Beyond any thematic or visual symmetries, the biggest common thread across Season 6 so far has been a sense of direction. Thrones has spent the last five seasons scattering our favorite characters across both Westeros and Essos but with The Night’s King and the White Walkers on the march, it’s about time for things to pull themselves back together – and they are. It’s an approach that’s proved a shot in the arm for the series and “Blood of my Blood” continues this trend.
After last week’s intense “Hold the Door” sequence, the episode picked right up where it left off with Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Bran (Isaac Hampstead-Wright) escaping through the forests of Beyond the Wall. Their pursuers close in but the timely arrival of a mysterious, but bad-ass, stranger – who we later learn is the slightly-zombified Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) – saves them.
Though long-theorized by fans, it was spectacularly satisfying to see this particular loose-thread get picked up again. What’s more, his promise to see Bran to The Wall sets us up nicely for a big climactic battle to close out the season.
Elsewhere, “Blood of my Blood” spends a downright impressive amount of time to fleshing out Sam(John Bradley)’s story. There’s a lot of commitment here: We spend a fair bit of time with his family, get a firsthand look at his relationship with his father (James Faulkner) and see him pushed to take another big step forward as a character. His decision to steal away his father’s Valyrian steel sword and Gilly (Hannah Murray) away in the night seems was a great beat (“He can damn well try”) and it made me want to see where his story goes next in a way that’s usually reserved for characters like Jon or Tyrion.
On the other side of things, this was also storyline that weighed the episode down the most. It felt noticeably slower and while it had a dramatic payoff, it just wasn’t operating in the same league as the rest of the episode’s big moments. It’s cool to see Sam growing as a character but there are so many other characters competing for screen-time in Thrones at this stage that it can’t really afford to dally like this.
Arya makes for a great example here. It was unexpected but compelling to see her so affected by the performance of Lady Crane (Essie Davis). The pair’s follow-up discussion about how the real Cersei would act really let Masie Williams‘ talents shine in a way we haven’t seen since she parted ways with The Hound. In any case, her retrieval of Needle promising big plot movement for her in the episodes to come. It’s finally time for Arya to snap back into the main plot like a tightly-wound vengeance-knotted rubber band.
Speaking of the names at the top of Arya’s list, we had some pretty major and tumultuous movement in Kings Landing in this episode. The tension between the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and Lannisters and Tyrells came to a head and in decidedly un-Thrones fashion, it didn’t end in bloodshed. Rather, the High Sparrow simply outplayed both houses by forging an alliance between the faith militant and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). After seasons of waiting to see the Lannisters get trounced, their whole house of cards fell apart so suddenly it was almost surreal.
Another cool loose-end that got picked up this episode was that of Walder Frey (David Bradley). Apart from the recent mention of The Blackfish retaking Riverrun, we haven’t spent a lot of time in the riverlands since the Red Wedding and it was great to return, even if Edmure (Tobias Menzies) could be in better shape. In any case, with both Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) now poised to make their way there, expect things to heat up in the riverlands.
Not much movement from Dany this week but the episode did end things on a high note. Her speech atop Drogon was one of the most powerful she’s delivered in some time. With her Dothraki, Unsullied, Second Sons and the Free Men behind her, it feels like Dany is poised to make her move – all she needs now are some ships.
If only there was a major house with naval power and a desperate need of allies.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- That flaming flail was a nice touch. Flails haven’t gotten a lot of play in the series overall and this was a cool and immediate way to distinguish Benjen from the other frosty northern warrior-types on the show
- “I am not dead yet, unfortunately – for you!” is just a roller-coaster ride of a taunt by Walder Frey and I can’t help but get aboard
- “He’s beaten us. That’s what happening” Diana Rigg, this show does not deserve you.
- Maybe a little too much time spent with Sam.
- Having another ‘teaser’ vision with Bran felt a bit underwhelming after just how much information we’ve gotten out of recent adventures. Give us R + L = J already!
- There have been so many great awkward dinner scenes in this series. There was that charming post-Ned supper between Cersei & Sansa. Joffery’s unforgettable wedding feast. That time The Hound’s lust for chicken got the better of him. “Family Dinner at Horn Hill” sits nicely among them.
Episode MVP: Benjen Stark! HE’S ALIVE!
Game of Thrones screens in Australia on Foxtel every Monday at 11am.