Each week, twins Adam and David Shimer analyze the latest episode of Game of Thrones from the perspective of a non-book reader. This week they discuss “Book of the Stranger,” but first they would like to assign some weekly awards:
Tywin Lannister Memorial Award for Best Political Maneuvering: Euron Greyjoy stealing the show
Honorable Mention: The Lord of Light expanding his influence into the Great Pyramid of Meereen.
Eddard Stark Memorial Award for Worst Political Maneuvering: Littlefinger finding out that Sansa was breaking up.
Honorable Mention: Bran quickly went from complaining about the shortness of his memory excursions to Meera dragging him around as all of his friends died.
Brandon Stark Award for Most Boring Storyline: Yet another Arya beatdown at the hands of creepy-girl
Honorable Mention: Briefly wondering what Sam and Gilly are up to.
Jaime Lannister’s Right Hand Award for Best Fight Sequence: Children of the forest, fire grenades and the Night’s King
Honorable Mention: Unarmed creepy-girl still whipping Arya “will never be ready” Stark
DS: While last week’s episode clarified several storylines, episode six introduced new questions. Where will Yara and Theon go now that their bid for the Salt Throne has failed? What is up with the eastern version of Melisandre? What the hell is going on with Bran? Sure, I found the episode exciting and engaging. But I also found it quite frustrating. We first saw the White Walkers during the pilot of Game of Thrones, and yet we still know so little about them. But I think we do finally understand the real purpose of Bran’s training. It would seem that the ink is wet — Bran can influence others in the past and warg into the present while in the past through people in the past. Just before traveling to Winterfell, the Three Eyed Raven said it was time for Bran to become him. I thought that meant he would transfer memories en masse, as I had assumed the value of the greensight was knowledge. Instead, Bran altered the past for the first time. I suspect that the Three Eyed Raven has been doing so for centuries. Now it’s Bran’s turn.
AS: Bran’s curiosity got the best of him. When time travelling through a tree, don’t ditch your chaperone. This episode made the greensight feel a lot like Hermione’s Time Turner, as Bran observed and interacted with the past. Just like when Ned heard Bran outside of the Tower of Joy, the Night’s King touched Bran and thereby breached the Large Tree’s defense system somehow (now Jorah isn’t the only one with a scarred arm). The Night’s King arrived quickly, but Littlefinger still wins the most-absurdly-fast-travel prize for going from the Eyrie to Mole’s Town in half an episode. Unfortunately, one character after another had to make a self-sacrificing last stand so that Bran could escape. Hodor courageously holding the door explained his speech impediment — a sad revelation about an otherwise humorous character. Bran controlled Hodor from the past, and then stayed in that realm even after he let go of the Tree of Life. Between that and the scene that showed the tree-squirrels creating the first White Walker, there was a lot of new yet unclear information presented about happenings North of the Wall.
DS: Arya — or should I say no one — also faced hard truths regarding the past. In a street performance depicting the end of King Robert’s reign, comedians presented her father as the town idiot. The depiction at first felt unfair — Ned was no Ser Dontos, right? Not exactly. But his honorable mistakes — mistakes almost no one else on the show would have made — did result in the downfall of House Stark and the separation of his family. Sansa has since learned the value of playing the game, but Arya has only pursued vengeance. And the street performance helped stoke those fires. For anyone wondering whether “no one” has actually abandoned her roots, watch her facial expressions during the play. At first, she laughed at Cersei, Joffrey and Robert. But once the actors began mocking Ned, she grew ice cold.
AS: Sansa had a great episode. Being surrounded by people as tactically moronic as Jon “stabbed six times” Snow and Davos “Battle of the Blackwater survivor” Seaworth made her seem like a master manipulator. Whether it was smoothly lying about Blackfish or just owning the war council table, she commanded all of her scenes. She still spent part of the episode sowing, however, reminding us of her more innocent roots. Littlefinger’s betrayal, purposeful or accidental, hurt Sansa. Having Brienne by her side highlighted that she has new allies, making Littlefinger an outsider. For once Littlefinger was speechless, either because he cares about Sansa or realized that he had lost control of the “Key to the North.” Littlefinger is always reacting to shifting political landscapes, and now he will have to recalculate yet again. First Rickon and now the Blackfish, vanished characters are appearing left and right! Let’s just say no one will be surprised when the next “Previously on Game of Thrones” mysteriously contains a Season One clip of Benjen Stark.
DS: Regardless of whether Sansa made wise decisions, she most certainly was in control throughout the episode — a welcome change. Oppositely, we saw Littlefinger and Varys uncharacteristically overwhelmed and outmaneuvered. Part of me enjoyed watching Sansa back her former mentor into a corner and the red priestess outspy the master of spies. I have long assumed that Varys wants Dany to sit on the Iron Throne, and yet it felt so awkward when the priestess asked if he was her true servant. And I could sense the drama to come concerning the question of Azor Ahai — the prince who was promised. What happens when an eastern priestess worships a mother of dragons and a western priestess worships a revived lord commander? A question for the philosophers, or season seven.
-Nothing is sadder than when a Stark direwolf dies, and they’re dropping like flies.
-Now I feel bad asking anyone to “Hold the Door.”
-The scene of the first White Walker being created was confusing. At first I thought it was The Three Eyed Raven bonding with a tree.
-Literally not a soul believes Arya when she half-heartedly says that she’s “no one” and then smirk as if she just passed a quiz.
-Best line of the episode: “You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family and you gave me to other monsters who murdered my family.”
-Melisandre has been downgraded to a prop piece. She should commiserate with Pycelle about having a silent seat at the table.
-I would personally pass on a throne that required me to drown myself to claim it.
-Theon is getting good at dramatically escaping from people that want to kill/maim him.
-Jorah finally dropped the “L” bomb! I feel like this banishment/teary-eyed reunion/banishment cycle has been going on forever, so it’s good that they’ve reached a new stage in their relationship.
-I’m pissed that Sansa is sending Brienne away. Why does nobody realize that she makes a better bodyguard than diplomat?
-No King’s Landing scenes would have been rough for an episode in the pas. But with Tywin and Joffrey dead, and Littlefinger, Varys and Tyrion in new territory, King’s Landing is no longer the epicenter of the show.
M.I.A. this episode: Lannisters (other than Tyrion), Tyrells, the High Sparrow, Gilly and Sam, Ramsay, Dorne (thankfully), Rickon and Warden of the East and Defender of the Vale Lord Robin Arryn