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Game of Thrones: “Book of the Stranger” Review

"Game of Thrones" - Book of the Stranger‘Book of the Stranger’ On Fire with Family Reunions Galore

SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES DOWN BELOW

Book of the Stranger is undoubtedly the biggest rebound Game of Thrones has had since that badass Hardhome episode late last season. To be perfectly honest, last week’s episode, while not terrible failed to pack a significant punch. Remember last week I even mentioned last week that Book of the Stranger needed to be episode to set Season 6 back on track. Well, my excessive prayers to the Old Gods and the New haven’t been ignored.

First and foremost, this latest episode is focused on two themes – reunion and rebirth. Threaded throughout the hour from all corners of Westeros and Essos, there is heaps of satisfaction this time around.

Let’s start up at Castle Black where ex-Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has every intention of leaving for the South. Technically he can, thanks to that whole dying and coming back to life routine the past few episodes. But, he just might want to stick around, especially when his sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman) arrive just in the knick of time at the gates.

Sansa and Jon’s reunion is such an upbeat moment, especially after how much death and despair the two had to deal with for over 50 episodes. Harington and Turner haven’t shared screentime since if I recall correctly, the first episode. Did they even have an exchange way back when? Nitpicks asisde, things are shaping up again for House Stark. With Jon and Sansa together, they’re plotting to take Winterfell back from Joffrey 2.0. The hype for Bastard Bowl 2016 is ever growing.

There’s still a few plot points to be ironed out, but the Wildings are definitely down as is House Arryn. More on that a bit later. By the way, who isn’t already shipping Brienne and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju)? Anyone got portmanteaus yet? Briemund? Tormienne perhaps? But as the second trailer hints, Brienne and Podrick will find themselves in the Riverlands later this seasons. Who know if House Tully could join in too.

On the flip side of Bastard Bowl 2016, not much is going on in Winterfell. Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) still has Osha (Natalia Tena) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) under his thumb. And while Rickon might offer a pretty penny for being a Stark, there’s not much reason to keep Osha around much longer. A few minutes of seduction with Ramsay and she’s good as gone. Season 6 is now 4-0 in killing off long-term characters. You have to wonder who’s getting axed next week?

And for the first time this season, we return to the Vale where Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) gets the ball rolling with his nephew, Robin Arryn (Lino Facioli), attempting to rally support for the Starks. The young Lord of the Vale is more preoccupied with his falcon from Uncle Littlefinger than actually strategizing. Up to his usual web of tricks, Littlefinger persuades the young Arryn to take his knights into battle to protect his cousin, Sansa. Littlefinger’s always one step ahead of the game. Let’s see what happens next week when he has to confront Sansa about Ramsay.

In our last trip up north, Theon (Alfie Allen) returns home to the Iron Islands. It’s been how many seasons? His father Balon’s dead, but he has zero interest in claiming the Sea Salt Throne. His sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) finds it a bit too coincidental for him to return immediately upon his father’s death. In fact, he’d rather back his sister. While the siblings aren’t on the same page just yet, this is another reunion that’s been building up from season to season. After the Moat Cailin incident, who can blame Yara if she’s not that eager to trust him or accept his apologies. Things might change come Kingsmoot time.

Down in King’s Landing, we’re almost in Bizarro World as Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) and the twincest Lannisters, Cersei and Jaime (Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) put aside their differences in their long-standing tensions with the Faith Militant. It’s awkward seeing House Tyrell and House Lannister working on the same page for once. And while a Margaery shame, shame moment might outshine Cersei’s, it’s time to finally take down the Sparrows once and for all.

Speaking of the Faith Militant, High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) tells Margaery (Natalie Dormer) about his past, which provides a solid backstory to his character. You can see where he’s coming from and that if she goes back to her family and the life of luxury, it’s only going to be a step in the wrong direction. Margaery continues to play the Game, which she plays very well. Even her grandmother Olenna said that a few seasons back. She doesn’t believe the propaganda, but still takes it all in.

Even when she has the opportunity to see her brother Loras (Finn Jones), who’s obviously breaking under incarceration, she becomes his support. She’s good. She’s very good. Once again another reunion well overdue – albeit no Jon/Sansa or Theon/Yara.

Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) strikes a deal with the slavers of the neighboring cities. While last week, not much happened in Meereen, it’s a different ballgame this episode. While change can’t come overnight with the slavers, Tyrion offers up a compromise of ending slavery within seven years. It may seem like a slow burn towards success. Still, slow success is better than no success at all. Tyrion, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) are more on the same page this episode. It’s not perfect, but Team Meereen is starting to go places.

The biggest WTF moment of the week comes from Vaes Dothrak. Granted Dany’s (Emilia Clarke) storyline hasn’t been the most interesting all season, but now we’ve reached the tipping point. Lord Friend Zone Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daario (Michiel Huisman) finally make it to Dothraki Central. And it’s Mission: Impossible – Westeros Style. Rescue Dany from her fate of being a Dosh Khaleen and get her back to Meereen.

But does she really need to be rescued? This is the Mother of Dragons we’re talking about here. The Breaker of Chains and every other epithet she has a tendency to rattle off. When she goes before all the Khals, she comes to say that none of them are fit to lead the Dothraki. She is. Talk about balls.

The situation gets better when she burns the temple with all of them trapped inside. Dany’s in there too, but if we rewind the clocks back to the finale of Season 1, we know how this plays out. For the second time, she steps out of the fire and this time it’s not just Jorah there to bear witness. There’s only a Dothraki horde present. Kneel before Zod, I mean Khaleesi.

Sure, it feels more of a been there done that on a much larger scale, but the wheels are turning much faster. Sorry Dany, you haven’t broken the wheel just yet.

Book of the Stranger accomplished more in one episode than the previous three episodes combined. Home comes awfully close. Even with Jon Snow’s resurrection, the countless reunions and reigniting some interest into Dany’s storyline push this episode over. Next week we’re back to Bran and by the way, Kingsmoot!

Next Week’s Preview:

9
Amazing
Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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