The Atlantic

Game of Thrones: Burning Down the Hut

Three Atlantic staffers discuss “Book of the Stranger,” the fourth episode of the sixth season.
Source: HBO

Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners are being made available to critics in advance this year, we’ll be posting our thoughts in installments.


Spencer Kornhaber: Finally, Game of Thrones has delivered its long-awaited hot take on fire safety, stressing the importance of emergency exits and properly anchored braziers. Now, as to the plausibility of Daenerys’s pyrotechnic coup: Would the Dothrakis’ immediate response really be to kneel for the treacherous foreigner who just roasted their leaders? Dunno. But what’s clear is that on the list of times when Daenerys has suddenly and improbably added entire civilizations to her portfolio, tonight’s barbecue ranked in thrill value only behind the torching of Astapor—and this time, she didn’t need dragons.

At least two Quentin Tarantino movies, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, come to mind after tonight’s conclusion, both because of the obvious mass-revenge-murder similarities and because of the larger historical-ethical question at play. When dealing with an evil system, are compromises and truces enough? Can peace be had? Or is righteous violence needed? This unusually philosophical episode—the season’s strongest installment so far—pondered these issues throughout, with the final flameout giving Thrones’s unwavering answer.

Fittingly, the hour opened on a weapon, Longclaw. But it was Edd, not the sword’s owner, Jon, who picked it up. Dying, it turns out, transformed Lord Snow into a pacifist, which makes some sense given that all his killing only ended up with him getting killed. The rest of the world can battle; he, at least, can seek some peace for himself.

Except: He still cares about people in this world. Sansa’s arrival was the latest too-conveniently-timed plot turn this season, but the show used this rare Stark reunion for a nice, authentic injection of emotion. Though you could argue Sansa jumped into the role of military mastermind a little quickly, all the work has done over the years in

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