Thursday, May 19, 2016

Game of Thrones 6x04 Recap: “Book of the Stranger” (Dragon Queen Rising) [Contributor: Melanie]

“Book of the Stranger”
Original Airdate: May 15, 2016


No but seriously, this week featured one of the most exciting scenes so far this season, if not the most. Up until now it felt like we were dipping our toes carefully into the pool of the unknown for this Winds of Winter season, and now it feels like we’ve taken a headfirst dive into it all between Jon and Sansa’s reunion, the Tyrells and Lannisters agreeing on an alliance, and Dany’s boss moves to free herself from Vaes Dothrak.

Whenever a Dany scene ends an episode, it usually means something big is going down. Viserys’ crown of gold, the escape from the warlocks, the sacking of Astapor, Myhsa? Any time Dany gets the last word, it means an iconic moment for the show. She was referred to by the Daily Beast as the “closest thing the series has to a protagonist” once and it’s in moments like this that it becomes apparent why. The fact of the matter is, Game of Thrones, while easily one of the greatest television series of all time at this point, is largely lacking in any sort of helpful or progressive ways. The cast is nearly entirely white, with POC characters making up either supporting characters or being killed off. Likewise it has been criticized many times for its portrayal of female nudity and female mutilation.

Dany always seems to be their answer to all these problems. Though, again, the cross-sectionality is lost here because Dany is whiter than white; still, she is the embodiment of female power on the show, often overpowering her male counterparts and would-be enemies and running amok as she sees fit because she is a queen in her own right. And that’s empowering for a lot of reasons. Dany started with nothing, a fragile 17-year-old girl under her brother’s oppressive care and handed into what was, essentially, sexual slavery. She emerged a leader in her own right, with an army she won on her own, and three dragons she burgeoned herself. She’s conquered three cities and, as of last night, has the largest army of any player on the show.

Clearly the girl listened to Lemonade during the break.


The episode opens with Jon at the Wall telling Edd he intends to head south, but those plans take a pause when through the gates of Castle Black comes Sansa, Brienne, and Podrick. Jon and Sansa have a heartwarming reunion and bond over food and a fire before Sansa insists they amass what armies they can to take back Winterfell. Jon is reluctant to rejoin a fight but Sansa tells him she will make a play to retake their home with or without his help. Later, while at breakfast, a letter arrives from Ramsay informing Jon that Rickon is imprisoned in Winterfell and threatens to gang-rape Sansa. Jon and the others then discuss how best to raise an army and challenge the other Snow.

At Winterfell, Osha is brought before Ramsay and killed as she attempts to murder him. In the Iron Islands, Theon receives a less than warm welcome from Yara, who is still bitter over his refusal to leave with her when she initially tried to free him from the Bolton’s hold. He apologizes and swears that he did not come back with the intent to usurp her place as ruler of the Iron Islands, instead declaring his intentions to support her in the Kingsmoot. In the Vale, Littlefinger returns and has a disagreement with Royce about how Sansa escaped Winterfell. After some debate, Littlefinger convinces Robin to send his army to Castle Black to protect Sansa.

Down south in King’s Landing, Margaery is brought before the High Sparrow who relays to her the story of how he found faith through his greed and vanity. He then sends her in to speak with Loras, who is breaking under the Sparrows’ torture. Cersei meets with Tommen in the hopes of convincing him to challenge the High Sparrow, but Tommen, who recently met with him, is reluctant to provoke him or put Margaery in danger. Cersei and Jaime then meet with the Small Council, who agree they cannot let Margaery’s Walk of Atonement happen. They devise a plan to send in Tyrell troops to the sept, order their own army to back down to avoid suspicion, and free the imprisoned Tyrells as well as Lancel.

Across the sea, Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm, and Varys meet with the representatives of Yunkai and Astapor. Tyrion offers terms on the queen’s behalf that she will allow slavery to continue for seven more years before it will be disbanded completely, giving them time to find other means of income for their cities. Grey Worm and Missandei are angered by this, believing he is undoing Daenerys’ work while ignoring the slaves who must endure seven more years of bondage. In Vaes Dothrak, Jorah and Daario have made it to the camp and sneak in. They find Dany, who had taken a short leave of the Dosh Khaleen with another khaleesi and tells them she has a plan. She meets with Khal Moro and the other khals who are deciding her fate. She quickly turns the conversation and tells them they are unfit to lead the Dothraki, and declares herself the only suitable leader before turning over the fire pits in the hut and burning them alive. She walks out of the inferno unscathed as the Dothraki bow to her.


We are not in Kansas anymore. The only real thing we can predict with help from the book at this point is the Kingsmoot, which will not go in Yara’s favor thanks to her uncle Euron. Theon was not present for this in the books so it’s possible he might be fulfilling the role of Victarion, who was sent by Euron to make contact with Dany. It would help explain his presence at Pike at the moment.

As for Dany, this episode (which was written by creators Benioff and Weiss) seems to be pushing the narrative in favor of camp Dany when it comes to the Azor Ahai/Prince That Was Promised possibilities. Based on book evidence Dany has been the main contender for some time based on her fulfillment of several points of the prophecy: “reborn amidst salt and smoke,” the “bleeding star,” and waking “dragons from stone.” This is further hammered this week with Melisandre’s weak assertion that Jon Snow is her prophesied savior (a statement quickly shot down by Davos) and Dany’s epic emergence from yet another pyre. With a Red Priestess coming to Meereen next week we might find some more light shed on all this.

Book readers will also be happy to see Dany finally fulfilling, at least in great deal, Quaithe’s prophecies for Dany that she must go back to go forward. At the time of her capture in the books she’s having a major identity crisis in the wilderness and has several visions telling her she’s strayed from her purpose. With her return to a place she had not been since season one and repeating the same fiery act that won her dragons at the end of that same season, it’s pretty clear Dany has indeed gone back and set herself up to move very, very far forward.

A brief word on the Stark and Bolton situation. The encyclopedia that came out last year points to a long standing rivalry between the Starks and Boltons. Both houses descend from the Kings of Winter (also known as the Kings in the North) as they often fought for dominance over the land and trace their heritages back just as far to the First Men. This gambit for Winterfell might just be the ultimate climax of their ancient altercations. What’s even more interesting is a similar battle for control happened in the Targaryen household, and the Starks were one of the few houses to support the rightful heir Princess Rhaenyra when they signed the Pact of Ice and Fire with the house. It would be interesting to see the debt repaid with Queen Daenerys declaring her aid for the Starks in their struggle for control.


It seems like a lot of armies are amassing in the North. The Wildlings and the Night’s Watch already hold Castle Black and Sansa suggests several northern houses will rally to Jon’s call. Further, the knights of the Vale will be headed Sansa’s way as further reinforcements for the Stark cause. It’s all going to lead up to an epic showdown outside Winterfell. There is an outside chance Dany may make her landing here, which be some kickbutt support for the Starks, with several tens of thousands of troops and three dragons.

As for Dany getting across the sea, with her fleet burned and Euron introduced earlier in the season, it seems they’re going to follow through with the Greyjoy fleet plot. I see Theon taking over Victarion’s role in the book, sailing for Meereen and Danaerys, giving her the fleet to get her army across the sea. Many fans believe she’ll make her landing in the North at the Wall, however the geographic spot that makes sense would be Dorne. It is also the place in Westeros where she has the most allies (the Martells have always been loyalists to the Targaryens and are their distant cousins). Landing in Dorne would also fulfill Quaithe’s riddle: “to go North you must go South.”

Is Jon Snow the Prince and/or Azor Ahai? This has been a debate since 2011, though the identity of this promised prince has only been broached on the show within the last few episodes. The fact of the matter is, logistically speaking Dany has more working on her side, and if you were to pick someone from the show to be your “prophesied leader” it’d likely be her. But, a dragon must always have three heads and she’s got two extra dragons in need of riders. We’ll likely learn in episode 5 that Jon’s father was Rhaegar and his mother Lyanna, which would put him in position to claim one of the dragons. But I don’t think it will serve him too much farther than that, considering he’s a Stark through-and-through, blood of the dragon or not.

I really, really like this Tyrell-Lannister plan but somehow I don’t see it succeeding, at least not with everyone safe and sound (because what show are we watching, people?). A Lannister-Tyrell alliance in King’s Landing has been a long time coming and would make for a truly unchallenged rule. But, as we know, Tommen is not long for this world according to Maggy’s prophecy (so many prophecies popping up this season).

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