After last week’s episode of awesome time-warging, it’s time to get extra wargly. So wargly, we get to see hints of a character that up to this point has really only been referenced in dialogue. It’s that kind of setting up, and the plot progression of “Blood of my Blood”, that makes the sixth episode of Game of Thrones a really good episode.
I don’t want to start with the awesome opening of the episode, but actually with the plot point that I’ve hated for two seasons now and only just now tickled my fancy. Arya Stark has been through a lot and seen a fair share of death in her travels with The Hound. She seemed to be a character learning and preparing for the future with The Hound as her mentor. Take him out of the picture and you’re left with Arya trying to latch onto another mentor – this time in the form of Jaqen H’ghar. But there are simply things that a character like Arya could not walk away from and that’s the bluntness of her world.
Last week, I complained about Arya’s storyline feeling like it was spinning its tires. It turns out the intention was to spin those tires, which makes it far more satisfying that it took that time out. Arya realizes that she doesn’t really want to fight her problems without her name or her face; she wants to fight them with honor. She wasn’t learning to be a girl with no name for the sake of anything but revenge. So it makes a lot of sense as to why her final move is to go find Needle and rekindle that relationship in preparation for vengeance. It was a giant middle finger to people who were expecting Arya to pick the more interesting plot (become a nobody that blends and kills people with ease), but I think this turn in direction is more natural and fitting to the events prior in Arya’s time in Bravos.
For instance, whether she still cared about her family was accentuated for the umpteenth time when she went to watch the play that depicted the events happening in King’s Landing. Those events reminded her that she is not done being angry over everything, and in fact, her last moment interacting with the actors is accusing another one of possibly trying to poison someone. It plays into the show’s pivotal moment when Cersei accuses Tyrion, which then leads to him being convicted. By Arya knocking the cup over quickly and then accusing the other actor, she planted the power of suggestion, which is a powerful thing to be able to do.
I think the thing to take away from Arya’s plot is that she didn’t just revert back to her hunt for those who wronged her family. Instead, she comes out knowing how to fit in and how to be a chess piece in war. She understands the conniving elements of war, which is something that Cersei herself has mastered. I think a lot of people are going to be bummed out by the choice Arya makes, but I find it extremely refreshing for the show to continue Arya down the path of vengeance but taking the detour to learn new moves.
Speaking of taking a detour to learn new moves: Benjen is back. Yes, Uncle Benjen showed up to save Bran from White Walker torment. And boy, did he learn some neat skills. We knew he was a good ranger, and he had gone missing north of the Wall, but damn, son. I know it was supposed to be revealed midway through the episode that it was Benjen, but I could recognize that actor’s face anywhere (side note: watch The Hallow, which stars Benjen. It’s a really good horror movie.). I want to take the time out to say that Benjen being alive, and his story of how he is alive combined with the quickness and effectiveness he has when dispatching White Walkers, implies quite a bit. It seems to me that the Children of the Forest have far more of a role to play in the series than what has happened so far, especially if the White Walkers are going to be terminated at any point.
The other thing to take from this scene is Bran’s perpetual time-warging that he was doing at the opening. We got to see The Mad King, a character only really referenced in the show, lots of wildfire by the looks of things, and there is a theory that Bran has something to do with The Mad King hearing voices in his head, which makes me pretty excited if that came to pass. This is the kind of thing that I love about Bran’s new abilities. Being able to time travel is such a great way to mess with everything that you know about the series. Bran has so far made you question Ned’s honor, given Hodor his name before he even met Bran, and now he’s giving us our glimpse into The Mad King. Bran has become a hell of a character simply because of his abilities.
But now it’s time to get really, really sad. Samwell took Gilly to his parents’ home, only to find his Dad still disappointed in him. Sam went to The Night’s Watch with the intention of becoming a “man” but came back preparing to read books for the rest of his life. His dad was extremely unimpressed. But to bring a Wildling into his home was probably an even easier way to get your daddy pissed. After an awkward dinner scene, where Sam’s dad insists on being more of an asshole than we already thought he was, he sniffs out the fact that Gilly is a Wildling. While initially planning to just leave home and have Gilly work in the kitchens, Sam decides that it is not worth separating the two from each other. Then he takes his father’s sword made of Valyrian steel (which we all know is the best of the best) and now here we are, waiting to see what happens next. I wonder if we’ll get more of his escape, but I mainly say that because it would be too surprising for the show to gloss over a possible confrontation between Sam and his dad during the escape.
There are only two other plot points that need to be talked about, and the one involving the Lannisters is probably my favorite from the episode. I’ve loved how religion has taken a much larger role in the series over the last two seasons, but now more than ever does it feel like religion is reshaping the world of Westeros. Under the guidance of the High Sparrow, Margaery is being let go to marry Tommen, but it isn’t the way the Tyrells or the Lannisters intended. Instead, the two will represent a marriage between the Crown and the Faith. Politics and religion will now be bound and everyone who had power is pretty displeased about it.
I do have a few issues with the scene, mainly regarding Margaery. I feel like she has established herself as a character that shifts into whatever power position she needs to be in, but the way the scene was shot, it seemed like she didn’t have ulterior motives. Instead, she was being submissive to the idea of Faith and the High Sparrow. This is an issue to me because she seems like the last person who would become a puppet of religion. Tommen makes sense to be susceptible to coercion, but Margaery seems above that. So, because of the way her character has been built up, I would be rather disappointed if she doesn’t try some subterfuge. It would also just seem like a betrayal of her character.
The other part of this scene is Jamie being stripped of his position as the Head of the Kingsguard. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Jamie has become a very boring character. Stripping him of his title honestly had very little impact to me because I never really felt like he had prominence in that role. There really isn’t much that he has done as Head of the Kingsguard. I hope more is done with his character, but it really feels like the series has forgotten how awesome of a character he was. Remember his time with Brienne? That was awesome stuff! Remind us of that type of Jamie, and not this slave to Cersei that suddenly appeared again.
Finally, we’ve hit the worst part of the episode. It’s the part that seems to keep happening and makes me so uninterested in Daenarys Targaryen. We get the final scene of the episode (which I honestly feel like should have been more Samwell, but whatever) where Daenarys find Drogon and then rides him, lands in front of her new army of Dothraki, and re-establishes again how awesome she thinks she is. I’ve gotten to the point now with her character that I hope she does become the villain of this series. Theories have been floating around that this may indeed happen, and I would love to see her shows of power be cut down. She knows how to amass an army, but she does it through displays of strength. She doesn’t do it through wit, or charm, or strategy. She got the Dothraki by lighting herself on fire and then roused them with her riding a goddamn dragon.
The scene is an example of when Game of Thrones stumbles the most: fan service. It doesn’t quite understand that Daenarys has plenty of talents that could be highlighted. Instead, the show just reminds everyone that she has a dragon. Her most iconic scenes are fittingly scenes that tend to be drenched in flames, but most of those are iconic because Drogon is there. Yet, the show doesn’t seem to highlight the tension that could exist between a ruler and her weapon. There are occasional moments when Daenarys is tested on whether she can control her dragon, but they tend to just be fruitless exercises that amount to us going “Of course she can control her dragon!” — and that sucks. I want to see some nuance in her character, but the showrunners seem hellbent on depriving her of that.
There was no Jon or Tyrion or Greyjoys (thank god) in this episode, as well as another episode in a row where Dorne is never addressed. I want to see more Jon and Sansa, but what matters more to me is if the show can bring Tyrion back as an interesting character now that Daenarys is done with her Dothraki journey.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO
Game of Thrones "Blood of my Blood"
- Somehow Arya's time in Bravos actually means something now
- Tommen and Margaery's marriage has major implications on the world of Westeros now
- Benjen is back, baby!
- Daenarys's "epic" moment was frustratingly mundane and redundant
- Now Jamie's plot matches up with his character: fairly insignificant