Sunday, May 22, 2016

GAME OF THRONES (S6E04): "The Book of the Stranger"

Episode 4 of Season 6 (S6E04) of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "The Book of the Stranger." This is a reference to one of the books in the main religious text of Westeros, known as the Seven-Pointed Star, which serves as their "Bible" for their main religion, which is called the Faith of the Seven and is centered around a deity (called "God", of course) that appears in seven forms or aspects: The Father, The Mother, The Maiden, The Crone, The Warrior, The Smith, and The Stranger. The Stranger basically represents Death, so perhaps this episode is intended to be about death. But, hey, this is Game of Thrones, so isn't every episode about death?

Just last week in my review of (S6E03) "Oathbreaker" I was lamenting the fact that we had not seen some important characters like Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Ser Loras Tyrell at all this season. So, of course in "the Book of the Stranger" both Littlefinger and Loras make an appearance.

But the most  emotionally resonant moment of this episode is of course the hug between Sansa Stark and Jon Snow when the two are finally reunited. This is the first significant reunion of two members of the Stark family since the infamous Red Wedding of Season 3, even though the show has put various characters tantalizingly close to meeting before, only to deny the audience this emotional release. It's curious that of all the possible Stark family duos possible, it is Sansa and Jon that meet, because the two were never very close when they lived together in Winterfell. Jon was always "that bastard" and Sansa was just a spoiled girl who thought more about clothes and dances. Now the two have gone through a lot (there's an understatement for you!) it will be interesting to see how they interact going forward. Even in this episode, Jon is reluctant about trying to make war on Ramsay Bolton, the self-proclaimed Warden of the North, until Sansa convinces him that it is the right thing to do, to try and save their brother Rickon (I do NOT see that plan ending well!), who is being held captive by Ramsay at the Stark's ancestral home of Winterfell.

It's interesting how the forces are starting to line up against the execrable Ramsay Bolton (who in this episode murders yet another innocent person, this time its Osha, the Wildling who was responsible for protecting Rickon and Bran when they escaped Winterfell way back in Season 3). We finally see Littlefinger and he is in the Vale, with the still crazy Lord of the Vale, Robin Arryn, who now is a loony homicidal teenager instead of a petulant homocidal pre-teen. Littlefinger appears to convince Robin to send his armed men to Winterfell to rescue his cousin Sansa (whom they do not know has escaped from Winterfell and is at Castle Black).

In King's Landing we finally get to see the show's primary openly gay character, Queen Margaery's brother Loras. Unfortunately, he is at the end of his rope and is willing to give in to the High Sparrow's demands for atonement and punishment of his sins (homosexuality). Margaery looks alarmed at the state of her brother but refuses to give in and encourages Loras to stay strong. Meanwhile, the Tyrells and Lannisters, who hate each other are realizing that they have a common enemy they hate even more (the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant), and hatch a plan to rescue Margaery and end the Sparrow's domination of the Capitol. Somehow I don't think this alliance is going to end well.

The other important moments in this week's episode happened in Essos, the continent across the Narrow Sea from Westeros. It's where Tyrion is making a dubious deal with the slaveholders of Yunkai, Astapor and other cities that instead of ending slavery he will give then seven years to phase out the practice, and compensate these rich and powerful men who benefit from the forced labours of others for the loss of their "property." Game of Thrones is repeatedly making points about the necessity of compromise, and that "one doesn't sign truces with one's friends" to indicate that it's one's enemies that one often has to negotiate with. However, it really is not clear if slavery is something one can compromise over. Essos is also where Daenery Targaryen finds herself confronting a room full of lecherous and powerful Dothraki men who are supposed to be deciding her fate. Instead Dany upstages them by using her power to be unharmed by flames to immolate all of the Dothraki khals, for the second time pulling off a coup that will make her the head of this violent and puissant people: Khaleesi.

The highlights of this episode were:
  • The best line on this week's episode was Missandei's when she asked Tyrion exactly "How long were you a slave?" and informed him that his deal with the Masters is doomed to fail because "Seven years is not a short time for a slave."
  • The look that Cersei and the Queen of Thorns shared in the Small Council room was priceless as usual.
  • The final scene when Dany burns up the Dothraki khals was pretty cool, but it ended problematically...
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  •  I really think the entire scene with Ramsay and Osha was redundant. We know he's a homocidal maniac, so seeing him stick a dagger in her neck and then calmly resuming his snack was not a surprise, at some point it just turns into torture porn.
  • Really, the Dothraki just let the only two white dudes in the area walk up to the front and prostrate themselves before Dany? The producers just seem to have a tin ear when it comes to listening to the potential problems with their deification of Daenerys. There was a little too much of S3E10 "Mhysa" in that final scene.
Grade: 8/10.

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