Sometimes a show just needs a breather: after a few weeks of mayhem, and plot twists, the writers have to settle things down in order to start the next arc. These episodes are bridges from one plot to the next, and this is exactly what Blood of my Blood is to season six.
Some of the big players are absent this week: no Jon and Sansa, no Tyrion and the gang in Meereen, still no Dorn, and no Ramsay terrorising Rikon which seems like a bloodthirsty promise waiting to come. Instead we have an episode that focuses on family, and the different types of family Game of Thrones represents.
We begin with Bran still in a trace state being dragged through the icy forest by Meera with an army of the dead closing in. Bran is continually repeating the death of each member of his family, Rob and Caitlyn at the Red Wedding, and his father at the hands of Joffrey. Deaths which he wasn’t present for which makes it all the more significant that since Max Von Sydow promoted him to the Three-Eyed-Raven, that this is what Bran chooses to see. As the dead are closing in and all seeming lost they are saved by a black rider with some niftily combustible weaponry that he uses to drive of the threat. As we find out later in the episode, this black rider is Benjen Stark, Bran’s uncle who was lost all the way back in season one. It turns out that the thing that everyone thought happened to him: killed by the White Walkers, was partially true. As he was left bleeding to death he was saved by the children of the Forest, the very beings that, it was revealed last week, created the white walkers. Benjen was called to the Three Eyed Raven, now Bran, by the grief that Bran felt through watching his family being murdered. A grief that Benjen could share.
The return of Benjen also has something in common with Deanery’s plot for this episode. Despite the fact that she’s given a mere three minutes of screen time, she makes full use with a rousing speech to galvanise the Dothraki and some impressive dragon riding. What’s similar to Benjen is the fact that this season is again alluding to events of the past, especially those of season one. This is a trick they pulled with The Book of Stranger: re-appropriating Dany’s baptism of fire, but this week it doesn’t have the same effect. Despite the excellent special effects, and Emilia Clarke (who’s best acting comes when she shouts in made up languages), this sequence just feels like killing time. It should feel more significant, the title of the episode is a reference to Dothraki blood rider’s term of endearment for their Khal, and its effect is to bond the Dothraki to her as her chosen family of warriors, but it’s just an excuse to keep Dany out of Meereen for another week.
From chosen families, and reunions, to poor Sam and his awkward dinner party. Sam’s father has cast a formidable shadow over everything Sam has done since his introduction. His intelligence and bravery fly in the face of how useless and cowardly his father considers him to be. Which culminates in the grand television tradition of the horrendous dinner. Seriously if you’re ever invited to eat with the Tarly’s politely decline. It’s a brutal reminder that in every family you have a role to play. Sam’s aforementioned heroics have no place in the way in which his parents and siblings see him. The hilarity from his brother, and ignorance of his father when Gilly reveals Sam’s defeat of the White Walker is enough to put Sam right back into the role of disappointment. His lack of action as his father verbally tears down Gilly and himself speaks to the psychological hold this cruel man has over his son. Sam gets the last laugh though, typically in secret; because c’mon he’s not up to a face-to face confrontation yet, as he, Gilly, and little Sam leave in the night with his family sword. A sword which is made from Valerian steel so Sam is a Jedi of Westeros now. Stop laughing, he totally is.
Perhaps the episodes best plot is that of Aria. Her training under the tutelage of the Many-Faced God probably sounded better on paper, and the idea of Aria a faceless assassin was a cool idea, but it would have taken every facet of what makes Aria a great character away from the show. Aria has a purpose: she has a kill list, and a signature weapon in Needle. In her abandoning her training we have a way to keep Aria and her skills. The point is with Aria it’s all personal, to serve the Many-Faced God would have robbed the character of her poignancy, we want to see her triumph at the end of the day, not the girl.
Finally in Kings Landing Tommen further proves how easy he is to manipulate by forming the unholiest of holy alliances between the church and the crown. The good news is that this means we have a few more weeks of Jonathan Pryce thesping it up before the Mountain pulverises him. The bad news is that for the second plot in a row Jamie Lannister has been rendered useless. Dorn was a bust and now Kings Landing is too. What’s next for Jaime? Well he’s going to fight the Blackfish, Caitlyn’s uncle who had a pivotal role in capturing him in season 2. Great idea everyone.
6/10 – All in all this episode has been a damp squib and despite the seasons need to regroup, Blood of my Blood is a disappointment to an audience that demands more.