We’re almost halfway through the season, and the pace of the show is ramping up. Season 6 once again lifted the bar with “Book Of The Stranger,” another strong episode following up from last weeks “Oathbreaker” where fans witnessed the much awaited Tower of Joy flashback. This week we got a whole lot of reunions, some resolutions, the revival of a storyline, and some much needed revenge.
It’s a moment many fans have been dreaming about since season 1. And it only took 6 seasons to get the payoff. That’s right, we finally got a Stark reunion! Now if you didn’t tear up during this scene, your heart must be as cold as the Night King. I actually sobbed, it was perfect. Sansa arrives at Castle Black just as Jon is getting ready to leave. A horn blows signalling their arrival, and then they both see each other. There is a beautiful moment when they just stare at each other, trying to comprehend the fact that after so much heartache and loss, they finally have family back, a piece of their old life from before tragedy struck. They both rush towards each other and embrace. This is actually the first time Jon and Sansa share a scene in the show, which just speaks volume about the magnitude of this story. Even though we don’t have any visual proof of their relationship as brother and sister before this scene, it makes absolutely no difference. The majority of this fandom is so invested in the Stark family, and just being able to see them safe and happy for once is such a huge emotional payoff. Afterwards we see them both huddled by the fireplace, reminiscing about the past. They both regret ever leaving Winterfell, and Sansa apologises for treating Jon poorly when they were kids.
Now some fans had assumed that Jon would change after his resurrection, and we begin seeing that in this episode. Jon is tired, he’s lost and given up. He no longer has the will to fight on and do what is right. When Sansa tells him they have to get Winterfell back from the Bolton’s, Jon is reluctant. He’s been fighting ever since he left Winterfell, and now he just wants to stop. However Sansa is still adamant about her decision, and says she’ll fight the Bolton’s with or without Jon’s help. Later on we see the Starks and their friends sitting and eating together. One of my favourite scenes was Tormund admiring Brienne. Now Tormund has always boasted about having sex with a bear, and Brienne has been mocked about looking like one in the past, she also ended up fighting one. It’s amusing to see Brienne’s reaction, she’s never really had a man shown interest in her. During this scene, Jon get’s a letter from Ramsay. Now the book readers will know that this is the show’s version of the infamous ‘Pink Letter.’ Both versions have a similar concept, with Ramsay threatening to kill Jon and the Wildlings if they don’t return his bride. In the show this relates to Sansa. He also mentions that Rickon is being held captive at Winterfell. Sansa once again pleads with Jon and tells him they must retake their home, and this time Jon has no other option but to agree.
Four episodes in and we finally see Littlefinger. I’ve missed him dearly, and I’m glad he doesn’t waste time in planning new plots and schemes. We return to the Vale to see the young Robin Arryn being trained in archery by Ser Royce. Like everything else in life, Robin fails miserably. However he doesn’t seem to mind, and is overjoyed by the arrival of “Uncle Petyr.” It’s nice seeing a character who isn’t warped by revenge for once, Littlefinger killed his mother Lysa but it’s refreshing to see that Lord Arryn doesn’t hold a grudge. Royce accuses Littlefinger of handing Sansa off to the Bolton’s, but Littlefinger claims they were attacked on the road and Sansa was taken away by force. He also reminds Royce that he was the only other person who knew about their whereabouts, implying that he sold them out to the Bolton’s. Robin, never one to miss an opportunity, asks Littlefinger if they should have Royce thrown out from the Moon Door. Littlefinger tells him to give Royce another chance, and just like that the knight backs down. With Robin wrapped around his ‘little fingers’, Littlefinger has complete control of the Vale, and announces that Sansa has escaped from the Bolton’s and the Knights of the Vale must “enter the fray” and help her retake the North.
The High Sparrow (HS) still has the Tyrell siblings locked up, but after having a nice chat with Margaery about his past, he lets her see her brother. I’m conflicted about how I feel about the HS, on one hand, most of the things he says actually make sense, and it seems he has the best interest of the commonfolk at heart. He’s charismatic, humble and gives decent advice. On the other hand when we get our second sibling reunion from this episode, we see how cruel this man can be, and those who don’t follow his moral guidelines end up suffering. Margaery finds her brother Loras in total shambles. We can assume Loras has been tortured or at least starved, because he’s been broken and is a shell of his former self. When Margaery asks him to stay strong, echoing the House Tyrell words, Loras admits that he’s given up and just wants the suffering to end, even if it means losing.
Back at the Red Keep, Cersei learns from Tommen that the HS plans to have Margaery follow in Cersei’s footsteps (pun intended), and have her own walk of atonement. Once this news reaches Olenna, the Queen of Thorns and the Queen Regent must put their differences aside to work together and defeat the HS and his Faith Militants. They plan to gather the Tyrell army in front of the Sept and take Margaery back, by force if necessary.
Ramsay is enjoying his life as Lord and Warden of the North. He meets Osha, who isn’t at all intimidated by him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know Ramsay too well. Thinking to seduce him the same way she did Theon, Osha straddles Ramsay while attempting to grab his kitchen knife. She pretends not to have been loyal to the Starks, and says she only kept Rickon because she wanted money for him. However Ramsay knows the truth, and tells her he knows that she helped the Stark boys escape Winterfell. Before Osha has a chance to grab the knife, Ramsay stabs her in the neck. I was honestly so disappointed on how this played out. They bought the actress and character back from season 3, only to have her die after less than 5 minutes of screen time. We know Ramsay’s evil, you don’t need to have him kill of character every episode just to prove a point. It’s especially sad because George RR Martin, the author, had said that he’d be giving the character Osha a bigger role in future books because of how much he enjoyed the character on the tv show.
Theon has returned home and we get our third and final sibling reunion of the episode. As he enters the castle, he is set upon by his sister Yara, who is disappointed and disgusted in him. She feels betrayed for what happened when she tried to rescue him, and thinks he’s only come back because he wants their fathers throne. He surprises her by telling her that he thinks she should rule, and she’ll have his support.
Tyrion Lannister is a fan favourite, but it seems that so far his character has been wasted and watered down to a wisecrack drunk who’s there to provide comic relief for a boring plotline. With Daenerys out of the scene, does anyone really care about Meereen or Slavers Bay? Either way, they are forced to include it for the sake of the plot. This week however, I was glad to see the old Tyrion back. He’s spent so long making jokes, that I forgot he’s a political mastermind who knows how to play the game. Within one sitting with the Masters of Yunkai and Astapor, Tyrion is able to achieve something Daenerys has been struggling with since the moment she arrived. Peace. Rather than completely abolishing slavery and cutting off the sole source of income for many of the richer families in Slavers Bay, Tyrion offers them 7 years to shut down their practices and gives them time to find new opportunities of income. In exchange, the Sons of the Harpies will back down and stop the killings happening in Meereen. Missandie and Grey Worm, both former slaves, completely disagree with Tyrion and warn him about this being a mistake. However Tyrion knows that without diplomacy and sacrifice, there won’t be an easy or peaceful way to solve all the problems they are facing.
With most of her supporting cast in Meereen or out looking for her, Daenerys’ plotline hasn’t been the greatest in season 6. Seeing the Dothraki again was a nice surprise, but the welcome has worn off. Thankfully, this episode finally picks up the pace. We see Jorah and Daario close in on Daenerys, and somehow they haven’t killed each other yet. However, Daario is being particularly savage and mocking Jorah for loving Dany. Jorah glares at him but doesn’t do much else, and as night falls they both sneak into the camp where they find Daenerys. She tells them she has a plan for escaping.
Later on we see Dany enter a hut with all the Khal’s, this is when they decide on her future. Dany openly mocks them, calling them weak and telling them she will lead the Khalasar. As they laugh and make crude jokes about her, Dany pushes down a fire holder, setting the place on fire. It spreads quickly, probably because the flood had been covered by some flammable substance by Jorah or Daario. As the Khal’s scream, Dany continues burning the place down. The guards outside have been killed and the doors barred by her trusted men, so there’s no escaping. As the building burns to the ground, Daenerys walks out unscathed, naked but still ‘Unburnt’. This scene is an obvious callback to season 1, when Daenerys’ dragons are born and when she gets her first Khalasar. This time however there are a lot more to witness this ‘miracle’. George RR Martin has previously stated that the first time Daenerys walked out from the fire, during her dragons birth, was in fact a miracle and a unique event, casued in part by blood magic. He went on to say that Daenerys and Targaryens are not immune to fire. However it seems the show has taken another step diverging from the books, and have made Daenerys fireproof. Which is pretty convenient when you look after three grown dragons.