It was a dark time in these days of season six. So many missed connections, so many people who were this close to getting it together, only to have the gods Benioff and Weiss look down, and in their displeasure, force them apart.
But in this day of Episode Four, “The Book of the Stranger,” Benioff felt his heart stir within him, and Weiss felt his feelings moved, for the outcry of the people was most pitiful and annoyed at the seemingly damaged rules of entropy operating in Westeros.
And lo, Benioff and Weiss did open their hand and deposit Sansa Stark, Brienne the Badass and Pod the Polite at the doors of Castle Black BEFORE Jon Snow the Mostly Dead had time to storm off in a fit of temper at being resurrected without anyone consulting him first.
And the crowds fell silent, and watched in non-snarky awe, as two actors who have never carried a scene together before reminded us, nay, convinced us, that their characters are family who have been torn apart by the whims of fate and the Lannisters, and they are all that they may ever have of their families back again. And Jon swept Sansa into his arms, and we shared in her keen sense of relief, grief, and hope, and no, we were not crying, why would you even say that, you know how our contacts bother us when it’s late at night!
(Yea, welcome thee back to the worst recaps on the internet, where ‘tis all games, all thrones, and all the bad puns therewith.)
We join Sansa and Jon at the fireplace, where they eat and reminisce, and Jon hesitates before giving Sansa some ale to drink, which is a deeply identifiable moment, and you can see these two trying to figure each other out, now in these new grown-up bodies and this new dynamic, where so much has happened and so much has separated and changed them. And even the anti-Sansa viewers were bereft of things to complain about, as Sansa readily admitted that she used to be terrible as a teenager, and demanded that Jon accept her apology, because it is clear from her demeanor now that she is not that person any more. She is much stronger, much fiercer, and she has got a plan.
Meanwhile, Davos confronts Melisandre, who is now totally pro-Jon, about why she changed her allegiances so quickly, because wasn’t Stannis the ‘promised prince?’ Now it’s Jon? And he finally demands to know what happened to Shireen. Brienne awesomes up and declares that she saw it all, and executed Stannis to boot, right after he confessed to having Renly killed. Although, she doesn’t tell Davos what happened with Shireen. Perhaps Benioff and Weiss sensed that watching Davos break down and/or go into a mad rage upon hearing the truth about Shireen’s death was more than we could take at the moment. The gods are generous and wise.
The Vale of Creepy Relationships
But then there came a rumble of thunder, and a great shadow fell upon the land, for Littlefinger had returned to visit Robin Arryn. Robin is still a hot mess, slightly off, easily distracted. Littlefinger flexes his manipulative muscles a bit with Lord Royce. He gives Robin a present, then calls Royce’s loyalty into question when Royce has the temerity to question whether it was Littlefinger’s plan all along to marry Sansa to Bolton. Thus, Robin is all ready to throw Royce out the Moon Door until Littlefinger gently ‘intervenes,’ ensuring Royce’s loyalty for a while, since he knows what will happen or else. Littlefinger then prompts Robin that the Vale needs to send troops to aid his poor cousin, who was set upon and kidnapped by the Boltons, and needs the help ONLY ROBIN CAN GIVE.
Oh, Littlefinger, you smarmy, smarmy man. Never change.
Meanwhile, in a scene that had to have happened:
Across the sea, Varys lifts his head, suddenly alert.
According to the Internet, the fine gentlemen slavers who join Tyrion to discuss terms are Yezzan, Razdal Mo Eraz, and Belicho Paenymion. Verily, these gentlemen are deeply wounded that Dany tried to take their slaves and wouldn’t leave when asked, and are now funding the Sons of the Harpy against her.
Tyrion: “We ask that you cut off funding them.”
Yezzan: “We are not funding them.”
Tyrion: “Wonderful! Cut it off, all the same.”
The good Tyrion faces a dilemma: war or slavery? He cannot end both at once. Take the slaves = war. Stop the war = slavery resumes. Thus does Tyrion do the American thing and offer a seven-year compromise, in which the lords shall discontinue slavery at the end of seven years. Thereafter he appeases the lords with hookers and wine, and goes on his merry way.
Which is not so merry, since Missandei and Grey Worm are epically pissed at him for sanctioning slavery. Tyrion tries to explain: “We make compromises with our enemies, not our friends.” Grey Worm does not approve. Missandei does not approve. Tyrion must go on, unapproved.
The Plains of One-Upmanship
Daario: “Here we are, struggling through the dangerous terrain to save our beloved queen. Now is certainly the best time to needle you about how I’m nailing the Queen and you’re not, because I’m young and hot, and you are old. And not. And also…. grayscaley.”
Jorah: “You aren’t much for nuance. I’ve noticed that about you.”
But upon their foray into Vaes Dothrak, Jorah and Daario are set upon by Dothraki who do not buy their flimsy excuses. Daario stabs one, which is forbidden, as weapons are banned in Vaes Dothrak, and so Jorah bashes the dead man’s head in, assuming correctly that spattered brains will be accepted as cause of death and the Khal will pass on an autopsy.
He and Daario finally encounter Dany as she slips outside with a new friend, and she lets them know that she has a plan.
Temple of Doom
Margaery has an interesting meeting with the High Sparrow, who tells her his tale of conversion — what brought him from being a successful, ambitious merchant to the faith. It’s inspirational, and Margaery seems appropriately inspired. Then they decide to let her see Loras.
But the woman was cunning, and she was not fooled by such paltry considerations. Verily, she knew that this was but a trap.
“Loras,” saith Margaery. “This is but a trap.”
And Loras did say, sobbing, “WHO CARES? Get me out of here!”
And Margaery left, deeply troubled, because she now knew without question that her brother would not summon the brains or the spine to get them out of their cells.
Council of Shade
Betimes, the distinctly ruffled Cersei launches a second attack on the small council seat, Jamie in tow, this time playing the trump card of her own repentance, namely: you all need to work with us or Margaery will be the next Lady Godiva of King’s Landing. And the people will gather and laugh, and the peasants will throw produce, and the unwashed and unlettered shall gawk at Margery’s unclothed form, and lo, it will be unseemly in the extreme.
And Lady Olenna concedes that, in faith, Cersei still sucks — but she has a point.
At long last, Theon reunites with his sister, and his entrance this second time differs with his first return home as night differs from day. The cocky boy, sure of his own importance, is replaced by a tottering, much older man, who endures his sister yelling at him to finally make her see that he vows to stand beside her at the forthcoming Kingsmoot.
Curse thee, Ramsay
Osha tries to use her seductive wiles on Ramsay, but she knows not what she does, or what he is. He calmly lets her know of her role in helping the Stark boys escape, and just as calmly stabs her in the neck. Woe.
Our band of heroes sit around at dinner, and lo, the entire audience began cheering and writing mental fanfic, as Tormund Giantsbane did proceed to give Brienne the Badass ‘come-hither’ eyes over his dinner plate. And many viewers, as did I, found new purpose and meaning in life in the askance, slightly weirded out stare Brienne gave him in return.
Poor Jon, meanwhile, has no understanding of what exactly Sansa has escaped from, and so when a letter from Ramsay demanding his wife back in the most vivid of terms arrives, he falters as he tries to read it aloud. Sansa snatches the letter from him and finishes reading the letter, every last foul word of it. (Although, did anyone else appreciate the poetic resonance created by Ramsay’s use of what appears to be his pet phrase, “Come and see”? “I have your house and I’m not giving it back bastard, come and see. I have your brother, bastard, come and see. I know something you don’t know, bastard, come and see. I’m a psychotic douchecanoe, come and see.” Flows beautifully.)
Sansa regards her brother, and can only respond in kind. “We have 2,000 wildlings and we’re the last living Starks in the North. We can surmount an army to take this prick down, Jon. Come and see.”
The Land of Repressive Gender Roles, Home To The Unadvisedly Flammable
It was at last the final ten minutes of the episode, and the gods Benioff and Weiss turned unto one another, and agreed: “The time has come.”
Our queen Dany expresses how distasteful she finds a bunch of men sitting around deciding what she does or doesn’t get to do. She paints them a picture of the larger ambitions, and superior hotness, of her own Khal Drogo, who was to sail the seas to conquer Westeros with her. These men in contrast care only for their next rape, their next sack, their next victim. “You are small men.”
Always high-minded, the men respond that she won’t think they are so small when they gather en masse to rape her into nothingness, and seem disappointed when she fails to compliment them on being creative enough to come up with a new and exciting threat, so different from every other one they have lobbed at her thus far.
And Dany smiled, a cold smile, a knowing smile, a smile that is worn by those who end worlds, and says simply, “You are not strong enough to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will.”
(Meanwhile, in the background, one of the unnamed Dothraki nudges the other. “She did hear us say rape, right?”
“Of course she did! Everyone knows there is nothing a woman fears more.”
“Then... why hasn’t she collapsed into a puddle of quivering jelly and begged for mercy?”
“I don’t know, but it’s....unnatural. It’s almost like our threats are totally predictable and have lost their power when compared to everything that’s already happened. It’s almost like... she’s not afraid of us.” ::shivers::)
And Dany smiled, the smile of one who knows precisely what will happen next. With one swift move she overturns the braziers, spilling hot oil and flame everywhere, burning the building and the men within it to screams and ash.
The khalasar gathered outside to see the flames, and as it was promised all the way back in the final episode of season 1, Dany steps out among the flames, naked and unharmed, looking way more epic than the first time now that the CGI budget has improved.
Jorah and Daario roll in just in time, and they bore witness to the entire khalasar kneeling to their queen. And verily, Jorah did hit his knees once more, well-practiced in kneeling to the awesomeness of Dany, and Daario regarded Danaerys with a bemused expression, and the audience could practically read the words running through his mind: “Verily, that girl is on fire, and I am suddenly deeply concerned that I have gotten into bed with much more woman than I bargained for.”
So did we all, Daario. So did we all. And he’s right to be bemused, if that’s what that look on his face means. Dany didn’t need anyone to save her — not her dragons, not her loyal soldiers, not her right-hand men. It’s a very different echo of the last time she was marched in custody of Dothraki. Then, she was looking for ways to survive, to make the best of it. She was afraid, and sad, and alone, and uncertain.
That girl is long gone, and in her place is a woman whose preferred modus operandi includes fire, brimstone, and destruction raining down upon the hapless heads of her foes.
Let the smiting begin.