Halfway through this season of Game of Thrones, one would expect the larger picture to be taking shape. But by the end of Blood Of My Blood, viewers might be left wondering where all of this is going. The sixth episode of the season shuffles some characters into position for their next moves, but is short on game-changing moments. Still, Blood Of My Blood lays the groundwork for some intriguing conflicts, and brings a long-absent character back into the fold.
Return of a Stark
Last week’s episode ended with the tragic death of Hodor, as Meera carried an unconscious Bran away from the White Walkers and their zombie army. Blood Of My Blood picks up shortly after that, with Meera stumbling through snow-choked woods as Bran experiences rapid visions of the past and future. Meera cannot keep up the pace, and the wights catch up with them. Meera rouses Bran, apologizes, and they prepare for their last stand. Suddenly, a masked man on horseback appears, destroying the monsters with ease. The stranger scoops up Bran and Meera onto his horse and carries them to safety.
Around a campfire, the two youths question the stranger’s identity. He reveals himself to be Benjen Stark (whom you may remember as Ned Stark’s brother), a member of the Night’s Watch who disappeared beyond The Wall early in the first season. Benjen reveals that he was stabbed by a White Walker, but as he lay dying, the Children of the Forest used a shard of Dragonglass to prevent him from turning into a thrall of the dead. Benjen now seems to be a wight with free will, and he plans to lead Bran south, where the boy must face off against the Night King.
Benjen’s fate has been a mystery for years (well over a decade for book readers) and his sudden return here is a bit perplexing. While Benjen was certainly a loose thread, he was a minor character in the first season. He has more of a presence in the books, where the character named Coldhands (likely Benjen in disguise) has been a recurring character in stories set beyond The Wall. It’s ultimately a minor twist, not seriously affecting any of the characters or plots. At the very least, it is nice to see another victory for the cursed Stark family.
Tommen finds religion
The conflict between the nobles of King’s Landing and the Faith Militant has been brewing all season, and Cersei’s plan for the Lannisters and Tyrells to display a united front before Margaery’s walk of atonement seemed like the prelude to a bloodbath. In Cersei’s mind, the Tyrell forces would confront the High Sparrow, the latter would resist, and the soldiers would put down the upstart rebellion once and for all. Viewers likely expected the same, but because this is Game of Thrones, Cersei’s battle would backfire, leading to all out civil war or something along those lines.
Cersei is rather limited in her thinking, however, and the High Sparrow was two steps ahead. Before Margaery’s walk, the old preacher has another conversation with King Tommen, offering the boy advice and a chance to speak with his wife. Tommen expects to find Margaery a wreck, but instead she is repentant. Margaery has taken the Sparrow’s sermons to heart, feeling guilt over her pretenses to charity. She explains to Tommen that she wants to lead a godlier life.
Jaime and the Tyrells march upon the Faith as the High Sparrow is giving a speech. Jaime demands that he release Margaery, and is ready to slay the High Sparrow when he refuses. The Lannisters were confident the standoff would end in violence, which the well-armed professional forces would win. The Sparrow found a nonviolent solution however, announcing that Margaery would go free. He then reveals that Tommen has joined him, and the boy king walks out, announcing that the church and crown will work together to create a better Westeros.
Naturally, the Lannisters and Tyrells are dismayed. Not only did they not get the chance to crush the Faith Militant, but now the Sparrow has the ear of the king. Jaime is the first to face the consequences of this new alliance. For his act of violence towards the church, Tommen strips Jaime of his status as Kingsguard and commands him to lead an army to retake Riverrun from the Tullys. Jaime is outraged, but Cersei calms him; he is a soldier, and is more useful to their cause at the head of an army than raging impotently in the palaces of King’s Landing.
Sam and Gilly go to an awkward family dinner
With baby Sam in tow, Sam and Gilly finally arrive at Horn Hill, and Sam seems confident that his family will take Gilly in. He is half right. The women of the family are excited to meet the girl and the baby they believe to be family, and Sam’s sister even offers Gilly one of her dresses for dinner. Sam’s father and brother have chosen to go out hunting rather than greet the young parents, a sign that his welcome will not be warm. Sure enough, the dinner begins in awkward silence, as Sam’s father glares at his son and Gilly.
Sam tries to make conversation, but Randyll Tarly openly insults his son, claiming that the Night’s Watch failed to make him a man. Gilly defends Sam, recounting to the family how he stabbed a White Walker north of the wall. Her stories alert Randyll to the fact that she is a wildling, and because he hates wildlings, he banishes Sam from the family, though he will allow Gilly to work in the house as a maid.
At first, Sam seems to accept this fate. In a fit of courage, however, he grabs Gilly in the middle of the night and tells her they are leaving. On their way out, he also grabs Heartsbane, the family’s ancestral sword, claiming that his father can try and take it back, if he chooses. It’s not the most daring act in the history of the show, but for Sam, it’s a start.
A brief interlude with the Freys
The Red Wedding remains one of the most infamous acts in Game of Thrones, killing off a few major characters and making the Freys the most hated family in Westeros. Since that fateful night, the Freys have been mostly absent from the show, mostly spoken of rather than seen. This episode checks in briefly with the Freys, as Walder berates his underlings for allowing the Tullys to retake Riverrun. He brings out another forgotten character, Edmure Tully, and commands the younger Freys to use him as a hostage to break Tullys’ will. With Jaime, the Freys, and Brienne all about to converge on Riverrun, the Tully fortress seems to be the next great flashpoint in the series.
Arya ends her training
Arya Stark has been off on her own for a while now, to the point where her story sometimes seems like a spinoff of the series. Arya takes her first steps on the path back to Westeros in Blood Of My Blood, breaking her pledge to the Faceless Men. While carrying out her mission to kill the actress Lady Crane, Arya watches the play reenacting the rise and fall of Joffrey one more time. She seems moved by Lady Crane’s final speech as Cersei, but not so moved that she doesn’t poison the actress’s rum. However, Lady Crane stops Arya as the latter is making her escape, and the two share a brief moment talking about theater.
Arya stops Lady Crane from drinking the poisoned rum, and alerts her that the actress playing Sansa wants her dead. The Waif is watching the whole time, and returns to the House of Black and White, informing Jaqen that Arya has betrayed them again. Jaqen grants her permission to kill Arya, asking that she make it as painless as possible. Arya, meanwhile, unearths her sword, Needle, and prepares for the Faceless Men to come after her.
Daenarys reunites with Drogon
The final scene in the episode depicts Daenarys still leading her army of Dothraki back to Meereen. She asks Daario how many ships she will need to move her army to Westeros. At least a thousand, he informs her, and tells her that nobody in Essos has that many ships. “Not yet,” she replies, as if she were aware that the Ironborn are approaching her with a fleet to offer.
Dany senses something, and rides off on her own. Daario and the Dothraki wait, and she eventually returns on Drogon, her stray dragon. She tells the Dothraki that they will all be her bloodriders, and that they will sail across the sea to conquer the Westerosi in their iron suits.
It’s not a particularly revealing scene, mostly serving as a reminder that yes, Daenarys will one day attack Westeros. The scene doesn’t illuminate anything about the characters involved, but it does put Dany back in possession of her last dragon. In an episode that is largely about looking forward to future battles, Dany’s speech seems more perfunctory than anything else.