Game of Thrones Recap: S6E4 - "Book of the Stranger"
Yeah it’s the anniversary of BGNO and yeah I had a post about that yesterday, but Game of Thrones is still on and things continue to go down so I couldn’t just leave it. This episode did not disappoint, making me wonder if this is the best season of the show to date or if I’m just excited that we’re getting some reprieve for most of our favorites.
This episode for the most part was lit, and I spent the first half especially with my hands in the air, celebrating the REUNITING OF SOME STARKS FOR ONCE! Later in the episode, though, I did feel uncomfortable with the incredible amount of whitesplaining and white saviorness happening in Essos. Anyway, let’s dive into some details.
SANSA ARRIVED AT THE WALL AND JON IS STILL THERE. WE GOT SOME STARKS TOGETHER. IN THE SAME ROOM. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE BRAN WENT BEYOND THE WALL. OMG.
Despite the stalling they did at the Tower of Joy last episode, the writers didn’t drag out Sansa and Jon finally getting together. It was the most heartwarming moment we’ve had in a long time and I was so happy that the two of them finally got to be with family after so long. It was interesting to see Sophie Turner and Kit Harington act together, since this is actually the first time we ever see the two of them have a conversation or even interact in the show. They haven’t been in a scene together since the first episode of season 1, and even though we’ve never seen them together the happiness and relief Jon and Sansa felt was palpable, which was even more interesting since Sansa – as was demonstrated in the books and said in the show – wasn’t all that nice to Jon growing up. The conversations and interactions Sansa has with Jon this episode truly shows us how far she’s come. She arrives to the Wall expecting to find a Jon Snow who is battle ready and who won’t hesitate about marching on Winterfell, especially once she finds out he is no longer of the Night’s Watch (side note: I’m glad Jon didn’t keep his death from her, that would have been unnecessary). While Jon knows he will protect Sansa, he is still dealing with the cause and repercussions of his death, and though he knows the whitewalkers are coming, he no longer wants to fight. This is all understandable, but I still love that Sansa pushes him, that all she wants is to get back at the Boltons and while she needs Jon’s help, it seems she might be willing to do it herself if she has to.
Ramsay Bolton, however, tips Jon’s hand with a diss letter threatening him and demanding Sansa back. He says a bunch of foul things, including threatening the wildlings, which gets Tormund Giantsbane ready for battle, and tells them that he has Rickon in the dungeons of Winterfell. While I’m glad Rickon hasn’t been harmed yet, there really is a clock running out on how long it will be before he is, so I’m hoping Jon, Sansa, and the wildlings march quickly.
Earlier in the episode we get a conversation between Davos and Melisandre, where Melisandre tells Davos that she will follow Jon wherever he goes, as she believes he is the prince that was promised. Davos challenges her, saying that he thought that was Stannis, and then pressures Melisandre to tell him what really happened down south, and specifically to Shireen. Brienne inadvertently saves Melisandre by interrupting and telling Davos that she saw Stannis’s struggle army defeated by the Boltons, and even telling the both of them that she killed Stannis herself.
It looks like we’re getting Bastard Bowl pretty soon – and possibly a love connection between Tormund and Brienne??? – I’m just hoping we won’t have to wait until next season to see this battle or Ramsay Bolton perish at the hands of either Jon or Sansa.
In the Vale, Littlefinger is back and just as slimy as usual. He has finally returned from his trips to both the North and King’s Landing, and somehow has a bigger grip on Lord Robin Arryn than the lords he’s staying with. While Lord Royce is rightfully distrustful of Littlefinger, Petyr is able to demonstrate the amount of power he has in the Vale due to the influence he wields over Robin, who will throw anyone out of the Moon Door the second he gets the chance. Petyr tells Robin about Sansa’s escape from Winterfell and that she is most likely headed for Castle Black. He more or less gives Robin the answer that they have to go after Sansa, and Littlefinger orders Lord Royce to gather the knights of the Vale to finally join the war in the seven kingdoms. While it’s nice of Littlefinger to bring Jon and Sansa the knights of the Vale, I’m curious how forgiving Sansa is going to be towards Littlefinger after he left her in Winterfell. He may be expecting Sansa to be as she was pre-Ramsay Bolton, someone who he can manipulate and act as a trustworthy figure, but after all Sansa has been through, I highly doubt that will be the case. I’m sure Jon and Sansa will agree to work with Littlefinger because of the army he has, but I doubt he’ll have as much sway as he expects to.
In Meereen, we’re back to see Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, and Grey Worm attempt to rule in Daenerys’s stead. Tyrion decides that it’s time to make peace with the masters of Astapor and Yunkai in order to stop the Sons of the Harpy. Both Missandei and Grey Worm, who are former slaves, disagree with his plan, which Tyrion then proceeds to whitesplain his way through. The entire section of the episode in Meereen was uncomfortable and was even more heightened by the fact that Tyrion is played by a white man and Missandei and Grey Worm by black people. There was a particular moment when Tyrion played the “I’ve been a slave too” card that Missandei made a great point:
Obviously things get tricky in politics and Tyrion with his 7-year plan for the abolishment of slavery is a testament to how well he knows how to play the game, but at the same time he ignores and uses Missandei and Grey Worm in ways that continue to replicate the power structures he is supposedly trying to get rid of. The part where he offered to compensate the slaveholders particularly hit close to home and made me angry.
There was also an interesting commentary on Daenerys being a master herself, which more or less fell on deaf ears because it came from actual slave masters, but it’s a valid viewpoint that I’ll come back to when I get to Vaes Dothrak.
We arrive in King’s Landing back in the Sept where Septa Unella leads Margaery Tyrell to speak with the High Sparrow. Margaery tells the High Sparrow that she just wants to go home to her family, and he tells her that to seek her family is to seek sin, which is ridiculously arrogant. He then proceeds to tell a long story about how he came to be the way he is, which was interesting, but just drives home the fact that since he’s changed he wants everyone to change with him. He gets to decide what sin is, and therefore he tries to change and punish everyone. While he seems kind, he’s also clearly full of it, which Margaery sees right away. The High Sparrow does allow Margaery to see her brother Loras, who at this point is thoroughly broken. Margaery comforts him and has to convince him not to tell the Sparrows anything, though we’ll see how much longer Loras can take it.
Across King’s Landing in the Red Keep, Cersei goes to speak with Tommen, who tells her that he’s been speaking with the High Sparrow. Cersei goes to the High Council where she tells her uncle Kevan and Lady Olenna what Tommen has told her, that Margaery is to make the walk of atonement as Cersei did. It seems that while Cersei doesn’t like Margaery, she understands the importance of the crown having some authority over those they are ruling, and offers Lady Olenna a truce, teaming up the Lannisters and Tyrells once again to attack the Sept, rescue Margaery and Loras, and to capture or kill the High Sparrow. It seems like a good plan, but we’ll see if it actually works.
Across Westeros in the iron islands, Theon finally arrives at Pyke. He goes to see Yara, who is furious with him, and who thinks that he’s only come back after hearing that their father has died. Theon is clearly a different person at this point, and while Yara sees it, she is also suspicious that the same conniving person Theon was three seasons ago is still there. However, Theon tells her that he doesn’t want to be King, that instead he wants to help her win the kingsmoot. It’s clear that all Theon wants is family and to relax, but we’ll see how much of that he’ll get once the kingsmoot is over.
We get a short scene in Winterfell with a conversation between Ramsay and Osha. Osha attempts to use her feminine wiles on him, ones that have worked plenty of times on other men, to get close enough to a knife to stab him with. Unfortunately, Ramsay is quicker, and he kills Osha. It sucks that Rickon’s only friend is now gone, and that he is truly alone in Winterfell now. Again, I’m really hoping they just keep him in the dungeons unharmed until Jon and Sansa can come for him.
We come to Vaes Dothrak with Jorah and Daario as they begin to plot how they are going to get into the city and rescue Daenerys. Things get made a bit more complicated because they can’t enter the city with weapons. While they are disarming themselves, Daario FINALLY catches a glimpse of Jorah’s greyscale, and though he doesn’t seem so concerned after Jorah tells him he hasn’t touched the greyscale, it’s still a dangerous thing that I hope Daario tells Dany about once they are able to have a real conversation. I’m going to be completely honest and say that this hope is partly for Dany’s own safety, but also because I’m petty and Jorah gets on my nerves. So anyway, they go to rescue Dany, but she tells them that she has a different plan.
We meet up again with Dany at the end of episode when she is to appear in front of the khals so that they can decide whether she is to become a part of the Dosh Khaleen or not. We get a bit more dialogue to showcase how “savage” the dothraki are before Khal Moro tells Dany that she belongs with the Dosh Khaleen. Dany declines that offer, telling them that she will instead lead the dothraki. The khals get angry and threaten her with rape and death. Dany, ever the blood of the dragon, instead burns them all alive in the temple of the Dosh Khaleen and emerges naked and unburnt. When she comes out, all of the dothraki drop to their knees in worship, and suddenly she has thousands of dothraki under her rule.
Now, I totally understand people’s excitement at this moment, at her “burning the patriarchy” and all that, but I had some issues with this moment, and rather than ending the episode excited I felt a bit disappointed. My first critique is that we’ve already seen this before. Just on a storytelling level, it felt lazy to have her yet again emerge from fire unburnt and have people fall to their knees in awe and worship. Of course, the circumstances were a bit different because she was burning the temple as a conquering move and she didn’t come out with three more dragons, but the sentiment is more or less the same. The first time, it symbolized a rebirth of a Dany who had once been meek, timid, and afraid. I’m not sure what this was really supposed to symbolize on a character-level, other than that she’s badass and can’t be burned.
My biggest issue with the scene is one I’ve brought up in prior recaps of the show, and which I will probably write a longer post on at some point. While yes, Daenerys is a woman who just burned down a building full of misogynistic men, she is also a white person who just burned down the leaders of a society of people of color so that she could conquer them. Again and again, Dany travels around Essos colonizing and “saving” these people of color who don’t necessarily want to be saved or at the very least didn’t ask for her to rule over them. It’s almost Meereen all over again, and reminds me a lot of when one of the masters speaking with Tyrion earlier in the show says that Dany herself is a master, or in episode 1 when “Mhysa is a Master” is graffitied on one of the walls of Meereen. Dany is convinced that she’s saving all of these people, that they all love her, but she’s really just colonizing them again and again and telling them that their lives are so much better now that she’s the one in charge. I’m not even sure exactly why Dany needs the dothraki when she’s the one who dipped from the strength she had in Meereen. Is she going to force them to fight in her war (either in Meereen or Westeros) and why? Are we going to have to see more people struggle against her colonizing ways and her trying to stymie their rebellion? While Dany’s story used to be one of my favorites, it’s quickly becoming my least favorite mainly because of these politics and the ways the writers are able to put in these violent acts against people of color and somehow have us think it’s dope, solely because it’s being done by a woman who has dragons. Dany’s story is becoming a big showcase in whiteness and this incessant need for her to rule over everyone she meets. And then once again she’s rewarded for her actions by having all of the people fall to their knees in worship as if they’d just been waiting for this moment their whole lives. It’s pretty much a mix of the dragon reveal at the end of season 1 and the “Mhysa” scene at the end of season 3 and I’m over it at this point. I’m hoping that we get more of Dany looking west at the very least so that we can move forward from this storyline that we’ve been on for a little over two seasons now and get to something else. While there are clearly threats from the Sons of the Harpy and possibly from within the dothraki (we’ll see I’m assuming in the next episode) it also doesn’t feel like those storylines are serving a purpose anymore, like they’re stalling the trip to Westeros with more things that may or may not matter in the end game, with a side of racism.
Aside from that, and the lack of Tower of Joy scenes, this episode was one of my favorites, and I’m most likely going to go back and watch the beginning of this episode so I can revel in the Stark reunion yet again before things inevitably get messed up again. Dany’s colonizing tendencies aside, this episode was very much about the women taking charge and making their voice heard from Sansa at the Wall to Missandei in Meereen and I’m here for it. It was one of my favorite parts about this episode and while the only woman we were missing was Arya, I’m really excited to see more development of this theme in the rest of the season. I’m especially ready for Sansa to run things, which is great development for someone who used to get on my nerves. The interactions between Sansa and Jon are really great and the fact that we’re getting another brother-sister duo in the show makes me so happy. All I want now is the money-shot of all the Stark kids together, ready to wreak havoc on all their enemies. And the flaming of the whitewalkers by the dragons. I’m sure I’ll have to wait until next season for these things, but as long as I keep getting Jon and Sansa – and maybe Rickon! – I’ll be good for a while.