Prior recaps can be found in here
“The Book Of The Stranger” features a trio of brother/sister reunions, and in each case the sister finds the brother broken and diminished. In the Iron Islands, Yara is still sore that Theon spurned her rescue attempt way back in the mists of Season 4. He offers to help her take control of the Islands at the upcoming Kingsmoot, though its unclear what sway this a shell of a man could hold over the Ironborn, who don’t appear particularly bound to heredity when it comes to choosing leaders. But at least he is trying to prop his sister up, unlike Loras, who has gone a big blubbery mess in the dungeons. It appears that Margaery is moved enough to help him the only way she can, by confessing and subjecting herself to the same Walk Of Atonement that Cersei endured last year.
Both her own family and her in-laws (led by another recently reunited brother-sister pair) are in agreement that measures must be taken to prevent this, and so the Tyrell army is mobilizing to put down the Faith Militant for good. This is going to prove to be a big mistake and get very, very messy. As there is no way that the High Sparrow just told Tommen about his plan to publicly humiliate the queen and expected the kid to keep it under his hat. But it should involve a lot of blood and an unleashed Frankenmountain, and carries the potential to end the High Sparrow’s sanctimonious speechifying for good, so I say bring it on.
The most joyous reunion is of course at Castle Black, where Jon and Sansa share their first scene since…well, ever, I think. Back in the opening episodes, Jon had farewells with Ned, Robb, Bran, and Arya, plus a less amicable one from Cat, but I don’t think Kit Harrington and Sophie Turner have ever exchanged dialogue until this episode. You don’t really think about that in the moment, though, as seeing these two characters who have had arguably the roughest go’s of anyone on this exceedingly rough show embrace feels so good. And then to see them actually enjoying each other’s company, and get almost meta in discussing how much they sucked as characters in the pilot. When Jon was running down his mopey old self, I half-expected him to add “with my mouth always half-open” to it.
Unfortunately, this self-awareness is purely backward facing, as he’s in a particularly mopey mood after hanging the mutineers. Even at Sansa’s urging, he can’t even get it up to take back his family’s home and restore some of their honor. Ramsay has to call him out specifically, like a WWF heel, and threaten Sansa in the process, and Rickon, and the Wildlings….look, it’s a very thorough letter, and as thoroughly odious as one would expect from Ramsay. But credit where it’s due, it does have a certain musicality via the repetition of the “come and see” taunt. Anyway, Bastard Bowl ’16 is on, and the tale of the tape is not looking good, with Jon starting at a 5-2 disadvantage, with his troops less disciplined, and not even knowing that he’s got the Karstarks and Umbers to worry about as well. Luckily for him, the knights of the Vale are also on the move, thanks to Littlefinger’s machinations. That, plus a Wun Wun, should help to even the odds some.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sansa’s arrival at the Wall is good for more than just the Stark reunion. It also introduces Brienne to the mix, and she is only too happy to tell Stannis’s followers that she killed him, and does not abide witches. Having the Starks’ allies at each others’ throats is bad for business but great for drama, and I haven’t even touched on Tormund’s instant crush on Brienne the Beauty. This may be Kristopher Hivju’s best episode ever, and he doesn’t say a single word.
Over in Essos, Dany has retaken command of the Dothraki, as we all knew she would. But she does it in fairly stylish fashion, and without using her dragon cheat code, so I can’t complain. I also like that she should be bringing the horde down to Slaver’s Bay with promises of cities to plunder, only to find that Tyrion has made peace with those cities in her name. How she navigates that snafu should be interesting, as it’s not something she can get out of just by shouting her titles. Tyrion’s peace is not entirely honorable, as it allows slavery to continue to exist for years, but he makes the case that it is preferable to war. A notion that might go down better if he didn’t offer the slavers women he bought himself to seal the deal.
More than anything, this episode seems to take us out of the table-setting portion of the season. Jon Snow is back and finally ready to leave the Wall. Dany is free from the Dothraki that never stood a chance anyway. Sansa and Brienne have found their way to their destination. The royals are finally done biding their time against the High Sparrow. And armies are moving everywhere. The Tyrells are marching on the Faith. The Dornish are marching on the Lannisters. The Boltons are marching on the Wall. The Vale is marching on the Boltons. The Dothraki are back in the mix. I think there’s also a bunch of zombies somewhere or something. And then there’s Tormund. Just chewing. And looking.
Subplot Report Card:
The North: B+ (As sad as it was to see Osha go, at least it was relatively quick. And while Ramsay did toy with her as is his wont, she was working her own angle rather than just passively enduring his torments the way Theon, Sansa, or Lady Walda so frequently did.)
Castle Black: A- (So much of this was perfect, but I’m taking off half a point because Jon’s reluctance to fight was rather pointless – we know he doesn’t have a choice, but even after Sansa points that out, he’s still playing hard to get?)
The Vale: B (Lord Royce hasn’t been enough of a presence to make Littlefinger outfoxing him have much impact)
Iron Islands: B+
King’s Landing: B+ (Love everything with the Lannisters and Tyrells, but the Sparrow is at his least interesting while lecturing a captive audience)
Season Morgulis: Doran Martell, Trystane Martell, Areo Hotah, Roose Bolton, Walda Bolton, Balon Greyjoy, (-Jon Snow), Shaggydog, Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, Alister Thorne, Olly, Osha, Khal Moro
MIA: The Sand Snakes, the Greyjoys, Bronn, Bran, Frankenmountain/Qyburn, Arya, Gendry, the Blackfish, Walder Frey, Edmure Tully
Death Watch: It’s pretty much a cert that we lose a Tyrell next week, but I’m switching my bet from Olenna to Loras. It could be both, I suppose.