GAME OF THRONES: Season 6, Episode 4 ‘Book of the Stranger’

PrintE-mail Written by Hayden Mears

As Season Six of HBO's phenomenal Game of Thrones approaches its halfway point, fans are left wondering what the showrunners have planned for the show's countless characters and their ever-changing plot lines. It's been a crazy season, one that has thrown curveball after curveball at the millions of voracious viewers who've stuck around long enough to enjoy the numerous payoffs that have characterized the show's sixth year. In this week's episode, titled Book of the Stranger, we see a number of fan-favorite arcs enter new chapters that hold both promise and problems for the characters living them. The episode reunites several characters who haven't crossed paths since the show's earliest days, making for some much-needed levity amidst such grim happenings.

The show has always tended toward the dark and violent, so seeing some semblance of balance proves both refreshing and incredibly welcome. Book of the Stranger plagues itself with uneven pacing, jarring transitions, and an underplayed death scene that swiftly and pointlessly ends a life we've been waiting to see more of for nearly three seasons, but it still manages to intersperse its not-so-good aspects with some truly memorable moments that replenish its waning energy and remind us why we started watching the show in the first place.

There's quite a bit of High Sparrow action going on this week, but all of it pales in comparison to Danaerys' jaw-dropping triumph that closes out the episode and leaves us salivating uncontrollably until next week. We could take or leave most of what this episode offers, but the Mother of Dragons single-handedly saves this episode (and her storyline) from mediocrity by reclaiming power in the coldest yet most brilliant way possible. Meanwhile, continents away, Sansa continues to grow more interesting and more mature, marking a rare moment when this character actually did something endearing after spending seasons acting like a petulant child. Ramsay continues to be a cruel shithead, and Theon takes a verbal lashing from his hard-ass of a sister. Just another week in Westeros, right?

The episode may not be the season's strongest, but it is certainly its most significant. So much happens so quickly that it's almost impossible to take it all in during the initial viewing. Here is an episode that warrants multiple viewings not because it's too much to comprehend, but because its events have such staggering repercussions that it takes a minute for said consequences to truly make themselves known.

As always, the Ramsay scenes are as brutal and unrelenting as one might expect from the show's most bloodthirsty baddie, but his brief appearance here amounts to little more than a ham-handed attempt at wedging him in where he's not needed or welcome. The Bolton bastard has shown up in every episode of the season so far; time and energy that could've been spent developing other characters has instead been dedicated to making us fear and loathe the guy even more than we already did. We get it. The guy with breathtaking daddy issues likes killing people and abusing his power. Can we move forward now?

Appallingly, Tyrion, Varys, and company have taken somewhat of a backseat this season. The Meereen/Sons of the Harpy storyline moves at a sluggish, almost glacial pace, inspiring boredom at almost every turn and proving that the Essos side of the story benefitted from the guidance of George R. R. Martin's source material. Without the text to guide him, Tyrion flounders, saying something of worth here and there while doing next to nothing about the ever-increasing tension in Meereen.

At the end of the day, though, Book of the Stranger is, if nothing else, a solid entry in a show that is often hindered by its own inconsistency while still functioning as undeniably satisfying entertainment.

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