Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been full of surprises and “Blood of My Blood” is no exception. Each episode gives us some interesting new reveal about the past and hints about the future. Some of these moments are genuinely exciting or emotional, while others answer questions about the status of certain characters. It’s been a pretty fun season so far.
Game of Thrones has always had a focus on family relationships, since the very first episode when King Robert Baratheon brought his family up to Winterfell to meet with the Starks. We can still remember Bran’s excitement, as well as our own, as the royals rode up. Yet this is no family show. In “Blood of My Blood” we see that while family can sometimes provide tremendous support, it can also be pretty awful.
Samwell Tarly’s father Randyll reminds us just how terrible family can be. He exemplifies the worst kind of parenting. We knew Randyll forced Sam to take the Black upon threat of death, but here we see his harsh nature first hand. Sam’s mother Melessa and sister Talla are as kind and loving as their patriarch is cruel and shaming. Gilly standing up for Sam is a wonderful moment, as she tells Randyall and Sam’s brother Dickon, “He’s a greater warrior than either of you will be.” When Randyll realizes Gilly is a wildling he throws more insults around, but tells Sam that Gilly can work in the kitchen and the baby will be raised at Horn Hill.
At first if feels like Sam is being weak as his father berates him at the dinner table. Later we understand that he returned to a place he hates and bore his father’s insults because he thought it was the best way to protect Gilly and Little Sam, who are now his true family. Sam gets most of what he came for and prepares to leave them, but then he has a change of heart. He not only takes Gilly and Little Sam with him, but Heartsbane, the Valyrian steel sword that has belonged to House Tarly for 500 years. This is the Samwell Tarly we love.
North of the Wall
Meera frantically drags a vision-laden Bran through the icy woods. Hodor did hold the door, but only for so long. The wights catch up to them, but Meera and Bran are saved by a mysterious rider who fights the dead and whisks them off to safety. We’re not used to heroic rescues in Game of Thrones, but we’re hoping Season 6 will continue this trend. We’re enjoying seeing people be rescued from evil, rather than the traditional Game of Thrones pattern involving torture and death.
It turns out their savior is Bran’s uncle Benjen Stark. Though Benjen disappeared in Season 1 while ranging beyond the Wall, the show has kept his memory alive. In the Season 5 finale, Olly lied to Jon Snow with news of his uncle to lure him to his death, and this season Benjen has been a part of Bran’s visions of Winterfell of yore. Benjen was saved by the Children of the Forest, a race that may now be extinct. Benjen tells Bran he must learn to control his powers before the Night King comes: “One way or another he will find his way to the world of Men. And when he does, you will be there waiting for him. And you will be ready.” Benjen has knowledge of the Three-eyed Raven and Bran’s purpose, making him a character with much promise.
Arya Stark must take the life of actress Lady Crane in order to solidify her place at The House of Black and White and prove that she truly is “No One.” As she watches the play about the Baratheons, Lannisters, and her own family, she has moments of pain and joy, remembering all that she and her family have been through. Watching a play that involves her family and her enemies proves to be a difficult test, despite the fact that Lady Crane plays Cersei Lannister—one of the people on Arya’s kill list. Yet Arya can differentiate real life from art and genuinely likes Lady Crane.
When they discuss the play, Arya tells Lady Crane, “The Queen loves her son more than anything. And he was taken from her before she could say goodbye. She wouldn’t just cry. She would be angry. She would want to kill the person who did this to her.” Her description of Cersei’s thirst for vengeance reflects her own. She saves Lady Crane and retrieves Needle from its hiding place. It’s been a hard sell to think she could ever give up being Arya, but the fact she kept Needle stowed away all this time was certainly an indicator of her true heart. All that stands in her way is the House of Black and White. The waif seems out to get Arya, but who knows what her true intention is, as so much still remains hidden. Let’s hope that Arya’s decision leads to another Stark family reunion.
Despite the Lannister/Tyrell plan to use the Tyrell army to take the Faith Militant down, the High Sparrow remains one step ahead of them. By using Queen Margaery, the High Sparrow manages to make King Tommen a convert. Was this his plan all along? We were really hoping to see the end of the Faith Militant. It feels like King’s Landing is the least interesting of all the storylines, yet we seem to visit it every week. Tommen punishes his uncle/father for challenging the faith by stripping him of his King’s Guard rank and sending him to help the Freys take back Riverrun. Perhaps being freed of the limitations of the King’s Guard will create some new interest with what can be a fascinating character. While Jon Snow was freed of his vows to the Night’s Watch through death, it takes a betrayal for Jaime Lannister to be free of the obligations of the King’s Guard.
The villainous Walder Frey, orchestrator of the Red Wedding, makes an appearance in “Blood of My Blood.” We’re reminded how awful this man is as be berates his sons for losing Riverrun to the Blackfish. The Blackfish isn’t the only surviving Tully, as Lord Edmure Tully is still being held captive at the Twins. Walder Frey plans to send Edmure home, but let’s hope it’s not in a box. Like Gilly, we’re angry that in Game of Thrones “horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it.” So here’s to hoping that Walder Frey gets his comeuppance. And soon.
The Dothraki Sea
Daenerys Targaryen is leading an army of Dothraki back to Meereen, with Daario Naharis by her side. Daarios believes Daenerys is more of a conqueror than a ruler. It could be a backhanded compliment except that Daario probably prefers war over peace. Daenerys makes another of her grand entrances after she senses that Drogon is nearby. From Drogon’s back she calls on the Dothraki to follow her across the sea to take back the Seven Kingdoms. The men scream and cheer, eager to become the blood of her blood. She is on a dragon, after all. This is the Daenerys we love to watch. Though we enjoy her warmonger speeches, they do start to feel a little old considering she’s made no progress in getting to Westeros. Perhaps the Ironborn will conveniently solve that whole thousand-ship problem for her.
Blood of My Blood
Let’s not take for granted how impressive the filming and effects are on Game of Thrones. Seeing the majestic Reach and an impressive Horn Hill was visual eye candy. Despite our issues with King’s Landing, the scenes on the steps of the Sept are artfully filmed, using perspective to enhance power differentials. The wights remain genuinely scary, despite how many times we’ve seen them by now. And then there’s Drogon. Though the integration with live elements isn’t perfect, it’s easy to forget he’s CGI. Certainly Game of Thrones is the most spectacular show on television in terms of visuals.
Season 6 of Game of Thrones has been terrific to watch. Though there are some slower stories (we’re looking at you, King’s Landing), overall each episode has given us some thrills and chills. “Blood of My Blood” surprised us with Benjen Stark, broke our hearts for Sam, and rallied us through Drogon. Freed of many of the restrictions of the book series, Game of Thrones is taking flight and we can feel its joy.
Read our recap of “Blood of My Blood” here.