Game of Thrones 6x4: Book of the Stranger
Last night's episode of Game of Thrones placed our three unofficial protagonists, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow at crossroads where they all had to make choices that may decide their fates. These decisions, more than any, seem to be intertwined with where they will end up when the series ends.
In ruling Meereen, Tyrion has maybe gotten what he has always wanted. He seems to relish in making tough decisions, and standing by them with a smug grin that says "I'm right, just you wait and see." While he did cross the sea with Varys to help Daenerys claim the throne, it seems he is having too much fun playing politics to care much about Westeros. He decides to compromise with the rulers of Slaver's Bay, giving them seven years to abolish slavery. This is in stark contrast to the Dany style of using her army to abolish slavery immediately, and then dealing with the pushback afterward. Tyrion's diplomatic approach seems like the best route, but garners a lot of heat from Grey Worm and Missandei, who were both victims of slavery themselves.
While Tyrion is trying to make smart choices, he is in a land that plays by different rules than he is used to. With the Unsullied being so used to Daenerys's usual black and white approach, compromise seems like weakness. In trying to please his enemies, he seems to be alienating his allies. It will be interesting to see what Daenerys thinks of this approach when/if she returns.
Meanwhile, in King's Landing, Tyrion's siblings are doing a better job than him at making enemies into allies. Cersei and Jaime have finally found common ground with the small council, and are plotting to take down the Sparrows before Margaery's humiliation. From a meta standpoint, this seems like it will actually go well. At least, the show will probably not have another main character walk nude through the streets, as it would seem repetitive after last season. Furthermore, after tearing Cersei down and actually making her a sympathetic character for once, it would be nice to see her get a victory.
In fact, after Tyrion leaving King's Landing before Tommen's reign began, and helping Daenerys, he does not really know who he is fighting. Before, the show presented the crown as a corrupt rule led by Joffrey that we wanted to see destroyed. However, while he may not be the best ruler, Tommen and his small council are not much of an enemy. And, it would be quite unsatisfying to see Daenerys finally return to Westeros only to fight Tommen. Clearly, the show needs a greater villain in that position of power, and perhaps the High Sparrow could be that villain. Maybe, he will claim power under his humble rule, lest he die and leave the Lannister's with nothing to do.
Daenerys Targaryen, the unburnt
After ending last season having her rule in Meereen undermined by the Sons of the Harpy, Daenerys became a slave herself. It seemed as if in all her power, she maybe was not fit to rule. However, this episode reminded us in how she gained power in the first place, a mix of kindness and unflinching domination. She befriends another Khaleen, and uses their common experiences to gain an ally. In doing this, it became obvious that Dany had no plans to escape, but to sweep up the Dothraki into her ever growing army.
Meanwhile, Jorrah and Daario lead any attempt to save her. For a while they simply bicker about their love-triangle, which really seems negligible in the eyes of Daenerys, who spends most of this season fending off requests to sleep with her. When the two finally make it to her, rather than save her like a princess from a castle, she decides that it would be easier to take power of the entire Dothraki people than it would be to escape.
And, the Khaleesi does just that. In, what could only be chalked up to a lack of a fire marshal, and highly flammable floor sand, she burns all of the Khals to ashes. Then, emerging from the fire in the buff, Daenerys brings everyone to their knees. The scene was so impactful, that Olivia Clarke was willing to break the No-nudity clause in her contract for it to happen. And in great effect, as it is a great contrast to what we saw with Cersei's walk of shame last season. While nudity represented shame and humiliation then, now it is a show of power. Proof of being unburnt. It also draws parallels to Melissandre's nude scene at the end off episode one of this season. The fire had gone out in her, and nudity represented this loss of faith.
(Speaking of Melissandre and burning, it is hard to believe Daavos still doesn't know what happened to Shireen. Melissandre may be close to her death here, as weilding the power to bring anyone back from the dead could become very tiresome after Jon's big resurrection. So, maybe when Daavos finds out, he will be the one to snap the old hag's neck. That would be fun to see be played out, unless Brienne gets her revenge first for Melissandre birthing the shadow that murdered Renly. Maybe Tormund Giantsbane can distract her long enough to let it play out, because Brienne killing Stannis and pledging allegiance to Sansa was enough triumph for one lifetime.)
So now, Daenerys seems very close to finally making her trip to Westeros, but with the fleet of ships in Meereen's harbor burnt crispier than Khal's Moro, how will she find a way to transport her army to Westeros?
One story line that may be of some help is Theon Greyjoy's return home. There is some speculation that the Ironborn, with all their ships and whatnot, may seek to align with Daenerys, and provide the transport for her to make it to Westeros with her massive army. But they won't be going anywhere until the determine a new king.
For now, we just get a taste of Theon, I think he has shed the Reek name, seeking to help his sister, Yara, claim the Salt Throne. After their father's death at the hands of their Uncle Euron, it seems he will be Yara's competition. For now, this story seems off to the wayside, but perhaps it will provide a bit of fun with the election of a new ruler, as the Iron Islands are the only people to have elections, this side of the Night's Watch.
After spending his second life so far having a relapse into moping, Jon Snow finds new hope in the form of his half-sister, Sansa, arriving at Castle Black. The reunion is quite sweet, considering how fractured the Stark family has been since season one, a reunion was a breath of fresh air. The siblings have a brief session getting each other up to speed, mostly off-camera, before Sansa gets to the point: Let's retake Castle Black from the Boltons. Jon is not having it, still reeling from death, as his spirit has been crushed. However, when a letter from Ramsay arrives challenging the Starks to "come get some," Jon finds himself called back into action.
It seemed that he had lost someone to fight for, as his love, Ygritte died, his BFF Sam, left, and a part of him has died. But, suddenly getting reacquainted with Sansa and learning of Rickon's imprisonment seems to have bolstered a cause as now he has people worth saving: his family.
Oddly enough, after such a heavy build up to the impending White Walker invasion, it seems this plot has been all-together absent this season. Perhaps, because taking back Winterfell must seem like a good cause, considering it could just as well be destroyed by the White Walker army any day now. The whole reason Jon gathered the Wildings was to find peace in the North, and unite together to fight a greater threat. However, now it seems that he has just turned around, and decided to fight Ramsay instead of finding more allies to fight of the harsh breath of Winter.
However, he won't be alone, as Petyr "LittleFinger" Baelish, wants to use the Vale's army to help raid Winterfell. Whether or not his intentions are purely to help Sansa, or in his own self-interest are hazy. After giving her away to Ramsay last season, it seems like he is going to have a hard time winning back her respect.
Meanwhile, Ramsay seems wholly unconcerned this episode with preparing for an attack. This story seemed to be the weakest, as his scene amount to him killing a side character, something he does so often, it really gives us no new information, but helps to trim down the cast.
Jon's decision to fight this battle seems emotionally triggered, and logic has not factored in. Last season at Hardhome, we saw what the army of the dead could do, and it should not be forgotten so easily. Stealing the wildiling army away from the The Wall, and fighting a battle that will probably half the population of The North. could just lead to a bittersweet victory against Ramsay, but will leave The North wide open for a White Walker slaughter.
I think the title of the episode, Book of the Stranger, refers to how many story lines are being affected by a stranger showing up to bring a new perspective. Tyrion's shows his new political style off in Meereen, Daenerys shows her intentions to the Dothraki, and Sansa arrives to influence Jon Snow. This episode seemed to exist in the shadow of the past two episodes, with the heartfelt beginning and fiery ending being the most notable scenes. However, with each of our main characters making important decisions, it leaves a lot of anticipation to see where these choices lead them in the next episode.