by Jessica Grey
Seven hells! The fourth episode of Game of Thrones was so intense. Between the reunions, the unlikely and uneasy alliances made, and watching all these women on either side of the Narrow Sea variously employing their agency, this was an exhilarating episode to watch.
The episode starts at Castle Black, where Jon is packing up to leave the Night’s Watch. Dolorous Edd is pretty peeved that the Brother formerly known as Lord Commander Snow is throwing up the deuces: he knows what Winter is bringing with it and Jon is who he trusts to lead them through that horror show. On the other hand, Jon points out that he’s already been murdered by his Brothers once and, understandably, doesn’t have an overwhelming desire to stick around and see if they’ll murder him again. Then the castle’s horn sounds once: since, as far as we’re aware there are no Brothers out ranging beyond the Wall, that can only mean new folks coming up from the south. As the southern gates open, Brienne, Pod, and Sansa come riding into the castle walls. And then Jon and Sansa are reunited! We have two living Starks (or, if you’re an R+L=J believer like me, a Stark and a “Stargaryen”) on screen at the same time; that hasn’t happened in so long! And—aaand—no one got stabbed! We finally got to see a sentimental moment that wasn’t ruined by homicide.
After a short while of lamenting their having left Winterfell at all, Sansa shows just how much she has grown up and just how much she is her mother’s daughter as she begins to try to convince Jon that they have to take back Winterfell from the Boltons. Elsewhere in the castle, Ser Davos comes across Melisandre and the conversation turns to his asking what happened to Stannis, who was supposed to be the “prince that was promised,” and Princess Shireen. He never gets a straight answer to his questions as Brienne joins the conversation. While giving Melissandre the stink eye to end all stink eyes, she forthrightly admits to having executed Stannis after his army’s defeat at the hands of Bolton’s forces.
The show then cuts south to the Vale just as Baelish comes riding in, bearing gifts for young Lord Arryn and an unparalleled ability to manipulate a situation to get what he wants, which he promptly employs upon disembarking from his coach. When Lord Royce confronts Baelish about Sansa’s having been married off into the Bolton family, Littlefinger claims that they were waylaid by Bolton’s men en route to his family home in the Fingers and blames Lord Royce, insisting that he was the only one to whom Baelish revealed their travel plans. He sets Lord Royce up on the chopping block of young Lord Arryn’s judgment and, knowing that Robin will (hopefully) heed his council, rescues Royce from that chopping block in the next breath. He then goes on to tell Lord Arryn that, though Sansa’s escaped Winterfell, she will never be safe with the Boltons after her and, just like that, Baelish has the Knights of the Vale heading to war.
Over in Essos, Tyrion has invited the various Masters in Slaver’s Bay to meet in Meereen, much to the chagrin of Missandei, Grey Worm, and a lot of Meereenese folks who refuse to see slavery return to Meereen. He offers terms to the Masters—they will have seven years to abolish the practice of slavery and, in exchange, they will end their support for the Sons of the Harpy—and, really, no one is happy with any of it. Though both Grey Worm and Missandei support Tyrion’s position publicly, they make it known to Tyrion that he is treading on very thin ice.
Meanwhile, Daario and Jorah are still tracking Dany to Vaes Dothrak and they are still sniping at one another. Seriously, you two: just pull out a ruler already, because this is getting pretty old. Under cover of darkness they sneak into the city prepared to claim that they are merchants who have lost their way back to the market, a gambit that does not work. Elsewhere, Dany and one of the younger widowed khaleesis break from the dosh khaleen under the pretense of needing a potty break. While they are out strolling, they run into Jorah and Daario, intent on rescuing her. She tells them to stand down and asks the younger khaleesi to keep her confidence: they’ll never leave the city alive if they try to rescue her, but she has a plan.
In King’s Landing, Margaery is led out of her cell in the Sept and to the High Sparrow, who tries to make headway toward Margaery’s redemption by telling her the story of his own come to Jesus—or, in this case, come to the Seven—moment. He then grants her the opportunity to finally see her brother. Loras is not in good shape, not even a little bit. In the Red Keep, Cersei resolves to take down the High Sparrow and recruits Lady Olenna to do just that. It is a decidedly uneasy alliance, but I would certainly not want to be the one going up against it; both Cersei and Olenna are formidable women in their own rights. The two of them together? That’s pretty terrifying.
We then get to witness our third reunion in this episode: Theon finally makes his way home to the Iron Islands and sees Yara for the first time since she tried to rescue him from Ramsay. She is angry with him for turning on her, for the men she lost trying to rescue him, and, in her anger, accuses him of only returning to make a bid for the Salt Throne. Tearfully, Theon apologizes and tells her that he wants to help her to rule the Iron Islands.
The show stops off in Winterfell long enough for us to discover that Ramsay has known about Osha’s role in helping Bran and Rickon escape the whole time, for him to murder her (I yelled, “No! Not Tonks!”), and for him to send a rider to the Wall with a message for Jon Snow. Jon receives the message while supping with Sansa, Pod, Brienne, Edd, Tormund, and Tormund’s gigantic crush on Brienne (I ship this so hard, y’all; and, apparently, so does Edd). Ramsay’s letter is filled with all of the sadistic threats imaginable and provides Jon with a solid enough kick in the bum to make him resolve to march on Winterfell.
Finally, we find ourselves back in Vaes Dothrak as Daenerys is brought before the khalar vezhven. During this meeting to decide Dany’s fate, she endures a long, hot minute of being mansplained to about where her “place” is, being ridiculed, and being threatened with unimaginable horrors before taking control of the discussion. And Mother’s mercy, does she take control: after pointing out the smallness of their ambitions and how unfit each of them are for rule, she knocks over all the torches in the temple.
Someone, presumably Jorah and Daario, blocked the doors leading out of the temple, so the khals cannot escape when Dany basically says, “we don’t need no water, let the [khalar vezhven] burn.” As the temple goes up in flames, all of Vaes Dothrak rushes to the scene, just in time to see Daenerys emerge from the flames in all her Blood-of-the-Dragon glory (she tried to tell y’all she was The Unburnt, but y’all didn’t listen). The episode ends with everyone in Vaes Dothrak falling to their knees in front of her (and with so many viewers cheering).