Following up the momentum from last week, “Book of the Stranger” was another outstanding hour of Game of Thrones focused on forward motion and thematic bulk rather than gimmicky shocks and century-old boobs. This show works so much better when it doesn’t take the Network TV approach of ending each episode with a cliffhanger and picking up the next one by responding to the cliffhanger. It didn’t earn the resurrection of Jon Snow. It hasn’t earned the weekly perversion of Ramsay Bolton. But it earned the deaths of Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Stannis Baratheon, Joffrey Lannister, Tywin Lannister, and many more. Those were built carefully, not conveniently reverted to when something was needed to hold a season over. When they went down, you could feel their importance to the larger story and relevance to the series’ arc. I hope I’m communicating the difference effectively.
This episode opened with one of the series’ most emotionally weighty moments; the Sansa-Jon reunion. Now, if you were to look back to season one, it’s unlikely Jon and Sansa said more than a sentence or two to each other (I recall the scene before he leaves where he says goodbye to Arya and Sansa, giving Arya her sword, and that’s it). But this reunion, or any reunion involving a Stark, is a major moment we’ve been waiting on for a half-decade now. The writers (showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss) as well as director Daniel Sackheim deserve a ton of credit for capturing the familiarity between the two while still showing that so much had changed without having to rant about it. When Sansa enters, Jon sees her from a balcony. They both stare at each other for a moment, unsure of this reality, and then he runs down and they embrace. Sansa can’t believe Jon is actually a big boss man now, while Jon can’t believe Sansa is alive, much less in apparently decent health.
The two talk about what’s happened and about the food they ate growing up. It was a rare instance of joy quickly spoiled by the threatening letter from Ramsay. Sansa’s political acumen is growing by the day, likely a result of all the time she’s spent around Cersei, Tyrion, and Littlefinger. She reminds Jon that many Houses in the North would rally behind him were he to try and take Winterfell. Jon’s misunderstanding of (or apathy towards) Westerosi political nuances is what got him killed in the first place. Same with Robb and Ned. Wouldn’t it be great if Sansa grew into the first Stark to truly “get it” and went on to end the series on the Iron Throne? Not that I think the identity of the ultimate ruler really matters, but it doesn’t seem to be as popular of a theory as the ones surrounding Jon and Dany. I wonder why. It makes sense. At least in my head.
Checking in with Bronn of the Blackwater, week 4
Another Bronn-less week. The producers said at Comic-Con that he’s in this season. My hope is that he’s been held back because something important is in store for him. If not, why isn’t he being used for comedic purposes?
Littlefinger is back! Specifically, he’s back at the Vale with a pet falcon for our favorite breastmilk connoisseur, Lord Robin. This scene was so fucking hilarious. Littlefinger and Yohn Royce are arguing about loyalties to their Lord (Robin); all the while, Robin is sticking his fingers in the birdcage, completely oblivious to these two advisors planning things in his name. After a veiled threat from Littlefinger in Robin’s name, Royce agrees the best course of action is to send men to The Wall to protect Sansa. So we have Jon and Sansa possibly going to Winterfell, Ramsay possibly going to The Wall, and now Arryn loyalists possibly going to The Wall. We could be in for quite the shindig.
In Meereen, Tyrion is giving Messandei and Grey Worm a lesson on compromise and practicality. As former slaves, they are naturally gung-ho set against the practice of it to any extent. But Tyrion, ever the diplomat, doesn’t see this as an entirely black-and-white moral issue (*insert joke about Grey Worm not being able to see the grey area*). Given that the slavers from neighboring cities are the ones funding the Sons of the Harpy, this debate gets a bit trickier. All parties reluctantly reach the agreement that the cities will have seven years to transition away from slavery in exchange for them cutting off their support to the Sons. But even after said agreement is reached, Grey Worm warns Tyrion that slave owners are a different breed and they may be the ones doing the politicking in this scenario. This is really the first reminder we’ve gotten in a while that Meereen is essentially a different world than Westeros. It’s safe to assume we haven’t seen the last of the Sons of the Harpy.
Was there any peen this week?
We got to see a bit more of Margaery this week. She’s still locked away for her sinning, but she’s not as broken as her brother Loras; or even as broken as Cersei was in the same spot last season. She assumes someone will come for her. Her husband or Lady Olenna, most likely. Mr. Sparrow gave another private sermon about pitfalls of vanity. Blah blah blah. His rationalizations are getting annoying, and none of the characters are really buying them. You’re a cult leader, brah, just admit it. The real development came via the small council where Cersei has convinced Lady Olenna to take up action against the Sparrow and his zealous goons before Margaery has to experience the “Walk of Shame” that Cersei did. I don’t expect Mr. Sparrow to last much longer. Lady Olenna a savage yo. If she can successfully oversee a hit on a king, I’m sure she can do the same on an old man with bad knees.
Cersei-Olenna interactions are always awesome. Even when there’s beef there’s a mutual respect. Of all the females on the show, these two are the most adept when it comes to navigating the upper echelon of society free of any male influence. That’s rare in Westeros.
We’ve seen wildling/Stark babysitter Osha use her sexuality on a few occasions, but Ramsay didn’t fall for it. I’m not sure why he let her get so close to him considering he knew who she was, but whatever, Ramsay prefers a sadistic neck stabbing as opposed to a simple beheading or hanging any day of the week. This scene was a nice way to harken back to Theon’s flaws. Osha pulled the same shit with Theon to bust Bran and Rickon out of Winterfell. Theon went for it. Ramsay didn’t. The result was Osha bleeding out as Ramsay sat there slicing fruit.
Speaking of Theon, his sister Yara didn’t seem thrilled with his return, but that has more to do with her yearning to lead the Ironborn than any negative feelings towards Theon (though she’s certainly upset that he didn’t come with her when she lost men attempting to save him from Ramsay). Theon makes it clear that he supports her claim, so they should be Gucci. Has Theon returned home because he has nowhere else, or does he have something up his sleeve? I’m guessing the former. He’s been kicked too many times while already down to have the emotional wherewithal necessary to attempt any shenanigans.
The “Daenerys Sucks Diaries”, week 4
I, uh, I’m at a loss for words. Daenerys sort of didn’t suck this week. She won’t be waiting around for another whole season. When being summoned by the various Khal’s to find out if she gets to hang out in the Dorthraki Widow Book Club for a little while longer. She gets testy. Emilia Clarke is one-beat actress, at least on this show, but it works for these types of scenes. She questions the men’s ambition, noting her husband’s desire to conquer the world, and that emasculates them. Naturally, they threaten to gang rape her.
They’re all like, “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none”.
Then she’s all like, “Fuckboi out my face.”
Then they’re all like, “We’ll kill you.”
Then she’s all like, “Not if I kill you first ya bish.”
Then they’re all like, “Oh, really? How is this silver-haired thottie going to kill us?”
Then she’s all like, “Trust me, you don’t want it with no real bitch. I’m the unburnt, nahmean.”
Then they’re all liked, “Fuck this bitch even saying?”
Then she’s like, “I’ll show you.”
Then she knocks over the fire and the building made of straw burns (straw, really?). All the Khals are trapped because Jorah and Daario barred the doors. Dany stands there in the burning building as a crowd starts to gather around. She emerges unburnt (but naked) and every bows down to her.
Those Khals got SONNED.
Anyways, this is a critical development for Dany’s story. First off, we don’t have to wait an entire season for something to happen with her again. But mostly, if she’s in charge of 100,000 Dorthraki, well, that’s certainly a larger army than she’s ever had before. Dany all-of-a-sudden looks ready for her moment. This would feel rushed if her entire arc since season two didn’t feel wasteful. She’s motivated again. Given the numbers and Tyrion’s guidance, Dany is more prepared than ever to do it big.
That was a great scene, and this was a great episode. It moved. It had big moments that didn’t feel completely out of nowhere. This is already 1,000 words long and I haven’t gotten to the dumb stuff, so I’ll leave it at that.
Tweet of the Week
Arbitrary Ranking of the Week
Game of Thrones characters ranked based on how awful of high school guidance counselors they’d make:
“When you fill out the Common App, you either win, or you die.”
2. Ser Davos
“Oh? You want advice on increasing your reading comprehension SAT score?”
That’s all. I’m very lazy. Hence the lack of memes this week.
Five Random Notes
- Props to Daniel Sackheim, director of the last two episodes. I look forward to seeing what the great Jack Bender did stylistically with the next two.
- Go see The Lobster.
- What is still the best show on TV comes on every Sunday immediately after GOT, familia.
- Is there a single GOT fan on the planet who gives two shits about the Greyjoys and that storyline?
- Sophie Turner (who plays Sansa) will possibly get a big career post next week based on how folks react to X-Men: Apocalypse.