This contains MAJOR spoilers. If you have not begun the series already, do NOT read if you plan to read the books or watch the show. This blog post is intended as a review and commentary on Season 6, Episode 4.
Yesterday I watched a program that recaps and reviews episodes of Game of Thrones. I have just discovered it On-Demand, which is why I didn’t write this at the time of the episode. It concerns Episode 4 called “The Book of the Stranger” and includes one of my favorite scenes all season, the reunion of Jon Snow and Sansa Stark. Their interpretation of this reunion is somewhat different from my own.
Back story (even though most people who care anything about this post will already know it-it entertains me to think of it):The very first episode of the very first season opens with scenes of the family Stark who live in a castle called Winterfell. This a place far to the north of all of the other, more populated areas in the south, including the hornets’ nest that is the capital city of Kings Landing. The northlands with all of its various houses (families) is presided over by Lord Eddard Stark (Ned) with a firm but fair hand. With him at Winterfell are his wife, Lady Catelyn, their five children, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon, and Ned’s bastard son by a mysteriously unidentified mother, Jon Snow. Except for the fact that Catelyn cannot stand the sight of Jon Snow, they are a happy, loving family with the usual differences in personalities that characterize large families and make their interactions fun and endearing. To Ned and the other Stark children, except for Sansa who has her nose in the air toward all of them, Jon is simply one of the brothers and is fully included in their fierce loyalty toward each other.
But this is Game of Thrones, and happiness cannot be allowed to stand. King Robert comes to Winterfell to have his old friend, Ned, come south to be his second in command, and that is where it all begins to fall apart. Ned leaves taking Sansa and Arya with him to become more cultured ladies as suits the daughters of a great lord, and promises Jon Snow, whom he loves as much as the others, that he will tell him about his mother when they meet again. Jon heads even farther north serve as a brother at the Wall, which keeps all sorts of evil things out of the civilized areas. They are never all together again.
Here are the disasters that strike their decimated family:
- King Robert is killed, and his evil son Joffrey takes over. He accuses Ned of being a traitor and has him beheaded while Sansa and Arya watch.
- Joffrey and Sansa are betrothed, but the sadistic son-of-a-gun treats her terribly, ultimately marrying her off to his uncle the dwarf, Tyrion. Tyrion is a good man, and treats her well, but he cannot save her from the constant threat of violence that Joffrey threatens to impose on her. She finally escapes with the help of a family friend, Petyr Baelish (also known as Littlefinger)
- Arya flees the city in cognito so that Joffrey cannot have her killed as the daughter of a traitor.
- Robb is declared King in the North and raises an army to attack Kings Landing and avenge his father. Catelyn goes with him to counsel that he get his sisters back before he storms the city. Mother and son are betrayed by the Bolton family and murdered at the infamous Red Wedding. They cut off Robb’s head and replace it with the head of his wolf. They slit Catelyn’s throat and throw her body in the river. Arya arrives just in time to see all of this from a hiding place and runs away yet again hoping to get to Jon at the Wall.
- The younger boys are imprisoned when Winterfell is seized by a man who had grown up with the Stark children. In order to impress the people with his power he tries to viciously kill Bran and Rickon. forcing them to flee to the North also hoping to reach the protection of their brother Jon at the Wall. They separate to more successfully evade capture, and never see each other again.
- The Boltons take over Winterfell, and Sansa is married to evil Ramsey, who makes Joffrey look like a mild little lamb. He viciously rapes her on their wedding night. She escapes and heads North hoping, like her other brothers and sister, to reach Jon and his protection at the Wall.
- Jon, of course, wants at every turn to head south to rescue and avenge his family, but he is prevented by his vows to the Night’s Watch at the Wall, which protects the southlands from the army of the White Walkers headed down to decimate the entire populated world, a task considered more important than the passions of revenge.
The Starks have a rough time, and things are pretty bleak for the ostensible heroes of the story.
Now to get to my point. I stood and cheered when Sansa finally makes it to Jon at the Wall. For five seasons we have been hoping that any of the Stark children will be reunited, and here at last it happens. It was absolutely everything I hoped it would be. Sansa enters through the heavy doors of the fortress. She dismounts and searches the faces of the men for her brother. Jon comes out of his room to a balcony overlooking the courtyard and sees her standing there. He is so stunned at the sight of her that he falls back a step like he has been struck. Neither says a word, but their eyes lock as Jon descends the stairs and slowly crosses the yard to her as though he is seeing a ghost. At last she rushes into his arms, and he enfolds her in a desperate embrace, lifting her off her feet like a child. She closes her eyes and lays her head on his shoulder. At long last, she is safe.
In the review show that I mentioned at the beginning of this rather lengthy essay, they claim that after the initial, emotional meeting, the interaction between Jon and Sansa is strained and uncomfortable. After all, they remark, Sansa was always snobbish toward Jon and so theirs is an uneasy alliance. I disagree. Although they admittedly have to establish a whole new normal between them, I believe that their bond now is deep and unbreakable, and they stand together to reclaim the home where they were happy and safe and loved.
What I see in their interaction is two people joined deeply by unimaginable loss. They cling to each other desperately in memory of those whom they loved who suffered such gruesome deaths, and others whom they love just as much who are still missing. No one else can begin to touch the grief that they share and the hope of reuniting what is left of their scattered family. They need nothing so much as to be together and to regain the anchor that was Winterfell. When in Episode 6, “The Winds of Winter,” Jon is proclaimed King in the North, Sansa smiles at the knowledge that Jon is reuniting the houses of the north men and reclaiming the honor and position lost when Ned was beheaded. She is by his side, legitimizing and supporting the right of the bastard son to claim the Stark legacy, and the change of her expression at the sight of Littlefinger’s displeasure (another story all together) reflects only her fear for the life of her brother. She has seen that the effects of conspiracy are far more devastating than even the violent perils of war.
I am so happy that there are finally Starks reunited and at Winterfell, meticulously piecing together the resurrection of their family. After years of despair and frustration at their losses, I am at last hopeful that they will land on their feet.
On the other hand, it is Game of Thrones…