'Game Of Thrones' – The 10 Most Important Moments In 'Book Of The Stranger'

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?

Margaery and Loras Scheme From Prison

It seems that this is the season of Game of Thrones where Margaery and Loras Tyrell get to huddle in dungeons and cry into corners. The Queen of Westeros and the Knight of Flowers haven't had much to do this season because they're being held as prisoners in church jail, but they're handful of scenes in "Book of the Stranger" inched their storyline along (and gave the episode its title).

Let's start with Margaery, who groveled before the High Sparrow, doing everything except give in to his demands and confess her sins. This is the lowest we've seen her. For a woman who generally wears only the finest clothing and practices the art of politics like no other, kneeling at the feet of a religious fanatic is not a good look. This scene does give us backstory for the High Sparrow himself and his origin story only cements him as one of the most fascinating villains in all of Westeros. Unlike the wealthy schemers seen elsewhere, he means everything he says and arrived at his convictions from an honest place. He legitimately believes he is doing the work of the gods and will better the world by tearing down every existing structure. He's straightforward, soft-spoken, and even kind. And that makes him all the more terrifying.

But the moment Margaery is granted time with her brother, the mask slips. She's still the politician, wheeling and dealing with the High Sparrow much like how she wrapped the late King Joffrey around her finger. No one in Westeros is as good at convincing others that she is on their team than the Queen. Since Loras seems to have given up on himself (and can you blame him?), it's up to his sister to plot and plan and figure something out. Loras may be the heir to Highgarden, but there's a reason Margaery is the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

The Lannisters and the Tyrells Scheme From the Red Keep

While Margaery attempts to undermine the High Sparrow from within, the most cunning minds at the Red Keep have come together to take the fight straight to the Sept of Baelor. Previous episodes have shown the small council bitterly divided, with Cersei and Jaime Lannister on one side, but The Book of the Stranger brought them all together. They have a common enemy and a common goal – the High Sparrow must be stopped and those he threatens must be rescued. With Cersei still facing trial and the Tyrell kids locked up, this gives the Lannister twins, Olenna Tyrell, and Uncle Kevan Lannister something to bond over. There's no love in this group, but there is plenty of unified anger.

Of course, their plot sounds shaky at best. A military rescue attempt is the kind of thing that has the bad habit of going wrong and everyone knows it. The worst case scenario here is out-and-out civil war. Still, if there was anyone I'd trust to pull off a plan like this, it's these four. The pragmatic Kevan, the crafty Olenna, the scheming Cersei, and the honor-free Jaime could be unstoppable. At the same time, they're working without the consent of the king against an enemy they have underestimated in the past. There's going to be bloodshed, but just how much blood will be spilled?

Tyrion Treats With the Masters

Ruling is messy business. Daenerys learned this the hard way when she conquered all of Slaver's Bay and then found herself struggling to rebuild society after tearing down every institution. It's one thing to liberate, but it's another thing altogether to sustain your liberated people. You can't always live up to the promises you made.

Tyrion Lannister knows this and that's why he may be the perfect man to sort through Dany's rubble and start the clean-up process. He brings a vital piece of King's Landing to Meereen. Whereas the Mother of Dragons deals in absolutes, the Imp deals in shades of grey. He knows you can't change an entire world overnight, but you can give it the right nudge and gently steer it toward your final goal. His deal with the slavers from Astapor and Yunkai, who have been funding the Sons of the Harpy, is Westerosi politics at its finest. Which means that it gets the job done without pleasing anyone. Slavery could be gone from Slaver's Bay...in seven years. In the grand scheme of things, seven years isn't a long time, but to a slave actually living through this heinous institution, that might as well be a lifetime.

When confronted by Meereenese allies, all of them former slaves, Tyrion stands his ground. When questioned, Grey Worm and Missandei stand by their new leader, although they let their displeasure be known behind closed doors. No one is happy. No one likes each other. Everyone has something to be angry about, whether it be in public or in private. Welcome to politics.

The Strange Death of Osha

If there was one truly weak moment in "Book of the Stranger," it's the big scene between Ramsay Bolton and Osha the wildling. In a vacuum, it's fine. It's well-acted and directed, tense and unpleasant. Ramsay removes another pawn from the board that is the brewing war for the North and Osha exits the story.

And yet, it can't help but feel unnecessary. What does it tell us about Ramsay Bolton that we don't already know? He's a sadistic psychopath who murders without remorse. Okay. Fine. We've seen this a dozen times. He's a sick man, an evil man. We know this. The murder of Walda and her baby boy was awful, but it served the plot – Ramsay was solidifying his hold on Winterfell. Here, it feels more like the show ran out of things to do with Osha, a genuinely wonderful character, and decided to just get her off the show as quickly as possible. It's an undignified death, which is to be expected from this show, but it serves no larger purpose. It's just reinforcing what we already know.

Unless, Osha's assassination attempt was all part of a larger plan. As I speculated last week, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Umbers planted Rickon and Osha at Winterfell just to have someone on the inside as part of a larger insurrection. I'm willing to give Game of Thrones the benefit of the doubt on this one – Osha's failed assassination attempt may become important yet.

Ramsay Bolton Writes a Letter

The dinner scene featuring Jon, Sansa, Brienne, Podrick, Tormund, and Edd became the stuff of GIF legend moments after the episode aired last night and for good reason. Tormund flirt-eating at a perplexed Brienne while Edd wordlessly approves of this potential pairing may be one of the funniest moments in the show's history. That's the magic of Game of Thrones. Here is a group of characters we never thought we'd see together sharing a meal in a location we never thought they would all inhabit. Because we know them so well, these tiny glances and wordless exchanges are nothing short of beautiful.

But they were all placed in the same room for reasons beyond amazing Tormund GIFs. A letter from Ramsay Bolton arrives and it's instantly apparent that he doesn't have the diplomatic gifts of his late father. Say what you want about Roose Bolton (and he was a real son of a bitch), but he knew when to put on a show. He knew how to fake tact. He would never write a letter threatening to march north and slaughter men, women and children. He would never write a letter publicly stating his intentions to brutalize Sansa Stark. He would never threaten the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, a sacred institution that northerners still look upon with great respect.

Ramsay's plan backfired. No one at that table was cowed. Now, Jon and Sansa and Tormund and Brienne are all united in a common goal. They must march south and take Winterfell. They must defend the Wilding families. They must rescue Rickon. With Davos and Melisandre also waiting in the wings, Ramsay has awakened a slumbering Direwolf. He has given the most capable people in Westeros an ironclad reason to unite.

Theon Pledges His Loyalty

When Theon trudged home a few episodes ago, I wondered if he had any intention of entering the Kingsmoot himself, to try his hand at ruling the Iron Islands. Sure, he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell, but by Westeros law, he is the closest thing Pyke has to an heir. Instead, he did the reasonable thing: he threw his support behind his sister, Yara. He's right in what he says about here – there is no one more capable of leading their family to prosperity.

There's a recurring theme in this season of Game of Thrones and it isn't exactly subtle. Yara emerges as the best possible contender for control of House Greyjoy. Sansa has taken control of her destiny and plans payback against Ramsay Bolton. Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes have taken control of Dorne. Margaery won't back down to threats from a male-dominated religious institution. Arya trains to fight back against the system that destroyed her family. And that's before we even get to Daenerys' big final scene. After years of women being treated as second class citizens in Westeros and Essos, the cracks have started to form in the patriarchy and the women are wielding the hammers.

Daenerys Lights a Fire

Wow. How do you react to a scene that has been literally years in the making? How do you evaluate a scene that is a literal game-changer? The aftershock of Daenerys' final actions in "Book of the Stranger" will be felt around the world in ways that simply cannot be seen or predicted at this point. Even book-readers had to pick their jaws up off the floor when Dany spurred the judgment of men, burnt the khals to death, and emerged from the flames unburnt and unharmed to an audience of a hundred thousand or so. When she emerged from Khal Drogo's funeral pyre with three living dragons so many years ago, she won the undying loyalty of a handful of loyal followers and Jorah Mormont. Now, the biggest army on the continent has seen what they saw. Daario has seen it, which means he must now understand exactly why Jorah has dedicated his life to serving the Mother of Dragons.

It's a remarkable sequence from a plot point of view, promising that things will never be the same again, but there's something else going on here. Game of Thrones has allowed its chief female lead to reclaim female nudity. There is nothing exploitative about Emilia Clarke emerging from the flames nude. It's not exploitative. It's not cheap thrill. It's a symbol of raw, feminine power. She's not naked because she is weak or because she's a slave or because she's a whore – she's naked because she is powerful. That, more than the massive story implications of the scene, is the most important thing happening here.

Spoiler Corner

Random speculation and book spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.

  • Just one quick note in this week's spoiler corner: just how doomed is Ser Loras of House Tyrell? After all, Margaery went out of her way to remind him that he is the heir to Highgarden, which makes him important enough to be marked for a dramatic death. After all, the meeting between Olenna Tyrell and the Lannisters made it very clear that the impending rescue operation could very easily result in disaster. After all, Finn Jones is currently filming Marvel's new Netflix series, Iron Fist, so his schedule is probably going to be pretty full for the foreseeable future. It certainly looks like Loras isn't long for this world.