“Blood of My Blood” is probably the weakest episode of season 6 since the premier, although its existence bodes well for the rest of the season. “The Red Woman” set up the action that unfolded over the next five episodes, including Jon Snow’s resurrection, Dany’s Dothraki takeover, and the forward momentum in Bran and Arya’s journeys. “Blood of My Blood” closes out some of plots that occupied the first half of the season while (hopefully) setting the stage for those that will unfold during the second.
While a lot happens in “Blood of My Blood,” there is not a lot to be said, since just about every event is simply the logical culmination of previous events. Possibly the most monumental new piece of information this week was a gift to book readers in the form of the introduction of Coldhands, whose much-theorized-about identity as Benjen Stark was pretty much instantly confirmed during a scene in which he revives Bran by having him drink rabbit’s blood. Coldhands is a powerful ally for Bran north of the wall, especially now that the young Stark is without Hodor and direwolf, and the magical ranger's identity as a former member of the Night’s Watch might bring Bran and Jon back together sooner than anyone would have guessed.
The other important turn in this episode was Tommen’s alliance with The High Sparrow. While the exact nature of that union, which comes complete with new heraldry, remains opaque, The Queen of Thorns and the parents Lannister see it for what it is: a defeat. Jaime is banished from the city to go take care of the last holdouts of the War of the Five Kings at the exact moment that the Starks are beginning their takeover up North, a turn that will pit Stark vs. Lannister against one another for the first time in many seasons. Maybe Jaime will make an alliance with the Starks against the odious Freys, who have proven themselves to be good at nothing but betrayal. One of the main problems with “Blood of My Blood” is that each event is important without being decisive, instead simply opening up a whole new realm of possibilities.
Take, for example, the conclusion of Arya’s time with the Faceless Men. She makes the obvious decision to spare Lady Crane’s life (with the help of some convenient writing) and takes the step of reclaiming her identity as Arya Stark. The predictable consequence, that she now is the target of Lena Dunham waif’s blade, is shown with some unnecessarily expository dialogue, and that’s that. Much like the upcoming trial by combat in which Frankenmountain will defend Cersei’s honor, possibly against Lancel, we now know that Arya will face off against Lena Dunham waif in a fight to the death that she cannot possibly lose. In this case, teasing out further developments feels like stalling.
The final scene is another waste of the audience’s time. Dany reuniting with Drogon should be a hugely triumphant moment in which she finally becomes the Dragon Queen; instead, his presence is hinted at by a dust devil and a long wait by her army and retainers before she simply soars onscreen and makes a leaden-faced speech. I know I’ve been harsh on Emilia Clarke in these posts before, but I have to double down on that attitude here. The combination of her inability to convey emotion and the limited special effects budget means that her first scene of true dragon riding (as opposed to simply using the dragon as a getaway vehicle) falls flat. In a cast of dozens, the show is singular unlucky to have ended up with its two dullest actors in the roles of the eventual saviors of the world.
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Lastly, a complaint. Longtime readers know of my pure, unadulterated hatred for the Sam and Gilly storyline, and this episode managed to both compound the problems with their plot by breaking everything from tone to character to setting while ensuring continuation of that selfsame moronic waste of screen time for the future. Throwing a comedy of manners scene into the middle of Game of Thrones is not the worst idea, but pitting Gilly (whose level intelligence and other character traits fluctuate wildly from scene to scene, and nearly from line to line) against the elder Tarly in a battle over Sam’s pride is as painful to watch as it is pointless to include. I was praying that Randall Tarly would pick up his sword and cut the stupid head off the whole plot once and for all, but Sam stealing Heartsbane before fleeing with Gilly into the night means that we’ll have to endure more of this poorly-written inanity in the future. Please, Benioff and Weiss, cut your losses and let this thread dangle like you did with the much more interesting story of Gendry and the Brotherhood Without Banners.