[For Game of Thrones “Book of the Stranger” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Book of the Stranger. Jorah and Daario engage in a difficult task; Jaime and Cersei try to improve their situation.
“Book of the Stranger” opens on Longclaw. Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel sword, gifted to him by the previous Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Edd handles Longclaw and you wonder for a moment if Longclaw — despite having its pommel replaced with the Ghost-like direwolf — sigil of House Stark — follows the office of Lord Commander and not just Jon’s hip.
But no! Jon is still there and just chatting with Edd, making plans with the ostensible new Lord Commander. Jon will go “South” with the agenda of getting “warm”. As many have speculated, Jon considers his tenure with the Night’s Watch legitimately up, having pledged his life, and given that life while in office.
Jon — at this stage at least — doesn’t look like he is soon going to get over his own Brothers killing him.
Edd doesn’t have a long time to argue the point though, as by 9:05 Sansa, flanked by Brienne and Pod, enters Castle Black. In the blink of an eye Jon and Sansa are embracing one another and both lamenting ever having left Winterfell. “How could we know?”
Sansa makes many an apology for being awful to Jon as children — remember, Sansa was much more of a Tully (beautiful, lighter haired, and anything but Northern) while Jon was almost aggressively an “Arya”-type Stark (wild and of the North, with nothing [obviously] of Catelyn’s people in him)… Their appearances a constant reminder of their father’s betrayal. Both of them are just happy to see a friendly face after all these years, even if you get the feeling each would have preferred another brother or sister. Nevertheless Jon pledges to protect his sister, err… “sister”, err… half-“sister”(?). We’ll go with sister.
Sansa insists they go home, to retake Winterfell; Jon is tired of fighting despite his promise to protect Sansa.
An interesting sub-plot seems to be developing amongst the key lieutenants. Davos asks what happened to Stannis and Shireen; Melisandre openly shifts her allegiance to Jon (whom she now sees as the true Prince Who Was Promised, not Stannis); and Brienne lets them both know that she served Renly and has not forgotten the demon shadow who killed him. So basically, even though Davos quite likes Jon, it was always supposed to be Melisandre following around Prince Who Was Promised-Stannis; and Brienne was tragically in love with Renly, who was assassinated by a shadow that emerged from Melisandre’s nethers. Go Team Stark? Err… Snow?
Oh, and at 9:11 Brienne tells Davos and Melisandre both that it was her steel that executed their King.
Littlefinger returns to the Vale (and the screen) briefly… But long enough to convince Lord Robin — the weak-willed (not to mention weak-armed) Defender of the Vale — to go to his cousin’s aid. Remember, Robin’s mother was Catelyn Stark’s younger sister. Sansa rescue mission? How about bringing The. Entire. Vale. Army?
Across the Narrow Sea Tyrion shows Missandei and Grey Worm the meaning of diplomacy… By offering the Masters of the other Slaver’s Bay cities seven years to iron out their economies. There will never be slavery in Meereen again, but Dany (through Tyrion’s offer) will give them time to figure out their next moves. Way of life or no, there hasn’t been slavery in Westeros for hundreds of years and Tyrion reminds these Masters that he grew up richer than any of them! They don’t need slavery to be — or stay — the wealthy elite.
Grey Worm and Missandei are conflicted, to say the least, around these negotiations, but have Tyrion’s back when Meereen citizens — ex-slaves — confront him about meeting with their enemies. Missandei quotes “a wise man” (Tyrion himself, actually) that you don’t make peace with your friends but your enemies. In a private moment Tyrion calls both slavery and war awful things that should both end, but he can’t get rid of both today.
Daario and Jorah infiltrate Vaes Dothrak in search of Dany. They do some murdering; Daario breaks a rule or three, Jorah’s torn shirt sleeve reveals his greyscale affliction [to Daario]… But Dany ultimately refuses to go along with them. To be fair, they’d never get out of Vaes Dothrak alive. She has her own plan.
“Book of the Stranger” takes its name from an interaction between Margaery and the High Sparrow. It is strongly implied that Margaery — queen though she is — hasn’t seen sunlight in some time. We learn about the High Sparrow’s personal transformation from successful cobbler to guy who doesn’t wear shoes. He asks Margaery where she would go if he let her free, and she says her brother, her husband, her family.
The High Sparrow accommodates her, and lets her see Ser Loras.
Loras isn’t doing so well. We don’t actually know what the Faith Militant have been doing to him but it can’t be good. He seems wounded physically and on the verge of breaking mentally. He is filthy and cowering in his dungeon cell. He just wants to quit.
Margaery won’t let him.
Across town, Cersei and Jaime invite the Queen of Thorns to bring the Tyrell army into King’s Landing. Tommen has ordered his Hand to stand down against the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, but the Tyrell family have no such restriction. The plan is for the Tyrells to come in, come in in force, and liberate their Queen and family heir. All anticipate quite a bit of bloodshed; but an echo to Jaime and Cersei some episodes ago, the Queen of Thorns expresses a “better them not us” attitude. This is not going to end well.
Up at Winterfell Osha is bathed and given the Ramsay. She throws herself at him, presumably with the intent of murdering him while distracted by passion… But Ramsay seems to have been planning to kill her all along. Osha dies unceremoniously with a stab to the throat, and Ramsay uses the same knife to slice an apple a few seconds later. Ew.
Like many of you I was holding out hope that the Umbers placing Osha and Rickon into Bolton power was some sort of infiltration move; that Shaggydog’s head was actually from some smaller wolf… But with Osha dying it really seems like the Umbers have betrayed what is left of the Starks and have actually put baby Rickon into the worst possible position under the worst possible human.
Three minutes later, at the Wall, Jon and company are breaking bread. It is heavily implied that big old Tormund fancies the mighty Brienne, but there isn’t much time to dwell on the size of their Stark (Snow?) bannermen-to-be progeny, as a letter comes from the Lord Commander; a letter marked with the flayed man of Bolton.
To the traitor and bastard Jon Snow:
You allowed thousands of Wildlings past the wall.
You have betrayed your own kind. you have betrayed the North.
Winterfell is mine, come and see.
Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon.
His direwolf’s skin is on my floor, come and see.
I want my bride back.
Send her to me bastard and I will not trouble you or your Wildling lovers.
Keep her from me and I will ride north and slaughter every Wildling man, woman, and babe living under your protection.
You will watch as I skin them living.
You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister.
You will watch as my dogs devour your wild little brother.
Then I will spoon your eyes from your sockets and let my dogs to the rest, come and see.
Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North
All this seems to sway Jon, finally. Sansa tells him that Ramsay has maybe five thousand troops, but that the other Northern Lords will rally to the son of the last true Warden of the North. Tormund has two thousand Free Folk fighters to commit, even without loyal Northerners. It really looks like Ramsay is going to have his hands full soon, with Jon Snow and his Wildlings coming from the North, and Littlefinger and his Knights coming from the Vale. I, for one, can’t wait.
In the final scene we get the most spectacular Dany moment in three seasons. The assembled Khals discuss what to do with her. Can she stay in Vaes Dothrak with the other Khal widows? Dany says none of them are worthy of ruling the Dothraki, but she is. Okay, instead they’ll pass her around, then give her to their lieutenants and even horses. Dany’s plan unfolds.
Daario and Jorah have killed the guards and bolted shut the door to the Temple of the Dosh Khaleen. It is not Dany who is locked in with the violent Khals, but they who are trapped in the temple with her. Dany knocks over lamp after lamp, scattering oil throughout the exit-less temple, burning the assembled Khals alive.
Dany, of course, is fireproof.
The temple burns down, and the Mother of Dragons emerges, naked but unburnt as usual. Presumably every Khal on the Dothraki Sea is dead, leaving only the white-haired Khaleesi, last of the Targaryens, to command the entire nation. Each and every assembled Dothraki bends the knee, as do Jorah and Daario.
“Book of the Stranger” is the most decisive episode of Game of Thrones so far this season, for sure. Even if Jorah and Daario had been successful in liberating Dany, there would have been a long-term problem with the Dothraki Khals; not so, now. The Masters of Slavers Bay offered ten thousand horses to sell Dany into their power. What is going to happen next given Tyrion’s offer to them… And the fact that the Queen will be returning to Slaver’s Bay with the entirety of the finest cavalry in the world at her back?
“Book of the Stranger” is an episode full of foreshadowing and posturing. The camera made a big deal of a knife being nearby when Osha met with Ramsay; it was by a different knife that she died. The Khals made a huge speech about what kind of violence they would bring on the Mother of Dragons… Right before she killed them all! No knights, no mercenaries, no dragons needed; just Dany was enough! Ramsay’s letter is similar posturing, and full of just as much promised princess-rape; hopefully he finds himself flayed, castrated, or devoured by dogs soon.
What is interesting to me is that all these rulers with mines full of gold, giant temples, thousands of soldiers at their command, and even dragons are currently struggling with internal conflicts that are preventing them from wielding their full influence. Despite her Unsullied (and now Dothraki) Dany is bedeviled by Sons of the Harpy and Masters from her allegedly liberated cities; the Umbers went turncloak from Stark to Bolton in fear of the Wildlings; Jon is juggling Night’s Watch, duty, a witch, and the aforementioned Wildlings; while the Lannisters — who supposedly won the War of Five Kings — can’t even keep their Queens from being marched naked and humiliated in the street. Don’t get me started on either the Iron Islands (regicide) or Dorne (um, regicide). It seems that whoever gets his — or her — kingdom in order will be best positioned in the coming conflict; and right now, between Tyrion’s diplomacy and a brand spanking new army, that looks like Dany. #TeamTargaryen?