I'm angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it.
Directed by: Jack Bender
Written by: Bryan Cogman
After a recently heavy dosage of action, heartbreak, and power play, Game of Thrones kicks off the second half of season six with the kind of episode we haven't seen in a while: a plot progression episode. It's pretty clear at this point what lies ahead in regards to future battles and other major conflicts: An imminent showdown between Jon's army and the Boltons,, while Cersei is soon to face her official trial at the hands of the High Sparrow. I suppose that means that "Blood of my Blood", as well as the next episode, "The Broken Man" can be reasonably categorized as filler episodes, but there's just way too damn much going on so as to seem like season six is just biding its time until it can get to that eventual battle for Winterfell and the trial in King's Landing. As for "Blood of my Blood", some old faces make a return, while some new ones join the game. Meanwhile, the power struggle in King's Landing takes a turn for the worst, and it all adds up to a pretty damn good hour of Game of Thrones.
There's not really any one story line that dwarfs the rest in "Blood of my Blood". Usually the story line that is shown last is meant to be the one D&D want us to remember the most, especially if the episode ends with some heartbreaking death or a moment in which a character experiences a great moment of triumph. The latter is what Bryan Cogman is going for in the final scene of "Blood of my Blood", as Daenerys, riding on Drogon, asks the Dothraki to cross the Narrow Sea and help her take back the Seven Kingdoms. It's a nice scene, sure, but it does feel a bit repetitive of the jubilant ending to "Book of the Stranger", in which it was made clear the Dothraki saw Daenerys as their new leader. I would think the Dothraki riders would follow Daenerys across the Narrow Sea anyway, but hey, at least we get to see a cool shot of Daenerys flying on Drogon's back. Nothing wins people over like someone yelling on the back of a giant fire-breathing dragon.
So in all honesty, nothing really happens with Daenerys' story line this time around, although quite the opposite for Arya over in Braavos: after witnessing more of the play, Arya finds herself unable to go ahead with killing Lady Crane, and this means the end of her time trying to serve Jaqen and the Many-Faced God. Early in season five when Arya first arrived in Braavos, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Arya would give up her past life of Arya Stark and embrace a new life as "No One". She had been on the run for who knows how long, and she had basically nowhere to call home, ever since she first left Winterfell. Watching the play, however, reminded her of not only her family, but that there are still evil people out in the world that she still wants to do away with, and that is what will make her truly happy. Meryn Trant's arrival in Braavos planted the seed for Arya to finally realize she is not meant to take on the identity of "No One"; she is to finally accept that she is Arya Stark: the black sheep of the Stark family who enjoys sword-fighting, killing, and getting her hands dirty. This just about concludes the Arya-Faceless Men story line. All that remains is for Arya to do away with the Waif and Jaqen.
That leaves another violent encounter to get excited about, which we'll get to see in "No One". As for other violent encounters, Meera and Bran are rescued from wights by the long presumed-dead Benjen Stark, and you probably could have guessed that he would be the one to show up and play Mr. Hero. Much like Gendry's rowing, Benjen Stark has been one of Game of Thrones' forgotten mysteries, with Jon and others from the Night's Watch presuming him to be dead. Benjen's return is actually not what we should take away from this scene. As the wights are chasing Meera and Bran through the woods, Bran has visions of both the past and, presumably, the future. He sees past events like Jaime killing the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, his fall from the tower in Winterfell, the Night King at Hardhome, and the deaths of his father, mother, and brother. The sharp eye, however, may notice two visions that seem like D&D doing some incredibly sneaky foreshadowing: wildfire burning through a chamber, and the shadow of a dragon flying over King's Landing. The wildfire is a vision that season six will later confirm, but the dragon shadow still remains a bit of a mystery. Spoiler from season seven: Daenerys Targaryen does visit King's Landing in the season seven finale, but there's never a shot of her flying over the city on Drogon's back. All signs point to this dragon vision potentially being something that will happen in season eight. The excitement intensifies.
Meanwhile, someone who is not excited is Sam's father, Randyll Tarly (James Faulkner): dismayed to see that the Night's Watch was unable to change Sam from a fat and slow wimp into a fierce, sword-wielding warrior. Just when you think Game of Thrones can't get enough material out of all its inner family struggles, Bryan Cogman throws at us one of the harshest kind of treatments a father can have for one of his children. Never mind that Randyll basically disowned Sam before Sam left for the Night's Watch; upon learning that Gilly is a wildling, Randyll goes as far as to prevent Sam from stepping foot in Horn HIll ever again. James Faulkner nails it when it comes to giving us a bad first impression of Randyll: speaking his lines in a low, growly voice that greatly implies a man who's about to snap. I think the Tarly family got the names backwards: Randyll should have been Dickon, and Dickon should have been Randyll. This family reunion ends with Sam showing us that, even if his physical appearance hasn't changed, he has learned how to conjure up courage when the situation calls for it: he refuses to leave Gilly and Sam Jr. behind, and even goes so far as to spite his father by taking the family's Valyrian steel sword. Displays of courage have really become one of the key parts of Sam's character development. If killing a White Walker wasn't enough, then standing up for himself in the face of his disapproving father may be enough to show us this is not the same Sam we saw back in season one.
You know what else is not the same as it was in season one? King's Landing. The Lannister control on the capital has been slipping by the day, and now the brainwashing tactics of the High Sparrow have taken over Tommen and Margaery, leaving the likes of Cersei, Jaime, and Olenna Tyrell nearly powerless. This is one of the biggest swings of power that the series has had in quite some time, and it's all the more effective because it happened without any fighting or killing. Considering the time that Tommen took to speak with the High Sparrow, something like this was to be expected, so D&D nor Bryan Cogman would do much to really surprise us with this move. Hey though, it serves to further amp up the tension in King's Landing, especially knowing that Jaime is leaving to tend to a matter in Riverrun.
Speaking of Riverrun, Filch...I mean, Walder Frey is back, and he's just as grouchy as he was before. Some people never change.
This turned out to be a slightly longer review than I initially expected, but it's all good nonetheless. "Blood of my Blood" may be a very plot-heavy episode that is largely focused on further setting up the events to come, but it's not completely without its shining moments: Bran's visions of the past and future(?), the return of old faces such as Benjen Stark and Walder Frey, and some twisty maneuvering with some of the series' current positions of power. These kinds of moments all work well to substitute for the payoffs we'd get from a significant character death or an epic-scale action sequence. As the series has moved pretty much completely away from George R.R. Martin's source material, it's been more of a challenge for D&D and Bryan Cogman to keep the calmer episodes intriguing. We're now in the second half of season six, and they're still finding ways to avoid having any kind of utterly dull stretch. You can't say that about every television series.
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