GAME OF THRONES Season 6, Ep. 4 Recap: The Book of the Stranger

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It’s LIT P/C HBO

Valar Morghulis my friends and welcome to Season Six of Game of Thrones. Every week, I will recap Sunday’s episode and answer any questions that readers may have in a midweek mailbag that I will update as questions come in right up to when the new episode airs. Send all questions to @FawkesCulture, @Matwellsays, FawkesDotCom@gmail.com(awful email, I know), or post them in the comments section below. You could also catch up with all of Fawkes’ GAME OF THRONES coverage here.

As HBO’s Game of Thrones moves forward, I always knew that there would be questionable plot holes. The world has become too expansive to manage, with far too many characters for the time that an episode of TV allows. That is why so far this season, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have begun trimming the fat at an alarming rate, killing off as many characters that are unnecessary as possible, most with little (Roose Bolton, Osha) or even no (everyone in Dorne) dramatic tension.

I’m not complaining. I’m okay with holes like Theon Greyjoy, the most sought after man in the North, somehow strolling upon a ship and setting sail for the Iron Islands with literally no resistance. Moreover, I’m okay with him slipping into Pyke although he has an uncle running around somewhere that has shown that he will go to any lengths to secure the Salt Throne, including kinslaying. Not to mention the fact that Theon traveled quite a bit of ground in what seemed like very little time. But again, plot holes like this will be necessary and become commonplace to move the plot forward and not get mired in weekly hour-long travel logs.

With that being said, I feel the need to discuss things heating up in Vaes Dothrak. While I know the show and books are totally different things now, some divergences still merit discussions, especially when they represent dramatic heel-turns from repeated facts from the ASOIAF universe. I said at the onset of the Season that I would give Weiss & Benioff the benefit of the doubt, as they have earned it after 5 strong seasons. However, after the first four weeks of Season 6, it feels like whenever the showrunners choose to break with George R.R. Martin’s “book canon,” they do so with extreme gratuitousness (e.g. Dorne). This has never been more of the case than Sunday night with Daenerys’ showing that the title “Unburnt” is merited, as she burned down Dosh Khaleen with all the Great Khal’s inside. I guess that is one way to show power and convince the Dothraki to follow you.

 

Now, Martin has gone through great lengths to say that Dany emerging from the fire, unburnt with three newborn dragons was something inexplicable and unique (see below). It felt like Weiss & Benioff we’re just making a point to show that they can be both different from the books and simultaneously draw up a book-worthy twist but the story telling from Vaes Dothrak to date simply did not merit that kind of explosion. Frankly, the entire time we spent there was weak, from Jorah and Daario somehow infiltrating the camp with almost no resistance to them bumping into Dany as she goes to “make water” and those are only examples from this week. Let’s not forget the ultra-bro dialogue of the Khal’s and Daario’s obsession with talking about his sex life. If these things,  combined with the 2 minutes spent gazing at Emilia Clarke’s breasts through multiple camera angles aren’t gratuitous, I don’t know what is.

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Credit on this goes to @BryndenBFish on Twitter

Many show-watchers enjoyed the scene and that’s fine. It was something unexpected and allowed Dany to return to what she does best: breaking the wheel. The scene served a purpose. The Essos storyline now is finally untangled, which was badly needed. Now Dany is can return to Mereen, where Tyrion continues to rule by compromise rather than the Targaryen-style Blood & Fire that Daenerys chooses to implore. 

Tyrion’s most-recent negotiation is telling the Slaver’s of Qarth, Volantis, and Astapor that they do not have to abolish slavery today but gradually, giving them 7 years to do so. This does not go over well with many of the former slaves, including Missandei and Grey Worm. However, they tacitly comply and choose not to throw Tyrion under the bus when given the chance, signifying that they too understand the necessity to untangle themselves from the Wars of Slaver’s Bay, lest they get stuck in the quagmire indefinitely.

Speaking of being stuck in Quagmires, has there ever been more screen time spent to progress so little than in King’s Landing this season? This week, we learned a bit more about the High Sparrow thanks to his speech to Margaery. Oddly, the speech somehow sounded like it could have been a father-son chat about a dad’s regrets of partying too hard in the 60’s and the scene he awoke to Monday at Woodstock. He then takes Margaery to visit Loras. Margaery believes the High Sparrow allowed her to see her brother to help break him. However, after seeing that Loras is already broken, it is clear Margaery was the Sparrow’s true target.

Thankfully, it now appears that there is a solution to the tension between the Throne and High Sparrow on the horizon after Cersei and Jaime made nice with Uncle Kevin and Lady Olenna. The power structure between the foursome remains a powder keg but for now, they appear united against a common enemy: destroying the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant before they can inflict anymore damage upon the Lannister-Tyrell alliance.

Yet, the best moment from King’s Landing was perfectly understated. After Seasons of senseless ramblings, Grand Maester Pyrcelle may have stumbled upon some truth Sunday, muttering to King Tommen that he is “beset from enemies both inside and without” as his mother enters the room. Although a seemingly insignificant moment, it calls on the audience to pause and reflect on whether Cesei’s actions are in the best interests of her young son or if she is so destructive that she is simply another enemy.

 

After 5+ Seasons of seeing Stark’s murdered and ripped apart from each other, the reunion of Sansa and Jon at Castle Black was particularly powerful. What made these scenes even more rewarding, was Sansa admitting her prior mistreatment of Jon, rather than ignoring their past. It really brought home the fact that no matter what petty resentments there were before the war, all that matters now to the Stark’s is family and what the future holds. To Sansa, this is taking back Winterfell from her husband and tormentor Ramsay Bolton. For Jon, at first it means getting out of dodge.

 

However, Jon should know as well as anyone that is nearly impossible in this current environment. As I predicted in my recap and mailbag from last week, Ramsay wasted no time in letting Jon and Sansa know that he has a brand new Stark in Winterfell, poor young Rickon. This pushed Jon over the edge, forcing him to agree with Sansa that the right move is to take back Winterfell and replace the Flayed Man hanging from the battlements with that Grey Direwolf the entire North has been missing. Now, it is time to see what other forces Jon and Sansa could convince to raise their banners in their name to supplement the 500 wildlings.

Let’s also pause for a moment to give a quick acknowledgement to best budding romance and potential power couple in the entire realm: Brienne and Tormund.

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One allegiance we now know the reunited Stark siblings will be able to count on is the Knights of the Vale. Petyr Baelish made his first appearance of the Season, showing that one does not need military prowess or a sword to wield great power. It is clear that the Littlefinger has total ability to manipulate Robin Arryn, the young Lord of the Vale, to do his every bidding. Littlefinger easily convinces Robin to raise his banners and ride to the aid of his cousin, Sansa Stark. The significance of this cannot be overstated. The Vale is the only region of the Seven Kingdoms that has been totally untouched by the War of the Five Kings, remaining on the sideline for the war’s entirety. This means that the Vale’s army is still at full strength, boasting as Littlefinger has mentioned, some of the greatest knights in all of the Seven Kingdoms. What remains to be seen is if young Robin leads his men into battle, or if Lord Royce does in his stead. This is a win-win for Littlefinger, barring he lives to see then end of #BastardBowl2k16. If Lord Royce leads the troops and unfortunately perishes, that is one less enemy for Littlefinger. If Young Robin decides to lead and dies, Littlefinger will have control of the Vale.

What also remains to be seen is how the Littlefinger-Sansa reunion goes. Judging by the looks of the trailers, not so well for my favorite lowborn Lord. But that will have to wait for next week.

What did you think of the episode? Wondering who some of those character’s were and why they matter? Send these questions and more to me on Twitter @FawkesCulture or @MatwellSays, to FawkesDotCom@gmail.com, or leave them in the comments sections below and I’ll answer them all the way up to Sunday’s episode.

By Matt Atwell

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