Well that was pretty exciting.
Game of Thrones is a big, sprawling show, with a particularly bloated cast at the best of times, so it’s understandably frustrating that every so often it has to move things along pretty slowly. Everything has to kind of align, which can make it feel gridlocked.
But this week felt like a stirring, evocative hour full of reunions, death, hope and plenty of burning bodies. What more could you want? Here are our big talking points from Book of the Stranger.
The Stark Reunion
After years of missed connections, this week we finally had two of the Stark children meeting again. Sansa, flanked by Brienne and Pod, arrived at Castle Black to find Jon, and for a brief minute it seemed like all was right in the world.
With Jon being given his P45 from the Night’s Watch, he initially planned on going “Somewhere warm” since his efforts to protect Westeros were futile. But Sansa says they will never be safe until they reclaim their home, and implores him to join her in taking Winterfell back from the Boltons.
What pushes him, though, is a violently-worded letter from said Bolton, as Ramsay declares he has locked Rickon in a dungeon and killed his wolf. He demands Sansa back, or else he will march on the Wall and wipe out his men.
Team Stark crunch the numbers and realise they don’t have the Wildling forces to take out the Bolton’s 5,000-strong army. But Sansa, sick of being used as a pawn, wants to win the alliance of the other Northern houses to their cause.
This storyline is pretty similar to what Stannis does in the fifth book – rallying Northern people to his plan of wiping out the Boltons – and it seems the show took the wise decision to bump Stannis off last season so they could sub in characters we actually care about. Next week should be interesting.
Daenerys overthrows the Dothraki
This is a storyline that could have really dragged on (and, some might argue, it’s hardly been a thrill so far) but Dany’s time in captivity with the Dothraki came to an abrupt end this week as she decided the life of a horselord spinster wasn’t for her.
After bumping into Jorah and Daario when she popped outside for a wee (no, seriously), Dany realised she could turn the tables in her favour. Diplomacy, politics and rationality went out in favour of a scheme that saw Dany employ her asbestos-like grip to engulf the Dothraki’s temple in fire while Jorah and Daario bolted the doors from the outside, preventing the warriors from escaping.
All the while, Dany, whose Targaryen blood has rendered her immune to flames, stood in the middle of the gigantic pyre, a throwback to when she burned Khal Drogo’s body at the end of Season One. It’s pretty powerful stuff, and it worked: all the Dothraki women, bloodriders and followers began bowing to her overwhelming power.
Last season saw a lot of sitting on thrones and treating for peace in Meereen, but Dany has come to realise that she won’t win the Iron Throne unless she fights. The Dothraki culture only bows to power, and since she can’t swing a sword, Dany will have to use her affinity for naked flames to conquer. So now would be a good time for Drogon to turn up, wouldn’t it.
Ramsay continues to be violent
Another week, another scene where Ramsay continues to kill, maim and do his stupid sheepish grin. This is screen time that could be better spent elsewhere (we didn’t see Arya, or Bran, or Sam this week. Even a trip to Dorne is starting to look preferable) but it’s clear that the show is setting up a huge confrontation between the Starks and the Boltons - and in order to do that, they have to commit as heavily as possible to Ramsay being A Really Bad Evil Guy.
Case in point, he summoned Osha to his room this week, who instantly tried seducing him so she could stab him. Apart from the fact it’s the oldest trick in the book (she did that with Theon way back), it’s futile to think that would work. And it didn’t. Ramsay knifed her in the neck, dumped her on the floor, then continued peeling his apple, despite common consensus being that the apple peel contains most of the vitamins.
It’s a weird move given we don’t even get to see Rickon this week, who is long overdue some dialogue or a bit of insight into what he’s been up to. But Ramsay does admit that, while torturing Theon, he learned it was Osha that facilitated the Starks’ escape, so his actions do remain grounded in some kind of logic. Still, anyone thinking Rickon’s going to get to the end of Season Six unscathed might want to think again.
The Lannisters form a proper alliance with House Tyrell
So they might have formed an alliance back in Season Two, but both sides have since agreed that this whole time, they’ve actually kind of hated each other. That’s why, with news that Margaery has to do a walk of atonement, Cersei, Jaime and the Queen of Thorns conspire to take out the High Sparrow and his devout, fanatical following.
Jaime, who was lectured by the Sparrow’s ‘strength in numbers’ spiel last week, suggests they round the Tyrell troops up, march on the Sept, and demand they release Margaery. All the while, she - during a reunion with her brother Loras, also still under imprisonment - seems to suggest she has her own plan, refusing to be broken by the Faith Militant.
It’s all leading to a huge confrontation in King’s Landing, which is long overdue, as the High Sparrow’s long, exhausting monologues about his past (this week: he legitimately talks about his previous career, when he used to make leather shoes) are getting pretty boring.
House Greyjoy has a less heart-warming reunion
The Stark’s reunited, and it was great. Margaery and Loras reunited, and it was pretty moving. Dany was reunited with Daario and Jorah and looked happy to see them. But over on the Iron Islands, there was a slightly frostier meeting.
Yara and Theon (who, in the space of one episode, managed to hobble to the shore, get a boat, sail to Pyke, and wander into his sister’s castle) were reunited after she tried, and failed, to rescue him in Season Four.
The whole thing was a bit awkward – Theon kept crying, and Yara mentioned that Ramsay sent “a bit of him” in the post to her in Season Three. And she also claimed Theon only returned to try and claim their father’s seat (penis or no penis, Theon has a better claim than her). But he says he wants to support her claim and help her at the upcoming Kingsmoot.
Elsewhere: Tyrion did some boring politics. Brienne bluntly told Davos and Mel that she executed Stannis, then strolled off in her most ‘deal with it’ moment yet. Jorah accidentally revealed to Daario he has greyscale because his shabby clothes are barely concealing it and there isn’t an Urban Outfitters for miles. Oh, and Littlefinger re-appeared, but didn’t do very much Littlefingering.