Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
It’s a tradition at this point – episode four of each season of Game of Thrones is where something big happens, where various threads come together to reform the bloody tapestry that is this show’s increasingly complex narrative. And while “Book of the Stranger” ended with a bang, almost every scene what preceded it was near-perfect. As this show barrels toward its climax, the biggest dominos have begun to fall. The game has been changed.
Stark Kids Reunited and It Feels So Good
Game of Thrones has kept its characters miserable for so long that you can’t help but expect every hopeful plan to end in disaster. When Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth, and Podrick Payne set out for the Wall to take refuge with Jon Snow, no one would blame you for thinking they weren’t going to make it. And if they did make it, Jon would surely be long gone. Because nothing good can befall the Starks on this show. They are destined to remain scattered forever.
But in the greatest twist of them all, Sansa arrived at the Wall and Jon was there and for the first time since the second episode of season one, these two characters occupied the same space. Watching these two half-siblings embrace one another was the first of many cathartic moments in “Book of the Stranger.” After being lost in the wilderness, literally and figuratively, for the past six seasons, two of the most put-upon characters in the entire series have finally found one another again.
As their late night conversation proves, Jon and Sansa are changed. They’ve been hardened by trauma and violence. Whatever lingering elements of childhood once lingered throughout them have been stamped out for good. For the first time, these two have finally begun to look like proper northern nobility – weary and weatherbeaten and ready to take misery and violence in stride because they’ve seen it all, man. Now that they’re together, these two feel like an unstoppable team. Their conflicts with the rest of Westeros aren’t political – they’re deeply personal.
Also, props for the show not trying to hide the fact that Sophie Turner towers over Kit Harington.
Brienne Gets Real With Davos and Melisandre
One of the great pleasures of Game of Thrones is watching characters collide in messy and unexpected ways. This isn’t the first time Brienne has shared the same ground with Davos and Melisandre. As she points out to Stannis Baratheon’s former top aides, she was a member of Renly Baratheon’s Kingsguard and was present when the two late brothers treated with one another. But she hasn’t seen them since season two and a lot has changed since then…and she isn’t shy about sharing her feelings.
Watching Brienne casually inform the Onion Knight and the Red Woman that she knows Renly was executed with blood magic and that she was the one who executed Stannis is another moment of catharsis. Brienne is by far the most noble character on this show, one of a handful of characters who exists solely to do good and fight for just reasons, and this scene finds her victorious. She owns her actions. She confronts the people who advised her greatest enemy and she refuses to hide what she did. You can’t help but feel bad for poor Davos, who only wanted to push Stannis toward more sane grounds, but Melisandre, the child-burning witch, deserves a dressing down from the most honorable knight in Westeros.
However, with Melisandre truly on the side of Jon Snow (and Davos surely planning to follow), these three will have to learn to get along. They’re going to be road trip buddies soon enough.
Littlefinger Musters an Army
Any episode of Game of Thrones without Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish is an episode not taking advantage of the fact that Littlefinger is one of the most purely entertaining characters on the show, a pure wildcard who secretive motivations ensure that his every entrance brings a surprise or two. In this case, it’s Littlefinger returning the Vale, consulting the easily manipulative Robin Arryn about the “abduction” of Sansa Stark by Bolton forces, and getting permission to muster an army and ride north. You’ve got to hand it to Littlefinger – his years of planning have paid off in a big way. All he needed to get troops under his command was a bribe for the child Lord whose mother he killed.
But now what? Littlefinger has his forces and he’s going north, ostensibly to rescue Sansa. However, Littlefinger has the nasty habit of saying one thing and doing another. With Jon Snow contemplating marching south with his army of Wildings (we’ll touch on that in a moment), will Littlefinger and the forces of the Vale team up with an unlikely ally…or will the Boltons find a way to rally them to his cause? Knowing Littlefinger, the answer to that question can be solved with another question: which one will secure more power for him?