Who runs the world? Girls, in Game of Thrones episode 4

New episode of HBO's fantasy series sees women seizing power, and alliances tested

Brothers and sisters unite, conflicts threaten alliances in new episode of HBO fantasy series

Could a free season of Game of Thrones make some disgruntled fans even more upset? (HBO Canada)

NOTE: The following story contains major spoilers about Episode 4, Season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones.

"I want you to help me, but I'll do it myself if I have to," says Sansa Stark as she is reunited with the newly resurrected but consistently brooding Jon Snow in the new episode of HBO's Game of Thrones.

These feisty words, spoken by the Stark family's perpetual victim in an attempt to coax Snow to reclaim Winterfell, both sum up the ethos of the new episode and embody what many feel has been the chief achievement of the show in the new season: empowerment of its female characters.

Sisters telling brothers how to lead, and women putting aside differences for a common cause, tied a neat bow around this week's episode, while conflicts bubbling between characters in temporary alliances provided for a nice bit of tension. The episode's chief weakness was in its insistence on serviceable dialogue that hastily moves the plot along. It resulted in some speeches which seemed too blunt and too contemporary (remember the days of Ned and Robert, when everyone answered questions with either a story or a saying?).

Castle Black: Sansa and Jon

Two Stark children actually reuniting, after frustratingly meandering past each other for much of the last five years, was the episode's high emotional point. Last time we saw Jon Snow and Sansa Stark in the same frame was at the end of the first episode of Season 1. She was a lot shorter then. He didn't have a man bun.

But after an emotional hug, the dialogue between the two had some odd points. Presumably, Jon told Sansa about his murder and resurrection ("How could I stay here after what they've done to me," he asks), but his little sister seems fairly unmoved by it. Perhaps surviving Ramsey Bolton's atrocities makes one all blasé to freakish occurrences of any kind, but still, it felt like a dialogue omission.

And speaking of things unspoken, after obsessing over Jon's life/death status for the past three episodes, Davos finally gets to ask the Red Woman about the circumstances surrounding the death of his previous protege, Princess Shireen. We never get to see Melisandre answer for her most egregious act, because Brienne barges in with her usual subtlety and once again declares herself the witness to Renly Baratheon's murder. What proceeds is Brienne giving the stink-eye to Davos and Melisandre over the dinner table, just as Tormund the Wildling is giving Brienne the eye of a different kind. That's right, in the new, Girl Power Westeros, even a lady as formidable as Brienne can find a man who values her strength.

The odd bunch assembled at Castle Black is finally given a common purpose, or so it seems, as a letter with the stamp of a flayed man arrives, replete with Ramsey Bolton's lurid threats to Rickon and Sansa inside. Sorry, Jon, your whole 'I'll move to warmer climates and rest from fighting' plan may have to wait. Maybe in the next life, Jon.

King's Landing: Lannisters, Tyrells and the Sparrows

Sansa isn't the only sister with more courage than her brother in this episode. Margaery Tyrell, still imprisoned by the faith militant, first has to suffer another one of the High Sparrow's long stories (along with the audience) but she does get to visit her beloved brother, Loras, in his own rotting cell.
Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner, shows strength after enduring horrific abuse, in season six of HBO's Game of Thrones (HBO Canada/Bell Media)

King Tommen with his ridiculous crown of Baratheon stag horns — does anyone actually believe him a Baratheon at this point? Does he? — continues to be everyone's favourite rag doll. Manipulated by the High Sparrow, browbeaten by Cersei, the character is also underserved by dialogue that makes you long for the days of deranged but more loquacious Joffrey. "You really don't like Margaery, do you?," Tommen says to his mother—an oddly blunt, contemporary statement that sums up the show's chief weakness since parting ways with George R.R. Martin's books.

But the section overall may be forgiven because the two Queens of Schemes, Cersei and Olenna Tyrell, have finally managed to collude into a temporary alliance, if only to get rid of those pesky Sparrows.

Daenerys: the Breaker of Chains, the Unburnt

The happenings in Meereen, which might as well have been called Meh-reen for the past three episodes, finally seem to be picking up pace. More than a diplomatic fish out of water, Tyrion is dismantling Daenerys's chief legacy by negotiating with the slavers and giving them a "transition period" of seven years to dismantle the practice. Sure, they promise to stop funding Sons of the Harpies in exchange, but as Grey Worm warns Tyrion, "you won't use them, they'll use you." We know Tyrion puts high stock in his intelligence and silver tongue, but something about his delusional confidence in the war-and-peace matters of a foreign land seems to indicate he'll be humbled in the episodes to come.

Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman, L) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, R) hatch a plan to rescue their queen, but she has a bigger plan, in season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones. (HBO Canada/Bell Media )

And it may just be at the hands of the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys. Sure, the beginning of this episode seemed to indicate even Dany the slave rescuer may need to be rescued herself by Jorah and Daario. But after they successfully infiltrate Vaas Dothtrak and get to her, they find their queen having her own motivations, as usual, bigger and bolder than their puny little rescue. Those plans turn out to be what can roughly be described as horror movie Carrie, Dothraki-style, with the assembled khals burnt to a crisp as Dany cooly walks out (nude, of course) to a crowd of awe-stricken new followers.

There was something in Daenerys' coming-out-of-the fire scene that seemed anti-climactic. Perhaps because we'd already seen her do it, and, given the widespread stories of her and Khal Drogo in the Dothraki community, you would think they'd be aware of her fire-proof ways as well. Perhaps it's because the image of the Dosh Khaleen widows bowing down to her "immortality" paid more than a subtle nod to the Night's Watch brothers bowing down to resurrected Jon in the last episode. But it's a warning to the show runners to use the immortality stuff sparingly, lest it should lose its potency.

And in the wars to come

Other interesting happenings this episode: Theon finally comes home to Yarra and promises to support his sister's claim to the throne. Littlefinger has finally slithered out of his hiding and is coaxing young Robin Arryn to attack the Boltons. Ramsey Bolton peeling an apple equals Hannibal Lecter drinking a glass of chianti, and spells the demise of the poor, spirited wildling Osha.

With young Rickon now without any protector in Winterfell, you know Jon Snow will be coming after Ramsey soon. Let the great Bastard-Bowl of Winterfell begin.


Deana Sumanac-Johnson

Senior Education Reporter

Deana Sumanac-Johnson is a senior education reporter for CBC News. Appearing on The National and CBC Radio, she has previously reported on arts and entertainment, and worked as a current affairs producer.