this storyline! I like the way this is heading, hopefully towards some kind of amazing fight scene in the city. I like that people who once were at odds have found a certain solidarity with one another in the face of a common enemy. But I can’t help but think that the High Sparrow is ahead of the game on this one; leaking information to Tommen, knowing that he’ll run to his mother and tell her. It was nice to hear the rising refrains of the ‘Rains of Castamere’ in the background of this scene as the Lannisters plan to rise again, though.

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A ship then takes Theon to Pyke, to see his family, for more of the Greyjoy drama that I love. Theon arrives at his castle by the sea, and Yara, his sister, is super angry. She believes Theon to have betrayed her, rejected her escape attempt, and to have wasted the lives of the good men who tried to save him. Theon apologises and explains his Bolton predicament, but Yara already knows about it because she was sent one of the thousand pieces that Theon was broken into. Yara questions whether Theon is just back at the Iron Islands to try and take his father’s role as Lord, but he says no. Theon says he doesn’t want to be a king, he just wants to have a family again. He wants Yara to rule the Iron Islands, and wants to help her to do so. Yes! I love the Greyjoy storyline. Although, I’m pretty sure Yara can do just fine on her own.

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Back to our resident most hated character of the moment, Ramsay Bolton! Osha the wildling, whom we met back in season one and whom has been protecting Rickon Stark since approximately season three, is brought to his room. Immediately, alarm bells. There’s a nice badass moment here where Osha reminds Bolton that he’s not really as cool as he thinks, he doesn’t even eat people after he flays them! Ramsay asks Osha to tell him about serving the Starks, and she downplays her loyalty. Ultimately, Osha tries to use her feminine charms to distract Ramsay and hopefully stab him in the face and neck area. But Ramsay tells Osha that Theon told him all about how loyal she actually is to the Starks, and he gets to her first – stabbing her in the neck. We are shown a pretty brutal shot where we basically watch Osha bleed out and die on the floor. Then Ramsay continues eating his apple, cutting off a slice with the knife he just used to kill Osha. If Ramsay isn’t the most hated Thrones character by now, I’ll eat my hat. This is bordering on cartoonishly villainous, but Iwan Rheon is such a great actor that it’s forgivable. I’m upset that Osha is now dead, though, because I really liked her both in the books and in the show.

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Back at the Wall, a Bolton representative arrives at Castle Black with a letter. Jon Snow and friends appear to be eating a nice dinner but Sansa is hating it. However, in a nice moment, she concedes that there are better things in life than good food; such as being reunited with your brother whom you haven’t seen since season one, and planning to ruin all of your enemies together. Jon Snow receives the letter and reads it aloud. It’s Ramsay Bolton, bragging to Jon about how much he’s dominating Winterfell and how he has Rickon in his dungeon. He also threatens Sansa with further sexual assault, and threatens to take Jon’s eyes out with a spoon. Brutal. He signs the letter, “Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North”, which tells everyone that Roose Bolton is dead, and that Ramsay definitely murdered him.

Sansa provides Jon and Tormund with information on the Bolton army. It’s 5000 strong, and the wildling army only consists of 2000 soldiers. However, Sansa knows that Northern families will fight for the Stark name – they are the true rulers in the North, not these Bolton pretenders. Sansa is bent on revenge and destruction, which is great. Jon initially appears unsure, perhaps because he’s been living within the politically safe Castle Black for quite some time, where he hasn’t had to deal with family issues and House loyalties, and the difficulties that come with this. Ultimately, he agrees with Sansa. The Starks are back in business! This is one of the storylines I’m the most hyped about. It’s so great to see some Starks back together again, after the near misses of previous seasons.

I’m sure everyone else noticed the looks between Tormund Giantsbane and Brienne this episode. I just want to know what’s going on with that!

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Back in Vaes Dothrak, the Khals are all sitting around talking about the man who was mysteriously found with his head smashed in, when all of a sudden Daenerys is brought in by the widows of the Dosh Khaleen, who promptly leave. The Khals wonder what they might do with Daenerys’ fate, and mention that the wise masters of Yunkai want her to be taken to them, and are offering a whole bunch of horses in exchange for her. Knowing the Dothraki tongue, Daenerys speaks up and tells her story of being wife to the strong Khal Drogo who set his sights on conquering Westeros; whereas these idiots seem to be just planning on raiding minor villages. She insults their manhood and they’re not too happy about it. But Daenerys says that she’s strong enough to do the things they’re not able to do. There was some absolutely beautiful cinematography in this scene.

Daenerys upturns the flames that are spread around the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, burning the Khals alive, having barricaded them in to the Temple. Jorah and Daario must have spread some gasoline or something on the sand to make it catch fire so easily. Daenerys walks amongst the flames and sets everyone on fire, looking slightly crazy, not unlike her father, the Mad King Aerys II whose torture method of choice was burning people alive. The Temple soon fully burns, and Dothraki from far and wide in Vaes Dothrak come to see. Surely no one could survive such an intense blaze. But lo and behold, Daenerys emerges from the flames – the Unburnt, naked, a living miracle. The Dothraki kneel to her, just as they did when she emerged from the flames of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre in the finale of season one. Daenerys has been reborn in the flames – having saved herself as opposed to being saved by men, an army, her dragons – she doesn’t need dragons to get things done, she has her own personal power, and now she has the entire Dothraki people as her loyal subjects. Shit is about to get real. Also, that wasn’t a body double!

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Boom. What an episode. This was probably the first episode this season where all the events in the episode were really thrilling for me – apart from Tyrion and Meereen, which continues to be a bit of a drag for me. Still, I’m really liking the season thus far.

Next episode is entitled “The Door”, and here’s the trailer. It looks like we’ll be seeing Littlefinger return to Sansa’s side (go away!), assassin Arya in the House of Black and White, the Kingsmoot at the Iron Islands, a mysterious Red Priestess confronting Varys and Tyrion in Meereen, and Bran being confronted by an entire army of the undead and the Night’s King himself. Can’t wait!

4/5

11 comments

  1. Such a fantastic episode. Great write-up!

    1. I really enjoyed this one! Thanks heaps! šŸ™‚

  2. Really enjoyed this episode! The plot finally advanced!!

    1. Finally!! šŸ˜€

  3. Incredible piece on this episode! There’s so much I wanted to say to you about this, but to quickly sum it up. I think Littlefinger is planning to make another move up in world, he acquired a damn castle already haha, probably going to try to get more land & families to join him. Or since he’s going to be going for the Boltons & sansa, the 2k army that Jon has including the men of the nights watch who I think will join him, will unknowingly be saved or teamed up with the Knights of the Vale to hopefully kill Ramsey, Mountain vs The Viper style. Then it will be the conflict between Jon and Little fingers army because Sansa will want revenge there as well.

    I think Tormund recognizes the towering presence of Brienne. I could be totally wrong but I want to suspect he’s never seen a lady, who is that grand but also is a warrior.

    I’m really bummed that Osha died as well, it was pulled the heart strings a bit because she’s been with the Stark’s since season 1.

    SANSA – JON meeting up, I almost cried too, I literally had to yell.i don’t think I’ve been this pumped in the stark storyline since the last episode of Season 1 where Robb tells Caitlyn that “I’ll to kill them all” šŸ˜­šŸ˜­šŸ˜­ then they just ripped that away from us. I’ll never in my life get over the red wedding šŸ˜¦

    But yeah, it’s looking like Jon & Dany are related, maybe we’ll see Jon on a dragon. With bran controlling it?

    I think the White Walkers will be able to feel Bran’s presence in his visions, just like Ned presumably heard him.

    If we could just skip the Mareen, Dorne, and Davos storyline, I will be happy. Just keep it up north, and at Pyke. I love the Greyjoy storyline as well.

    Okay I’ll stop now haha great season thus far!

    1. Thanks so much Jon! I do love writing about this silly show. And you are so right not to trust Littlefinger, particularly after the most recent episode. He’s definitely up to something strange. I haven’t gotten over the Red Wedding either. That was one traumatising episode!

  4. YES! Daenerys kicks ass!!!!! : ) šŸ™‚ šŸ˜‰

    1. I’m excited to see her kick even more ass soon!

  5. I finally managed to watch this and it was a much better episode. I do wish it wasn’t all so dark though!!

    1. I wish some of the scenes were lighter so I could actually watch it on my television! Poor TV just can’t cope sometimes.

      1. Mine can’t either and it is brand new. I don’t know what they are trying to achieve by making everything so dark.

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