Title: Game of Thrones – “Book of the Stranger”
Air Date: May 15, 2016
Before we begin – Yes, there are TV spoilers ahead. I will not celebrate every twist and turn, but if we are going to talk about what we like, we have to discuss the great scenes. Stop reading if you do not like spoilers. You have been warned!
Now that’s how an episode of Game of Thrones should go. After last week’s lackluster “Oathbreaker,” this week got us back on track. “Book of the Stranger” did a great job with pacing, it moved the pieces into position while keeping them interesting, and it had serious ramifications for the upcoming episodes. Despite one lingering issue that keeps occurring, this was a good correction after the (still good) misstep of last week.
For a show about trying to claim the throne of Westeros, the most interesting things keep happening as far away from King’s Landing as possible. The Wall was heavily featured, and began with something I doubt many people expected to happen this early or this easily: Sansa and Jon reunited at Castle Black! It’s rare Game of Thrones gives us a joyful moment that it does not immediately snatch away, and it was wonderful seeing the hug of these desperate characters, hear their conversations where they long for the past and witnessing how dramatically they have switched roles. Sansa, who has never been a fighter, was at her fiercest. Jon, having seen the futility of fighting, just wants to be done. Our other heavy hitters at Castle Black got some good stuff this week as well. Brienne, taunting Davos and Melisandre about the death of Stannis, was a powerful and striking beat. And Tormund Giantsbane practically had hearts popping out of his eyes at the statue-esque Maid of Tarth. Tell me you aren’t shipping those two?
Even still, it appears that Ramsay’s taunting will bring the fury of the North, just like he intended. It’s good to see that Jon, Sansa, and Tormund are planning a strike against Winterfell, and even better to see that Petyr Baelish has made his return and is planning the same thing. Probably the final “important” character to show up on this season of Game of Thrones, Littlefinger gave a particularly chilling performance, as he once again demonstrated his ability to take control of the powerful and use them to further his own ambitions. Judging from the end of the episode “Next week on Game of Thrones,” Sansa will get a chance to confront Petyr about his dirty politicking. Hopefully, she won’t let him squirm out of that one.
Staying in the North, we have to address the elephant in the room: Ramsay has overstayed his welcome. I liked him (quite a bit, actually) when he was tempered by smarter people like his father. Now, however, he has become an unkillable caricature, a cackling villain that is the big bad because the show tells us he is. It was tough to swallow when he dispatched his crazy plotter of a father last week, and watching the scene with Osha this week was outrageously predictable. The seduction, the knife reaching, the slow realization that he’s on to you, and the almost killing him but somehow being stabbed at the last second even though you are a way better fighter and ahhhhhhh! Just stop it. Ramsay needs to get killed. And not in the Joffrey way. Joffrey was a horrid little monster, but he never felt like the writers gave him superpowers. Ramsay has joined the Sand Snakes as a groan-inducing point of the best show on TV. Although he can act quite a bit better than them.
The other big point of interest in Westeros this week was at the Red Keep, as Cersei learned… something from Tommen, and she is planning on mobilizing the Tyrells against the High Sparrow. It is highly doubtful that she is being honest (this is Cersei, after all) about what Tommen told her, but I cannot wait to see what comes from putting her two enemy forces against one another. The High Sparrow is a very interesting character: he raises many good points about how terrible the system in Westeros is, yet he uses horrible methods to achieve his goals. He is the “good cop” in a twisted system of torture, guilt, and fear, and it will be fascinating to see what Jaime, Cersei, and the Tyrells can do to stop him.
Jumping across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion is doing a bad job of keeping friends. Compromise is the name of his game, but many see that as a sign of weakness. Hopefully, there is still a city to return to when Daenerys comes back through with her horde of Dothraki at her back.
“The Adventures of Daario and Jorah,” spinoff would be a good one, but Dany wins this week. Occasionally her character devolves into posturing, but she still has the ability to take serious action. Watching her taunt the council of Khals before burning them alive (and emerging unscathed!) was a great stand up and cheer moment, and watching the Dothraki give her the Beyonce treatment was a beautiful thing. Here’s hoping she isn’t too mad at Tyrion when she gets home…
This week showed the women of Game of Thrones flexing their muscles. Dany gained an army. Cersei and the Queen of Thorns mobilized another one. Sansa pushed back against her tired brother. Margaery consoled her broken brother. Even Yara Greyjoy found a supporter in her humbled sibling. Whether or not this amounts to anything, it was good to see the women of the show exerting some pressure that could amount to something good. Although I doubt Cersei’s plan does that.
Overall, this was a very good episode. It had some great character moments, and some actual good things went down for once. The women got to flex their muscles, Littlefinger made a creepy uncle return, and Daenerys capped it off with a fiery finale. The only issue was the continued “super villain” abilities of Ramsay Bolton, but it seems like he may be painting himself into a corner. Please.
- Characters: Great moments from our ladies this week. Sansa, Cersei, Margaery, Yara, and especially Daenerys stole the show. Littlefinger had a small scene that he dominated.
- Story: Dany took a huge step forward towards her conquest, Jon and Sansa are stepping up, and civil war is coming to King’s Landing.
- Cinematography: Can I just copy and paste every week for how beautiful this show is? Meereen is pretty.
- Acting: Great week for Sophie Turner as Sansa and Emilia Clarke as Dany. Serious emotion and power radiating from their characters.
- Sansa is reunited with Jon, and she's the strong one!
- Return of Littlefinger
- War is coming to King's Landing
- Dany's fiery conclusion
- Ramsay is ridiculous
- Tyrion might be in trouble