Where do I even start?
Much as I love Game of Thrones, certain characters and storylines seem to have been stuck in a game of musical chairs the past few seasons, running round in circles instead of moving the plot ON. This is not a problem for “Book of the Stranger,” however, which not only moves the plot on, but does so at lightning speed and with punch-the-air relish, cramming several seasons’ worth of events, character development and general tremendousness into 60ish glorious minutes. MY GOD, what an episode.
Even Theon, the personification of human misery, turning up again can’t spoil it. Given how long it’s taken every other character who sets out on a journey to get anywhere, I was worried his trip home would involve two years of us watching him being tortured and slowly eaten by cannibal pirates or something, but nope. A quick shot of him looking sad (because Theon looking happy would mean the apocalypse was upon us) on a boat and he’s back on the Iron Isle snivelling and disgusting his sister. And yes, snivelling and disgusting people is not something remotely new for Theon, but at least we can trust Yara not to cut bits off him and make us watch. Maybe. Even if she does, at least she won’t enjoy it; the Greyjoys don’t believe in enjoying anything, after all.
The Greyjoys probably didn’t even enjoy the rest of this episode, actually, despite it being completely amazing. All I want to do right now is talk about the HUG, but let me just take this week’s goings-on in ascending order of awesomeness and we’ll get there in the end.
First up, Tyrion offers the Masters of Slavers Bay terms and, a little disappointingly, hookers – because, even in an episode where the female characters are finally taking charge, women and their bodies will sadly always be currency on GOT – in a bid to cut off support for the Sons of the Harpy. His seven year layaway plan for the end of slavery is hardly feelgood, and it understandably enrages both Grey Worm and Missandei. They probably shouldn’t get too worked up about it, though; since it’ll probably enrage Daenerys, too, I doubt it will last very long. Still, Peter Dinklage makes the most of those scenes and I’d rather Diplomat Tyrion made deals than died at the hands of a bunch of nutbars in gold masks, so terms and hookers’ll do for now.
Talking of women’s bodies on GOT, meanwhile, after a few years under wraps, Daenerys’s makes another appearance but it’s in the context of her bloody well destroying the entire Dothraki command and making forty thousand trained killers her own personal army, so I’m okay with both it and Daenerys herself, just this once. I won’t be kneeling before her any time soon, but even I had to admit she had a very impressive week. Don’t think I didn’t see where your eyes went when everyone else’s head was down, though, Jorah Mormont. Tsk.
In other battle of the sexes news, meanwhile, Ramsay Bolton spends the week flaying an apple and almost meeting his match in a woman who deserves a better end but at least gives it all she has. A valiant effort, Osha. The North will remember. Or I will, anyway.
A little way down – but not that far – the lunatic scale from Ramsay, meanwhile, the High Sparrow’s still working on the subdued but defiant Margaery, using the world’s least convincing parable to try and persuade her that the path of righteousness is a shoeless one. Or something. “I woke up, sated and well-fed, after the best party ever and realised that actually people who can’t eat or have parties were having an even better time” doesn’t really work on Westeros’s own IT Girl, Margaery, however, so he packs her off to see Loras – Loras! Dude! It’s been ages! – to see if his snivelling (Loras, have you met Theon?) will break her.
Since I love Margaery, I hope not, but, either way, we might not need to test her resolve much longer, since Cersei and Jaime have finally worked out how to get shot of the Faith Militant without risking their own necks. The answer, of course, is to get the greatest grandma on tv, Olenna Tyrell, to do it for them. Since she’s already killed a King to protect her beloved granddaughter, she has no qualms agreeing to sic her army on an entire order of fanatics, and worry about the consequences later. “Many will die,” she agrees matter-of-factly, “Better them than us.” Fair point.
Just like every other ep so far this year, though, Castle Black is where it’s really at, as the gates open with Sansa, Brienne and Pod on the other side, and years of waiting and wishing finally pay off. Tormund eyeing up Brienne at dinner is hilarious, of course, but it’s Jon and Sansa who break my heart and put it back together. That moment when they’re standing silently, just looking at each other. All the years of sorrow and loneliness, pain and love packed into that HUG. Whether you ship Jon and Sansa – and a sizeable group of fans do – or you’re just overjoyed to see two Starks in the same room together at long bloody last, it’s an iconic, incredibly moving moment, and every scene between them afterwards is just a joy. From her playful pilfering of his ale, to her steely determination in the face of Ramsay’s letter, Sansa is no longer the silly, selfish little girl we first met. Now, like Jon, she’s battle-hardened; tough, brave and brilliant. And she’s right. “A monster has taken our home and our brother! We have to go back to Winterfell and save them both.” Yes. Oh God, yes. Never mind the Knights of the Vale, at this point, I am so completely in love with this episode and these two characters, I’m ready to get on a horse and join Jon and Sansa’s army myself. Who’s with me?