Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 4 Review: Book of the Stranger (MAJOR SPOILERS)

“Yes it’s in the past, that doesn’t mean I forget, or forgive”

This week we are bookended by ice and fire, each the setting for a type of reunion – a physical one between Sansa and Jon and a symbolic one with Dany and her leadership. I’ll begin where the episode does, with the reuniting of two Stark siblings, something that has been teased in the past but has never happened since they splintered off from each other all those seasons ago. Sansa and Jon are not the siblings most viewers would have high on the Stark pairing list when the show started. One was a spoilt princess, the other a solitary and sulky bastard (in the sense of having no mother, not in the insulting way). Yet, the relief that pervades this scene is electrifying. Yes it is amazing to see two Starks on screen together but to have them talk is the real treat because it shows how far they have come. They treat each other with respect, talking forcefully without insulting each other like children are wont to do. Placing their journeys side by side, the experiences are drastically different yet their maturity has reached a similar point, and this is what they need to have a fighting chance against Ramsay “Piece of Shit” Bolton and his army. The Wall has amassed quite a nice group, with Jon, Sansa, Brienne, Podrick, Melisandre, Daavos and Tormund Giantsbane all banding together against Winterfell. Having the Stark children leading the attack with their experiences informing their actions proves how important learning from the past is in this world. The real surprise for Jon Snow is not just seeing his sister, it is how much she has matured. While he is tired of being a leader, she is growing into the role, and hopefully they can stand together and rescue their brother Rickon.

A second reunion between brother and sister is the one on the Iron Islands as Yara and Theon join forces. This is another instance of the females getting shit done as Yara forcibly shakes Theon into finally taking action, this time with Ramsay Bolton. In a stark contrast to Sansa’s growth, Theon is definitely not the man he once was, yet he is also not the man he became after facing unspeakable torture. He has been humbled and is ready to accept that he would never have made an effective leader, but he has learnt from his many mistakes to help inform someone more suitable for the job.

The “bro-trip” that is Jorah and Daario comes to an end this week as they finally reach Dany, only for them to realise that the only person suitable for the job of rescuing her is Daenerys herself. While the dick measuring contest between the two is not entirely necessary, it does highlight how the men let their egos get in the way of efficiency as running into Vaes Dothrak without more of a plan than killing on the fly and trying to sneak Dany away was never going to work. They see a goal and try to reach it as quickly as they can while other, more effective leaders, see their endgame and carve the perfect path to achieve something even greater.

I chose the quote in the title because it epitomises the crux of this week’s episode. It is said by a woman, Brienne, discussing the past and how she will not forget it as she faces the people who killed Renly. The past and women are the driving force of the action in an episode filled with reunions between siblings. After another speech from the High Sparrow, Margery finally gets to see Loras and true to form, begins to formulate a plan to help them defend against the mind games of their captors. Yet, Loras is a mess, once the prized fighter and now a shell of a man, he cannot match the mental fortitude displayed by his sister. This leads to her accepting a walk of shame which ignites action in the ruling parties of King’s Landing as the Lannister siblings broker a truce with the Small Council to stop Margery from having to walk. This scene is a showcase of the talents of Cersei and Olenna’s ability to do whatever they need to protect their respective families, as the men merely play a supporting role to the women’s resolute decision making.

This may be a weird thing to say but the High Council of Meereen could learn a thing or two this week from King’s Landing. While Tyrion’s outside perspective of ruling is what the city needed to find a new path in the battle against slavery, a lack of communication between him and Missandei and Grey Worm leads to an argument about what it means to be a slave. Tyrion has grown up rich in a land where slavery does not exist while the others have grown up as slaves. While they do follow Tyrion’s plan, Missandei explains the impact seven years can have on a slave. To the slave masters and Tyrion, seven years is simply a number that is beneficial for both parties but for Missandei, the reality of what seven more years of slavery means for the people who fall into that category is the reason why she followed Daenerys so resolutely.

Daenerys commands respect – as she walks around the room laying down the law to the khals, she owns the room. While her two male underlings rode to her rescue, Dany saves herself and earns an army in the process. Drawing many parallels to the ending of season one, Dany once again steps naked from a blazing fire as people kneel to her without being prompted. She played her game perfectly, speaking when the time was right, saying the right things until she could get into position, doing nothing more complicated than tipping over a fiery lamp. Once again, her legacy transforms into an even more formidable beast, earning the entire respect of everyone present. Similarly to Jon and Sansa proving how much they have grown and learnt from their past experiences, Daenerys once again is baptised by fire to emerge a changed person. Her transformation into a person willing and able to wield power is on full display as she stands naked in front of a kneeling congregation with one key difference, she is not flanked by three dragons. The Khaleesi commands awe and attention all by herself, which is something the many Kings of Westeros could never truly claim.

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