Game of Thrones Recap - Season 6 Episode 6: Blood of My Blood

Reviews
May 30, 2016 by Heather Alexandra

Welcome to the family.

“Blood of my Blood” has, if nothing else, some of the best direction of all the episodes this season. What it lacks in heartrending character drama or shocking plot twists, it makes up for by being consistent in mood and presentation. Jack Bender has a long history in television. He’s worked on major genre shows like Lost and The Sopranos. That pedigree has left him more than ready to handle Game of Thrones’ high budget pulp. Between this episode and “The Door”, he’s cemented himself as one of the show’s strongest directors. “Blood of my Blood” was not perfect but it was highly competent.

It would have been a mistake to start anywhere else but where we left off: Meera and Bran fleeing from the Night’s King. With Hodor gone and no direction to go, it seems all hope is lost. There’s a nice tension to this scene, with plenty of low angles that feed into the frantic cuts of Bran’s visions. Things sweep and then explode. Meera drags him along while Bran watches the past: the Tower of Joy and Aerys Targaryen’s death. Some scenes are more recent like the massacre at Hardholm. Bran cannot hide from the King. The wights close in.

But wait? Who the hell is this? A black rider, with a swinging chain of fire. I’m not a big book reader but for a moment I thought we were finally getting Coldhands, the strange elk riding wight. But this rider is clearly human. He rescues Meera and Bran; they ride off into the snow.

The show has a lot of confidence to follow up something so dramatic with a hard cut to Sam and Gilly. They’re heading to Sam’s home. I’ll be real, gang: within a few sentences, I was ready to give up on this. Sam and Gilly are cute, sure. And I do enjoy chances for Sam to show heroism on a smaller scale than what the show often concerns itself with. But if you thought I didn’t care about Dorne, than I sure as hell don’t care about Samwell Tarly’s Misadventures in Nowheresville. At this point of the story, I have little patience for the extraneous. This feels like the fattest of filler and drags the episode down considerably.

Much more interesting are the events slowly coming to a head in King’s Landing. Seeing Tommen with the Sparrow is an ominous sight. King Landing is such a different place without Joffrey and I appreciate that change in dynamic. Instead of a king that cannot be tamed, we have a king who is very easily manipulated. It’s hard to tell whose politicking is taking hold in these scenes. Is Tommen being manipulated by Margaery? Has Margaery truly changed? The answers, probably: hell yes and I don’t think so. But still, there’s wonderful degrees of uncertainty in these scenes. Everyone has plans and we only get to know them through the moments that Tommen is being toyed with.

Things are getting interestiiiii- Oh, come on! More Sam and Gilly? This is like if the Dorne plot gave birth to a smaller Dorne plot that grew up into a total jerk who vaped while telling you that Bastion isn’t overpowered in Overwatch. I am so unrelentingly bored by this. The only thing that got my attention was the mention of Lord Tarly’s Valyrian steel sword. Jon’s Valyrian sword allowed him to kill a White Walker, so this is a hell of a Chekov’s Gun.

The scene itself, with Sam cowering from his father and Gilly revealing her wildling heritage didn’t play well. We’ve spent a long time watching Sam get confident and to see him regress, regardless of scenario, is a bit of a bummer. The show is toying with us, to some extent. It wants to let us think that Sam will obey his father and leave Gilly and Little Sam behind. Having him come back is a nice little victory, as is having him pilfer that lovely Valyrian sword. However, it doesn’t manage to prevent the whole affair from feeling like an incredible distraction.

Arya’s story had a chance to prove it was also not a bloated mess and I’m glad to say that it finally delivered. This whole season has been dominated by a building tension: would Arya kill off the lest vestiges of herself to become a soulless assassin or would she hold onto her humanity? That tension hasn’t always played out with the best pacing but “Blood of my Blood” builds upon last week’s episode to give things a proper gravitas.

Arya returns to the actors and their show, watching a version of the Purple Wedding. The overly affected show seems some real pathos as her target, Lady Crane, gives a performance. It’s the first hint that something is awry. Ayra sneaks backstage and poisons a bottle of rum. That should be the end of it. Instead, she lingers behind and briefly bonds with Lady Crane. I enjoyed this quite a bit. It was not hard to see what was coming but the show had enough fun with it that I didn’t mind. There’s a nice bit of tension surrounding the bottle of rum and whether or not Crane will drink it. When she finally does, Arya knocks it away. She can’t go through with it. And now, we will wait to see what the consequences are.

Our return to King’s Landing has Jaime right where I want him, up on a damn horse in golden armor, ready to kick some rear. Tyrell forces gather to prevent Margaery’s walk of atonement. Half a season is a long time for things to slow burn. Finally, the faith and the crown will clash. Or not. As Jaime stands before the High Sparrow, looking dashing as hell, Tommen and Margaery walk out of the sept. There will be no walk today. Instead, Tommen announces a union between the faith and the crown. The High Sparrow looks on with a sly grin. He’s outplayed everyone and gotten exactly what he’s wanted. That, my friends, is how you play the game.

It is hard to say entirely where things will go from here. Jaime is removed from the Kingsguard. Instead of serving in the city, he will be sent to aid the Frey’s take back lands claimed by the Blackfish. The final scene between him and Cersei shows some strong emotion, even with all the incest. (A sentence I never thought I’d write.) Jaime’s rage regarding his son’s ensnarement by the Sparrow is palpable, as is Cersei’s cold and calculating demeanor. I have very little love for the Lannisters overall but I’d be lying if I said the show didn’t do a good job of humanizing them as the seasons moved on.

Throughout this, there’s a light cutaway to Walder Frey. What a shithead, that Walder Frey! Even after his machinations and role in the Red Wedding, he’s still not content. It’s a great sight to see him besieged with anger as the Blackfish’s forces hold his keep at Riverrun. And, gosh! We get to see Edmure Tully for all of four seconds. Good to see they grabbed Tobias Menzies off the set of Outlander for what might just be the easiest payday in anyone’s life. Cheers, I say!

All this politicking is grand stuff, setting up for a big battle but I was honestly happy to see Bran again. I can’t believe how well his story has progressed. He and Meera are wary of the masked rider until he reveals himself. It’s Benjen Stark. We haven’t seen him since season one. It’s not the most shocking reveal but it’s good to have him back. Brought back from death by the Children of the Forest, he’s now pledged to watch over Bran, who is now the new Three Eyed Raven.

I had a coworker mention how much the show feels like fan service at this point. Major theories are starting to come true and it’s hard to tell how much of that is genuinely self contained development or affected by how loud fans have been during Martin’s long writing process. With Benjen Stark’s return, Jon’s resurrection, and the Tower of Joy tease, we’re edging close into major revelation territory. It’s something of a shame that these revelations won’t be too surprising. At least, if this season is anything to judge by.

It’s something of a cliche to end with Dany at this point but “Blood of my Blood” is content to do just that. I can’t say if it was the right choice. Riding with Daario and the Dothraki, Dany scurries offscreen to have what is probably a really cool but far too expensive conversation with her dragon. It’s dramatic to see her ride in on his back and give a rousing speech but the entire affair felt so rushed that I couldn’t feel too inspired. We’ve had plenty of badass Dany moments. They’ve been great. But the show has mostly earned them. This time? What was supposed to be a bang felt much more like a whimper.

“Blood of my Blood” isn’t as bold at “The Door” but it’s far from the worst this season has offered. There’s plenty of sly plotting, true character beats, and dramatic reveals. They mostly counteract the lesser story arcs and shaky ending. This wasn’t completely about moving pieces on the board nor was it just about shock and awe. Instead, this episode felt grounded but assured. It’s a fair tone to hold moving into the latter half of the season. Game of Thrones is far from high art or even brilliant television but when the show feels this assured, I think I’m okay with that.