“Book of the Stranger,” the fourth episode of Game of Thrones’ sixth season, solidifies that Westeros is, and will continue to be, a world led by women. And these aren’t just adequate women. These are resilient, intelligent, capable women, and their abilities were on full display last night.
Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan), an Ironborn through and through, seems every bit the worthy heir to Pyke. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) continued to stand tall in the face of captivity – something her broken brother, Loras (Finn Jones), hasn’t been able to do. Cersei (Lena Headey) gracefully convinced Kevan (Ian Gelder) and Olenna (Diana Rigg) to take up arms against the Faith Militant. Sansa (Sophie Turner) not only found safety, but also her voice. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) wasted little time in confessing to her execution of Stannis, and made it clear what little respect she has for Melisandre. And Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) saw her military strength dramatically increase by reminding everyone why one of her titles is “The Unburnt.”
Riser of the Week: Daenerys Targaryen
Those who have read my reviews for the past few years know it’s no secret that I loathe Daenerys. While all of the other characters intersect paths, Daenerys sits in complete isolation in the east. The arrival of Tyrion last season helped things for a bit, but before you knew it, she was gone and once again a prisoner of the Dothraki. It was hard not to look at her storyline and be reminded at how little she’s progressed since Season 1. Yes, I know that she’s crusaded her way through Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis in an attempt to abolish slavery, but as we’re learning now, no permanent changes were implemented in those cities, so it’s hard for me to consider those campaigns a success.
And yet after last night’s impromptu Burning Man ceremony, for perhaps the first time ever, I’m cautiously excited about Daenerys’s storyline. George R.R. Martin has admitted that he wrote himself into a corner with Daenerys’s plot – a problem he often refers to as the Meereeneese Knot. It’s this knot that’s often blamed for his slow writing speed. In this last episode, I think we saw the show’s version of the knot’s untangling when Daenerys opted for her tried and true “burn them all” strategy last night. While this was about as surprising as the encore song at a Baha Men concert, I couldn’t help but cheer along anyway. Something felt a little different this time, and I think (BOLD PREDICTION ALERT) that by the time Season 6 ends, Daenerys will have landed in Westeros.
Honorable Mention: Sansa Stark, for proving porcelain can in fact be turned into iron.
Faller of the Week: Loras Tyrell
Here’s a quick recap for those who might have forgotten. Last season, Loras was arrested by the Faith Militant under the charge of “buggery” – aka having gay sex with Renly Baratheon. Loras denies the allegations, and Margaery backs her brother up. Then, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) brings out Olyvar, Loras’s new squeeze. Olyvar’s testimony condemns Loras, and thus leads to Margaery’s arrest for perjury.
That’s where we stand now. Margaery seems close to being allowed to go – a testament to her impressive resolve. Conversely, Loras is a broken man. He’s no longer interested in preserving the integrity of House Tyrell, and he seems ready and willing to die. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds, especially now that the Tyrells will be waging war against the Faith. Will Loras or Margaery escape? Or will they be caught in the crosshairs? I have a bad feeling about Loras.
Honorable Mention: Osha, who unlike Daenerys, wasn’t able to do the same thing twice and get away with it.
Backstory of the Week: Kevan Lannister
We’ve now seen Kevan Lannister a few times this season, and considering he’s currently serving as Hand of the King, I think it’s important we all know who he is. Kevan is the younger brother to the late Tywin Lannister, and thus uncle to Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion. Kevan originally had three sons, but the only one who remains is Lancel, who is now a member of the Faith Militant. His two deceased sons, Martyn and Willem, were killed in Season 3 by Lord Rickard Karstark after they had been taken hostage by Robb Stark. These murders are what led Robb to behead Rickard, which in turn made the Karstarks enemies of the Starks. These are the very same Karstarks who are now allies with Ramsay Bolton. (I know I digressed a bit there, but it’s fun to see how all these things interconnect.)
Last season, Kevan returned to King’s Landing after Tywin’s death, ready to assume a role on the small council. Instead, he watched Cersei blatantly seize control of the council, which led him to leave King’s Landing altogether. He only returns after Cersei is locked up by the High Sparrow. This is when he takes on his current role of Hand of the King.
While Kevan hasn’t received too much of the spotlight yet, he is one of the realm’s most powerful men, and his actions will continue to carry a lot of weight. He's a fair man and a smart tactician. Here's to hoping he's around for a while.
Item of Power: Ramsay’s Letter
I guess when everything has broken your way, like it has for Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) these past few seasons, you don’t think twice about antagonizing thousands of wildlings and House Stark by threatening to flay, rape, and kill them all because you simply don’t believe you can lose. In what is shaping up to resemble a redemption season for the Starks, this letter from Ramsay proved to be the perfect way to guarantee that Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and the wildlings march on Winterfell in an attempt to take it back. Early estimates have the wildlings outnumbered by more than double, so I’d expect Jon and Sansa to go hunting for allies soon. My guess is we’ll be seeing House Mormont’s Bear Island and House Manderly’s White Harbor in the near future.
- Welcome back, Littlefinger. Glad to see you’re just as devious as usual. Now let’s go save Winterfell.
- Ser Jorah used Sand Attack. It wasn’t very effective.
- I guess it’s true what they say: Jon Snow isn’t Jon Snow unless he has a redhead telling him what to do.
- There are very few feel-good moments in Game of Thrones, which made Jon and Sansa’s reunion so beautiful. Thank god we didn’t have another just-missed-you moment.
- I’m really excited for the Kingsmoot. Yara is a complete badass and having Theon in her corner (something that she doesn’t have in the books) should help her immensely. I loved the realization on her face when she learned that he wasn’t there to try and steal the throne from her.
- I think it’s time for Jaime to do something. He's spending too much time standing around and echoing Cersei. Also, I miss Bronn. Let’s get the band back together.
- I could not stop laughing at Tormund’s infatuation with Brienne. Now this is a romance I can get behind.
- I’m going to end on a serious note and ponder what Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) told Cersei about his conversation with the High Sparrow. We don’t know what the High Sparrow told Tommen, but could it be that in torturing Loras Tyrell, the High Sparrow learned of how the Tyrells plotted in the murder of Joffrey? If Tommen did learn this, and then told Cersei, that paints the scene the Great Council room in an entirely different light. Could Cersei and Jaime be plotting some vengeance? Is Olenna already a step ahead of them?
See also: Game of Thrones 6.03: “Oathbreaker”
Joe Brosnan works at St. Martin's Press and manages Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.