Last Night's 'Game of Thrones' Changed Up a Highly Anticipated Book Moment
This article contains spoilers for "Book of the Stranger," the fourth episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones. Proceed with caution. And read our full breakdown of the episode of Game of Thrones S6, E4 here.
Game of Thrones is not an "awwwwwww" show. Friends made us swoon. Gilmore Girls earned its cuddling. Mad Men occasionally swept us off our feet with a dash of sweetness. Game of Thrones is not that show -- until it is, and it reminds us how much we love these freakin' characters.
The last time Sansa Stark saw her bastard brother Jon Snow was way back in the very first episode of the series, before she'd departed for King's Landing and Jon Snow had shipped off to Castle Black, and the Stark clan had shattered into a million pieces. The two shared just one scene together and didn't speak to each other -- not even to say a proper goodbye.
And yet, six seasons in, family tethers the two. Sansa and Jon are both survivors, barely, of a vicious, power-hungry world. So when they finally united in "Book of the Stranger," Game of Thrones found a way to pull our heartstrings. The struggle is real, and the two Stark relatives are the champions, my friends. Too early to cue the Queen?
"There's only one place we can go," Sansa tells Jon over some of Castle Black's finest bathtub ale. "Home."
Jon wasn't convinced until resident A-hole Ramsay Bolton, fresh off murdering Osha (sorry, House Umber truthers), shot off a message -- a nasty, snarling declaration of war rooted in George R.R. Martin's original novels. Don't let the book-reading kids tell you Game of Thrones is off-script. Creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff just fit old pieces into a newly constructed puzzle.
Here's what Ramsay wrote Jon, in full:
To the traitor and bastard Jon Snow,
You allowed thousands of Wildlings to pass the Wall. You have betrayed your own kind. You have betrayed the North. Winterfell is mine, bastard. Come and see.
Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon. His direwolf's skin is on my floor. Come and see.
I want my bride back. Send her to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your Wildling lovers. Keep her from me, and I will ride north and slaughter every Wildling man, woman, and babe living under your protection. You will watch as I skin them living. You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister. You will watch as my dogs devour your wild little brother. Then I will spoon your eyes from their sockets and let my dogs do the rest. Come and see.
Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North
Martin's version of the so-called Pink Letter (a reference to the rosy hue of House Bolton's seal) is very different. In the books, Mance Rayder is still alive -- another Wildling, disguised by Melisandre's magic, took the King-Beyond-the-Wall's place in the stake-burning scene -- and the bride Ramsay mentions is Arya Stark, only, unbeknownst to Jon, it's not Arya at all but a stand-in named Jeyne Poole, a Winterfell girl who'd accompanied Sansa to King's Landing and whom show-watchers haven't seen since Season 1. Stannis is the false king alluded to in the taunting missive, although he is still alive in the books, as are Stannis' wife and child, both dead on the show. So... much more complicated than what Weiss and Benioff have set up.
Anyway, here's the original book text:
Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.
Your false king’s friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.
I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.
I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his Wildling princess. I want his little prince, the Wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.
Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell.
As Weiss put it in HBO's post-show reflection, Jon Snow "has to do the right thing. That's why he's Jon Snow. That's why we love him. And that's why he got himself killed." Please tell me there's no way another Jon bites the dust this season. That's not the Queen cue my heart wants right now.
Where does it go? And is this the beginning of a sustained friendship between Sansa and Jon? We already know from the trailers that Jon and the Wildling army will confront Ramsay for the much-touted battle of the bastards, a.k.a. BastardBowl. How Sansa factors in is less clear. After a few brutal encounters with the Lannisters, Petyr Baelish, and the Boltons, she's ready to reclaim Winterfell with or without Jon.
What she lacks in Arya's fighting skills, she makes up for with regal instincts. Sansa has a greater lay of the land than the rest of our players. And she's matured -- the Sansa of Season 1 would never have touched a bite of her Castle Black gruel. In "Book of the Stranger," she stomachs it, she wisely declaring, "There are more important things to think about."
Winterfell could be where Sansa's story ends, filling Ned's absence, rising to ruler status, and welcoming Bran back into the fold if he makes his way back from beyond the Wall. Chances are, it won't be that simple.
Theories in play suggest Jon makes a run all the way to King's Landing -- or wherever the final battle against the White Walkers takes place. If so, I already miss Sansa by his side. Maybe a fiery Daenerys Targaryen could fill the void. It'd be a different kind of warm and fuzzy -- let's hope Jon's actually a Targaryen if Drogon decides to nuzzle him -- but maybe.
The Game of Thrones happy ending will be a blazing inferno of flames, blood, and melted White Walkers. But as long as Sansa and Jon make it to the end, I'll be smiling.
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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment Editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. He thinks that Ramsay guy's a real bastard! Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.