With the tragic and heart-wrenching ending that is thrust upon us during the final sequence of “The Door”, it’s a difficult task to return to the show the next week with one’s head held high. Perhaps this is why “Blood Of My Blood” is a dialogue-heavy episode with a noticeable lack of death (with the exception of the few unlucky wights that bear the full force of Benjen’s flaming weapon).
That being said, this episode certainly doesn’t lack in the progression of storylines. Among them include the awkward Tarly dinner to welcome home Sam and Gilly, Arya’s poisoning failure and ultimate questioning of herself as No One, and the merging of the Crown and the Faith by King Tommen aka Mr. Malleable.
We’re also reintroduced to a couple of characters we haven’t seen in quite some time. Benjen Stark swoops in and saves Bran and Meera from certain death at the hands of the relentless wights. And back at the Twins, Walder Frey concocts a plan to retake Riverrun from Brynden Tully aka the Blackfish, using none other than his nephew and current Frey prisoner, Edmure Tully, as a bargaining chip.
The beginning of “Blood Of My Blood” picks up right where “The Door” leaves off. Meera is trudging through the snowy forest and struggling to tug along the unconscious Bran, who continues to process the data that the recently-deceased Three-Eyed Raven manages to upload to him before the Night King does him in. In a couple of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ montages, we get a quick peek at the information Bran is processing, comprises both flashbacks and flash-forwards. A couple of the notable images include the Mad King on the Iron Throne (and a repetition of his command to “Burn them all!”), the slaying of the Mad King by the Kingslayer himself, Hardhome, and various shots of wildfire, including a large wildfire explosion in a storage cellar (which we now know is footage from the Sept explosion in episode 10; read a full analysis of Bran’s visions here).
As Meera falls to the ground out of exhaustion, a group of wights surround her and Bran. Just as it looks like it could be the end for the traveling duo, Uncle Benjen swoops in on horseback and takes out a few of the undead with his awesome sickle and flaming flail. When the coast is momentarily clear, Benjen hoists Bran and Meera onto his horse and rides away out of danger.
Later in the episode, Benjen takes off his disguise, revealing his true identity to his nephew, much to the delight of Bran. Benjen also admits that he was destined to become a member of the undead army, having been stabbed by a White Walker’s sword and left to die. However, the Children of the Forest managed to save him from absolute death by inserting dragonglass (the very material used to create the White Walkers) into his wound and reversing the Walkers’ magic. Dragonglass giveth, and dragonglass taketh away…
Flying over to The Reach, we join Sam and Gilly, who have survived the tumultuous seas and are now en route via carriage to the Tarly’s home in Horn Hill. Sam is understandably nervous as he faces a reunion with his father, Randyll Tarly, who previously stripped away Sam’s inheritance and claim to the throne. As he reminds Gilly of this gloomy fact, he also reveals that he intentionally neglected to mention to his family that Gilly is a wildling as a means of protecting her from Randyll’s hatred toward her kind. He further prepares his wildling partner by asking that she refer to Little Sam as his own child, instead of the product of Craster’s incest-driven desires.
Despite all of these anxiety-inducing facts, Sam and Gilly’s initial welcoming to the Tarly home by Sam’s mother, Melessa, and sister, Talla, is nothing short of wonderful. They both take an immediate liking to Gilly, who is whisked away to clean up and dress for what they hope will be a nice family dinner.
Later, at said dinner, we have the pleasure of meeting Sam’s younger brother, Dickon (played by Freddie Stroma in a fleeting performance, recast to Tom Hopper for the upcoming season 7). Having just returned from a hunt with father Randyll, young Dickon can’t help but brag about he and his father’s successful hunt.
The conversation then turns to Sam and the plan he’s formulated to study to become a maester, and then return to Castle Black to practice his new craft. As someone who quite obviously values a type of man who fights for a living, Randyll is less than enthused about Sam’s new life chapter, even going so far as to put down his son for being overweight. Sam defends his decision, but his claims fall upon deaf ears as Randyll refuses to take his son’s perspective.
One of the lighter (but equally as awkward) moments of this dinner comes courtesy of Gilly, who momentarily seems as if she’s completely lost holding her silverware – a subtle but effective nod to her wildling roots. However, her secret manages to expose itself to the Tarly clan, courtesy of an inadvertent comment Gilly makes about coming “down” to Castle Black. Randyll puts two and two together, and subsequently unleashes upon the new arrivals with a spew of hatred. While most of his tirade is composed of hurtful messages aimed at Sam and his wildling love, he does at one point bring to their attention the Valyrian steel family sword Heartsbane, which stands perched on top of the dining hall’s mantle. This ultimately proves to be a foolish mention, as Sam later steals the sword from the mantle as he and Gilly escape from the Tarly household.
Away to Braavos we go, where we meet up with Arya as she once again attends a performance of Lady Crane’s troupe of mummers, her mission still to poison Crane’s drink. This time, the performers re-enact Joffrey’s Purple Wedding poisoning, much to the delight of Arya, and only Arya (she is the only one among the crowd who smiles at Joffrey’s death).
Arya then makes her way backstage with the vile of poison, and manages to pour the lethal concoction into Lady Crane’s drink right before the mummers leave the stage. Arya thinks she has a clean escape, but is stopped by Lady Crane, who claims that she’s noticed Arya in the crowd multiple days, and is curious why the observer is now suddenly backstage. Arya responds by giving the actress notes on how to improve her performance of Cersei during Joffrey’s death (too much crying, not enough anger), and tells Lady Crane that her name is Mercy. Mercy, it turns out, is the very thing Arya shows Lady Crane, as she smacks the poisoned cocktail out of the actress’s hand just before the first sip is taken, ultimately saving Crane’s life. Little does Arya know that The Waif bears witness to this act against the Many Faced God, and receives permission from Jaqen H’ghar to inflict the ultimate punishment on his promising student, so long as Arya doesn’t suffer (spoiler – she suffers a LOT).
While Arya loses the final chance she’s given to prove herself to Jaqen and to the Many Faced God, what she gains is arguably far more important – a revived sense of herself as Arya Stark. With a newfound sense of who she truly is, she retrieves Needle from its burial-place, in preparation for the inevitable consequences she will face at the hands of The Waif.
To King’s Landing we now go, where the High Sparrow speaks to King Tommen regarding Margaery’s walk of atonement that she must complete in order to wash herself of the sins she’s committed. While nervous about Margaery’s safety, Tommen seems to accept her fate, which is even further solidified when he’s taken to speak with the Queen herself. The resulting conversation, during which Margaery convinces Tommen that she’s ready to accept the Light of the Seven and atone for her sins, is all part of the plan we now know Margaery is concocting.
However, Jaime has other plans for the locked up Queen. After speaking to a worried Olenna Tyrell in regards to her granddaughter’s walk of atonement, he vows to align himself and his Kingsguard with Mace Tyrell and the Highgarden army, and crash the atonement ceremony to put an end to Margaery’s demoralizing walk before it even begins.
The resulting scene is one of my favorites in this episode, and I can’t help but admit a big reason why is because of the stark juxtaposition between Jaime and Mace as both leaders storm the atonement ceremony on horseback. On the one hand, you have Mace, adorned with a large, feathery, and arguably ridiculous helmet. He doesn’t ride into the ceremony, so much as he is slowly led in on horseback via a helper who is guiding his horse. Once settled, he proceeds to attempt an inspirational speech for his Highgarden men that falls humorously flat. Jaime, on the other hand, performs one of the coolest horseback maneuvers I’ve seen on the show, swiftly galloping his horse up the numerous steps of the Sept without so much as breaking a sweat.
However defiant Jaime’s plan may seem, it ultimately turns out to be for naught. The High Sparrow proceeds to announce that the Crown and the Faith have been united as one, a decision Tommen made after no doubt being manipulated by both the High Sparrow and Margaery. As a result, Jaime, who has now technically conspired against the newly aligned Crown in his attempt to save Margaery, is stripped of his Kingsguard title, and banished from King’s Landing. The new mission of the demoted Lannister: take back Riverrun from the Blackfish.
The episode concludes with a trip back east to Essos, where Daenerys and Daario lead the newly acquired khalasar back to Meereen (a journey that Daario informs her will take a week). As a result of this information, Dany, who perhaps fears her new army will lose steam over the week-long journey, decides to spice things up a bit to ensure that she has the full devotion of her followers. After Dany rides away to seemingly nowhere, the confused khalasar suddenly spot the shadow of a dragon piercing through the mountaintops, and before long Dany appears atop the impressively large Drogon. The duo land squarely in front of Dany’s khalasar army, where Dany proceeds to give the motivational speech that Mace never could, pumping up her army and rallying them to cross the Narrow Sea and defeat the armies of the Seven Kingdoms.
Introductions: Randyll Tarly, Melessa Tarly, Dickon Tarly, Talla Tarly, Kitty Frey, King Aerys II (via flashback)
Reintroductions: Benjen Stark, Edmure Tully, Needle
Deaths: A few wights (courtesy of Benjen)
“I’m not angry with you. I’m angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it.” – Gilly
“You’ll stand trial soon. I need to be here for you.” – Jaime “It will be a trial by combat. I have the Mountain. They made us both stronger. All of them. They have no idea how strong we are. No idea what we’re going to do to them. We’ve always been together. We’ll always be together. We’re the only two people in the world.” – Cersei
“It’s a castle, not a blood sheep. Presumably you still know where it is. You didn’t lose Riverrun. You let the Blackfish take it from you.” – Walder Frey
“Every Khal who ever lived chose three blood riders to fight beside him and guard his way. But I am not a Khal. I will not choose three blood riders. I choose you all!” – Daenerys
Beautiful Death for Blood of My Blood, by Robert M. Ball