SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES DOWN BELOW
What is it exactly about Episode 6 the past two seasons that the writers have this unnecessary urge to put the brakes on the more compelling storylines in Game of Thrones? Make no mistake about it, Blood of My Blood is no Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (last season’s Sansa’s rape episode), but still a slightly mediocre follow-up from last week.
The episode picks up immediately from the “Hold the Door” cliffhanger as Meera (Ellie Kendrick) struggles to drag Bran (Issac Hempstead Wright) through the forest up north with wights on their tail. Bran’s still under, overloading on visions, many of which we’ve seen before and others brand new. Of course, we’ve seen the first episode money shot where Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) pushes him out of the tower window a million times, which started this entire predicament in the first place. But it’s the blink and you miss it shots of Jaimie killing the Mad King in the Red Keep that are of most interest. And if it’s just fragments now, expect it to play a bigger role or expanded upon in the coming episodes. Cough Tower of Joy.
Bran and Meera’s escape is a bit anti-climatic as a dark figure bursts onto the scene swinging a fire mace. It’s his long-lost uncle Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) from Season 1. The rescue plays out almost beat for beat to the Brienne rescuing Sansa and Theon earlier this season. The only difference here is that viewers have been waiting patiently for Uncle Benjen to return to the fray. So, the big question one everyone’s minds is what’s Benjen been up to the past five seasons. Nothing much. He only got stabbed by a White Walker, saved by the Children of the Forest and was working with the Three-Eyed Raven. Just like the rest of Team Bran, well the ones who haven’t sacrificed themselves yet, Benjen will end up protecting his nephew and guide him on his way to becoming a true Three-Eyed Raven.
With no stopovers with Jon, Sansa or the Greyjoy siblings, let’s venture south to Horn Hill where Sam (John Bradley), Gilly (Hannah Murray) and little Sam basically “meet the parents.” The sequence shoots for plenty of awkwardness from Sam’s father being a hater of Wildlings to Gilly getting dolled up in one of Sam’s sisters dresses and struggling with silverware. For her, Gilly finally gets her Cinderella moment in the show. For being a Wildling, she cleans up rather well.
Props to Gilly for standing up for herself when Sam’s father rips on Wildlings and Sam, who everyone laughs at when they don’t believe he killed a White Walker up north. The situation grows more awkward when Sam is sent away, but Gilly and the baby are forced to stay at Horn Hill. After saying their goodbyes, Sam mans up and leaves Horn Hill with Gilly and the baby, defying his father’s wishes. It’s a solid character moment for Sam, who’s always had a softer side. The only issue with this subplot is its current lack of importance to the major story is at hand. Unless something of signifigance occurs down the line at the Citadel, it’s saddles the Blood of My Blood as a lengthy sequence of filler.
And out of the blue, we return to the Twins after a couple seasons where Walder Frey (David Bradley) is plotting to take Riverrun back from the Blackfish and House Tully. And he has Edmure Tully as a prisoner for leverage. Like Benjen Stark’s return earlier and the Iron Islands subplot, bringing the Freys back into the fray (no pun intended) forces a rewatch of previous seasons. It’s been far too long since we’ve cared what’s happening in the Riverlands. Perhaps the sins of the Red Wedding willl finally, yes finally catch up to Walder Frey and his family. We do know that plotlines are going to start converging, especially up Sansa coming down south to rally the Tullys to her cause. Even the Lannisters have stake in this Battle of the Riverlands, but more on that later.
Speaking of the Lannisters, the situation in King’s Landing has escalated with Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is on the verge on receiving her own “shame, shame” moment. The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) allows King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) to see his wife before the Walk of Atonement. She claims she’s seen the light and sweet talks Tommen into aligning with the Faith Militant.
Of course, by turning Tommen into a blind convert, she doesn’t have to follow in Cersei’s footsteps for a round of shame action. It also helps that Jaime and the Tyrell army march on the Great Sept of Baelor, halting any attempt at a Walk of Atonement. The Tyrells believe this new alliance between the Faith Militant and the Crown has left them beaten as Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), specifically pointed out. But honestly, is it? Margaery is obviously faking it, proving once again that she’s one of the best players in the Game of Thrones. Just look back at the clues from last episode. She’s breaking out the old adage of holding your enemies closer.
Jaime’s irate with his son’s decision to align with the Faith Militant and relieved of his duties as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. The confrontation plays out exactly, albeit not as hostile as Barristan Selmy’s departure a few seasons back. Once again, there’s this constant sense of repetition this season. Is it weaker writing or something thematically greater at hand? That’s yet to be seen. Cersei (Lena Headey) pushes her brother to lead the Lannister army into Riverrun rather than engaging the Faith Militant and regain their son back. She too has few tricks up her sleeve, weaving in a nod to an upcoming trial by combat. Keep on teasing that Cleganebowl 2016.
Across the Narrow Sea, Arya (Maisie Williams) is still on assignment to kill a local actress (The Babadook’s Essie Davis). As hinted last week, she certainly conflicted about killing someone she feels doesn’t need to die. During the play, she goes through with poisoning her drink, but realizes the two aren’t that different. Basically, both ran away to pretend being someone else. On top of that, they’re both obligated to be “yes women” as nameless pawns of the people they’re working for. Arya fails her assignment with the Waif (Faye Marsay) lurking in the shadows.
Arya’s failure only plants the seeds of a showdown between she and the Waif that’s been as long coming as Cleganebowl or Bastard Bowl. Arya doesn’t even bother going back to the House of Black and White, retrieving Needle from its hiding place in Braavos. After nearly two seasons abroad, it’s safe to assume we’re quickly approaching the end of Arya’s stay in Braavos. The Stark girls need to get back together.
Wrapping up the episode, Dany (Emilia Clarke) begins to kick her Westerosi invasion into high gear. After two seasons of sitting around and politicing, she’s actually going to do what she said she was going to do from the very start. Drogon returns (who needs a few CGI touchups now that he’s grown yet again) and she demands all the Dothraki be her blood riders till death. Typically, it’s just two or three max, but Khaleesi is going all in. While intended to be a powerful speech, the finale misses the mark with another run-of-the-mill fight for me cry from Dany. It just gets old after a while.
Blood of My Blood hits its high points, particularly with Arya’s inner conflict with being an assassin as well as Margaery feigning her conversion to break down the Faith Militant from the inside. Likewise, Benjen’s return was a welcome one, but without some of the key players like Jon, Tyrion, Sansa and Littlefinger. Fortunately, Jon and Sansa will be back next week and the hype for Bastard Bowl will be back on the forefront. If Sam’s subplot and Dany’s cliche speech hadn’t bogged down the past hour, the episode would have been more impactful.
And here’s a shocker. No one dies this episode. The streak is over.
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