Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ S06E04 “Book of the Stranger”

By May 16, 2016

I need some help, fellow throne geeks: can you ever remember being this happy after watching an episode of Game of Thrones?! It’s an emotion we don’t often ascribe to a show where killing off main characters has become the rule rather than the exception, but during last night’s interestingly titled episode, Book of The Stanger (The Stranger being the most mysterious of the seven gods worshipped by The Faith. The other six are: The Mother, The Father, The Crone, The Maid, The Smith and The Warrior), I was almost gleeful (well, except for the parts where Ramsay continued to prove that Joffrey was a near saint in comparison). Not only were there several emotionally effective reunions in this episode, there was also a lot of the female empowerment we’d been promised from the creators. Sansa, Margaery, Dany, and even Brienne all stepped up to the plate this week and I, for one, am totally invested in seeing where they each go next.

So let’s dive in to the most recent hour of Game of Thrones and revel in what is surely to be a very short-lived sense of euphoria regarding some of our heroes.

In the North

We begin with a close up of the Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw, lying on a table at Castle Back. My first thought was “whaaa…Jon left Longclaw behind??” But then we see that he hasn’t actually left The Night’s Watch yet (despite quite the mic drop at the end of last week: “My Watch is Ended”).  Jon’s last remaining close friend in the Watch, Edd, isn’t thrilled the Lord Commander wants to leave for warmer climates but Jon is convinced his oath was fulfilled (he did technically die “at his post” as is stated in the Night’s Watch vow), and he pretty much wants nothing to do with the order that, you know, murdered him…

But then the castle gates open to reveal Sansa, flanked by Brienne and Pod. I won’t lie and say my heart didn’t leap into my throat as I had assumed (after last week) we would get another near-miss Stark reunion (Bran and Rickon narrowly missed meeting up with Jon at Queenscrown in season three. Arya, Robb and Catelyn at The Twins in season three. Bran and Jon at Crasters Keep in season four. Sansa and Arya in The Vale in season four). But then Jon walked out onto the balcony, saw his sister across the courtyard, and held her close after she threw herself into his arms…oh damn, I need a moment.


Ok, I’m back. As I mentioned above, we are unused to truly happy moments on this show, so this reunion was the catharsis I think we all needed (though on a re-watch, watch Tormund’s reaction to Brienne – the man’s face is a goldmine of laughs). Sophie Turner and Kit Harrington knocked it out of the park in the following scene as well, reminiscing about Winterfell and wishing they could turn back the clock. In point of fact, Sansa was the Stark kid Jon was the least close to (remember how silly and vain season one Sansa was?) but the two have gone through hell and back (literally for Jon?) and are genuinely happy to be together. That is, until they disagree on what to do next (though Jon saying “we” just about melted my heart…again). Jon is still determined to go somewhere warm, but Sansa’s hard earned backbone says they take Winterfell back from The Boltons. Dame of Thrones indeed.

Since this is Game of Thrones, however, things can’t all be reunions and smiles, so we get a conversation between Davos and Melisandre that I’ve been waiting for since episode one of this season…Davos is skeptical of Mel’s sudden allegiance to Jon Snow (seems her faith in The Lord of Light is staunchly back in place as she once again calls Jon “The Prince who was Promised”…a title previous held by Stannis) and asks what actually happened to Stannis…and Shireen. Mel dodges the question, but Davos is interrupted by Brienne before he can pursue the issue. If you thought it was cold at Castle Black before, the temperature drops a few more degrees as Brienne basically calls Mel out for shadow baby killing Renly back in season two. She then, rather proudly, declares that she personally executed Stannis after the battle against The Boltons. I’m not sure how I feel about having two of my favorite characters, Brienne and Davos, at odds, but it makes sense (and may also be a catalyst for Sansa to send Brienne and Pod somewhere else…Riverrun perhaps?).

Over in Winterfell, Ramsay continues season six’s killing spree by taking out poor Osha, the wildling guardian of the youngest Stark kid, Rickon (now in Ramsay’s dungeon). Osha had successfully used her feminine wiles on Theon and an Ironborn guard back in season two, but fails in her attempt to seduce (and kill) Ramsay because he knew of her true loyalty to the Starks (thanks to Theon). It’s an ignominious exit for the talented Natalie Tena, but creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seem quite determined to continue thinning out the cast this season, so rest in peace Osha the Wildling.

Back at Castle Black, Jon, Sansa, Brienne, Pod, Edd and Tormund are having dinner. These seemingly mundane scenes often provide great character moments, as well as some humor, on the show, and this one doesn’t disappoint as Tormund appreciatively eyes Brienne while Edd smiles at Sansa for being courteous despite the lack of appetizing food. The levity is short lived, however, as a “pink” letter arrives from the Boltons. (book readers: “YES!).”

In the letter, Ramsay declares himself Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, and demands that Jon return Sansa to him. He threatens the lives of the wildlings under Jon’s protection if he doesn’t comply, and also drops the bomb that he has Rickon captive. Sansa and Jon are horrified and Jon can’t bring himself to finish reading Ramsay’s vile threats out loud, but tough girl Sansa does. It’s enough to convince Tormund and eventually Jon that they have to face Ramsay head on, but they’ll have to find some more allies to stand a chance against Ramsay’s 5,000 men (at this point Tormund has 2,000 fighters).

In The Vale

While the North appears to be on the brink of a major clash (Battle of the Bastards!), Petyr Baelish is poised to join in on the fun. Last we saw of him in season five, he was negotiating with Cersei (he promised her an army of Valemen to help punish the Boltons for marrying Sansa…even though that was his own doing) and Olenna Tyrell (to whom he offered information that helped get Cersei arrested last season) in Kings Landing. Upon returning to the Vale he offers a present to young Lord Robin (Lysa Arryn’s son and the Starks’ cousin): a rare falcon (the legendary founder of House Arryn was known as The Falcon Knight). He also manages to dance around Lord Royce’s accusations of orchestrating the Ramsay Bolton/Sansa Stark marriage in typical Littlefinger fashion (his hold over the young and not-quite-right-in-the-head Lord Arryn is very powerful at this point). By the end of the scene, he’s cleverly twisted both Robin and Royce into committing an army to “rescue” Sansa, who they know has fled from Ramsay.

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On The Iron Islands

Theon follows through on his wish to return home, but after learning of his father’s death, Theon is confronted by an angry and skeptical Yara (last time she saw him, several of her men died because he refused to be rescued by them). Theon stammers, apologizes, and cries but swears he has no interest in becoming the Lord of the Iron Islands. Instead, he pledges to help his sister accomplish that goal, which is going to be tricky given the appearance of their Uncle Euron who I suspect we’ll see at the upcoming Kingsmoot. I’m not sure Theon is actually going to be an asset to Yara in her quest, but there is an undercurrent of honest affection between the siblings that had a certain parallel to the Stark reunion.

In Kings Landing

The standoff between the High Sparrow and those in the Red Keep is coming to a boiling point as Septa Unella brings the still incarcerated Queen Margaery to speak to His High Holiness. Once again, he preaches and we can’t help but listen. Either this guy is the best liar in the entirety of Westeros and Essos, or he really is as pious and good as he would have us believe. He tells Margaery his own backstory (true: yay or nay?) about being a cobbler who used to covet the wealth and power of his clients, but then “saw the light” after a drunken night out. Now his cause is to speak for those who have nothing and it is unclear, at first, whether Margaery (like King Tommen last week) believes him. It is irrelevant, however, as the holy man understands her weakness: her brother, Loras, who she is allowed to finally see. He is not in good shape and though Margaery urges him to fight, he appears to be on the verge of breaking, which leaves her with little choice as to what to do to save him.


What exactly she is willing to do is not revealed until later in the Red Keep after Cersei discovers Maester Pycelle trying to advise her son. The once allied queen and maester throw a few barbs at each other before he (slowly) shuffles out of the room, leaving Tommen to speak about his worries to his mother. You see, he’s been visiting The High Sparrow since we last saw him and he’s leery of antagonizing the holy man (out of fear for his wife…but also because maybe he’s falling under the man’s influence?). But then Tommen confesses that the High Sparrow told him something that he promised not to repeat…but feels he should tell his mother.

Cersei uses her son’s information to create a shaky alliance with some of the members of the Small Council (people who walked out on her and Jaime last week): Kevan Lannister and Olenna Tyrell. It turns out Margaery has agreed to her own Walk of Shame (most likely in exchange for her brothers freedom) and this is something that neither The Lannisters nor The Tyrells want to happen (though I’m sure Cersei secretly does…). Jaime outlines a plan to take down The High Sparrow and the Faith Militant: The Tyrell army will enter the city and march on the Sept, but the Lannisters will refrain from joining them (so it won’t appear as if King Tommen sanctioned the action). Once the Tyrells capture (or, preferably, kill) the High Sparrow, Queen Margaery and her brother will be freed and the actions of the Tyrell’s pardoned.  Olenna agrees and Cersei plays the Lancel card to get Kevan to agree as well (Lancel is Kevan’s son who slept with Cersei in season one and then joined the Faith Militant in season five).

In Essos

In Mereen, Tyrion finally gets to do what Tyrion does best (besides drink and know things, of course): play politics! Much to the chagrin of Grey Worm and Missandei, he treats with the leaders of Astapor and Yunkai, showing them the pleasures of freed whores and a possible compromise between them and Queen Daenarys (who Tyrion speaks for). Tyrion understands the language of both sides: the slavers and the slaves (Missandei is unsure that he truly understands, though) and so offers the masters seven years to slowly abolish slavery while adopting new ways to make money (nothing specified yet). Both Grey Worm and Missandei are roped into helping him by placating the slaves who are angry with Tyrion for treating with the enemy. One makes peace with enemies, not friends, after all.

Meanwhile, over in Vaes Dothrak, Jorah, Daario, and Dany are being a little less subtle in their negotiations. On the outskirts of the city, Jorah and Daario are trying to figure out how to rescue Dany, but Jorah is having a hard time just climbing the cliff (not to mention having to put up with Daario’s needling). Jorah knows the ways of the Dothraki and insists they leave behind their weapons, but not before Daario finds out about Jorah’s greyscale. After entering the city, they are unable to convince two bloodriders they are merchants and so Daario kills them using the dagger he decided not to leave outside the city (hey, it’s his favorite). Jorah worries the knife wound will arouse the suspicions of the khals, so Daario improvises by bashing in the dead riders face with a rock (thank you, director, for not showing that on camera). They continue on their way to rescue Dany.

In the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen, Dany is being talked at by one of the older women and decides she needs some air. As she walks outside, she begins to befriend one of the younger khaleesi widows, a Lazhareen woman (and so a foreigner, like Dany). They are found by Jorah and Daario, but Dany decides not to flee with her would-be rescuers. She has another plan.

A pretty good one, it turns out. As the Khalar Vezhven takes place in the temple, all the gathered khals debate what to do with Dany. They don’t count on Dany putting forth her own idea, however, and foolishly allow her to walk around the temple as she enlightens them: they should follow her. This is greeted with the expected derision and laughter, but Dany’s smirk says it all – they let her get too close to the iron fire torches in the center of the temple. At first they stare in astonishment as she grasps one without burning her bare hand and then they attempt to flee in fear as she tips the torches over one by one, lighting up the entire temple. The doors have been barred from the outside, however, and so the khals burn. Daario, Jorah and the rest of the Dothraki slowly approach outside and stare in awe as Dany emerges just as she did from the flames in the final episode of season one, with only her clothes burnt in the fire. The entire Dothraki population kneels and Dany has come full circle: she once again has a Dothraki army at her back.


Sorry Jon Snow, you had some great mic drops at the end of the last couple of episodes, but it’s all about fire this time around and Dany delivered in a big way (much as she did for the birth of her dragons in season one and again when she acquired The Unsullied and burned the slave masters of Astapor in season three).

Best Moments:

  • Jon and Sansa reunite (sniff)
  • Dany burns all the khals and the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen to the ground (girl, where have you been these last two seasons?!?)

Most Shocking Moments:

  • Ramsay kills Osha (not shocking that he killed another person, but that the show took out Osha so quickly)
  • Daario finds an…interesting way to mask stab wounds in Vaes Dothrak.

Best Quotes:

  • Where you gonna go? – Edd, South. – Jon, What are you gonna do? – Edd, Get Warm. – Jonn
  • And one day you walked through a graveyard and realized it was all for nothing and set out on the path to righteous. Book of the Stranger, verse 25  – Margaery
  • Many will die no matter what we do. Better them than us. – Olenna
  • You’ve seen my banners? – Ramsay, The flayed man. – Osha, Does that worry you at all? – Ramsay, You eat them after? – Osha, No. – Ramsay, Then I’ve seen worse. – Osha
  • Slavery is a horror that should be ended at once. War is a horror that should be ended at once. I can’t do both today. – Tyrion

Biggest Questions:

  • Will Tyrion’s negotiation tactics work better than Dany’s in Slaver’s Bay?
  • Is the High Sparrow playing a long game with Tommen (did he know that Tommen would spill the beans about Margaery to Cersei, thus setting up the Lannisters and Tyrells for a confrontation at the Sept of Baelor?)?
  • Who will Sansa and Jon seek out for help against Ramsay (the Manderlys or Mormonts, perhaps?)?
  • Has everyone besides Edd forgotten about the White Walkers??

After an unevenly paced episode last week, this was a much better attempt at organic forward momentum in many of our storylines. Pieces are being maneuvered into place for a number of big confrontations (a battle in the north, a fight in Kings Landing, and some very interesting possibilities in Essos now that Dany has the Dothraki behind her). There are some serious emotional stakes being set up as well (Jon and Sansa trying to get home, Baelish possibly feeling guilty for how his plan for Sansa went so awry, the spread of Jorah’s greyscale, Theon’s possible redemption, Davos’ relationship with Melisandre and dealing with what she’s done, Margaery’s return, etc). And we didn’t even check in with Bran this episode! Lest we forget, we are still left hanging in regards to what happened at The Tower of Joy, not to mention the whole White Walker threat, which still exists.

But that’s it for this week’s review of Book of the Stranger! Will our favorite characters continue on their respective journeys of redemption, righteousness, and revenge? Be sure to check back in next week as we continue our coverage of season six of Game of Thrones!

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Rachel Cushing
Rachel is a television editor by day and either a Jedi knight, vampire slayer, or elvish warrior by night. In between she makes time for movies, movies, and more movies (plus a few books, television shows, and then…more movies). When she’s supposed to be sleeping, she writes about movies as well, both here on and on her own blog. Tweet her @RachelJCushing
  • David Johnson

    4 Excellent Episodes, don’t care what everyone thinks of Ep 3 it tied up some story lines!!!

    • Rachel

      I still have some pacing issues with Oathbreaker, but they are fairly minor quiblbles (especially considering last season). Overall this season has been really good so far, with some storylines (just about anything in the north) venturing into “best ever” territory. I’ve re-watched last nights episode three times already…that Jon/Sansa scene gets me every time!