'Game of Thrones’ S6E04 review: It's back to Starks, Targaryens in song of ice and fire
The latest episode of Game of Thrones can be best described in five words – Song of Ice and Fire.
Warning: Spoilers of Ice and Fire.
After a long, over-arching, twisted, dark, bloodstained path, the show is back to the where it all began – with the Starks and Daenerys Targaryen — ice and fire — coming up as the big players of the game. Book of the Stranger, episode fourth of the sixth season, was a wonderful callback to the show’s glorious first season, complete with actual, happy and smiling Starks and the Unburnt-Khaleesi-Mother of Dragons walking out of flames unscathed to a awestruck Khalasaar
Full disclosure – I am Team Stark when it comes to Game of Thrones. Despite the crippling, beheading, back-stabbing, actual stabbing, rape, blindness, torture, death, pet-killing the Northern family has had to endure, I continued rooting for them. And for the first time in a long time, the show not just showed two members of the family together, but also showed them to be clued in and action-oriented.
After Jon Snow’s epic (and 80 percent of fans’ Whatsapp status) moment at the end of Oathbreaker, the last episode, the former Lord Commander is all set to leave the Crows and fly to greener and warmer pastures. However, before he can leave Castle Black, Sansa, Brienne and Podrick make their entrance. The gorgeously framed moment when they see each other again was a breath of fresh air and sunshine in a show that is often as dark as the ‘Night full of terrors’. The last time these half-siblings (or cousins?) saw each other, Jon was a clean shaven young man going North to be a soldier and Sansa was an arrogant little girl going South to be a queen. Now they meet again, having grown up and older with the tortures of the journey and that’s what makes the reunion such a strong storytelling and cinematic moment. Back at Winterfell, Jon always shared a better brother-sister bond with Arya, but Sansa and he quickly caught up on the sibling banter with profuse apologies, promise of protection, sharing of ale (Jon’s face when she asks for a drink was a winner!) and a plan for war. Understandably, the newly reborn Jon isn’t keen on more fighting but Sansa is baying for Bolton blood and intends to get it with or without him. However, by the end of the episode, not only is Jon on board but has the support of the Wildling army as well.
The reason for this is a written threat from Ramsay, known to book fans as ‘The Pink letter’. Speaking of Ramsay, the latest in his casualty list is the wildling Osha and the slim hope/fan theory that the Umbars are actually conspiring against the Boltons. With Osha dead, we can safely concur that Rickon — or some parts of his body — are in grave danger, and the letter mentions as much. Rickon is in the dungeon, Shaggydog is a carpet on the floor (RIP Shaggydog, you brave creature) but Jon and Sansa are up in arms.
This twist is steadily setting up the much-anticipated Northern uprising and the return of all the living Starks this season points to that. Here’s a look at where and what the surviving Starks are up to –
- Sansa Stark, Castle Black - Hell-bent on revenge and reclaiming her home with Brienne of Tarth wielding a sword by her side (Almost like a certain Lady Stoneheart, dare I say?)
- Arya Stark, Braavos – A girl has no name but a girl is a crazy sharp, strong, cruel assassin warrior with a kill list and thirst for vengeance
- Bran Stark, cave up North – Glancing into the past and maybe the future with his rapidly sharpening Warg powers under the tutelage of the Three-Eyed Raven
- Rickon Stark, Winterfell – A possible victim who is at the right place and the right time, fulfilling the adage that there must always be a Stark at Winterfell
- Jon Snow (Stark/Targaryen?) – A resurrected warrior, commander of a ferocious army, possibly the promised prince
- Bonus: There are three direworlfs still surviving – Summer with Bran, Ghost with Jon and Nymeria in the wind
In addition, the Starks might just get some unlikely but much-needed help from none other than Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish who has Eyrie and Robin Arryn under his little thumb. He has commanded the Eyrie army to march forth and help Sansa, who he knows is no longer at Winterfell. If the armies of Catelyn Stark’s sister, Jon Snow’s wildlings and loyal Northerners combine, the Boltons will soon have no regards to send.
With the pieces so neatly lined up, a fan must be very excited to see how well The North Remembers the coming season.
The Stark Reunion wasn’t the only drama playing out at Castle Black. Sansa’s return has brought Brienne, Renly Baratheon’s faithful knight, face to face with Ser Davos Seaworth and Melisandre, Stannis Baratheon’s closest aides. Not only does she confess to executing Stannis, she also suggests that she is yet to avenge Renly completely. This does not bode well for the Red Priestess in particular, if Brienne’s menacing built towering over her was not foreshadowing enough. And on the topic of retribution due to the Red Priestess, Ser Davos finally (after four episodes) asked about the Princess Shireen. Yes, the same little girl Melisandre burnt. When the truth finally comes out, maybe Jon Snow’s resurrection won’t be enough to tip the balance of karma in her favour. Wonder what the flames will show her now.
Speaking of flames, the climax of the episode was as fiery as it gets (and without dragons). Captured by a Khalasar, kept captive as a widow at Dosh Khaleen at Vaes Dothrak and mocked by the Dothrakis, Daenerys may seem helpless but never write of Daenerys Targaryen, first of her name, The Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons. With a little help from her friends Jorah Mormont and Daarhio Naharis, who finally found her, she manages to successfully kill the gathered Khals and gain the reverence of the people of Vaes Dothrak, her friends included. In a scene reminiscent of the first season’s climax, where she walked out of the flames of her husband Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with three newly-hatched dragons, she emerges from a burning temple sans a clothes but with great pride. After all, she just declared herself to be the worthy ruler of the Dothrakis, the one who will take them across the sea and literally burned downed her opposition and oppressors. Emilia Clarke’s acting throughput the scene was not just a throwback to her glory days from the early seasons, but also brought back the carnage in her character after a few mellow seasons as a mere ruler.
Meanwhile in Mereen, Tyrion uses his sharp intellect and tongue in her absence to solve the problems with the Sons of the Harpy. Not everyone is happy about striking a deal with the slavers but Tyrion Lannister at his vintage best as a diplomat/politician is always a treat to watch. The other Lannisters were not far behind on sharp politicking either. Cersei and Jamie managed to get the Small Council, consisting of Queen of Thrones Lady Olena Tyrell and Hand of the King Kevan Lannister on their side against the Faith Militant. Their master plan is to get the Tyrell army to Kings Landing, to hunt two birds with one stone - free Margaery and Loras and get rid of the High Sparrow. Both the Tyrell siblings are not doing great in captivity, but at least Margaery is handling it remarkably well with great strength and courage.
This display of great strength and courage by the female characters has been a standout this season. This episode itself saw Sansa declaring her intent for revenge with or without her brother’s aid, Daenerys defeating the Dothrak rulers, Cersei and Olenna teaming up to overcome a common enemy, Yara Greyjoy stand up to her prodigal brother Theon and make a stake for the Salt Throne. Before the start of the season, Entertainment Weekly did a cover story titled ‘Dame of Thrones’ and season six is turning out to be gutsy female-oriented one.
With the queen Khaleesi emerging out of the flames and the Starks venturing out into the snow, this season is nicely poised to not only overtake the books but also, maybe, become a greater storyteller than the book series. Only time will reveal the next, mind-blowing melody of this song of ice and fire. Till then, let’s wait for the next episode.