HBO’s Game of Thrones Book of the Stranger TV Show Review. Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 4: Book of the Stranger is the stand out episode of the season. Featuring top-notch performances in front of and behind the camera, major characters making decisions that will have huge impacts, and a couple Holy $#IT moments, Book of the Stranger is a gem of an episode.
The best Game of Thrones episodes are the ones with the sharpest focus. Episodes with too many characters often feel like they’re biting off more than they can chew — they have a hard time moving plots forward because they can’t spend more than several minutes on any one story thread. Episodes that shine a spotlight on just a few members the show’s sprawling cast are often most enjoyable because we watch characters progress along their journeys. Book of the Stranger serves as an exhilarating exception.
Book of the Stranger caught up with most of Game of Thrones’ huge cast and still managed to pull off a meaningful and entertaining overall episode because the shows’ numerous plots are finally overlapping. Not long ago, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) had her own story arc, as did Sansa (Sophie Turner), Davos (Liam Cunningham), and Jon (Kit Harington). In Book of the Stranger, Brienne, Sansa, Davos, and Jon’s story lines merged like the Voltron lions. Cersei (Lena Headey), Jaimie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and The Lady of Thorns (Diana Rigg) are now all working together, while Jorah (Ian Glen) and Daario’s (Michiel Huisman) road trip has folded in to Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) captivity plot. While each character still has their individual arc, they are now attaining their own goals while sharing screen-time with their allies and moving the series’ overarching plot forward.
When it comes to providing its loyal fans with the happy moments they pine for, Game of Thrones revels in its role as The Grinch. The show quite often comes ever so close to providing fans that much-desired joyful moment only to rip it away. In past seasons, Game of Thrones has delivered no greater gift than the resurrection of everyone’s favorite bastard, Jon Snow. Going into Book of the Stranger, who anticipated that another heart-warming moment was waiting just around the corner? Sansa and Jon’s reunion was a big win for fans, it’s also a moment that the show could have teased out for weeks — but it didn’t.
Jon and Sansa reunited right at the top of the episode and although it was an unquestionable feel good moment, it quickly became evident that their reunion would impact the fate of Westeros. Rather than basking in the glow of their reunion, the half-siblings revealed how they’ve grown since they last met as well as what it is they now desire. Sansa is no longer the young girl who fancies pretty dresses and fetching looks from handsome boys; Jon is a world-weary man who no longer wishes to suffer through conflict. In the end, Sansa took control of the situation and imposed her will on Jon, making him understand they would not spend the rest of their lives running from those who wished them dead. Director, Daniel Sackheim really employed some great visual storytelling in this scene. Sackheim frames the moment so that Sansa towers over Jon, establishing her commanding presence without her even speaking a word.
With so much going on in Book of the Stranger, the episode didn’t put a moment of screen time to waste. The brief encounter between Brienne, Davos, and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is definitely prepping viewers for an eventual conflict. Davos shared a bond with princess Shireen, and should he find out that Melisandre sacrificed her, he won’t hesitate to exact revenge. Brienne had a similar devotion to Renly and she doesn’t hold back her feelings. Brienne openly fires shade bombs at both Davos and Melisandre for orchestrating Renly’s assassination through blood magic. I can’t wait to see how the tension between the three of them will come into play as they are forced to work together.
Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) has been lurking in the shadows, not making an appearance all season long. Now, in episode 4, he finally stepped forth to make his intentions known — well, kind of. Littlefinger is a character that is difficult to get a read on. He’s capable of turning on anyone at any time, so you never know if things are going according to his plan or if he’s adjusting to the shifting political landscape on the fly. Was his plan to take out the Boltons when he handed Sansa over to them? Is he only standing against Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) because Sansa managed to escape? Either way, Littlefinger is a masterful manipulator, an MVP when it comes to Westeros’ proverbial game of thrones. Watching Littlefinger manipulate Lord Robin (Lino Facioli) like a Muppet, subtly commanding him into deploying troops into the north was a thing of beauty.
Thanks namely to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), I enjoyed watching Meereenese politics unfold this week. Tyrion clearly sees the error of Daenerys’ rule (imposing her will too quickly) and he uses his savvy to try and broker a peace with the slave masters. One of the themes for this season is Tyrion’s street smarts not being as developed as his book smarts. In the first episode of the season, despite his good intentions, Tyrion’s attempt at giving a peasant money to feed her baby came off as threatening. The mistake established that even a man as clever as Tyrion is capable of bumbling when out of his element.
While Tyrion was smart enough to create a workable offer with the slave masters, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) warnings that he can’t relate to the slavers leads me to believe things won’t go according to plan. Something tells me that Grey Worm and Missandei will get to unleash a collective I told you so. The negotiations in Meereen also provided another example of Sackheim’s great use of visual storytelling: As Tyrion stood in Daenerys’ throne room speaking to the people of Meereen, he slowly descended from atop a lofty staircase. As Tyrion did so, his physical presence shifted from a man ruling above the people to a man looking the people he was speaking to in the eye. He went from looking down on them to a man amongst them.
Margaery’s (Natalie Dormer) meeting with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) is central to the fate of King’s Landing’s major players. First off, what a performance by Jonathan Pryce, he simply steals the scene he shares with Natalie Dormer. What a haunted look in the High Sparrow’s eyes as he wistfully shared his “origin” story with Margaery. Yet again, there is some stunning cinematography on display in the scene as a soiled and emotionally battered Margaery reaches up from the ground to take the High Sparrow’s hand. With the way light breaks into the scene, the image is reminiscent of a divinity painting.
It’s difficult to say whether Margaery was buying into what the High Sparrow was selling or figuring out what he wanted to hear. We can be sure that the High Sparrow allowing Margaery to see her brother wasn’t an altruistic act. Margaery is shrewd and pragmatic, and while she clearly has a deep love for her brother, it has definitely crossed her mind that the Knight of Flowers (and future Danny Rand) Loras (Finn Jones), doesn’t have the strength to make it through his confinement without breaking. If Margaery intends to escape the faith militant’s clutches, she may just have to throw Loras to the wolves.
Even after getting shamed and banned to the Red Keep, Cersei is still up to her usual brand of treachery. Much like Lebron James heading down to Miami and joining a pair of all-stars, Cersei formed her own villainous super-team. Cersei along with brother/lover Jaime and the Lady of Thorns have hatched a plan to take the city back from the faith militant by using force. It really feels like Cersei is punching above her weight class right now. She didn’t prove herself as a forward thinker when she unleashed the faith militant on the city in the first place. Does anyone think this plan will catch the High Sparrow off guard? With the way the High Sparrow is treating/playing Margaery, it’s more likely that Cersei’s attack will backfire and wipe all of the King’s Landing elite right off the board.
Jorah and Daario are my least favorite Game of Thrones power couple in a long while. Watching the two men take pot-shots at each other wasn’t funny or interesting. It’s hard to imagine why Daario would even bother emasculating Jorah unless he feels threatened by his old-ass. And at this point, why should he feel threatened? Regardless of the duos lack of chemistry, their Dothraki break-out was right on time. It was great to see Dani escape her Dothraki imprisonment so soon in the season, and oh what an escape it was! It’s been quite a while since Daenerys let her Khaleesi flag fly with such a BOSS moment (she spent most of last season suffering setbacks in Meereen). Events in season 6 are occurring at a break-neck pace and with 6 more episodes remaining, I’m once again eagerly anticipating what’s in store for the Mother of Dragons.
What’s most incredible about this jam-packed hour of TV is how everything that happened in the episode served a purpose. In just one hour, several major plots have evolved: Jon went from avoiding conflict to mobilizing an army against Ramsey Bolton; the once captive Daenerys is now ruler of a Dothraki army; Littlefinger is sending troops into the North; Cersei set a political power play into motion which may tear King’s Landing apart. I didn’t even get to touch on Theon Greyjoy’s (Alfie Allen) homecoming. Book of the Stranger is a gift to Game of Thrones fans, delivering a half-season’s worth of drama, intrigue, and jaw-dropping moments.
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