Review: ‘Book of the Stranger’ Might Be the Happiest ‘Game of Thrones’ Has Ever Been
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Book of the Stranger”:
Comments from a friend struck me over the course of “Book of the Stranger,” namely that Game of Thrones could have ended the episode as early as Castle Black, and still ranked among the series’ best. It hit me as well, that six seasons have never presented quite so joyous a reunion as Jon and Sansa (or really any Stark siblings, for that matter), or anything quite so cathartic as the two trading war stories. In a practical sense, Jon needed a new purpose to follow his tenure as Lord Commander, and it’s fitting of one to literally knock on his door, but for two characters that have never actually shared a scene, Game of Thrones has never felt so rewarding as to reunite them under a common goal.
More than that, “Book of the Stranger” felt the most of any episode this season like the convergence we’ve been promised, the same way those inaugural 20 minutes saw Melisandre reiterating that “prince that was promised” prophecy, answering for her involvement in Shireen’s death, and reintroducing Brienne as someone with a unique perspective on both hers and Davos’ past histories. It’s wonderful to have so many of these disparate personalities* and their shared histories play off one other. and that’s just one corner of the story up north this week.
*Tormund and Brienne is the ship I never once thought about before tonight, but has now ascended the throne as my life’s entire reason for being.
It was definitely a night for changing alliances and shifting the balance of power, and certainly the hour’s biggest moment owes to Dany finally overthrowing her Dothraki captors, and reestablishing her own legend as a Queen among Khalasars. I’m glad it didn’t take particularly long for Jorah and Daario to enter the mix as well, their push-pull dynamic affording plenty of humor in the buildup, though I’m less enamored of Dany’s big moment itself. On the one hand, yes, Daenerys seizing power always serves as an empowering thrill, but only in the ascension of a new, or unfamiliar height. Tonight at least, we had the requisite group of men dismissing and demeaning her, preceding a balk at her ability to understand and subvert their expectations, before a fiery end inspires awe and reverence from all in sight. I’m glad we’re moving past the captivity angle, but to reiterate some of the regression of this Dothraki return, we’ve seen everything here before.
At the very least, it’s a worthy question what Daenerys might come back to, not just among the primitive Dothraki culture she’d left behind, but also the Mereen that Tyrion purports to salvage in her name. It seems more than likely Daenerys would never have allowed Tyrion’s seven-year slavery plan, just as Missandei and Grey Worm understandably balk, but it at least speaks to Tyrion’s value in this particular corner of the story. By his own admission, Tyrion loves playing the game, and exceeds at mitigating conflict, though one wonders if a bit of arrogance has begun to fester, that he’d purport to represent Daenerys’ will after so little time in her company.
Another unexpected compromise to emerge from “Book of the Stranger” saw Cersei and Jaime actually succeeding to align themselves with the small council against Margaery enduring a potential penance walk. I’m at least a little curious to explore Margaery’s state of mind, as the time spent fleshing out the High Sparrow’s background at least made it seem as if Margaery would open herself up to the idea of religion, though the conversation with Loras seemed to make clear her intention of remaining defiant, at least contrasted with Loras’ defeat. We’re at least building to a larger confrontation, just not one “Book of the Stranger” has a good read on yet.
Definitely some big moments all around this week, whether the reintroduction of Littlefinger and the Vale, or Theon returning to the Iron Islands and swearing fealty to Yara in the Kingsmoot, but like Sam’s return last week, the intent seemed to ease us back into those particular stories, rather than craft anything meaningful with them just yet. Still, “Book of the Stranger” made for a tremendously cathartic hour all-around, the only downside of which arrived with Ramsay’s murder of Osha. Sure, it stood to reason that Ramsay would have no use for her, but like a great majority of the deaths this season, it feels more like David Benioff and Dan Weiss getting rid of characters whose story they don’t have time to tell, rather than devising any kind of meaningful end.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Where exactly did Jon Snow get that Stark armor? I don’t remember him wearing it to Castle Black, but then again, we’ve so rarely seen him in different clothes.
- Robyn’s been training for at least a few years now, and still can’t remotely hit a target?
- Kudos to Littlefinger, to so smoothly cover his tracks and manipulate those above him.
- I feel like we missed a scene of Missandei and Grey Worm reacting to Tyrion’s dealmaking after the fact.
- Daario’s been traveling with Jorah for weeks, but now was the time to start insulting his desire for Daenerys? Also, what happened to Jorah’s fighting ability since last year? Has the Greyscale already taken his motor skills?
- Incidentally, I’ll presume Jorah and Daario managed to seed the temple with something flammable beforehand?
Game of Thrones Season 6 will return May 22 with “The Door,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on HBO.