REVIEW: Game of Thrones 6.04 ‘Book of the Stranger’ is the beginning of the end
Please be warned that this review contains spoilers from season six episode four of Game of Thrones, which first aired in the UK at 2am. If you are waiting for the 9pm repeat, please click back.
Game of Thrones has reminded us it still knows how to pack an epic, spine-tingling punch in the fourth episode of the sixth season ‘Book of the Stranger’.
For an episode that would have slotted fine into a series of The Big Reunion, ‘Book of the Stranger’ is an above-average instalment in the Game of Thrones fantasy that tied up loose ends satisfyingly while setting the stage for powerful plot developments to come in season six. It definitely feels, however, like we’re hurtling towards the end of the story. After the developments in this episode, it’s near impossible to see Thrones going beyond eight seasons. But – if show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss can keep up the extraordinary pace of season 6 so far (this season has left the uneven season five entirely in the dust) we will care even more enormously by the time it ends.
It’s been years since I have eagerly anticipated any scene starring Daenerys, let alone felt chills by its climax. ‘Book of the Stranger’ threw my disinterest aside, as cleanly and forcefully as Dany destroyed the entire power structure of the Dothraki. It contrasts wonderfully with an earlier scene with Tyrion in Meereen, in which he begins to fix the problems caused by dismantling societies without viable alternatives. Dany don’t need no diplomacy, Dany can win power in scenes as extraordinary as this. Emilia Clarke plays an incredible chosen one. Her Daenerys is commanding, clever and charming – and all these traits are exploited in a thrilling climax. ‘Book of the Stranger’ has brought as back to the beginning of Game of Thrones in an unpredictable fashion, but it also reminds us that we are running to the end. Daenerys has her army back. She will retake Slaver’s Bay and the other rebelling cities, and the only thing that will remain is conquering Westeros.
The magnitude of development in Daenerys’ story means that the episode’s other scenes seem minor in comparison now, but really ‘Book of the Stranger’ was packed with a lot. It seemed filled with reunions – family, friends, enemies. The eagerly-awaited Stark sibling reunion finally happened, and the scene where Jon and Sansa hugged felt just as rewarding as we have always suspected. Again, this felt like the beginning of the end. Jon and Sansa will not separate again, Jon has promised as much. Once the Stark siblings reunite completely, I don’t doubt that the story will be more or less complete. How may of them will be left is another question, however, as Rickon remains in the hands of Ramsay despite a failed assassination attempt made by Osha this episode.
Jon and Sansa’s reunion brought with it questions of Jon’s next move, and Sophie Turner shines in her passionate portrayal of Sansa’s appeal to her half-brother. Sansa has been a bystander for so long as everything she loved was stripped from her, and now a fire has lit within her. She demands it all back. She demands Jon help her, or else she will take Winterfell alone. Jon doesn’t really have much choice, even before a disturbing letter from Ramsay announces that Rickon has been taken hostage. Finally, Jon agrees in what will be exhilarating fuel for the rest of the season – to raise an army of Northern houses and Wildlings, to defeat Ramsay, rescue Rickon and bring himself and Sansa home.
Elsewhere, the Vale has already risen to help Sansa, convinced by Littlefinger; the Lannisters and the Tyrells finally unite to defeat the religious fanatics in King’s Landing; and Theon promises Yara he will help her with the Kingsmoot. Arya was absent, but not missed. Bran was absent, and missed.
‘Book of Stranger’ has set us up for a hell of a lot of bloodshed in the future. Between the oncoming battle between Jon and Ramsay (now affectionately being termed ‘bastardbowl’ by fans), the battle for King’s Landing against the Sparrows, and Dany’s Westerosi invasion – ‘Book of the Stranger’ achieved the stage-setting for so much in 59 minutes. It did so in a fashion that proves why Game of Thrones is the most talked about show on the planet, by redefining the word ‘epic’.
However, there is a drawback to all this. Forget about Winter, the end is coming.