Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Game of Thrones reviews here.
Following last week’s shocking and emotional ending, it’s par for the course for Game of Thrones to slow things down and take a breath. That being said, it’s a huge testament to how propulsive Season 6 has been that an episode like “Blood of My Blood” can be counted as “slow”. On the surface, it lacked deaths, resurrections, battles, or shocking twists, but it was a very important episode that heaved the plot forward on many fronts.
A notable example of that is the Bran storyline, which opened “Blood of My Blood” and picked up right where we left off last week. Besieged by wights, Bran and Meera were rescued by a mysterious saviour who made a very memorable entrance. He was later revealed to be Bran’s uncle, Benjen Stark. And with that, Season 6 just picked up a major hanging plot thread dating all the way back to the series premiere. Not only was it great to finally have an answer to the mystery of Benjen’s fate, but tying him into the Bran arc was also great. Attaching characters and storylines of significance to what used to be one of the less interesting subplots has proved to be a great strategy in handling Bran. Plus, Benjen would make a more personal mentor than the Three-Eyed Raven.
After an absence last week, “Blood of My Blood” returned to the Lannister story in King’s Landing, as Margaery was about to take her walk of atonement. Based on the plan outlined two weeks ago, I expected a battle between the Tyrell army and the Faith Militant, and so did most of the characters. Instead, a surprising development took place, as Margaery appeared to have had a change of heart and, along with Tommen, allied with the High Sparrow.
I don’t for a second believe Margaery’s been broken or brainwashed. I think she’s playing the game like an expert. It was a smart, diplomatic solution that swiftly put her on the winning side. Although, clever as her plan was, it flew in the fact of the disgruntled Lannisters, and even the rest of the Tyrells, because it was a major victory for the High Sparrow. We may have been denied a large battle, but the conflict got all the more interesting.
The major characters that were absent this week were Jon and Sansa, but their story was touched upon via the Riverrun subplot. We saw the return of the despicable Walder Frey, who aimed to retake Riverrun from the Blackfish and revealed that he still held Edmure Tully captive. We haven’t seen either character since Season 3, and I’m not yet sure how Edmure will factor into this, but he’s sure to be a wrench in the gears.
This subplot also tied into the Lannisters’ story, as Jaime set off for Riverrun to join the siege. It’s yet another instance of storylines crisscrossing, and it might even result in a reunion between Brienne and Jaime, though they find themselves on opposite sides again. This demonstrates the complex politics and grey morality of Game of Thrones. Jaime is pretty much a protagonist by now, and even Cersei has the audience behind her thanks to her conflict with the High Sparrow. But it’s impossible to root for them entirely in this particular battle, since it goes against the Starks’ interests (and favours Walder Frey’s).
Arya’s assassination subplot concluded with her sparing Lady Crane’s life and leaving the House of Black and White. That was a huge relief. I love Arya as she is, and I did not want her to become “no one”. So having her retain her individuality and leave was truly best for her story.
At the same time, she spent a season and a half in those dark halls, and if all of that amounted to her simply realizing that it wasn’t for her, then it would feel like a lot of time wasted. She hardly progressed while she was there, aside from a few fighting skills she got in merely one montage. The season’s not done, so I could be wrong, but at the moment, it looks like Arya was sidelined for two years (and Jaqen’s mystique was damaged) for nothing. But the big positive is, that meandering and tedious storyline might finally end, and that’s progress.
Another example of progress was the Sam and Gilly subplot, which got a lot of screen time in “Blood of My Blood” and was all the better for it. Their scenes formed a complete mini-arc, with a setup, conflict, and open-ended resolution. They arrived at Horn Hill to drop off Gilly, they had a very tense dinner in which poor Sam let himself be bullied by his father, and they finally left together when Sam changed his mind and decided to stay by Gilly’s side. Even though those two characters had been absent for most of the season, I appreciated getting a complete story in one go, rather than having it doled out week to week one scene at a time.
Sam’s subplot was something of a detour, with him going there only to have a change of heart and leave. But it was a useful detour, because unlike Arya, he actually gained something from it: the Valyrian steel sword. And some backstory and characterization, which is always welcome. But knowing its power against the White Walkers, every bit of Valyrian steel on Game of Thrones is under close scrutiny, and giving one to Sam was a very interesting choice.
“Blood of My Blood” ended on Daenerys, who had conversation with Daario that was a bit too specific in terms of continuing to set up her potential alliance with Euron Greyjoy. That was followed by Drogon’s return and a rousing speech by Daenerys to close out the episode.
It was a cool scene, and her rallying the troops and finally declaring a more immediate intention to return to Westeros was great. But much like “Book of the Stranger”, “Blood of My Blood” ended with very familiar imagery from past Daenerys stories. Daenerys on a dragon, Daenerys with a Dothraki army, Daenerys delivering an epic speech… all of this is trodden ground. And much like “Book of the Stranger”, the big difference is that this time around, it promises to actually mean something.