“Book of the Stranger”
There’s little subtlety about the major themes of this week’s edition of Game of Thrones – it’s reunions and forgiveness all the way. No less than three sibling reunions in fact, though all of them bittersweet. But Benioff and Weiss won’t even allow us that small bit of relief without exacting a prince via another disgusting turn in Ramsay Bolton’s interminable storyline.
To see a pair of Starks finally cross paths again – no more near-misses or deceptions, just an honest to goodness reunion – is a rare moment of hope in one of the bleakest stories you’ll ever see. Is this an aberration, or the start of a new turn – have the fortunes of the Starks finally started to wax again? I’ll believe that when I see it, but seeing Jon and Sansa embrace was certainly one of the emotional highlights of the entire series. It’s easy to forget in all that, but these two were not close – Sansa always treated Jon like the bastard she believed him to be. It doesn’t seem like much against the weight of all these two have suffered, but it’s not insignificant. Sansa forcing Jon to forgive her was a nice touch – a way for her to establish to him that she was no longer the spoiled girl he knew.
This reunion at Castle Black is an uncomfortable one in all sorts of ways. Brienne is face to face with the woman who killed Renly, and Davos with the woman who killed Stannis. Each Baratheon brother’s most loyal knight staring down the one that killed their lord – how fascinating. It’s going to be asking a lot for either of them to forgive – and Davos doesn’t even know yet that Shireen is dead (or why). And Jon seems intent on checking out, at least for a while – not even Sansa’s arrival (and earnest urging) is enough to convince him that it’s worth taking on yet another hopeless fight. It’s not until a certain letter arrives from Winterfell that Jon is forced to stop feeling sorry for himself and admit there’s a fight he can’t avoid. At least he came around faster than Buffy did.
A reckoning (Rickoning?) at Winterfell is surely coming – Ramsay clearly sent that letter to goad Jon into coming down to fight, and it looks as if Littlefinger will be joining him with the Knights of the Vale (Sansa too is going to have a lot to forgive at that reunion). But I’m so fucking over Ramsay, I just want his arc to end. He’s not just a bad person, he’s a bad character – he has been from the beginning. So we get to see another noble soul served up on a silver platter for him to kill – what are we supposed to make of that? That’s Osha’s reward for faithfully serving Bran and Rickon, protecting them? The point was proved long ago with Ramsay – his story never had anywhere to go, and it never has. If he gets to put Rickon on a cross and flay him, I’m out – no question about it. I’ll just endure the interminable wait for “The Winds of Winter”.
Other highlights, in no special order:
- Tormund’s courtship of Brienne… Perfect.
- Tyrion’s attempts to secure peace in the East seem ill-advised to me, but this is certainly what he was born to do.
- Jonathan Pryce continues to soar as the High Sparrow – he’s a beast of an actor. What a fascinating zealot the High Sparrow is – clearly he’s a fanatic (what he’s done to Loras and Margery is pretty horrific), but there’s something alluring in the way he sells his message. And if the best way to judge a man s by his enemies, well…
- This truce between the Tyrells and Cersei can’t hold (and the Dornish will probably arrive and moot it anyway) but it’s about time they realized they have common goals here. I think they’re fatally underestimating the High Sparrow, though.
- Speaking of moot, we’re finally going to get a Kingsmoot in the Iron Islands. Yara and Theon’s reunion was pretty harsh, but I think understandable from her perspective. She needs to know exactly who and what is standing before her here.
- Dany – I’m still bored here. Whatever. But pretty careless by Jorah to let Dario see his greyscale.