“All hope is lost. All joy is gone. And there is no tomorrow.”
Who is conning whom in “Blood of My Blood”? This first episode in the second half of this season six of Game of Thrones sees a lot of people pivoting, changing course from what they’ve done up until now into something new. And there was a firm focus on the past this week, with characters we haven’t seen in ages – Walder Frey, BENJEN STARK!! – appearing, reminding us that all those storylines from before (Robb’s murder, Ned’s youth, the tragedy of the Tully family) are still important.
Don’t forget them, don’t write them off, don’t push them aside. Every piece is important, like the Three-Eyed Raven told Bran Stark. Every piece matters. And who cares if you’re not ready? The world will keep on going without you.
So what went down in “Blood of My Blood”? Let’s get into it.
+ “You’re the Three-Eyed Raven now.” WELCOME BACK, BENJEN STARK, A.K.A. COLDHANDS!!!! The long-lost younger brother of Ned Stark, considered disappeared since back in the first season when Jon Snow joined him at the Wall, reappears in our lives this week, saving Bran and Meera from the army of wights that were chasing them. If Benjen looks half-dead, that’s kind of because he is—stabbed by a White Walker with a sword of ice, healed by the Children of the Forest with dragonglass, and then partnered with the Three-Eyed Raven since.
He’s been living beyond the Wall for years, and Benjen knows better than most that “the dead don’t rest”—and the Night’s King is not going to stop searching for Bran. Especially now that the Three-Eyed Raven is dead (you’ll be missed, Max von Sydow) and Bran has effectively assumed his title—and his responsibilities.
What were in the flashes that Bran saw? Things from his lifetime that he had seen (his own fall from the tower, pushed out by Jaime Lannister); things that happened during his lifetime that he had not experienced (Robb’s, Cat’s, and Ned’s deaths); and things that happened before his time (Dany’s father, the Mad King Aerys, yelling for wildfire to be used to burn everyone; in fact, that’s how he killed Ned’s other brother, the elder Brandon, who was originally supposed to marry Cat, and their father Rickard, who we saw in last week’s flashback in Winterfell). Was Bran trapped in time? Did he see anything from the future? Are we ever going to get the second half of that Tower of Joy flashback, goddammit?!
For now, though, the plan seems to be for Benjen to continue protecting Meera and Bran and guide them to the Wall. “You must learn to control it, before the Night’s King comes,” Benjen says to Bran of his abilities, and if these Starks end up meeting Jon Snow and Sansa at the Wall, my heart might burst. Yes, winter is coming—but if anyone can meet that threat head-on, it’s the goddamn Starks.
+ “Shame. The girl had many gifts.” Well! This was an anticlimactic step forward in Arya’s story, wasn’t it? Don’t get me wrong. I’m fairly sure ALL of us are sick of watching her spar with the Waif and only receive small tidbits of training from Jaqen every so often. Shouldn’t learning how to be an assassin be more exciting? But I’m surprised, given all she’s been through, that Arya would implode her time at the House of Black and White in this way.
What was it about Lady Crane that swayed Arya not to kill her? Was it because there was no moral justification for it? Was it because Lady Crane had never wronged her, and Arya only wants to kill for revenge, not for the highest bidder? Or was it because Lady Crane was an older woman who was kind to her—perhaps reminding her of her murdered mother, Catelyn? Was it because her question to Arya, “Do you like pretending to be other people?”, hit too close to home? Regardless, Arya foiling her own poisoning attempt and reclaiming Needle probably means that her time training in Braavos is effectively over. Will we see another major fight between her and the Waif before she leaves? Probably. And I’m guessing Needle will have a part to play in that.
As always, fun to see how the mummers handle the past, and how the audience reacts to their depiction. Did anyone else notice that Arya was the only person in the audience laughing during Joffrey’s death scene? And that even the actors were disgusted by the audience cheering during Ned Stark’s beheading? At least they’re kind of enlightened, even if their Tywin death scene, complete with defecating sound effects, was as hilariously gross as possible.
+ “You’re not what he thinks you are, Sam.” Westeros is full of terrible parents, but man, Randyll Tarly is up there in terms of awfulness. The parent who, in GRRM’s books, used to chain up Sam because he wanted to be a maester (“No son of House Tarly will ever wear a chain. The men of Horn Hill do not bow and scrape to petty lords,” he told Sam in the books, before eventually stripping him of his name and his claim to Horn Hill, forcing him to join the Night’s Watch) showcases all angles of his terrible self in “Blood of My Blood.”
Aside from the obvious stuff, like mocking Sam’s size (no extra serving of bread?!!! NOT COOL BRO), Randyll also cleverly deduced that Gilly is not, in fact, a regular Northern girl, but a wildling, a bit of truth that infuriates Papa Tarly. And as much as Gilly tries to defend Sam (“He killed a Thenn. He killed a White Walker. He’s a greater warrior than either of you will ever be”), the reality is that Randyll is never going to change his mind about Sam, and Horn Hill is never going to be home.
So Sam and Gilly leave Randyll’s offer to let Gilly work in the kitchens and let baby Sam be raised as a Tarly and set off on their own—to the Citadel, I suppose? Where it’s not allowed for maesters-in-training to have women? Curious about how that will play out. But most importantly of all, Sam takes Heartsbane, House Tarly’s Valyrian steel sword, with them. What is our Valyrian steel count at this point? Sam now has Heartsbane; Jon still has Longclaw; Brienne has Oathkeeper; Tommen has Widow’s Wail. Three out of four isn’t bad for Jon’s side against the White Walkers, I’d say.
Oh, and anyone else notice that Sam’s mother mentioned the Tarlys entertaining the Umbers? Who are now aligned with the Boltons? So yeah, that’s a thing.
+ “The gods have a plan for us all.” Well, well. The High Sparrow effectively took a shit all over the Lannisters and the Tyrells this week, didn’t he? The grand plan cooked up by Olenna, Kevan, Jaime, and Cersei goes nowhere quite quickly once the High Sparrow reveals he’s already swayed Tommen to his side through Margaery, a union of “the crown and the faith” that effectively keeps the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant around—and in power.
How did we get to this point? Well, a lot of it depends on whether you think Margaery has actually been changed by the High Septon’s uber-hypocritical talk about piety, or whether you think she’s playing the long game to get back to being queen. I’m going with the latter, because I refuse to underestimate Margaery—she knows how to work men, as we’ve all seen, and no matter what, the High Sparrow is still a man. He wants to believe in his own power and in his own myth, and if Margaery can give that to him by pretending to be newly faithful, than she will. And why would she care, or feel bad about, duping Tommen, too? Tommen is a child. Their marriage is a loveless one, at least on her end. If she can manipulate him, she will.
So nope, Margaery doesn’t have to do a walk of shame through King’s Landing, and yup, it seems like Loras will still be locked up for a while for his “sins.” But notice how little of substance Margaery actually says: She tells Tommen that “there were so many lies in those stories … it’s such a relief to let go of those lies,” and she admits that she was “good at seeming good,” but there are no details here. She certainly isn’t admitting to having helped kill Tommen’s older brother Joffrey, is she? And I will be very surprised if that truth comes out now.
But with Tommen’s newfound faith also comes his dismissal of uncle/father Jaime, who led the Kingsguard and the Tyrell army to that doomed faceoff against the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. Basically banned from King’s Landing, Jaime is sent off to the Riverlands, where he’s to help in the siege against Riverrun, taken back by Catelyn’s uncle the Blackfish. He’ll be separated from Cersei, but no matter, since they’re totally still banging (gross) and totally still up each other’s conceited asses (disappointing) and totally still plotting against everyone else (boring). “We’ve always been together. We’ll always be together. We’re the only two people in the world,” Cersei says, and yawn, holy shit, they are exhausting.
+ “I take what is mine.” It’s become a trend for this season to end on badass Dany scenes, hasn’t it? And on the surface, this one, with Dany arriving on Drogon to give her khalasar a great hype speech, is pretty excellent:
“I am not a khal. I will not choose three blood riders. I choose you all. Will you give me the Seven Kingdoms, the gift Khal Drogo promised me, before the Mother of Mountains? Are you with me? Now and always?”
But, if we’re going to look at this critically, Daario isn’t wrong, necessarily. Dany isn’t a great ruler—Meereen is teetering on the edge of collapse. The rest of Slaver’s Bay went back to slaving. She chained two of her children, Viserion and Rhaegal, and hasn’t gone back to set them free. She could possibly be a better conqueror than she is a leader, and if that’s the case, how long could a hypothetical hold over the Seven Kingdoms really last? I mean, I’m not going to shit talk the dragons. I’m just asking.
And no matter what, to even get to Westeros, Dany is going to need those 1,000 ships—which Euron might just be using to chase Theon and Yara to Slaver’s Bay. Where the Khaleesi and her dragons will be waiting. How convenient.
And some odds and ends:
+ So Loras was locked up by the High Sparrow for being gay, Margaery for knowing about Loras’s gayness, and Cersei for having sex with Lancel. Has Jaime NEVER ASKED Cersei why she was locked up? Has she not told him? Has she lied? Because I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be too pleased about Cersei having sex with their kid cousin behind his back. In the books, this information is a big deal, but I wonder if the show will ever do anything with it. Maybe when Jamie leaves for Riverrun?
+ Loved Mace’s total cluelessness about what the High Sparrow had just pulled off with Tommen and Margaery. “He’s beaten us, that’s what’s happening,” was perfect from Olenna.
+ Oh hey, Walder Frey, you miserable old tool!
+ Oh hey, Edmure Tully! Hey boo! Glad you could take a break from Showtime’s Outlander to join us!
+ “The Brotherhood Without Banners is rallying the commoners against us.” UM, ARE THEY, WALDER? BECAUSE THAT GIVES ME HOPE FOR ONE CERTAIN BASTARD AND ONE CERTAIN LADY TO REJOIN THIS SHOW, GODDAMMIT.
+ “She wouldn’t just cry. She’d be angry. She’d want to kill the person who did this to her.” Arya, are you describing Cersei … or yourself? Dun dun dun!
+ “A person just doesn’t feel welcome at that point.” Oh, Sam. Yes, I imagine your father giving you the ultimatum between being killed and joining the Night’s Watch would certainly feel that way.
+ Gilly doesn’t know how to use cutlery? What did she use to eat at the Wall? Come on.
+ “I think our father could learn a thing or two from your father.” You know, Talla, I’m just going to go ahead and say Randyll and Craster are even on the shitty parents scale. Let’s not pit them against each other.
+ “It will be a trial by combat. I have the Mountain.” Interesting how the show handled this moment between Jaime and Cersei, which is so pivotal—and relationship-altering—in the books. Sure, Jaime has a surprised reaction here, but that’s about it. Very different dynamic overall between the Lannister twins right now, in comparison with GRRM’s source material.
+ And finally, in the clips for next week’s episode, “The Broken Man”: Jaime (and Bronn!) arrive at Riverrun and meet with the Blackfish (much love for the line “As long as I’m standing, the war is not over”); Olenna blames Cersei for what’s happened with Tommen and Margaery; Sansa is encouraging other houses to join her cause and talking up her Stark status; Theon and Yara are plotting; Tormund is trying to convince the wildlings to fight for Jon; and Davos notes, “Make no mistake, the dead are coming.”