WARNING: Spoilers ahead for the 'Game of Thrones' TV series. Do not read on unless you have seen Season 6, Episode 4, "Book of the Stranger."
So much happened in this week's episode of Game of Thrones that it's hard to know where to start. There's no denying that the star of the show was Daenerys, proving for a second time that she truly is the Unburnt and capable of bringing an entire people to their knees, but it's actually not her fiery feat that made "The Book of the Stranger" my favorite episode of the season so far.
No, what's really ramping up the excitement (for me, at least) is the rising tension and endless anticipation building up to what I believe will be the climax of Season 6: 'Bastard Bowl'. After this week's episode, I couldn't be more convinced that the Battle of the Bastards is not an 'if' but a 'when'. Yes, the fourth episode of the season dropped a hell of a lot of hints about the conflict to come, setting the stage, if you will, for what is becoming an increasingly clearer outcome. Here's what was uncovered this week.
1. Sansa has a newfound strength
It may have been a long time coming but it really was wonderful to see Sansa Stark so strong in her convictions at Castle Black. She's been through a lot of shit over the seasons and it's becoming quite clear that the trauma has hardened her — she simply won't put up with it any longer, and with Brienne (and Podrick) by her side, she really has no reason to.
Sansa maintains a powerful presence throughout the episode, relentlessly persuasive with Jon Snow and totally unwavering in her belief that the North is theirs for the taking. In a display of almost uncharacteristic determination, she insists:
"Winterfell is our home. It's ours, and Arya's and Bran's and Rickon's, wherever they are. It belongs to our family. We have to fight for it... I want you to help me, but I'll do it myself if I have to."
Yep, she means serious business and who is Jon Snow to argue? By the end of the episode, it's clear that he not only supports his sister, but has every intent of seeing her wishes through.
2. Melisandre is resolute
Mel has had more than an inkling that Jon Snow might be the Lord of Light's savior for a while now, but "The Book of the Stranger" really honed in on her certainty. She states her viewpoint quite simply, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, to Ser Davos:
"I will do as Jon Snow commands... He's the prince that was promised."
Okay, so she doesn't have the greatest track record for predictions — she spent half of the series completely convinced that Stannis was the great prophet — but she did bring Jon back from the dead, after all, and that's got to count for something. She's certainly not a bad asset to have in battle, and maybe a bit of blood magic is exactly what Ramsay needs...
3. The little Lord of the Vale has spoken
Petyr Baelish is damn good at getting what he wants, although just what that is isn't always clear. He is a talented manipulator and in a very subtle way, manages to get young Robin Arryn, son of Lysa and newly appointed Lord of the Vale, to agree to "help" Sansa. Whether his motives are genuine or not (I'm guessing not), it's highly likely that, under the instruction of Robin, the men of the Vale will side with the Starks in the rebellion.
There's every chance, in fact, that Littlefinger will try to get as close as he possibly can to Jon Snow in the hope he will receive some kind of reward. Whether that's a title, a spot of land or even Sansa herself is yet to be seen, but one thing I do know is that he can't be trusted and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Lord Baelish had been pulling the strings all along... (see no. 5)
4. Ramsay has Rickon
This, of course, is Jon's primary motive for attacking the Boltons and taking Winterfell as soon as possible. Ramsay makes it more than clear to the late (*sob*) Osha that he has every intention of using Rickon as some kind of tool in his sadistic games. He declares:
"Rickon is not yours to sell anymore. He's mine."
5. There's more to that letter than meets the eye
In what is perhaps the most significant scene of the whole episode, Jon Snow receives a letter supposedly from Ramsay Bolton, but I'm not so sure — and it would appear I'm not the only one. Book readers are already familiar with what has been coined the 'Pink Letter' (due to its pink sealing wax) and have been sceptical of its true origins since it first turned up in A Dance With Dragons. But who could really be behind it? You can read more about that here.
But whoever wrote it, it appears to have worked. Jon, Sansa and the whole crew it seems are on a serious mission to knock that callous grin off Ramsay's face, and I've no doubt they'll embark on that mission soon. As the latest preview shows, there are more important matters on the horizon: Winter is coming, and it's coming fast. As far as most of Westeros should be concerned, the sooner the Starks return to Winterfell, the better. Watch the preview below.
Who do you think really wrote the Pink Letter?