Tragedy. Brilliant and beautiful tragedy. Last week’s “Hold the Door/Hodor” moment was one of many of these Game of Thrones has created for us over the last six seasons. But I never envy the episode that must follow a classic episode like last week.
And “Blood of My Blood” was another example of an episode that never had a chance of living up to the hour preceding it. Instead, it simply served the purpose of revisiting locations last week’s episode neglected, opening up new battlefronts in the reemerging tensions of Westeros, and the reappearing of several minor characters after long absences. And by no means was “Blood…” lacking in key moments, either. Arya retrieving needle, the return of the Riverlands to the narrative, Tommen turning on his family, “uniting” the Crown with the Holy Sept, and Drogon’s return are all pivotal to the direction the story is heading.
I’m going to get right to things this week, as we begin where last week’s episode ended: Meera dragging Bran through the North in a hopeless attempt at getting them to safety.
North of the Wall
Seriously HBO? You needed to include last week’s final scene in the “previously on” segment to remind us of that? I mean, don’t you think we all remember it well enough where it wasn’t necessary to reopen that wound? Not cool guys. Not cool.
Meera is bravely dragging Bran through the cold North and what is Bran doing? Binge watching Game of Thrones. Every major event on the show so far is playing in Bran’s mind. But he’s also took in the special features, as we see our first look at the Mad King and some other moments that happened before the time period covered by the show (more on those later).
It looks as if the Wights have caught up to the pair, but a hooded character on a horse wielding a fiery flail (or at least it appears to be some sort of ball and chain) takes down several wights before retreating with Bran and Meera on his horse.
Later, Meera confronts the mysterious man, asking who he was and why he helped them. As he pulls back the cloth around his face, we discover this man is Benjin Stark!!! The younger brother of Ned lost sometime during the first season is back to aid his nephew in his quest to become the Three Eyed Raven.
So while he’s been away, Benjin has been stabbed by a Whitewalker, rescued by the Children (who apparently can reverse the process they started by simply reinserting Obsidian), and been in regular contact with the previous Three Eyed Raven monitoring Bran’s journey. So what did this guy do to entertain himself while he waited for Bran to make his massive mistake? There’s not a lot of leisure activities that far north. Well, it doesn’t really matter now, because Bran and Meera needed protection for the rest of their journey and Benjin fills that vacancy.
It’s time for an awkward family reunion for Sam, who is returning to Horn Hill (a really nice piece of property in the Reach) and must reunite with the man who disowned and shipped him off to the Night’s Watch. Gilly picks up on his “nervous talking” right away as Sam admits to being afraid to see his father again. He’s also lied about Gilly’s origins, claiming she was simply “from the North.” And technically, that’s true. Sam just decided to leave out the whole “by North I mean a Wildling beyond the wall whose baby is the son of her father.” And since Lord Tarly cares nothing for Wildlings, is best just to leave out those clarifying details.
Maya Rudolph…I mean Samwell’s mom greets Gilly and her baby with the utmost affection. She seems like a wonderful woman, which will be all the more amazing after meet dad.
And Randyll Tarly met every expectation I had for him. He was only on screen a short time, but that was all that was necessary to rank him up there in the top five all around assholes of Westeros. He insults Sam’s weight and bemoans the Night’s Watch failure not making Sam a great warrior. It’s interesting to see Sam’s lack of courage here considering how much we know he’s gained from his time at the Wall.
Gilly, however, is willing to stand up for her man. She talks of all the beings he’s killed, including Thenn’s and Whitewalkers. But she let’s slip their geography during some of these adventures, and Lord Tarly pounces. He is appalled that a Wildling is eating under his roof. He will accept the girl and her son, but Sam must never return to Horn Hill again. Good to see you too, dad.
Sam is about ready to say his goodbyes before rushing back in and telling Gilly to “pack her things.” He means to leave, but he’s not leaving without her. That’s major character development for the man who left Gilly at a brothel back in season four to”keep her safe.”
But before he leaves, Sam is going to take his own little going away present: Heartsbane. It’s the sword of House Tarly that Lord Randyll thought, “Hey let me randomly bring this up to really emphasize how my oldest son will never wield it for no good reason at all.” Not exactly the most subtle of foreshadowing. Sam takes the sword and is now off to Oldtown, except now Gilly and little Sam are going with him.
I have officially lost all hope for Tommen. After this week, I’m convinced the boy king will never be anything more than a pawn. He’s in the Holy Sept speaking with the High Sparrow, who continues to “council” the king on matters of state. The Sparrow mentions Margaery and how she’s changed since being in captivity, and the Sparrow wants Tommen to see for himself.
Now I am skeptical of this “change” in Margaery. We know right up until she saw her brother that she was still playing the game. But now, she’s a devout convert of the seven? We’ll see if she’s really turned over a new leaf or if she just found the best way to get out of her cell and improve her brother’s situation. She says that all her work up to this point has been a show to keep herself in power and for appearances and that while she loves her brother, “he needs to atone for his sins.”
Meanwhile, on the outside, Jamie and Mace Tyrell are preparing their forces to take back the Tyrell children or else!!! They interrupt Margaery’s atonement ceremony and Jamie makes his demands, but the High Sparrow will have none of it. He says “I don’t have the authority to give them to you. And you don’t have the authority to take them.” (yes you do have the authority to give them up you maniacal cult leader!!!!)
But has it turns out, the walk is not happening. Tommen walks out to announce an alliance between the Crown and the Church, and that is enough atonement for Queen Margaery. Jamie and Olenna Tyrell are appalled while Mace has no idea what’s going on. But the Queen of Thorns makes it crystal clear to Lord Oaf: “He’s beaten us. That’s what’s happenning.” The crowd initially seems disappointed because they all came to see Natalie Dormer naked. But after the alliance is announced, they cheer. The peasants are on board with this new alliance, leaving some very powerful players on the outside looking in.
Jamie is later removed from his position as Lord Commander of the King’s Guard and for the second time this season, he asks someone very powerful if he’s to be punished. And for the second time, he will not be. Instead, he’ll be sent off to the Riverlands, where a conflict is brewing between the old and new lords of that region.
Lord Walder Frey has returned and he’s not happy. Of course, this grouchy old fart is never happy, so nothing’s really changed here other than the fact that the his sons lost Riverrun. He also takes this time to remind us about the Blackfish, who also escaped the Red Wedding before they could kill him. Now, Catelyn Stark’s uncle has taken back the castle and Lord Frey wants it back. It looks like they will have help from Jamie Lannister. But they also still have Edmure Tully (more on him later), a prisoner Lord Walder believes could be of use in gaining back Riverrun.
So Arya just spent a season and a half listening to vague ramblings from people “who have no names” and completing training exercises that were either boring, confusing, or both, just to have her 100% abandon it last night? I was really hoping for a payoff somewhere with Arya becoming the assassin for the House of Black and White. And maybe her training will still play a part in whatever shape her character takes going forward. At least, it better come back into play. Otherwise, we’ve just wasted a season and a half with one of the best characters on the show doing nothing that really mattered.
It’s time for the rest of, “Game of Thrones, as told by a Lannister apologist.” This week’s it’s the death of Joffrey and Tywin, where Tyrion is the dastardly villian who killed them both out of hatred. And “sweet Cersei” (I can’t type that with out laughing) eulogizes her son’s passing while the young actress who wants her killed practices her lines off stage.
Arya witnesses all of this, but still intends to go through with the mission of poisoning Mrs. Crane. However, after putting the poison in the actresses’s cup, Mrs. Crane sees her backstage and gives her a really encouraging message. Once again, Arya questions why Mrs. Crane is the one to die here when she is clearly a wonderful person, while the young actress wanting her dead is clearly not.
The crew talks backstage and have a fairly interesting interaction (I’d be on board with a “Making of…special that goes behind the scenes with the creators of this play) before Arya knocks the cup Mrs. Crane was about to drink out of her hands. She warns her to be weary of the young actress that wants her dead, then retrieves needle (I did cheer when she went to get needle back!!!) and goes into hiding underneath the city.
The Waif, the Hall Monitor for the Faceless Men was watching. Of course she was watching. She’s always watching Arya. She’s kind of obsessed with her. And that tattle telling Waif runs quickly to Jaqen to inform him of Arya’s failure in completing her mission. She was promised she would get to kill Arya if she ever abandoned the faceless men, and Jaqen reluctantly agrees. At what point will these two rivals meet in the long anticipated Battle of Braavos?
“Blood of My Blood” closes this week with Danearys doing what she’s been doing for roughly have the time she’s been on the show: marching through desert. The subject of ships comes up and Daario says it will take 1,000 ships to get to Westeros (you mean, the exact same number Euron is building right now on the Iron Islands? I’m sure those numbers being exact are just coincidental).
Now I admit that sometimes I go easier on the execution of Dany’s all conquering scenes because, despite a few minor plot holes, they are just awesome. And here, we have Daenarys leave the Dothraki for a bit because of something she smells? Did she see something? Smell burning flesh somewhere that no one else in that large group could? But as I am trying to figure out how she just magically knew he was there, Drogon flies up and I forget all those critical notions I usually bring to my writing. Because did I mention that these “Dany is going to conquer the world” scenes are just awesome! I mean, this was not the most awesome of Dany scenes, but Drogon has returned and the Mother of Dragons is on his back speaking Dothraki (and Emilia Clark speaking a made up fantasy language is just fantastic). It really doesn’t matter how we got there, it was just great to see.
Dany claims all of the Dothraki to be her bloodriders, (meaning that once Dany dies, they avenge her death and then give their lives as well). Now Dany and her crew of Dothraki are one week out of Meereen. How will she and they respond to her return?
-Character Callback: Benjin Stark-This is why Benjin kept showing up in all of Bran’s flashbacks. The youngest Stark brother was a member of the Night’s Watch who was lost beyond the Wall way back in Season One. The show gave us a young Benjin to remind us of his existence before bringing him back tonight in Bran’s time of need.
-It appears the show is going to combine Benjin Stark with a book character named Coldhands. Coldhands directs Bran and crew to the Three-Eyed Raven in “A Dance with Dragons.” Though the timing of his appearance in the show is different, his condition is very similar to that of the mysterious man that leads the warging Stark to that mystical cave.
-Benjin gave Bran a glass of animal blood at the end of their scene. I’m curious if that will come into play as a help to Bran in his visions or if it was just to keep him warm (as someone who doesn’t drink animal blood from a glass, I’m completely unaware of it’s benefits).
-Two of the more prominent flashbacks were the Mad King and the Wildfire (that green liquid that keep showing up in Bran’s visions and was used in Season 2’s Blackwater battle). We saw the Mad King say “burn them all” right before seeing him stabbed in the back. Jamie Lannister killed the Mad King right before he was about to burn of all King’s Landing to the ground with all that Wildfire.
–Character Callback: Walder Frey- Not sure why I’m even bothering considering everyone remembers this guy. Walder Frey is Lord of the Twins and arranged to have the Starks killed at the Red Wedding. He’s had numerous wives, children, grandchildren, and bastard children. And he was the Lord of the Riverlands until The Blackfish reemerged. And speaking of the Blackfish:
-Character Callback: Brendon “Blackfish” Tully- No, he’s not appearing until next week. But since he was mentioned, the “Blackfish” was the brother of Hoster Tully, Catelyn Stark’s father. He gets his name from his unwillingness to marry and certify alliances for his brother. He was helping Robb in the War of Five Kings when at the Red Wedding, he went to take the best timed piss in the history of Westeros. He escaped the slaughter at the Twins and has now reemerged, taking back Riverrun for the Tullys.
-Character Callback: Edmure Tully-You may have forgotten the man who was actually getting married at the Red Wedding. That was Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s brother, who agreed to marry a Frey to make amends for his poor tactical decisions in the War of Five Kings. We last saw Edmure heading to his bedding ceremony right before the carnage of the Red Wedding occurred. He’s been a captive of Lord Walder ever since.
-I’m curious if the Blackfish will care at all to his nephew as a prisoner. He didn’t exactly have a high opinion of him when we saw them last.
-It’s good to see another Valyrian steel sword enter the game. And even better to see it in the hands of a character who knows of the Whitewalkers and could use it to help that cause.
-A nice reinforcement tonight of the southern attitude towards Whitewalkers. Sam’s brother laughed at Gilly’s claim that Samwell killed a Whitewalker, saying “There’s no such thing.” That’s an attitude that will have to change as the Whitewalkers draw closer.
-I also was amused and a little creeped out when Sam’s sister thought her father could learn a thing or two from Gilly’s dad. Now Randyll Tarly maybe an asshole, but no one holds a lower position has a father than the daughter loving Craster.
-I always thought the House of Black and White were killing people who needed to end their suffering or were the scum of the earth. But it seems at the moment like they are just hired assassins who will kill just to get the possession of another face. This could change before the season ends, but it’s not a good perception right now for the Faceless Men.
-I really liked Arya’s note to Mrs. Crane, adding the essential anger needed from Cersei’s response to Joffrey’s death that the writer of the play didn’t include.
-Where is Benjin taking Bran and Meera?
-How are Sam and Gilly getting to Old Town? And at what point will they be getting there?
-When will Cersei make her big move? And what is the High Sparrow planning now that he has the crown on his side?
-Where is Arya’s story left now that she’s abandoned the Faceless Men?
-How long will the Blackfish hold out in Riverrun? And will his willingness to hold onto the castle there keep him from assisting Sansa and Jon in the North?
-Will we get to see the Red Priestess in action before Dany gets back to Meereen?
The key battles that will define the rest of season six are in place. Let’s see which ones play out next week.