Game of Thrones can feel like you’re watching two shows at once. Parts will be stunning and have you jumping around the TV. Others? You are left wondering what the hell you watched.

In ‘Book of the Stranger,’ we finally start to see some payoff. Six seasons in and there’s movement. I know it’s George R.R. Martin’s universe we are living in, but damn. How many filler episodes do we have to sit through?

One can make the argument that this was a filler episode, but it succeeded where the others have failed. We are back to the original premise of the show. It’s a game of who gets to rule. And for that, we don’t need Daenerys wandering the Dothraki plains, Cersei powerless in King’s Landing and seeing Sansa in a near constant state of torment stopped being intriguing season ago.

If we are going to play Game of Thrones, shouldn’t the pieces be placed back on the board again?

Sansa and Jon Snow Reunite

Finally, we have a Stark reunion. It’s the first time we’ve seen the family reunite on screen since the Red Wedding. Sure, it may come off as a bit of fan service, but six seasons in, shouldn’t the pieces start to come together? HBO isn’t going to keep running the show into oblivion. Last reports leave us with two seasons when the sixth wraps.

Game of Thrones Sansa and Jon reunite

Was Sansa looking for Jon to protect her? No, she’s pissed and ready to take back Winterfell. Jon was hesitant until our Bond villain parody, Ramsay, decided to send a letter. I’ll be glad when that bastard gets a knife to the throat.

The letter was the catalyst for Tormund to pledge the Wildling army to Snow. It may not match the 5,000 men Bolton has, but I’d put money on the 2,000-strong army with a giant amongst their ranks. It won’t be the only army Snow and Sansa command. Once they strike out into the North, other families will follow. It will be a question of who.

And of course, Baelish.

How Does Baelish Keep Up With His Schemes?

Littlefinger is at it again. How the guy manages to keep everything spinning is remarkable. He returns to the Vale, and Robin Arryn is still crazy as ever. He’s growing up, but the kid is nuts. And that’s saying something considering the cast of characters.

Baelish uses his position to manipulate Robyn into securing the loyalty of the Knights of Vale. Guess where they are heading? Next week should be exciting as Sansa debates whether to kill Baelish. Something tells me the arrival of the Knights of Vale will temper the rage.

Plus, it always feels like Baelish is playing chess while everyone else plays checkers.

Brienne is Still Salty Over Renly

Upon arrival at Castle Black, Brienne of Tarth stole the show. She happily tells Melisandre and Ser Davos she executed Stannis and refuses to forgive the murder of Renly with blood magic.

In a more lighthearted scene, it looks like Tormund has taken a liking to Brienne. Not sure Castle Black’s mutton is up to par for a dinner date, but those two would add a bit of fun to a show that takes being dark to an extreme.

Cersei Gets Her Army

Thank the gods, old and new. The King’s Landing being taken over by fanatics was getting old quickly. You have Zombie Mountain. Kick their ass. We finally saw movement on that front as Cersei convinces King Tommen to unshackle the small council.

Cersei and Jaime teamed up to convince Olenna Tyrell to take down the High Sparrow. A little too chirpy for both their tastes. They may be adversaries, but Olenna and Cersei teaming up? The High Sparrow better find his shoes.

The Tyrell army will head into King’s Landing, with the Kingsguard standing down. For the literal Sparrows, it’ll be a fitting end and should make for one hell of a battle.

Tyrion Negotiating?

It didn’t win him any points with Missandei or Grey Worm, but Tyrion’s compromise with the Masters will be a ploy. Tyrion has lived his whole life being looked down upon despite being a Lannister.

Tyrion and Varys negotiate in Mereen

It’s hard to see him turning into an incrementalist and instituting seven years of slavery in the cities of Slaver’s Bay. I thought he was setting up a serious assassination plot when he brought in the prostitutes. But, that’s too obvious for Tyrion and Varys. If Baelish can be outmatched in scheming, it’s this duo.

Theon Heads Home

Not exactly the joyous homecoming, but you have to appreciate his transformation. Once damn near as evil as Ramsay, he only wants to atone for the wrongs he has committed. Next episode, we will get to see how much sway he has in the Iron Islands as he supports his sister’s ascension to rule.

Daenerys Not Feelin’ the Burn

The final part of the episode. Social media lights up because Daenerys is finally not wandering around. And we find out the Dothraki have serious building code violations.

I get the excitement over the scene, but it felt oddly shot. Dozens of Dothraki warriors and their Khal couldn’t break through a door? The CG on it seemed out of place and makes you wonder what the show has in store for us during the upcoming battles.

Daenerys is once again the Unburnt. The show did miss one hell of an opportunity to have her dragon show up. The repetitive wide shots of the burning Dosh Khaleen would have been perfect to have Drogon do a flyby.

She now has a second army. Pair them with the Unsullied, and something tells me Tyrion’s ‘peace’ is a prelude to the hammer Daenerys will unleash.

Overall, it was one of the better episodes this season. And it succeeded in being a setup episode for what should be an amazing back half of the season. Winterfell and King’s Landing will both see conflict. What will Bran see next week? Who takes the Iron Islands, and how does it fit?

And who else is worried that the Dorne storyline has been awfully quiet? Three episodes and nothing from them. Zero complaints from me, but I doubt HBO suddenly had a change of heart on integrating it after the season premiere.

Sound off below about the episode. Are you glad the pace is starting to quicken in the series?

Gear. TV. Movies. Lifestyle. Photography. Yeah, I’m the type who sees a shiny object and is immediately captivated. Wait... There’s another. You can reach me at marcus@newsledge.com

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