Game of Thrones: 606 “Blood of My Blood” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
There’s not much to levy in the way of criticism towards the show this week with regard to this specific episode. One thing that should be noted however is the fact that Dorne has yet to feature since the shock twists in the first episode of the series. Now half a series later we haven’t seen any developments about it, this is no worry to me thankfully as I was never really invested in the narrative there. Obviously the show is not afraid to play the long game when it comes to gaps in stories, Bran and Rickon are proof of that. In fact revisiting storylines forms somewhat of a theme this week with three familiar faces and another heavily mentioned and will return next week.
Whilst we don’t visit Jon and Sansa (or have any scenes set in the North for that matter), events surrounding Riverrun will be sure to have a massive impact on them. In light of the recent Stark resurgence, the decision to reintroduce Walder Frey architect of the biggest Stark defeat in the history of the show is a timely one. Despite only being mentioned for the first time last week the events at Riverrun have gained a lot of momentum in a very short space of time. What was introduced to us in a single line by Littlefinger has already developed into something potentially massive with at least three of the great houses currently involved: The Lannisters and The Freys against The Tullys. Given the fact that Sansa has sent Brienne into the mix it is not illogical to presume that the Stark forces could get involved too. This is made even more likely by the fact that Edmure Tully (brother of Catelyn Stark and Lysa Arryn) has been held captive by the Freys since the Red Wedding. This makes it more likely that the Starks, and Littlefinger (with the armies of the Vale) could actually get involved in the conflict. This is an interesting development as it has been looking all season like the big battle was going to be for Winterfell and it probably still will. It should be interesting to see where the show goes with it, but it is likely that our protagonists in the North will have to face a tough choice.
Our other returning character this week hadn’t been seen since Series One and featured in Bran’s story. Unfortunately this surprise was one which had been spoiled for me in the week before the episode had aired due to casting lists doing the rounds online. If this lessened the impact of the reveal, it was only marginal. Logically someone had to appear from nowhere to help Meera carry Bran: there was no way they were going to let such an important character succumb to the dead so early. Establishing a believable reason for why Benjen was gone for so long was never going to be an easy task, yet the show did it with ease and it in a way which expanded on the nature of the White Walkers. Perhaps the best thing about the Bran scenes however was the revelation that he is still able to interact with the past which means we might actually get answers to some of the lingering questions so far this series. Benjen is also confirmed as working for the Three-Eyed Raven which is a title now passed to Bran following its previous owner’s death last week.
Bran’s visions showed us the Mad King, which in light of Daenerys’ story this week I can only assume was meant to make us draw parallels between the two Targaryen leaders. To summarise Dany’s adventure this week, she leaves her army of Dothraki to find Drogon, flies back and delivers a rousing speech about conquering Westeros. Perhaps we might finally be about to see Dany make her much anticipated journey across the narrow sea, but I’m doubtful it will go quite as simply as she described. It is the change in her over this series which is of most interest especially in light of Daario’s comment this week. He correctly points out that Dany has become a conqueror rather than a leader, and her speech here goes on to affirm that suspicion. Perhaps you could argue that there has always been glimpse of her father in her throughout the show, but this week was for me when it was most evident. Inclusion of this scene in this episode is likely more than just a coincidence too, when analysed with the rest of the episode it delivers a much bigger message, but more on that later.
Arya removing Needle from its rocky tomb has to go down as one of my favourite scenes so far this season. The sheer relief that her Faceless Man arc is now over is enough to make me love this week’s outing alone. However the narratives stint in Braavos did more than just that. It showed us that Arya will stand up for what she believes in even if it gets her trouble or goes against what is expected of her. Going against the grain has been her defining characteristic right from the start, but the resolve and nobility is something I associate more with Ned. Again I doubt it was a coincidence that the subject of the play which framed this particular narrative was centred on the events of Series One and Ned’s death. Arya’s desire to do what she believed was the right thing has put her in the crosshairs of The Waif who is out for revenge. Let’s hope Arya has a better fate than her father. By now you’ve probably spotted the pattern that unites this week’s narrative strands, but I’m going to hold off until the end of the review to discuss it in full.
Elsewhere we have the Tarlys, which introduces to a handful of distinct new characters and an exciting new location. In truth there isn’t an awful lot to say about these particular scenes other than it was nice to see Sam get one over on his abusive father and it was an entertaining means to an end of the protagonists of the series another Valyrian Steel sword which will be useful when the inevitable White Walker Invasion occurs.
Before we go to King’s Landing this week, I want to go back to the Series Four finale: The Children. Not because of anything that happened within the episode, but because of the title. As many people commented at the time (including my predecessor on this very site) it was a very apt title because that is what the show has always been about, it’s Children. In the analysis of each of the characters so far this week (except Sam) I have commented on how each of them are mirroring the role of an older character who it just so happens in each case is dead. This is the theme that unifies this episode and actually extends out into the rest of the series meshing it all together and giving the impression that there is a clear endpoint and that we are actually getting close to it.
This week in King’s Landing sees the defeat of Jaime, Cersei and the Tyrells. Incidentally these are the last of the so called old guard that are still in power in an area of Westeros we frequently visit. This changeover is something that has accelerated rapidly this series with the death of Roose Bolton, and Balon Greyjoy. Jaime has been stripped of his role in the King’s Guard and Walder Frey looks an almost cert to finally get his Just Desserts for the Red Wedding. Now with Cersei set to face trail, and the Tyrells publically shamed, it is the Children who hold power everywhere in Westeros. With the shows Children finally having control over Westeros’ power base it looks like the show is phasing into a new chapter where we eagerly anticipate what they will do with it. Riverrun is unique in that it seems to be the only exception to this general trend within the show, but even it looks set to face a massive shake-up within the next few episodes.
As for King’s Landing itself, my initial reaction to the situation was confusing because I jumped to the conclusion that everyone acted out of character without giving it too much thought. The Tryells were obviously always going to attempt to rescue Margaery from the High Sparrow regardless of what else happened. Cersei whilst she would probably have got satisfaction from Margaery having to undertake a walk of shame was always likely to forgo that pleasure as her hatred towards the High Sparrow is much greater. The spanner in the works then was Tommen who decided to side with the High Sparrow and stand down his uncle/father and the Tyrell’s. Is it really a surprise that Tommen was turned so easily? Not at all, we have to consider the fact that he would anything for Margaery. After all last season he marched to the High Sparrow demanding the release of Loras on Margaery’s request, something he did not do when his own mother was in the same situation. The desire to do anything for the woman he loves is not hard to determine where it comes from given the fact that his father is Jaime ‘The Things I do for Love’ Lannister. Margaery’s motives and sudden change of heart from last week are less clear. However given the Tyrell queen’s penchant for playing games it is not unreasonable to assume she is up to something here. Given the length of time she spent imprisoned it is likely that her resentment towards Cersei has grown, it was Cersei who armed the Faith Militant in the first place, and the one who organised the witness that got her arrested in the first place. Everything makes sense on the assumption that Margaery had decided she needed to do whatever it takes to get out captivity to prevent Cersei having uncontested access to Tommen. As for the High Sparrow, we will never know if he actually intended to sentence a Walk of Shame or not, he saw an opportunity to further increase his popularity with the people and took it.
We have to consider the outcomes. I’ve already touched on how Cersei Jaime and the Tyrells lost and what that potentially represents. However for Tommen himself it actually turned out to be a really good decision. Consider last season where he was called a bastard and an abomination by the very same crowd that were cheering him here. Add in the fact that Jaime is now out of King’s Landing, so the potential civil war he was agitating to start has now been averted. By allying himself with the faith he has increased his popularity and by extension his support. The people love Margaery too, so there is no reason why the two can’t go on from here to have a successful leadership. With Cersei also suffering humiliation and the loss of Jaime here, it’s an ideal outcome for Margaery too. Worth noting at this point too how effective an antagonist the High Sparrow is pitting characters against each other and showing you don’t need to be a Ramsay Bolton to be a good villain.
I really don’t like giving things the full ten as it implies perfection which this episode wasn’t (there have been better episodes of the show). Yet there’s nothing I can fault with this episode which would warrant reducing the score. There was a feel of more than just an episode to this one, it felt like the beginning of a new era of the show and the beginning of the conclusion of a long running arc within the show. It’s hard not to get the feeling either that pieces are starting to be moved to where the show needs them to be to begin the endgame which is exciting and opens up the opportunity for more episodes of this quality. I have a feeling I might be handing out a few more full marks before everything raps up with Gendry sitting on the Iron Throne!
That last part was a joke, I can’t see the show actually ending that way. Next week I have exams both Monday and Tuesday, so the review will probably be a little bit on the late side. To make up for it though, I have decided to include five predictions for the rest of the series.
- Jaime Lannister Dies – this one is nothing more than a gut feeling based on the fact that he’s been sent to Riverrun.
- Cersei Loses her Trail by Combat – with rumours of the Hound making a return and Cersei indicating that the Mountain will be her champion I have a suspicion that the Hound may finally get the better of his brother.
- Littlefinger & the Tullys save the day just when Jon’s Army Looks Beaten – This one is probably the most random prediction based on the fact I can’t see Ramsay defending Winterfell twice yet at the same time can’t see it being made easy for Jon.
- Daenerys Crosses the Narrow Sea – has to happen sooner or later, now that Tyrion has seemingly sorted out Meereen, there is nothing to keep her there.
- The Last Scene will show the White Walkers South of the Wall – How many times are we going to hear winter is coming until it actually does. We have already seen Bran allow them to pass something which magic had previously blocked them from. What happens when he ends up south of the wall?
Disclaimer: I will accept no responsibility if none of these come true!