“Blood of My Blood” had a lot to live up to after last week’s relevatory episode “The Door” (check out our recap here but suffice to say we’ll never say “hold the door” again without tearing up). It wasn’t quite as jam-packed as that midpoint episode, but it carried it’s own weight, covering the other half of the continents left out last week. There were still big revelations but it was quieter and more character-based.
For simplicity’s sake, these reviews will be formatted thus: we start in the furthest north and go south – covering the Wall, the North, King’s Landing and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms – and then east, to the Free Cities of Essos and finally, the Dothraki Sea and Slaver’s Bay.
Beyond-the-Wall: Bran and Meera
Meera is no Hodor and she’s having a rough go of it carrying Bran in that sled of his. The newest Three-Eyed Raven meanwhile is still in the midst of greenseeing the history of Westeros. There’s White Walkers, Ned’s death, the Red Wedding, pretty much all events in the show but most interesting, we get our first glimpse of Jaime’s Kingslaying of “Mad King” Aerys, Dany’s father. Echoing throughout is his famous last words: “Burn them all.”
In the wake of last week’s Hodor revelation, a fan theory quickly spread that Bran may have been responsible for driving the Mad King, well, mad, similar to how he caused young Wylis to become Hodor by warging-while-greenseeing. He may have been whispering “Burn them all” as what to do with bodies before they can become the Walkers’ wights.
Speaking of wights, the undead are catching up! Even Hodor couldn’t hold the door forever, though thankfully the gentle giant’s corpse is not among the pursuers.. Meera struggles, stops and seems to accept that it is coming to an end. Bran finally wakes up.
Enter Coldhands! A character though adapted out (he meets Bran’s group prior to their arrival at the Raven’s cave in the novels). Despite the undead army numbering ten thousand, the chase seems to have left them rather diffuse, allowing the single warrior to wrackup some flaming flail attacks.
He saves Meera and Bran and, sure enough, his next scene confirms a long-time fan theory thought dismissed: Coldhands is indeed be long-lost Uncle Benjen. He was killed by White Walkers on his ranging mission but saved by the Children of the Forest, who saved him from becoming a wight using the same method they used to create the White Walkers – a shard of dragonglass to the heart. The kinda-dead Benjen is a friend of the Raven’s and he’s following poor Max von Sydow’s final instructions: to take Bran to the Wall to prevent the Night’s King from entering the realms of men.
The Riverlands: The Tullys/Freys
Walder Frey is back, baby! As a huge fan of David Bradley and a huge fan of hating Walder Frey, his blackly comic return did its duty, I’d say. While his frightened-looking child wife stands by, he listens to his sons Lame Lothar and Black Walder lament the Blackfish’s capture of Riverrun. Meanwhile, the Riverland houses are rising up in rebellion and the Brotherhood Without Banners gets name-dropped for the first time in three seasons (a certain Red Priest of that merry band is due to return).
Walder the patriarch is literally Donald Drumpf personified. He hears all slights, real and imagined. Even after the Red Wedding, which was supposed to get him respect, he’s ranting about others’ laughing at him. Thank God there’s no Twitter in Westeros.
Walder, as if on cue to remind us how much we hate him, brags about his sons’ murders of Talisa and Catelyn and reintroduces poor Edmure. His plan is typical: threaten Edmure’s life to make the Blackfish give up the castle. He’ll also have the Crown’s help in the matter . . .
King’s Landing: Cersei and Jaime, the Tyrells, the Sparrows
In the Great Sept, High Sparrow continues his unorthodox tutelage of Tommen, whom he has convinced a Walk of Atonement is in her interest. And perfectly safe! (Snort) In his High Sparrow way of seeming magnanimous while playing the game of thrones, he asks Tommen if he would like to see her.
Tommen and Margaery meet and while she remains her grandma’s pupil, it’s clear Loras’ suffering has made her figure out a way out – and that way out lies through Tommen. Natalie Dormer has been underutilized since she became a prisoner of the Faith Militant but this is a good showcase scene for her, as she continues straddling that edge of is-she or isn-t-she manipulating? I genuinely didn’t know Margaery’s motivations in this scene. It’s that ambiguity that makes the character compelling.
Meanwhile, her father Mace, with the Tyrell army at his back, gives a “inspiring” speech that hilariously contrasts with Dany’s at the conclusion (more on that later). Jaime indulges the Lord of Highgarden and interrupts the High Sparrow just as he seems about to announce Margaery’s Walk of Atonement.
While the crowd of King’s Landing, the army and even cousin Lancel watch, Jaime confronts him, demanding the Tyrell siblings. Just as the situation reaches an impasse, just as violence seems inevitable, the High Sparrow relents – because he has already won. Out walks Tommen and it is revealed Magaery’s wooing of Tommen worked in the High Sparrow’s favor. The gathered many of King’s Landing applaud and Olenna Tyrell bitingly cuts at his son “That means he’s won.” Once again the High Sparrow succeeds through guile and public relations.
In the aftermath of the plot, Tommen, now a loyal ally to the Faith, strips Jaime of his command of the Kingsguard and orders him away on a mission to help the Freys take back Riverrun. He laments the situation to Cersei, who is looking quite Maleficent. While he’s worried about leaving her in her time of need (she still has a trial-by-combat to look forward to), Cersei is confident she has the perfect champion in FrankenMountain. Instead, she wants her brother-lover to take advantage of the situation to re-instill Lannister rule, to remind the Seven Kingdoms their Tywin-less house is still to be feared.
The Reach: Sam & Gilly
Sam & Gilly’s voyage ends and they finally reach the Tarly ancestral home of Horn Hill. Sam is nervous – he told them about Little Sam (albeit that it was his son, not Craster’s) but refrained from saying the mother and son are Wildlings. They received a warm welcome from his mother and sister.
Gilly gets her first costume change since 2012 (you read that right). Given Hannah Murray’s rising star, it’s good to see her get play something different for a change. The family dinner is pretty amazing; James Faulkner’s Randyll Tarly seems set to fill the sternly-stern patriarch role that needs filled after the deaths of Tywin Lannister, Stannis Baratheon and Roose Bolton. He wastes no time reminding us what kind of dick disowns his son because he’s fat.
Unfortunately, Gilly is not as practiced as Sam; when she defends him from Randyll’s insults, he susses out she is a Wildling. For all Sam’s growth, he’s still fundamentally a coward and his father is the source of his pain. The whole scene is frustrating until its put of its misery by Sam’s mom who can’t take anymore verbal abuse. Randyll tells Sam, Gilly and their “half-breed” to leave by morning.
Surprisingly, this segment ends on a happy, satisfying note as Sam takes it upon himself to leave with Gilly on his own, stealing his family’s Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane on the way to spite the old man. Just that little bit made it all worth it.
Back at “The Bloody Hand,” the adaptation-within-an-adaptation has reached Season 4 and Joffrey’s death. Arya, watching from the crowd, is quite affected by her target Lady Crane aka “Cersei” (Essie Davis) as she cradles Joffrey’s actor. The play casts Tyrion as a nefarious dwarf who killed not only Tywin but Joffrey as well. During “Tywin’s assassination,” Arya hesitantly sneaks back stage to poison Crane’s rum, as she planned last week.
Lady Crane enters from the front while Arya attempts to exist, and lo and behold, they stop for an encounter, as if to say “we’re going to make this as hard on Arya as possible.” While Arya escapes before too long, she returns, saving Crane from murder and herself from murdering. The Waif watches and returns to Jaqen with the news of Arya’s betrayal. He is sad but nonetheless allows the girl her request: to kill Arya. For the littlest Stark girl’s part, she retrieves Needle, officially reclaiming her identity as Arya Stark and putting end to the endless stick fighting (thank god).
I’m thankful and surprised this storyline wrapped up so quickly this episode. After so much wheel-spinning, it conditioned me to expect more but it actually obscured how this Bloody Hand plot furthered Arya’s development (observing actors playing roles, re-witnessing her father’s death and seeing Joffrey’s – or a version). It catalyzed her purpose, although now the Faceless Men are after her, with her hated rival the Waif eagerly looking to kill her.
The Dothraki Sea: Daenerys and Daario
Dany belatedly realizes she’s going to need at least 1,000 ships to cross the Narrow Sea with her armies to Westeros (thank god some Greyjoys are on the way!). She rides ahead, seemingly on a whim. The show, like with Jon’s resurrection, does a good job of building tension out of obvious moments and this was another.
On the back of her dragon steed, she gives the horselords a speech any leader could be proud of. It’s pretty much an amped-up version of the end of the fourth episode when Dany burned all the khals but Emilia Clarke is so good, Drogon the dragon so immaculately crafted (and huge!) and the Dothraki speech writing so compelling, that it works, especially as this week’s conclusion.
MISSING THIS WEEK:
- This episode made a point of covering the half of Westeros left out last week. As such, Jon and his entourage were missing, with previews showing his mission of gathering the Wildlings and Northerners to be the focus of next week’s episode
- There was no Ramsay, Littlefinger or Greyjoys this week. The first is a relief, as we’re just counting the days until he dies (probably in episode nine), the second is disappointing and the third understandable since the two factions of Greyjoys are both on long-term missions to reach Daenerys half-a-world away.
- No Meereen this week either and that means no Tyrion. The lack of central characters like the Northern alliance and this group contributed to the episode feeling a bit underwhelming, a fact compounded by the wallop last week left. This was not a bad episode, but it was necessarily less climactic and more table-setting.
- Five episodes and counting. Still don’t miss Dorne.
Here’s the synopsis and preview for episode seven “The Broken Man.”
“The High Sparrow eyes another target. Jaime confronts a hero. Arya makes a plan. The North is reminded.”