GAME OF THRONES S6E4: “Book of the Stranger” Discussion

GoT Reunion

Scott: “Book of the Stranger” was easily the best episode of the season so far, and it encapsulated what is so good about game of thrones.  As Tyrion said last week the history of the world is a history of great conversations, and this episode was absolutely full of them.  It was also full of boobs, murder, and lighting people on fire.  It’s still Game of Thrones after all.

The high point for me actually happened at the opening, when we got to see two stark children together for the first time in…I actually had to look this up: The last time two Starks were together was Season 3 Episode 9 at a little event called the Red Wedding. (No I’m not counting Rickon, and neither should you) The show fully understands the importance of this moment as it allows both of these characters time to embrace and absorb each other. We know that Jon and Sansa never really got along in the old days before things turned to shit, and so do they. But things are different now; they’re Starks and they need each other.

The Sansa/Jon moments are even more improved by watching what a badass Sansa has become. She wants Jon’s help in taking back Winterfell, but she’ll do it with or without him. I fully believe her in that moment. Sansa means business.

Before we get into the rest of the episode, I feel the need to mention that Tormund Giantsbane’s flirting with Brienne is perhaps the most wonderful thing I’ve ever witnessed on television.

Matt: Everything about Tormund is the best thing.

Too bad that Tonks can’t catch a break. I suppose her character had exhausted its usefulness to the plot, so make with the throat stabbing!

I’m not really sure that Sansa has earned her current confidence that she’s going to Take Back The North without any help from anybody, but I suppose half of leadership is boldness. Daenerys is allowed to say things like that because she follows up such pronouncements by immediately burning twenty dudes to death and taking over the entire Dothraki culture.

Let’s just go ahead and talk about that scene. Setting aside that her fireproof-ness is being played a full-on superpower in the show, I loved this. For me, it was a completely successful example of the show’s ability to surprise us with heartfelt awe and magic and majesty.

GoT Dany

Scott:  Hell yes. I was thinking over the course of this episode that’s it’s very possible that things will continue to play out exactly as we expected for the remainder of the show. I was wrestling if I was ok with that. The Dany triumph moment confirmed two things for me:

1) If there are no more surprises to be had and everything happens as we have foreseen for the remaining ~20 episodes of the show, I will still proclaim it as one of my favorite shows ever. When Game of Thrones is firing on all levels, like it was in that closing scene, there is nothing else like it in the world.

2) Even if we successfully predict the big events(we knew Dany was going to take over the Dothraki), there will still be surprises in the execution. Last week I predicted that the Mother of Dragons would be saved (again) by Drogon, but the show threw us a curveball in the shape of a flaming brazier. And in the moment it was surprising and great! It handed back control to Dany. She doesn’t need her dragons or anyone else saving her.

Between Sansa and Dany you’re whole season 6 is the year of women taking control of Westeros is starting to look better and better, Matt.

Gentry: Guys, good to be joining again for another wonderful week of GoT discussion. I’ll start from the top to keep things tidy:

I hate to get all giddy so quickly but I can’t agree more. After so much death and trauma and relocation, finally taking a moment to see characters of the same family reunited for something as quick and simple as a meal was a joy pure and simple. You can see it in their faces it’s a  major boost of family energy or confidence and for once, I saw a look on multiple Stark faces that told me this story isn’t just going to end with a monster like Ramsay holding the North. As Scott mentioned, not since the Red Wedding and before have Stark family family members done anything of importance together, let alone sit in the same room.

The Brienne and Tormund visual flirtation/exchange waassssss amazing! I don’t have any words, I was just all smiles seeing him do his thing, but also seeing Brienne relax for a moment and soak in some of the Northern/Wildling culture without erupting with sword in hand was a nice change! It reminds me of some of her quieter moments traveling in Feast, absorbing her surroundings, pondering life and history and culture in that location.

GoT Osha

Sadly, as soon as I saw Osha (Tonks) enter the room I knew she was doomed. Maybe it’s just Ramsay’s eyes every time he lasers in on whatever prize/potential game he has in front of him, maybe it’s just the fact they  were captured and characters kind of have to keep dying as we head towards the end. Overall, I guess i was indifferent. From rumors I had heard George wanted more for Osha to do, but perhaps as a twist they decided to send those rumors to the ground for purposes of the show. I guess you can say Rickon has a little more motivation too. Not only has he lost most of his immediate family and friends (within Winterfell), but also arguably the closest thing he’s had to a mother/caretaker since Maester Luwin died when Ramsay sacked Winterfell. Would that be hilarious that after all the shit Ramsay has caused, a young kid like Rickon somehow causes his downfall. After all the innocent and helpless highborn and common people Ramsay has killed, it’d be ironic to see this youngest Stark child end him.

Regarding fireproof Dany, I agree with you Matt. At this point her power is otherworldly and permanent, where as in the book it’s a bit more ambiguous, taking Mirri Maz Duur and her Targaryen lineage into account. But for the show it was just perfect. Well executed too. I sometimes feel it’s hard to come up with natural sounding dialogue when it comes to Dany interacting with all these various cultures, but in this episode I was reminded of past seasons where well placed interactions between Dany and the Dothraki became the norm.

Matt: Great point about the interactions between Dany and the Khals. I felt like her expression during this scene was the most authentically Dany we’ve seen yet. She gets to stop trying to be diplomatic, and just brings the Fire and Blood.

Gentry: Yes! A lot of times their emotions are/should be written on their faces, especially in these wonderfully crafted scenes. Dany knocked it out of the park here, and we see her once again commanding the attention of a whole people, as well as the audience, something we haven’t seen I think since season 3 when she took Astapor at the end.

Seeing these reactions only excites me more for the penultimate reveal when she finally gets to Westeros. A combination of seeing reactions or “holy shit another Targaryen actually lives”  and “holy shit she’s really a badass like the rumors say” is going to be nuts!

BTW, kudos to you boys for guessing the overall theme so early. I think it’s interesting to add that a lot of these women were already in power at one point or another during the show, A good many of them are going through somewhat of a rebirth at this late stage of the show. Sansa taking charge of her own story in the North, Cersei coming alive with new found fervor against the Faith (and possibly Tyrells and Sand Snakes upcoming), Brienne fulfilling two vows (one current), Arya becoming a Faceless Man, Yara (Asha) heading to a Kingsmoot, Sand Snakes taking over Dorne, and Dany reminding us how strong she still is, with or without her children.

GoT Women FTW…

Matt: Oh, that reminds me. A wonderfully Dorne-free episode!

Gentry: Yep, Dorne-free and I’m okay with that! haha

I will add that Tyrion’s decision is not only a good one, but necessary to get us heading West. Are we agreeing that the time is finally come?

GoT Tyrion

Matt: I don’t know, I don’t think Dany is going to leave for Westeros until the very end of the season. I think she might even be angry at Tyrion for the compromise, but the fact is that the only way to keep Essos from degenerating into complete savagery is to basically let the Great Masters transition into being Lords. The power structure has to remain intact, one way or another. If Dany wasn’t willing to yield to this, then it would have only been worse for her and for the people of Essos.

Scott: This is what I get for walking out of the room for 5 minutes during this conversation…

Gentry: Lol…I couldn’t help it…it was so good!

Scott: I agree, Dany doesn’t set sail until the end of the season, if even then. She’s got to return to Meereen to see Tyrion’s progress.

Speaking of: I find it hard to believe that she’d be angry at the peace that Tyrion has bargained. She’s learned a lot about ruling in her time as the leader and I think she recognizes more than ever that compromise is part of it. Dany still wants to go west, and even with her giant Dothraki army, she knows that if she reconquers Slaver’s Bay only to sail away, nothing will change. The system that Tyrion has set up (basically Westerosi fuedalism) allows for lasting peace and control. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dany puts Greyworm in charge before she sails away. He might not call himself a politician, but our friend knows how to play the game.

Gentry:  Perhaps both Grey Worm and Messandei to Co-rule Mereen, in partnership with the Wise Masters?

Scott: I was gonna say that, but I didn’t remember her name and was trying to sound smart.

I want to talk about Asha and the whole Iron Islands thing for a bit.

Gentry: Scott..its pronounced JuuuuaaahhhRhhhruaahh

Scott:  Whatever!

Gentry: I hate her show name so much.

GoT Asha Better

Scott: I’ve mentioned in the past that I thought the entire Kingsmoot plotline in the books was a snooze fest and I was not excited about the TV Show going there.  I still think that, but I’ll be damned if the reunion between brother and sister didn’t hit me right in the feelings. But, regardless…what help can Theon be to Asha’s claim for the throne? He has no sway at all in the Iron Islands anymore. In fact…a Theon endorsement is probably about as useful as a Jeb Bush endorsement. It’s cute that he thinks he matters, but everyone else knows better.

Gentry: I agree

Matt:  Yeah. I am not really seeing the Ironborn having a huge amount of respect for a known eunuch.

Scott: I’m also just now realizing that the “brother and sister reunion” thing was an intentional three beat in this episode: Jon/Sansa, Theon/Asha, and Loras/Margaery.

Matt: mind blown*

I really have no idea where Theon’s character goes from here. He’s one of the story’s “guy who you hated and has now been punished far out of proportion to his crimes” characters. I suppose he hasn’t really had a true redemption arc, though. More like a punishment arc, followed up with rescuing Sansa.

Gentry: He’s actually a pretty big mystery in the book. No one knows what Stannis plans to do with him (captured and in chains again), but he still has a part to play against the Boltons.

In the show, I have no clue and agree the Ironborn plotline is a distant 2nd to Dorne’s unnecessary story.

GoT Asha

Scott: Yeah, I see him as just wandering the earth attempting to right his past wrongs. He feels like he’s made it up to Sansa by getting her to safety, and then is moving on to the next pissed off person. It’s interesting sure, but how it plays into the overall story?  Probably not at all…

Gentry: I agree, I’m not sure what kind of arc you would call this. As a character Theon is just about ready to die and not feel any more physical and especially mental anguish, for all that he has caused and gained nothing, but maybe because of his early-seasons celebrity the show runners are deciding to continue his story line and give us some completely different ending. We shall see…

Scott: Regarding the infamous Pink Letter

Matt: We definitely don’t have the mystery of “did Mance really write the letter????” this time around.

Gentry: Nah, since Mance and Stannis are dead dead, it kind of throws a lot of the theories out the window.

Pink Letter

Scott:  Once again the show has found a way to take something that happened in the books and manipulate it to perfectly work in the world they’ve created. Having there be no mystery regarding the author of the letter intensifies the moment. Having the prisoner be Rickon instead of Mance makes it personal for both Sansa and Jon. Having it be read in front of Tormund all but guarantees Wildling involvement. Having Sansa push on with the nasty details of the letter, even as Jon was unable to, only serves to reinforce her badassness.

It’s just a wonderfully constructed and executed scene.

Gentry: Agreed. This last scene really hit home for me, and with a twist we aren’t used to. Usually a Wall chapter or scene from GoT closes with an ominous brooding tone of what’s coming from the North. Seeing reactions of a threat from the South coming into the picture is keeping me even more on the edge

Scott:  Alright, let’s wrap this thing up.  Final thoughts, on this episode gentlemen.  Go!

Gentry: Amazing episode. Felt like old times. Most enjoyment from a non-episode 9 episode in I don’t know how long…probably the Tyrion trial in season 4. Brienne and Wildings in Jon’s vanguard….let’s do this thing!

Matt: Great episode. Great finale. Loved the Pink Letter. Can’t wait for next week.

Scott:  As I said at the top, easily my favorite episode of the season. This was the first episode of the season where, when the credits rolled, I needed to see more right away. Season Six is now hitting it’s stride and I can’t wait to catch next week’s episode, “The Door.” I wonder if it’s a red one

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