The last few episodes have been a little padded in an attempt to lay the groundwork for major actions in the future. “The Stranger” referred to in the title of the episode is one of the gods prayed to by those who follow the Faith of the Seven and this god represents death and the unknown: An ominous title for an episode. There were a lot of reunions last week, alongside some subtle political maneuvering and all of it could mean a great many things for the story going forward. Let’s check it out.
Jon and Sansa were reunited at Castle Black and so much has happened to the both of them since they last saw each other. The two had never been particularly close during their youth at Winterfell, but the traumas that both have endured facilitated a happy reunion. This is the first time any of the Stark children (with the exception of Bran and Rickon) have been together since leaving Winterfell and it seems to be at the perfect time for both characters. When Sansa arrives at Castle Black Jon is about ready to pack it up and go South; he is tired of fighting. Sansa reminds him that Winterfell is their home and although Sansa may have been more Cat than Ned, she recognizes that Jon is one of the last good, noble people in the world and she is able to convince him of this in a deeper way than Davos ever could. Later in the episode, when he receives the “Come and see” letter from Ramsay that declares Rickon as Ramsay’s prisoner, threatens to rape Sansa and is signed as “Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North,” Jon steels himself for the battle he knows he must fight.
Petyr Baelish returns to the show with a meeting in the Vale. He has returned to his nephew—Lord and Protector of the Vale, Robyn Arryn—and convinces him to muster his army in support of his cousin: Sansa Stark. While Sansa is mustering an army led by Jon Snow in the North, Petyr has now put in play an army south of Ramsay Bolton/Winterfell that has largely been sidelined during the War of the Five Kings. There is something that strikes me about Petyr Baelish that I cannot quite put a finger on. He is clearly one of the best players in the game of thrones but I still cannot deduce if he is a good person; he has done some awful things, but sometimes awful things need to be done to pave the way for the good that follows. It’s just very difficult to see Littlefinger’s end game right now. As long as he is against that bastard Ramsay Bolton I guess we can root for him.
The episode shifts to Essos to show the aptitude for politics that Tyrion is known for. While Daenerys is still in captivity, Tyrion negotiates a way to end slavery that doesn’t involve simple brutality and gives the masters 7 years to end the institution while telling them that they immediately need to cease funding the Sons of the Harpy resistance. This doesn’t not go well with the many idealists that Daenerys has freed from slavery; naturally, all of them are skeptical of Tyrion’s politics. The problem is that Daenerys freed all of these people without providing them an alternative system to replace the old traditions and they reverted to what they knew. Tyrion is giving them incentive to replace slavery with an alternative system that will keep the money flowing.
Pivoting back to Westeros, we see Queen Margery still in the cells beneath the Great Sept of Baelor. It seems that she is still in the midst of her repentence and that the High Sparrow is making headway with her in much the same way that he was with Tommen. Perhaps, the way this storyline will play out is that instead of making a foolish decision to use violence to spring Margery from captivity, Tommen and Margery instead embrace the Faith of the Seven with full hearts. The High Sparrow did speak to Tommen of the union of the faith and the crown as a means of achieving good and just rule in Westeros. Furthermore, later in the episode Tommen tries to tell Cersei that they need to be careful about stoking the anger of the Sparrows. When Margery is reunited with her brother Loras, she sees that they have destroyed him in much the same way that Ramsay destroyed Theon Greyjoy. He pleads with Margery to make them stop torturing him; he no longer cares about the earthly things that most men occupy their minds with. That is to say, he is ready to be remolded into the person that the church wants. Cersei also confirms later that Margery will make a walk of atonement. The story arc for all of these characters is getting rocky.
The next reunion was on the Iron Islands. Theon returns home where he is greeted by his less than friendly sister, Yara. The timing of his return is complicated and Yara thinks that he is there to make some kind of claim to the throne of the Iron Islands after Balon’s death. In reality, Theon wants to make no such claim and has returned home oblivious to the death of his father. Instead, he tells Yara that she is the one who should rule and that he would support her claim. Seems pretty simple, but nothing in this world is. In the preview for next week we see Yara make the claim; we will see what happens.
The last scene of the episode was certainly one of the most talked about parts of the show in many of the follow ups. Danerys stands in front of the Khals who will judge her and decide her fate with regard to the Dosh Khaleen. At this point she basically tells them that they are all useless and petty leaders, incapable of truly leading the Dothraki. They laugh at her. She burns them all to death. When she was rolling out her list of titles…Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, etc., they should have really paid attention that that title “ The Unburnt.” The stallion that mounts the world won’t be a stallion at all; it will be a dragon—and it will have three heads.