“You are small men. None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will. You’re not going to serve. You’re going to die.”
FIRE AND BLOOD, MOTHERFUCKERS. Man, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a proper Dany-taking-what’s-hers moment, and the climactic final scene of this fourth episode of season six, “Book of the Stranger,” is a great return to what we love about Dany. She takes no prisoners (literally). She doesn’t give a fuck about whatever limitations you try to put on her. And if she is going to go full white savior on a bunch of oppressed brown people, she is going to do it with fire, goddammit!
But Dany showcasing her power wasn’t all that happened in “Book of the Stranger”: We also see Jon Snow and Sansa Stark join forces to save Rickon from Ramsay Bolton, a plot development I guessed at in last week’s recap. You’re welcome! And power moves are also happening in the Iron Islands, where Theon pledges his help to sister Yara during the upcoming Kingsmoot, and in King’s Landing, where Jaime and Cersei cook up a scheme to free Margaery Tyrell from the High Septon.
What else went down in “Book of the Stranger”? Let’s get to it.
+ “I will never run from Dothraki.” Nope, but Dany will lead them. We never thought that Dany would let Dothraki Dave Navarro decide her fate, did we? But I personally did not expect Dany to turn the tables on the Khal Convention by her own damn self, not relying on Drogon—still out roaming the Grass Sea, I guess?—but instead resorting to fire to get the job done. I mean, she is fire made flesh, so it makes sense.
Nevertheless, this was still great stuff that tangibly moves Dany’s story forward: Now she has the Dothraki on her side, including the Dosh Khaleen and the remaining bloodriders of the khals. Now she has horses. And now, her legend continues to grow, forcing even Daario—the mercenary lover who has always seemed somewhat skeptical of Dany’s power, even remarking “We’ll all disappoint her before long” to Jorah—on his knees before her.
Of course, it’s inarguable that Dany’s story continues the single-white-female-savior narrative—she did, as a small “pink” girl, just set fire to a temple full of brown men who own brown women. For people keeping track at home, the colonialist angle of Dany’s tale is pretty damn inescapable, even as the feminist angle is pretty damn great. But her ass-kicking is still top-notch, and her sneer as she set the Khal Convention on fire? That shit is compelling, well-executed television, no matter what.
+ “Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon. His direwolf’s skin is on my floor. Come and see. I want my bride back. Send her to me, bastard.” Stark reunion time! How long has it been since Jon Snow and Sansa Stark have seen each other? Long enough for Jon Snow to fall in love, see his lover die, become Lord Commander, die himself, and understand the seriousness of the war that is coming against the Night’s King. Long enough for Sansa Stark to have her sense of romance and fantasy die, to live through Joffrey’s torture, to survive Littlefinger’s tutelage, to escape Ramsay’s mind games and his rape, and to team up with Brienne and Pod in a bid to reclaim her home. Oh right, and their parents are dead and their other siblings are far-flung across the world. It’s been a rough few years.
With all this in mind, it’s clear why Jon Snow would want to find another way to deal with Ramsay and why Sansa would know that there’s no other way. There’s a good push-pull dynamic in their sibling relationship here (“You were occasionally awful,” as well as Sansa trying a swig of her big brother’s ale, were nice touches), and a great moment for Sansa when she proclaims “I want you to help me. But I’ll do it myself if I have to.”
She won’t though, right? Because Jon Snow has Tormund Giantsbane, and an army of 2,000 wildlings, and Sansa has Brienne, and perhaps Davos and Melisandre will join the fight, too, as long as Brienne doesn’t kill them first. So yes, “a monster has taken our home and our brother,” but they will go back to Winterfell and save them—perhaps with the Knights of the Vale, too, now that Littlefinger has convinced Sansa’s cousin Robin Arryn to send them to her.
And maybe foster brother Theon Greyjoy will show up, now that he’s throwing his support behind sister Yara in the Iron Islands Kingsmoot. And even if she isn’t elected ruler, is there some other way Theon can reunite with the Starks? Never forget what Theon thought about Robb when he learned of his death: “I should have been with him. Where was I? I should have died with him.” Maybe joining Jon and Sansa in their fight against Ramsay, his own torturer, is how he repays that debt.
Although, of course, Dolorous Edd brings up a great point: “I was with you at Hardhome. … How can you leave us now?” The fight for Winterfell is a personal agenda for Jon Snow, but what about the fight for the future of humanity as they know it? What about the fight against the Night’s King? That seems like a greater problem at play here, and it will be interesting to see how that factors into things down the line.
“You will not use them. They will use you. That is what they do.” What’s Tyrion, Dany’s white ally (according to fellow PDC-er Julian Lytle), doing in Meereen? Oh, just pissing off Grey Worm and Missandei, and possibly compromising their support of him, by making peace with the masters of Slaver’s Bay. No big deal!
There are layers here, of course: Tyrion thinks that through diplomacy, the same kind of diplomacy he used as the King’s Hand back in King’s Landing, he can smooth over the problems between the slavers of Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis and Dany’s rule in Meereen. With seven years to phase out slavery and with compensation provided by Dany and Meereen, the masters should be happy, Tyrion thinks—but they have to cut off their own support of the Sons of the Harpy and stop trying to destabilize Dany’s rule. That’s the compromise, and one that the masters seem to consider as Tyrion leaves them with a room full of prostitutes.
But this doesn’t go over very well with either Missandei or Grey Worm, both of whom have actually been slaves and who saw in Dany’s freedom something to fight for. “I don’t make peace with the Queen’s enemies, I kill the Queen’s enemies,” notes Grey Worm, and we’ve never seen Missandei as dismissive of Tyrion as when she says “How many days were you a slave? … Not long enough to understand.” (Also great to see Missandei in a very Xena-like outfit this episode, ready for battle against the masters.)
Nevertheless, Grey Worm and Missandei have to tacitly agree to Tyrion’s plan to save face in front of the masters and in front of the freemen of Meereen, but they’re clearly not all-in. They’re both shocked that Tyrion would be this short-sighted, and in a way, I hope they’re right. Slavery doesn’t get solved easily (Tyrion’s use of the term “abolishing slavery” felt very modern, no?). This Reconstruction-inspired plan from Tyrion can’t do the job this quickly. War will probably come to Meereen regardless—although with Viserion and Rhaegal on their side, chances are probably in their favor … right?
+ “Many will die no matter what we do. Better them than us.” Is this Cersei/Jaime and Kevan/Olenna truce for real? Only time will tell, but for now, it seems like the Lannister Twins are throwing in their lot with uncle Kevan, the Hand of the King, and Olenna, the Queen of Thorns and Margaery and Loras’s grandmother. Is this to sway Tommen over to Cersei’s side, or does she legitimately want Margaery released from the High Septon (loved Lena Headey’s delivery of the line “Of course Margaery’s safety is paramount”)? Either way, the plan is in place: Have the Tyrell army enter the city, storm the Sept, and free Margaery before she has to take the same Walk of Shame that Cersei did. Jaime sells the idea to Kevan and Olenna, and it very likely could lead to civil war—with the Sparrows and the Faith Militant facing off against the Lannisters and the Tyrells. What’s more powerful, faith or money? That’s the question being raised here, in deadly terms.
In the Sept itself, Margaery is trying to endear herself to the High Septon—look at the way she lets him lead her to Loras, as meek as they come—but while she’s still playing the game, she’s shocked by how broken Loras is. She’s not getting beaten like he is, she’s not getting tortured like he is. And while she can say things like “You are the future of our house, the future of our family,” Loras doesn’t care. He just wants the pain to stop.
But will Margaery ever “let them win”? In her stubbornness and her ambition, she’s just like Cersei—she wants to be the queen. Would she sacrifice Loras to do it?
And finally, some various odds and ends:
+ For the most part, the High Septon is a hypocritical douche twisting religion to his own ends, but he has some great lines in his interaction with Margaery this week, like in his commentary on how ruthlessly materialistic the rich are (“I imagine you’ve worn a year of someone’s life on your back”) and in his observations about identity (“It’s all part of a story. A story I was telling myself about who I was. A collection of lies that would disappear in the light.”) It’s doubtful that any of this will sink in for Margaery, but still, a nice try.
+ Of course Daario would, after seeing the Dothraki horde partying it up in Vaes Dothrak, regretfully say “I should have been born a Dothraki.” Dude, your life is already about sex and murder! Come on. What are you really missing out on?
+ “Fuck the wise masters in their perfumed asses!” Oh, Dothraki Dave Navarro. I will miss you.
+ “Don’t go, you idiot!” Agreed, Sansa. Younger you was terrible.
+ What is Tormund doing at that dinner table? Is he making sexy eyes at Brienne? You gotta steal her first, dude! Wildling custom and shit!
+ PLEASE DO NOT HAVE SANSA AND JON FALL IN LOVE. This is a relationship that certain readers of GRRM’s novels want to happen, and it is terrible, and I REFUSE.
+ So did Davos and Melisandre not know that Stannis was dead, or at least defeated? I was a little confused by their reactions to Brienne dropping that knowledge on them (I appreciated her don’t-give-a-fuck walk away from them after she said “Just before I executed him”), since I thought at least Melisandre knew that Stannis was dead. I guess she didn’t tell Davos? Regardless, the two of them clearly have an enemy in Brienne, who isn’t going to forget about the demon baby that Melisandre birthed that killed Renly. “That’s in the past now. It doesn’t mean I forget, or forgive.” But at some point, Brienne has to let go of this Renly revenge oath, right? There are bigger issues at play here. And Renly kind of sucked, soooo.
+ Anyone else notice how the slavers of Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis were all Middle Eastern-looking guys with eyeliner? Thanks for the stereotypes, GoT.
+ “Should we throw him through the Moon Door?” Damn, I did not miss Robin Arryn AT ALL.
+ “‘Theon Greyjoy?’ I said. ‘He’s dead. He’s been dead a long time.’” Powerful shit, Yara.
+ Ramsay was already the most ridiculous villain this show has ever had, and he got EVEN MORE SO when he killed my beloved Osha. I WILL MISS YOU, NYMPHADORA TONKS. I legitimately shrieked when this happened. Fuck off forever, Ramsay.
+ “You don’t like Margaery, do you?” How did Tommen go from (correctly) guessing that Cersei would kill Trystane Martell if she needed to, to legitimately wondering if Cersei likes his wife? Clearly she hates her. Come on, kid.
+ “Do you eat them after?” “No.” “Then I’ve seen worse.” For real, you’ll be missed, Osha. SO MUCH.
+ And in previews for next week’s episode, “The Door,” Sansa asks Littlefinger whether he knew about Ramsay; Arya gets some wisdom from Jaqen; Yara makes her claim for the Salt Throne at the Kingsmoot; a red priestess unnerves Varys and Tyrion in Meereen; and Bran sees a vision of the Night’s King and his army—and they see him, too.