Spoiler Alert: Please do not read further if you have not watched Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 4 yet.
Book of the Stranger was not a particularly bloody mess, well a few guys, here and there, did die, but it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones without that. In terms of plot progression, the episode provided tiny nuggets of information from across the map — just enough to keep you hooked. Robin Arryn (the little pr**k who is Lord of the Vale) makes an appearance and Lord Baelish works him by getting him to send forces to help Sansa. Tyrion Lannister presents an offer to various slave lords that they have seven years to gradually wean themselves off of slavery — a proposition Missandei and Greyworm (leader of the unsullied) dislike greatly.
But all these are the corners of the puzzle. Entirely about brothers and sisters reuniting to plot, hatch and roar to one another about what they wanted and how they hoped to get it, this episode shows how even when Westeros is being torn apart by war, greed, slavery, scheming and all things nasty, there is family. The blood ties that are interminable and unavoidable.
All this beautifully complemented by strong women standing in stark contrast to weak men.
The tortured yet resilient Sansa Stark arrived at Castle Black with Brienne. As the (half) brother and sister looked at each other, perhaps shocked, it was hard to dismiss the relief that they both felt — of familiarity, of the known, of the certain and of the loved. Their warm embrace could have melted all the snow in the North.
Sansa emphasises that they must take back the North — she does not cower or hesitate in this demand. Jon Snow is tired of fighting, executing and slaying people; Sansa, unmoved by the pity party that he had thrown for himself, tells him that she will fight for the North with or without him.
At one point, Ramsay sends a letter to Castle Black — a limerick that is full of well...Ramsayisms. Jon Snow stops reading the letter aloud suddenly; Sansa takes over, unmoved and stern, she reads about how Ramsay was going to get his entire army to rape her and more.
Sansa is now a woman with a mission: she has grown up, her naivety long dead — she saw her fate and life get twisted by vile disgusting men like Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton. She had no choice but to see the world for what it really was. The scenes between Sansa and Jon were important, the pieces of the game came into full view — with her righteous rage, anger and a will to take back what was hers — Winterfell — she was taking charge of her family, honour and most importantly, herself.
Brienne, too made it amply clear to Davos (and gently reminded the viewers) that her sense of nobility and duty remain unmatched, in all of Westeros. If Davos Seaworth was noble, Brienne has trumped him by a long measure.
In King’s Landing, Queen Margaery, momentarily unchained, is given a sermon by the High Sparrow, but she is undaunted. She does not want to break.
The High Sparrow tells her she can see her brother, Loras. Margaery's homosexual brother isn't handling imprisonment as well as she is. Weak, broken and quite frankly, a sobbing mess, he begs her and implores her to help him and to make it all go away.
Margaery realises that the High Sparrow has dispirited her brother and they must present a united front in order to survive this. She gives him faith and tells him to be stronger in the face of adversity.
It's clear that she still has her head in the game and is trying her very best to not be overwhelmed.
In the palace, Cersei and Jamie approach the small council and tell them that in order to be able to defeat the High Sparrow, they must end their bickering and focus on uniting their forces, literally and in spirit.
The vibe of unity, brotherhood and family ties touched even the scheming corridors of King's Landing.
In the cold, rainy Iron Islands, Yara was vociferous in her intention (season six, episode three) of being the rightful heir to the Iron Islands — it didn’t go down very well with the elders.
Theon reaches the Islands to find that his father's dead. We all knew that Theon was dead on the inside — Ramsay had sucked the purpose and meaning out of his life. Even though he is picking up his broken pieces, Theon is no match to Yara. He has never been a match to her.
This meeting is a dark comparison to how the siblings met for the first time — arrogant and brash, he groped her (not knowing that she was his sister), proclaimed that he was the next ruler. In the fourth episode, this season, Theon probably does not even remember that part of him — he is full of remorse and tells Yara that she in fact is the deserving heir and he would do anything to help her claim what should be hers.
Somewhere in the desert lands, Khaleesi is being judged by a bunch of Khals who will decide her two-pronged fate — as is the destiny for most women in this fantasy world: should she be sold into slavery, should the Khals take turns raping her and then getting their horses to rape her, or should she be made to live out the rest of her days with the dosh khaleen (the widows of Khals)?
There is no brother for Danaerys to unite with here, but her two lovers — Daario Naharis and Ser Jorah (unrequited) — track her down and offer to save her. They enter the Vaes Dothrak without weapons (know-it-all Jorah says it’s forbidden to carry weapons in the market) and cook up a ridiculous plan to rescue their queen. Danaerys gracefully says she can handle it, decides to save herself. While the men were courageous in their endeavour to save the Queen, it became clear that she didn't really need the rescuing.
You might say that ever since Khaleesi emerged from the pyre (season one finale), unburnt, she became empowered, while that’s true, she caused too much trouble in her endeavour to free people from chains, hoping to be the leader of the fantasy world’s ‘free world’.
There was an air of scepticism around her ability to rule the world.
The lore of the silver-haired Queen and the mother of dragons wasn’t enough to quell the people’s disdain of the woman who sought to rule over them.
Triumphantly, Danaerys walks out of the temple, away from Khal Moro and his comrades, having set them all on fire. Again, she emerges from a burning structure, unclothed and most importantly, unburnt. This is the show-runners telling you who’s boss, just like they did in the season one finale. The dothraks, awed by the spectacle, kneel before her (does anyone else see the irony here?), as do Naharis and Jorah.
Danaerys often sounds strict, arrogant and too sure of herself and this incident reiterates the reasons for her chutzpah. Perhaps, this grand spectacle will really make the sons of Harpy realise that the Queen is not to be messed with.
The women are claiming what’s theirs or what they think is theirs. Ellaria (Oberyn’s paramour) has claimed a position for herself; the mother of dragons has wowed an entire tribe with her pyrotechnics; Yara is set to rule the Iron Islands; Sansa is on her way to reclaiming Winterfell and Margaery is trying to push back in whatever way she can with the High Sparrow.
This is the Game of Thrones that I am really thrilled by. In the sexualised, unequal world of Westeros, watching how women exert their agency, game the system and claim their right to what's theirs excites one's imagination.
Published Date: May 17, 2016 02:08 am | Updated Date: May 17, 2016 02:19 pm