Blood of my Blood

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This will be the EUGOTSOC Committee review of Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 6: ‘Blood of my Blood’ written by myself – Alexander Petkov: Publicity Officer.

Family is a big theme this episode and works particularly well with the overall theme of ‘The Return’ throughout this season. A lot of storylines invoke the concept of lineage as a merging of both power and identity, which as I’ve discussed in my ‘Book of the Stranger’ review can either lead to enlightenment (in this concept’s dismissal) or to ruin (in its embrace). Because of the large number of characters and the various speeds at which their stories progress, we’ve had some of the arcs already pass their end of Act 2 (namely Jon, Theon, arguably Sansa, Tyrion and Dany), whilst others are still in stagnation. And that’s what this episode did – it massively propelled some of those stalling storylines and pointed them into the direction of their respective second Act ending points. This was the first purely ‘set-up’ episode of the season and while having that in the second half of the season is odd to say the least, I don’t necessarily deem it a bad thing.

The episode starts off moments after the previous one ended with Bran and Meera being chased by wights. We get a glimpse of the visions inside Bran’s mind which seem to be the echoing knowledge transferred from Bloodraven at the end of last episode. In those visions we see multiple images of Westeros’ history flashing by quickly with a lot of stress on the themes of Ice and Fire. Most of these images are things we’ve already seen with the notable exception of the Mad King flashbacks, complete with a glimpse of his pyromancers and their wildfire and the King’s death at the hands of Ser Jamie. As much as I liked these scenes as a part of Bran’s visions I would have preferred if they didn’t flash through so quickly but rather to had been presented slowly and systematically with some more thought put in. Alas jump cutting to different scenes in rapid succession with little to no context is a film editor’s best friend…

One thing that is very curious about Bran’s visions, however, is that they heavily tease wildfire, and that means we can expect it’s return in the story (And that’s something to get hyped about). Also one of these scenes show the wildfire filled cellars exploding, which is something that hasn’t happened (otherwise King’s Landing wouldn’t exist now). This raises the question whether this is an alternate past that Bran’s being shown or in fact the future. Or maybe this explosion is not under King’s Landing at all? One of Dany’s visions from the House of the Undying back in Season 2 that the show chose to do was of a destroyed Red Keep in winter so it’s hard not to see a connection there. In any case Bran’s true powers remain a mystery and all we can do for now is speculate what this all means. For me personally the way the vision sequence was cut points to the idea that there is an ‘antagonist’ of Ice (namely the Night’s King) and an ‘antagonist’ of Fire (King Aerys before and now Daenerys). After last episode I don’t trust the Children of the Forest or the visions of the Old Gods as I think that they are twisting the context, but I do like the idea of the Song of Ice and Fire ending with the villains of Ice and Fire together (Shipping Dany + Night’s King). I can certainly rant endlessly about how this all makes perfect sense but at this point it’s probably best to leave it alone.

Bran’s story this week ends with him and Meera getting saved by the mysterious and sudden appearance of Benjen-Coldhands. The music during his scenes is really good (amongst the best soundtracks this season) and even payed homage to the music during Old Nan’s stories back in Season 1 which was a nice touch. I don’t personally mind that the show has chosen to merge Benjen and Coldhands as it’s an easy way to continue Bran’s storyline and to be fair I was also expecting it. From now on it is sure going to be interesting to see where this story will move to next.

It was a surprise to myself when I realised that Sam’s storyline this week was my favourite. I loved the Hornhill Set and the Tarly family was cast perfectly. I even enjoyed seeing Gilly in a dress. The dynamic between the characters was brilliant and the dinner scene was both funny and uncomfortable. The dialogue was witty and delivered superbly, the atmosphere was suspenseful – and yes – I was at the edge of my seat watching Sam have dinner (And I never thought that was something I would ever say). This whole part of the episode was one of those rare instances of good and consistent writing. The final scene, in which Sam changes his mind and decides to leave with Gilly, the baby and his family’s Valyrian Steel sword ‘Heartsbane’, was unexpected (at least for me) and delivered just as well as the rest of the scenes in that storyline. I can safely say that now I am indeed hyped about where Sam’s story is headed. With the theme of family reunion (which we also had with Bran reuniting with Benjen) it is quite an interesting thing to note that Sam seems unchanged by this encounter (or despite this encounter even). His allegiance is shown to his ‘new family’ – Gilly and the baby and his taking of the ancestral sword is in my opinion not connected to his acknowledgement of his lineage. The way things are headed I am willing to bet that both Bran and Sam will reach their end of Act 2 by the end of the Season.

Another character who is also certainly headed that way is Arya. I really liked this part of the episode as well, despite the fact that when you step back it seems like it’s going nowhere. I really liked Lady Crane’s line: ‘Do you like pretending to be other people?’ As I expected, Arya chose to not kill the actress playing Cersei. However, I was surprised of how the events played out as I was expecting Arya to instead kill the Sansa actress, who was jealous of Lady Crane’s talent. Furthermore, the exchange about how she would change the actress’ last monologue (over the corpse of ‘Joffrey’) suggests that Arya has not gotten over her desire for revenge over real Cersei (and has not crossed her off her list). It is a nice touch that Arya correctly guessed the way the real Cersei reacted to her son’s death – getting angry and demanding retribution, but it is quite evident that that’s how Arya herself feels about the loss of her father. So at first glance all this storyline has achieved thus far is to show Arya’s determination to remain true to herself – surely that can’t be it! You wouldn’t put her in the path of the Faceless Men just so you can show her fail and then leave. Thus I am quite intrigued to see where this is going and I’m expecting big things from this story. It is also interesting to note that we’ve now had the first scene between Jaqen and the Waif sans Arya, which may lead to the reveal of the Faceless Men’s true agenda. Anyway, Arya has now reclaimed ‘Needle’ and is getting ready for a confrontation. This is not something that I had expected to have happened this early in the season so I’m personally quite intrigued as to how Arya’s arc will play out and what will she take from the Faceless Men upon her character’s ‘Return’.

Another surprise for me was the King’s Landing plot which was a lot weaker than I had expected. The previous few episodes had built it up with clever and dark dialogue and a few hints at people scheming and playing ‘the Game of Thrones’. Alas Littlefinger and Varys are not there now and not even the Queen of Thorns seems capable of getting on top. The closest thing we have to someone playing a long game is Margaery. It is very obvious that she is trying to manipulate Tommen and is not being truthful. It is safe to assume she is doing the High Sparrow’s bidding for now in order to save her brother. This is where the show made a huge miss in how it decided to tell that particular story. The whole scene at the steps in front of Baelor’s Sept – the confrontation between Jaimie and the High Sparrow felt weirdly confusing and anti-climactic. I had to watch the scene a second time to really get what was going on. The thing is – there was not going to be a Walk of Atonement for Margaery – and the High Sparrow was just about to announce that when Jamie and the Tyrell army interrupted him. It was not a stalemate and the High Sparrow did not change his intentions in the last minute, although the show certainly played it that way. And that is something that I consider to be a storytelling mistake – a flaw in directing. And since it played with your expectations over false grounds, the whole scene felt flat and underwhelming.

A few good things came out of that, however. First of all – Jamie is now reminded of his book plot and will hopefully learn the art of diplomacy and become a decent human being who respects human life (yeah, I know that sounds like too much to ask for). And second – now that Tommen is under the influence of the High Sparrow, it would be an interesting twist if he became the champion for the faith in Cersei’s trial by combat. That way she would have to fulfil Maggy the Frog’s prophecy and be the cause of her son’s death if she wants to win the trial. It would also be a tragic way to kill her confidence in commanding the Mountain (Ser Robert Strong). This may very well be too much of a stretch but we’ll have to wait and see.

In the midst of all that we even had a short scene to tease the Blackfish’s return to the show next episode. It was really nice to see Walder Frey arguing with his sons. This scene, no matter how short, was another example of very well thought out and witty dialogue and was really enjoyable.

Finally, we have the storyline which carries the literal meaning of the episode’s title – Dany and the dothraki. And if I have to be honest – there is a whole lot of wrong with that scene. Daenerys senses that Drogon is near, leaves and reappears on dragon-back. After that she addresses all of the dothraki, imploring them to follow her (which they were already doing) and making them all her chosen Bloodriders (which defeats the purpose of choosing Bloodriders and, well, is a huge middle finger to her actual Bloodriders who have been by her side and loyal to her from the end of Season 1). This scene was, well, unnecessary. You already had a scene of Dany winning over the dothraki – in Episode 4 and it was also pretty bad. I understand that then the point was to get across that she’s powerful even without her dragons, but showing yourself riding a dragon in front of the dothraki works better thematically so the writers have pretty much written themselves into a circle and ended up doing both scenes when only one was needed (and neither of them worked well enough in the end). Eh, At least the CGI on Drogon looked quite impressive so I can’t complain too much.

In the end in this episode we had the family reunion of Bran and Benjen, Sam choosing his new family and re-emerging just as strong after a confrontation with his father, Arya accepting that she’ll never let go of her identity and holding onto her family (metaphorically by reclaiming ‘Needle’). We also saw what Margaery is willing to do for her brother and the Lannister family torn apart. This episode served to propel all those storylines and to push them toward the end of their respective Acts 2 (wherever that might take them) by the end of the season. It was a very good episode, but I fear it will remain underrated and underappreciated because of it coming after a streak of episodes that had very big, strong and shocking moments, which ‘Blood of my Blood’ lacked. It really feels out of place in the Season 6 that has been running thus far (No one even died in this episode). And as much as I like the fact that it didn’t try too hard to introduce some cheap shock value, it would have worked better if it were stylistically consistent with the rest of the season up to now.

Thank you for reading my review of ‘Blood of my Blood’ and I hope you are as excited as I am for the coming episodes.

 

Alexander Petkov

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