S6 E4 - Book of the Stranger


Bow down to Daenarys Stormborn, the Unburnt, the Unburnable, the Asbestos Khaleesi, Retarder of Flames, Destroyer of Douchekhals and Extreme Renovator of Rustic Bungalows.

May your triumphant reign last a thousand years. Or at least another three or four series. The Mother of Kittens doesn’t want this to end.

Oh, my beloved Throners, how impossibly glorious was it to see the rightful Queen of Everything standing naked, pure as fire itself, in front of tens of thousands of massed humble Dothraki?

Given the dearth of miracles around Meereen since Drogon rode in like a Rescue Ranger circa ‘89 to drag Dany out of the fighting pits, I just figured the winged critter would come to her aid once again, a la Tailspin circa ‘90. I mean, they are friends through life through thick and thin.

But I was foolish to think the Disney cartoons of my youth held the answers to potential cliffhangers in Game of Thrones. Sure, Ducktales had nudity (Uncle Scrooge was rich enough to afford pants but crazy enough to not wear them) but I don’t recall Huey, Dewey and Louie burning down the giant money vault just to prove a point.

Season Six, Episode Four - Book of the Stranger

But before we can end with fire, we must begin with snow - and we have a family reunion to attend. It’s a fitting start because the whole show had a Peaches & Herb slow jam going on. Whether it was the Starks at The Wall, the Tyrells in the Black Cells, the Masters and their money, Dany and her mojo, the viewers and Littlefinger or Littlefinger and a basic sense of f-ing decency - we are reunited, and it feels so good.

Except for the part where BOO HISS Ramsay Bolton murdered Osha and by gum I am going to slit him so many new orifices he’ll be able to hire himself out as a colander.


Could the longed-for embrace between two long-separated Starks (bastardry aside) have been any sweeter?

Didn’t you just want to clasp that moment as tightly as Jon and Sansa clasped each other in the parade ground at Castle Black?

Oh, how glad we were to see two of our favourites together again, each made infinitely stronger by the sight of the other. Both broken by violence in their own ways, nevertheless, the Stark spark started a-sizzling as soon as they supped soup and threw some of that sweet sibling sentiment at each other. Mostly via lines like “I was awful to you,” and “Yes. Yes, you were. But I was an emo.”

Sansa’s self-awareness is one of the reasons I adore her and why I will never understand those who are not #teamsansa. Do you have, like, no soul? Do babies cry around you? Do kittens flinch from your touch? It’s also interesting to note that it’s Sansa, not Jon, who is the more resolute about achieving justice for their family. Mind you, she wasn’t stabbed six times then brought back to life, a fact which is somewhat glossed over in this episode. A surprise return trip from Deathsville is probably enough to make a life of dreary serfdom seem like paradise. It makes sense - he pledged his life to the watch, the watch took it, all’s fair in love and murder. Jon’s been so traumatised his whole hairdo has changed.

As an aside, I’m not entirely sold on Jon’s new slicked-back demi-bun look. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it, but that’s because Jon Snow could sport a David Beckham mid 2000s era faux-hawk and still work it like a nine to five job. But please Jon Snowzel, Jon Snowzel, let down your hair! It really makes it easier for me to climb up your tower, if you get my drift.

So Jon is not fussed on hanging around Castle Black, but with Sansa back in the picture, finds his family ties are still tight. However, it takes the impending threat of Ramsay Bolton to force him into the fray.

Let’s cut away from The Wall for a moment to deal with the latest BOO HISS BOLTON transgression.

I don’t know why I thought Osha would make it out alive of that one. Perhaps because she’s always been so resourceful, so badass, so mad eyes crazy. More likely because she’d only just come back into the show and I would have liked at least a few more episodes featuring her.

I’m never comfortable when Ramsay is in a scene with any kind of weapon, particularly a knife. We all know how fond he is of slicing things; the way he took to that Granny Smith was almost haptic in the way it made the hairs on the back of your everything stand up.

And yet when the camera followed Osha’s eyes to the dagger lying prostrate on the table, I wanted to believe. I craved the idea of Ramsay being brought low by Bran and Rickon’s protector. It was misdirection, of course. Ramsay had no intention of letting Osha out of the room alive. He just had to lure her into a having sense of control. Once he was confident she knew nothing more, bang. “Theon told me about you,” he basically says, before shoving a second dagger into her throat.

Then, as Osha bled out on the floor, Ramsay nonchalantly wiped his weapon and resumed slicing his apple. How cold? ICE. COLD.

Back at Castle Black, Ser Davos has discovered Melisandre will follow Jon, follow Jon wherever he may go. It’s a fait accompli - he is the Prince That Was Promised. Of course, this leaves the awkward situation of having to explain that Stannis wasn’t the said PTWP, and prompts Davos’ better-late-than-never question “Um, what happened to Shireen?”

At this point Brienne strides up to lay the smack down - when even the Onion Knight tries to play down the black magic that killed Renly Baratheon as “in the past”, she states calmly and simply that she doesn’t forgive or forget. She also lets it be known quite clearly that she executed Stannis for his crimes, before turning on her heel and striding back off again.

Brienne is magnificent, and we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed. From the moment he sees her, Tormund Giantsbane is smitten, and I cannot believe I never even thought about the prospect of those two meeting. OF COURSE Tormund’s interest - and beard - would be piqued by this marvellous warrior woman. The Wildlings are remarkable progressive when it comes to gender roles - your ability to fight, forage and, well, the other f-word, are regarded highly no matter what bits you’re sporting.

So it was quite delicious to watch Brienne, suddenly all genteel at the dinner table, be taken aback at the sight of Tormund making very suggestive eyes at her, and gumming his mutton in a way that would make even Nigella blush. And to think my mother scolded me just for putting my elbows on the table.

"I taught Jon Snow everything he knows."

I was too old to truly get onboard the Harry Potter obsession that most 20-somethings have these days, but I believe the internet-appropriate term for wanting this romance to blossom is called “shipping”. We will check back in each week now to see how “Brimund”, aka “Tormienne” is getting along.

Of course Osha doesn’t rate a mention in his almost cartoonishly over-the-top letter Ramsay Bolton sends to the Lord Commander at Castle Black. But Rickon does. And it’s the revelation that her youngest brother is not only alive, but in mortal danger, that spurs Sansa’s pleas to Jon to ride south and fight for Winterfell.

After conferring with Tormund, who manages to peel his salivating gaze away from Brienne to calculate his wildling numbers at 2000, Jon agrees, with a heavy heart, that it is the only way.

But take heart, Winterfellians! Help is on the way, in the beguiling form of one Petyr Baelish.

Yes, after a slow start to Season 6, Littlefinger dons the gloves for a typically calculating and sleazy entrance.

“Defender of the Vale!” he cheers flamboyantly at Robin Arryn, the kid who hasn’t let a lack of breastmilk stop him from growing up to be a right tit.

Uncy Pete’s bought him a fancy bird, which basically means he’ll do whatever Uncy Pete says, no matter what his guardian Lord Royce has to say about it.

And that’s good, because it turns out Lord Blumpff (sorry, that’s just what every line he delivers sounds like in my head) dobbed Littlefinger in to Ramsay Bolton, leading to Sansa’s captivity at Winterfell. This doesn’t totally fly with me - because I HATE you Littlefinger - but you’ve got to admit his diplomatic skills remain as sharp as ever. One word to Robin and Lord Blumpff would be taking the high road through the Moon Door. And ain’t nobody want that.

Now, ladies, this one has been puzzling me for a while, but I finally pinged as to who Lord Royce actually was. You remember the 1995 Pride and Prejudice? Of course you do, this isn’t the dark ages, and you’re a woman of taste and refinement who enjoys watching Colin Firth dripping wet (and feel free just to put down the recap and have a little moment to yourselves). Remember Mr Hurst? Mr Bingley’s drunken brother-in-law who just sleeps, plays cards and says things like “Damn silly waste of an evening!” That is totally Lord Royce/Blumpff. And it makes sense, they’re basically the same character - full of bluster but ultimately cowardly.

Blumpff, Blumpff, Blumpff

Littlefinger uses his somehow mystifying popularity with Robin (I suppose you can deal with a creepy uncle if he stays away most of the time and bribes you with cool shit) to get the Knights of the Vale to saddle up and head north for the Wall, where he’s convinced Sansa will have gone to rendezvous with Jon.

Which means we are likely to see an EPIC battle with scrappy wildlings and highly-toned knights teaming up to shove steel so far up Ramsay Bolton’s backside he be able to grate cheese with his nose. At least, if we don’t see that, I will be very angry. But at least Baelish has shown himself to have something of a moral cause here - helping Sansa. Although I'm sure it will turn out to have some creeptacular element because it's Baelish and he cannot help himself.

Another case of siblings reunited was Theon and Yara over in Pyke. Given how up and down the Iron Islands plots have been, I found this scene incredibly powerful and moving. There was Yara, assuming her late father’s position in front of the fire, not planning to show Theon any mercy. After all, she had risked so much by attempting to save him, the brother she didn’t know but her brother nonetheless. Theon, still finding his voice again after hideous sustained torture, doesn’t help by crying. For Yara, this is intolerable - the salt of the Ironborn must be retained within them, not left to leak from their eyes. But when Theon states his desire to help his sister take the throne, the pair seem to find a rough peace. As he learned with Sansa, Theon may find redemption by putting someone other than himself first. Will they triumph? And what of crazy uncle Euron Greyjoy? Will he be back to challenge?

Over in King’s Landing, Queen Margaery is brought before the High Sparrow for another tete-a-tete, this time with the longest discussion about shoes since SJP in SATC.

It turns out Big Bird was quite the cobbler in his day, pumping out swanky pumps for the high born. Margaery, well versed by now in the holy verses, asked him what caused his conversion. A feast, he answers, a right royal knees up with good food and hot chicks and a final course of unrelenting self-actualisation.

It’s a familiar story. From Jesus’ 40 days/40 nights in the desert, to Siddhartha leaving his comfortable life to search for enlightenment, hell, even George Orwell ditching his comfortable middle class existence to live as a tramp while writing Down and Out in Paris and London all revelatory journeys tend to follow the same rule - that one can only be humble when one has humbled oneself.

But the message doesn’t seem to work on Margaery as well as the High Sparrow might like. Finally allowed to see her brother, she is resolved to not let them win, to not let the Faith Militant cast them as villains.

But poor Slow Lorus. He really does look like an endangered creature. Always more into style than substance, the time inside has broken him. He cannot think of playing long games; he just wants the pain to stop. Margaery is left in a conundrum; save her brother but lose her pride, or let the Slow Lorus chips fall where they may?

Of course, that decision may not be hers to make, after the extraordinary meeting that made peace between the warring Lannisters and Olenna Tyrell. Small Council, Assemble!

Initially Ser Kevan and the Queen of Thorns tell Cersei and Jaime to rack off, but Cersei has New. Information. She’s discovered from Tommen that the High Sparrow intends Kate Middleton to take her own Walk of Shame, the longest one since her wedding in Westminster Abbey - BOOYAH take that Duchess of Cambridge, you overly hair-styled too-skinny royal. My life is fine, I don’t need yours at all. Shut up.

Point is, Olenna is not the kind of Grandma who is going to take that shit lightly. This is a woman who bumped off Joffrey because she didn’t want his greasy, psychotic mitts on her grand-daughter. She immediately agrees to the twincesters’ plan to bring her army into the city to take on the Faith Militant.

I’d like to think that my own Gran, the affectionately nicknamed Queen Pat, would go into bat for my honour and dignity in a similar way. But then this is the woman who “accidentally” ordered hotel room pornography when I took her to New York a couple of years ago. I don’t know if she can stand on points of dignity.

Ser Kevan Lannister is also recruited to Cersei’s cause by the prospect of maybe releasing his doo-lally son Lancel from the grip of the loony nutjobs. All he has to do is stand his own troops down. So the stage is set for some hardcore battling in the streets next week. Which Olenna is totes fine with. “People are going to die no matter what we do,” she says. “Better them than us.” Which I’m pretty sure has been the catch cry behind every war ever.

There are mixed reactions in Meereen to Tyrion’s plan to woo the slave masters. Missandei and Grey Worm are appalled by his proposal to allow Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis seven years to abolish slavery, in return for compensation and their pledge to end the Sons of the Harpy rebellion. The pair were slaves, and don’t think Tyrion truly understands who he’s dealing with.

But the Lannister lion spent a few days as a slave a while back, and is pretty confident he’s got this.

"At least, I hope I've got this."

More importantly, they’ve got to try something, as sitting back and letting Meereen implode and burn is fast becoming impractical.

There’s a sweet moment when Tyrion, confronted by angry freed slaves, has Missandei and Grey Worm back him up. They don’t trust the slavers, but they do seem to trust Tyrion - at least for the time being. The Imp’s plan better start paying off or he might find their loyalty severely tested.

Road buddies Jorah and Daario “Maario” Noharis have hit Vaes Dothrak, where a dozen or so Dothraki hoardes have gathered for a big meet-up. It’s like Comic Con for dudes who like wearing leather. So it’s like Comic Con.

Maario keeps giving Jorah crap about being an old man, even though the dude is clearly hardcore. One can only assume Maario is a little insecure, and is trying to niggle at Jorah to make himself feel better. DUDE. You’ve got buttocks that would carve marble and crush walnuts AT THE SAME TIME. Multi-purpose buttocks. You have no need to snark. Plus, you don’t have greyscale. Maario’s discovery of this seemed to give him some much-needed empathy for his fellow warrior.

It’s Jorah who has the background information about Dothraki culture that will actually help them get to Daenarys. They cannot take weapons into Vaes Dothrak, not even Maario’s customised dagger with the naked-lady handle. Not that he listens of course; when the pair are pinged by a couple of Dothraki in the village streets, Maario saves a weary Jorah from strangulation by stabbing his attacker through the heart from behind. And Jorah responds by pointing out any sign of weapon wounds would alert other Dothraki. Cue Maario using a large rock to smash seven types of shit out of the dead dude’s head. Thanks for no close-up on that one, HBO.

Meanwhile Dany has been waiting for her judgement day with the Dosh Khaleen. She’s even made a new friend, a sweet young Khaleesi who was beaten as a child bride by her Khal until he did her a big favour and died. The pair go to “make water” together (chicks man, always going to the bathroom in pairs), and are surprised by Maario and Jorah.

Of course, their plan had merely been to grab Dany and GTFO, but the Mother of Dragons knows that dog won’t hunt at this carnival. So she comes up with a plan, and recruits the young Khaleesi to be in on it.

And boy oh boy, it was a beauty. As plans go, the combined powers of Professor Moriarty, MacGuyver and Baldrick could not improve upon it.

Dany enters the temple to be judged by the assembled Great Khals on whether she is fit to join the Dosh Khaleen. Her calm and composure unsettle the Khals from the beginning; here is no weeping widow, but an upstart who actually has an opinion on what should happen to her.

Dany stuns the room by reminding them of what the great Khal Drogo promised her, then finding them poor imitations, only concerned with fighting and raping.

“You are small men. None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will.”

At this stage of viewing the excitement was beginning to build in me. Obviously we knew Dany would get herself free at some point, but we assumed Drogon would be involved, or at the very least, Jorah and Maario in some capacity. And while the latter two cut the throats of the women guarding the temple, the denouement was all Dany. What could she be up to?

Called out as the insignificant thugs they were, Khal Moro stood up in protest to tell Dany her future was merely a serious of violence sexual assaults then death. Like anybody discombobulated and unsettled in the fact of a supreme calmness, he resorted to name calling, dropping the c-bomb and asking if she really thought they would serve her.

“You are not going to serve. You’re going to die.”

And BAM! With that, Dany pushed over a flaming brazier, sending licks of flame towards the douchekhals. The wooden temple stood no chance either, quickly consumed as Dany pushed over another brazier, then another.

Vaes Dothrak was elimated as a Eurovision host nation after its arena was declared hazardous.

Her face remained serene throughout, focused but unhurried. Danaerys the Unburnt had no fear of fire, she could take her time meting out justice.

As the temple was consumed, the rest of the hordes came running. Eventually, from the door, emerged Daenarys, skyclad, beautiful, a motherf*ing BOSS.

It was an incredibly empowering moment and immediately made me want to go out and fight crime, until I remembered my She-Ra outfit is a bit too flimsy for effective roundhouse kicks to the face.

Of course, faced with such raw power, the Dothraki but could do nothing but fall to their knees. Jorah too, which was to be expected, but also Maario, who wore the same expression of wonder that Jorah had back when Dany birthed her dragons in the flame.

I just want to walk around like this every day. Every day.

And there it is. Dany, stuck for ages in a political quagmire in Meereen, is back to doing what she does best - inspiring the hell out of people. Sure, she has mystical fireproofing, but that would be nothing without her resolve, her determination, her self-assuredness and her attitude. She is the Mother of Dragons, and she has rediscovered her purpose. Westeros, look out.

Yay! Best Moment.

Daenerys, clearly, but also this:

Zing! Best Lines

Khal Moro, on his dead Dothraki brother: “ Aggo belonged to my Khalasar. He served me well. His head got smashed in by a rock. F* Aggo.”

Eww, gross

Maario’s enthusiastic pummelling of a Doth-dude’s face in with a rock was...pulpy.

Boo, Sucks

Another clean sweep to BOO HISS Ramsay Bolton. I know, I know, he’s a “good” bad guy in that we “love” to hate him, but seriously, I want nothing but sunshine, fairies and fricking unicorns for Sansa and Jon from here on in. Bolton. Must. Go.

Thank you so much for joining me again this week. I can't wait to read your comments and thoughts, either here on the 'Burger, or via my Facebook page:www.facebook.com/nataliesthrone

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Valar Morghulis!