Show: Game of Thrones
Watched: Episode 54 – May 15, 2016
Title: Book of the Stranger
Summary: Dany is back!
NOTE: SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING. This review/discussion contains tons of spoilers about the episode and even ones crossing over from the books. It’s really my free-for-all musing given all the information at my disposal.
Plot threads are unraveled and discussed one by one.
The Wall – Focus pulls from Longclaw (Jon’s sword) to Edd who watches while while Jon packs. Horns blow to announce an arrival and the the big wooden gates swing open for Sansa, Brienne, and Pod. It’s been so long since any Starks actually met that I was at first sure this was one of those “tricks” like in Silence of the Lambs where they were entering a different gate. But no, they actually made it to Castle Black before Jon left — well not before he died and was reborn.
I must mention that Tormund Giantsbane gives Brienne the same kind of stare that a high school boy might reserve for Jessica Alba.
Jon stumbles out and down and they are drawn into a big bold Stark hug. It is, as D&B note in the “inside the episode” such an emotional and interesting moment in part because they weren’t even close as children. Sansa espoused mostly disdain for Jon. Now, after what they’ve gone through all that doesn’t matter and the common parentage and background is so much more precious. So soon, they’re sipping soup and kidding about Old Nan’s kidney pie and how much of a brat Sansa was. Jon forgives her and declares that he’ll stick with her now. She drives right into what they must do: take back Winterfell from the monstrous Ramsay. She even suggests using the Wildlings. Jon though is tired of fighting. He’s been fighting nonstop for years and he lost — and died. Sansa says she’ll do it with or without him.
Meanwhile, Davos and the Red Lady are talking. She says she’ll do whatever Jon commands because he is the new promised one. Davos quips about Stannis. Brienne marches right up and announces that Stannis got his ass kicked and confessed to killing Renly before she executed him — then walks away from the stunned pair.
Later a messenger with Ramsay’s grotesque banners shows up at Castle Black. A black brother brings his letter in where all the principles including Jon and Sansa are eating some really disgusting looking hunks of meat. Jon reads the letter which is some seriously arrogant and taunting shit from Ramsay about having Rickon and planning to rape and kill all of them. Sansa puts two and two together and guesses that Ramsay killed Roose. She is even more determined to get revenge and take Winterfell back. They ask Tormund how many men he has: 2000 to Ramsay’s 5000. So she suggests they recruit from the northern houses. Jon reluctantly agrees to the plan.
The Vale – Westeros’ lamest lord, Robin Arryn, is practicing his archery in his ridiculous dress outfit. He hasn’t gotten any better since season 4 or whenever it was we last saw him. Littlefinger, evidently freshly return, rides up in a late Roman-style coach. Robin runs to him and Littlefinger gives him a falcon as a present. Lord Royce, having heard about Sansa and Ramsay, tries to give Littlefinger a hard time but the master politician turns the tables on him instantly and almost has Robin ready to toss him from the moon door. But that isn’t really what Littlefinger wants, instead he manipulates Robin into raising the knights of the Vale to head north toward Winterfell (nominally to kick Ramsay’s ass, but with LF we never know what the real agenda is).
Tyrion – That same antique looking boat from Dubrovnik sales up to Meereen. It’s the slave masters from the other cities and it’s clear from the hard comments from Missandei and Grey Worm that they aren’t a fan of negotiating. But Tyrion meets with them anyway, cutting through the BS to suggest a proposal where they “phase out” slavery over 7 years. He leaves them to think about it with some free prostitutes.
The former slave leaders of new Meereen aren’t thrilled, and ambush our favorite Lannister leaving the conference. When they question his authority, Missandei and Grey Worm back him up. But when alone they aren’t happy about it. This occurs while walking down the stairs of Meereen with some great shots of the towers behind them too. Tyrion puts it rationally: if war and slavery are both evil, he can’t eliminate both right away.
Margaery – is in her cell when the annoying nun drags her, filthy and barefoot, to the High Septon’s chapel. She can barely handle the bright light. The Sparrow launches into his usual style of questioning by asking her where she would like to go: back to her family. But this, he says, leads to the folly of wealth. He then goes on about his own background as a high end cobbler and how at a banquet he was hosting he had an epiphany about the futility of worldly pursuits. But Marg shows that she is far from broken by calling him out as having borrowed elements of this story from the Book of the Stranger (the Westeros bible). The Septon shrugs it off and has her thrown in with her brother.
Loras isn’t doing nearly as well. She tells him to stay strong and reveals her grasp on the situation.
Cersei – visits Tommen and finds Pycelle working his lame routine on the impressionable young king. She tosses him out — and he shuffles away, making me think of the strange little scene where he did his happy dance after sleeping with Ros — but he does get in a gloaty glance at the Queen Mother. Tommen reveals he has been talking to the High Sparrow and tells Cersei some secret.
Which turns out to be the plan to have Margaery do the walk of shame, because Cersei brings it to the Small Council (with Jaime but not Franken-Gregor) and tries to use this fact to get the Tyrells and her uncle to work with her. They all agree the Queen can’t do the sexy walk through town. Jaime suggests bringing in the Tyrell armies to grab her and kill/capture the Sparrow. Kevan worries about civil war, but seems to agree.
Theon – Sales home to Pyke, which always looks cool from the water. There he finds his sister sitting in his father’s chair. Yara, still looking bloated, is not exactly excited to see him after her failed rescue in season 4. He apologizes and cries. Says he doesn’t want to be king and offers to help her get the throne.
Ramsay – Is enjoying an apple in his rooms when he has Osha brought to him, and asks her about her involvement with House Stark. Osha again (like with Theon) pretends to have been a slave, claiming she carried around Rickon to find a buyer for him. She also (like Theon) tries her femine wiles on him, but it was only a ruse to get him distracted and kill him with a nearby knife. As Osha mounts him, Ramsay reveals that Theon had told him how she helped the Stark boys escape. Osha grabs for the knife, but Ramsay pulls out his secret blade and stabs her in the neck. Osha falls to the floor and bleeds to death as Ramsay wipes the blade and returns to peeling his apple with the very same knife used to kill her.
Jorah and Dario – Are sneaking around above Vaes Dothrak. Dario teases him mercilessly about sleeping with Dany, which is amusing enough, but a bit forced. Jorah sticks to business, telling Dario (and the audience) that she must be in the temple. He makes them hide their weapons since those are forbidden below (a rule that earned Viserys the golden crown). Dario flaunts his naked lady dagger and Jorah is ridiculously sloppy with his shirt and reveals his greyscale.
When night comes they continue their sneaking, this time in the camp city below. In the background are the usual Dothraki antics (drinking, sex, etc). The less-than-stealthy duo runs into two Dothraki. Dario takes his out fairly quickly but Jorah gets his ass handed to him, which is odd considering he was still a potent warrior not long ago at arena fight (must be the greyscale). Dario has to save him with his contraband naked-lady knife and then cover up the murder wound by bashing the corpses head in.
Dany – is hanging out with the crones. The high priestess is sympathetic and seems to genuinely want her to get voted into their club. Dany makes friends with a very young ex-Khaleesi and they go out to “make water” and just happen to wander into Jorah and Dario — well be grabbed by. Dany protects the girl from them and says she has a better plan than trying to make an escape.
So later, the whole gaggle of Khals are arguing first about the girl who Dario killed, then bring in Dany for interrogation. They talk about her like property but in true Dany style she takes over the conversation and calls them petty little men who don’t have the vision that she or Drogo did. She recalls her heart eating and the Drogo’s vows in this very room. They laugh this off and threaten to gang rape her, but then she grabs the braziers, which don’t burn her, and sprays the fire around setting the whole wood and grass structure on fire. But of course she doesn’t burn, for “fire cannot hurt a true dragon.” Jorah and Dario have conveniently barred the doors too.
Referencing season 1, she emerges naked and unburnt from the pillar of fire. A crowd of Dothraki (plus Dario and Jorah) kneel before her. Old Dany is back (for now). She always has the best episode finishes.
This scene and its interesting tactic confirms my feeling that Dany is generally immune to fire. This was shown at least three times in season 1 (hot tub, burning eggs, and when she walked into Drogo’s pyre) and again in season 2 when she was unburnt by the dragon fire. Sort of an interesting super power because it’s purely defensive, but it does allow interesting tactics like burning down the building you are in.
Also notable that Emilia Clarke did not use a body double for this scene despite some claims on the internet that she would not do any further nudity.
So overall, probably the second best episode of the 4 so far. This is one of those episode that concentrates on a few overlapping threads, making it feel more coherent and less jumpy than some. The Wall, Kings Landing, and Dany dominate. But this also may reflect that the plots are beginning to merge as we wind slowly toward our conclusion.
Thematically too, there seems to be an issue of who is the used and who is the user. Sansa is in the seemingly weak position, yet she convinces Jon to join her quest. Dany is a plaintiff to the court of the Khals, yet kills them and takes their army! Who is in control between the Sparrow and Marg? Is Cersei using the king? The Small Council? or vince versa?