Updated: 21st February 2018

Game of Thrones Mother of Dragons Unleashed: Bow Down, Bitches

Daenerys Stormborn Targaryen, otherwise known as Khaleesi, Mhysa, Breaker of Chains, and the Unburnt, flexed her might in Book of the Stranger. [Warning: Spoilers] “>

Of all the shock tactics inGame of Thrones repertoirethe beheadings, the rapes, the incest, the giants, and the dragonsperhaps the most effective one now, six bloody and brutal seasons in, is simply allowing our heroes a hard-won, no-strings victory.

Three sisters reunited with their long-lost brothers and three queens began rallying armies for their righteous, vindictive returns in Book of the Stranger, an episode that came deliriously close at times to pure, joyful catharsis.

The hour was uncommonly kind to some of the shows most recently abused characters: Jorah, despite his age, his greyscale, and his heartsick, old-fashioned loyalty, emerged gallant in the eyes of viewersespecially in contrast to his scene partner Daario, whose banter was often mean-spirited and arrogant. (A sharp, Brienne-style side-eye from us for kissing the naked-lady-shaped hilt of his knife, too.)

Cersei, along with Jaime, hatched the first good plan the twins have had in years: realigning with the Tyrells (and their considerable army) in a bid to overthrow the High Sparrow in Kings Landing. Watching a short-haired Cersei begin to sneer and scheme again, weeks after losing Myrcella and her royal dignity, was a thrill underscored by the scenes triumphant musical cue: a few looming notes from The Rains of Castamere, a House Lannister favorite.

A tearful, broken Theon completed his voyage home to Pyke to face the sister whose rescue he rejected two seasons ago. Yara was hard, harsh, and mistrusting of her brothers returnunderstandably, given Theons reappearance just days after their fathers death. But more than anger, there was pain in Yaras description of Theons betrayal. Which is what made his next words, You should rule the Iron Islands, so redeeming. 

Yara is taken abackbefore Reek and Ramsay, the Prince of the Iron Islands would have never admitted his sister was more qualified to rule. Now? He begs to help secure the Seastone Chair for her. Theirs was the most fraught of the three sibling reunions in Book of the Stranger, but it ends in newfound solidarity, and even sweetness. (Is this still Game of Thrones?)

The misery of the Stark childrens near-reunions and constant missesArya arriving at the Red Wedding too late, the Hound turning her away from the Eyrie when Sansa was insidehas been one of the shows cruelest jokes since Ned was beheaded and the Stark family scattered. Even better than seeing Sansa and Jon lock eyes, run to each other, and embrace, however, were the smaller, quieter moments that came after.

Sansa back in Northern furs, talking to Jon about Old Nans pea and onion kidney pies. Her half-joking regret at having been such an ass to Jon during their peaceful days in Winterfell. Jons smiling acknowledgment of his past emo self, always sulking in the corner while the rest of you played. Sansas profound regret at leaving Winterfell: Dont you wish we could go back to the day we left? I want to scream at myself, Dont go, you idiot. (Echoing Brans greenseeing trip to the Tower of Joy last week and his shouts at his father.)

Best of all, however, was the slow, matter-of-fact unveiling of Sansas newly self-possessed demeanor and her immovable resolve to retake Winterfell. Like Margaery cajoling Loras to stay strong for the future of our family (the hours second sibling reunion, albeit a less compelling one), its Sansa who instructs Jon to stay, rally the Wildlings against Ramsay, and fight. Where Jon demurs, Sansa pushes back: I want you to help me. But Ill do it myself if I have to.

When Jon reads Ramsays ransom letter, demanding Sansa in return for Rickon, he falters at a line that Sansa impatiently then reads aloud herself: You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister. Jons gaze turns downward, uncomfortably. Sansas remains fixed, her voice never shaking. Shes been terrorized and abused for four years, but in response, shes begun to reclaim it, acknowledging her trauma in a way that strengthens her. Its an overdue debt paid to a character who earned this moment a long, long time ago, but its better to see it late than never.

Not every plot point in Book of the Stranger was a home run. Possibly rendering four seasons of Daeneryss story largely moot with that final shot is a high-stakes gamble the show will have to justifyand soon. Daenerys began her queens journey in the same temple she burnt down tonight. Just like four seasons ago, she later emerged from the flames and saw an entire khalasar bow at her feet. And just like four seasons ago, shes still determined to sail West. 

Apart from the dragons and the havoc shes wreaked all over Slavers Baywhich Tyrion is correcting all on his ownhas that much really changed between then and now? Daenerys still relies on titles and prophecies, flames and spectacle. Her proximity to the dosh khaleen, women who similarly once believed in their own singular destiny, held the promise of meaningful exchanges that both sides could learn from.

Is Daenerys a better, wiser queen for having lived with the dosh khaleen? Does she better understand how to rule than she did the day she rode away on Drogons back? (Tyrion says Daenerys acknowledges she erred by abolishing slavery and not establishing a new system to replace it, though Im not sure weve ever heard that from the queen herself.) Presumably, the show purposely reminded us of where Dany started for the sake of more than just symmetrywe just dont know what else yet.

The sight of a small, fierce woman emerging from the flames unscathed was a stirring throwback to earlier days, when conquering the world still seemed as simple as a fairy tale. Back then, Daeneryss seemingly unstoppable ascendancy was part of what made this show so addictively fun to watch. Whether Daenerys, like Sansa, is truly owning the consequences of her life so faror if shes simply coming full circle more or less unchanged, is already one of this seasons most intriguing questions.

Were rooting for you, Dany. Dont let us down.

Read more: <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/16/game-of-thrones-mother-of-dragons-unleashed-bow-down-bitches.html">http://www.thedailybeast.com</a>

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