Is there anything more Game of Thrones than messy familial relationships and extremely tense dinners? Well in “Blood of my Blood” we get plenty of both, in an episode that explores the relationships between characters and their kin. Not unlike every Game of Thrones episode ever. But this one more so.
Oh yeah and speaking of family: UNCLE BENJEN?! Holy shit Uncle Benjen where the hell have you been for five seasons? Yeah his skin is peeling off (moisturiser isn’t readily available north of the wall) and he’s a little more dead since the last time we saw him, but he’s back as a zombie. A good zombie. The kind that fights the bad zombies. The Warm Bodies kind of zombie. Hell with all these Starks coming back from the dead it can’t be too long until the ghost of Ned rocks up with Obi-Wan to impart some wisdom on how not to get decapitated.
So as Bran binged watched the last 5 seasons of Game of Thrones with the deleted scenes (including Jaime killing the Mad King, the only thing of note he’s done on camera so far this season) Benjen fought off all those shamblers that tore apart Hodor. Couldn’t have shown up a bit earlier and spared us that heartbreak? Then he made his favourite nephew a rabbit smoothie, which looked all kinds of gross. Most notable about this though is that for two whole weeks in a row the show has managed to make scenes involving medieval Professor X exciting. How long can they keep up this incredible feat? Well as long as they don’t suddenly celebrate Benjen’s return with his murder he should probably have plenty of interesting thingsto say. Hell a conversation between Bran and his uncle about Ned would be amazing. In the great sweeping scope of Thrones it’s the interpersonal character moments that make it spectacular. One of my favourite scenes in the entire series is the conversation between Robert and Cersei about the state of their kingdom and relationship.
Though as much as I love the reintroduction of Benjen (and I am so excited to have him back) it did feel a little out of the blue. A little bit of set-up could have gone a long way. A mysterious rider monitoring the Bran brigade as they were making their way to the Three Eyed Raven? Even a passing remark by the Tree Tied Raven about how not all Wights are bad. It’s not a complete failing by the show but they could have set the board a little bit better. His flaming kusarigama was pretty sick though. Who the hell gave him that?
Over in King’s landing a whole bunch of stuff went down. Tommen chats a bit with the Beggar Bishop and for once instead of waffling on about sins for the whole scene (he does a little bit mind you) he decides he might advance the plot. He allows Tommen to visit Margaery who has suddenly become a born again Christian. I feel like I’m missing some scenes here because her transition from defiant prisoner into priory nun is clunky. The last time we saw her she was telling Loras to keep fighting. Surely there should have been more intermediary scenes to lead us through this development?
I felt her last scene before this one was leading us in the opposite direction, that despite what she was telling the sparrow that she was still resolute not to give into his zeal. Perhaps she is merely playing the part of the evangelist to worm her way from this situation, but I can only judge on what I’ve seen in this episode, and I’m not a fan. Maybe it’s also down to the possibility of losing manipulative Margaery and instead gaining nun Margaery, who sizes to be much less interesting than the subtle intrigue and power plays which the Queen has provided in the previous seasons.
The entire sequence at the Sept of Baelor was a lot of fun. Roger Ashton-Griffiths continues to be a bumbling delight as Mace Tyrell. There was a nice flow to the stand-off, tensions rising when Jaime rode his horse up the steps to directly confront the Pauper Priest (which was badass) to the conflict fizzling out as Tommen emerges and once again shows us that his strings are awfully easy to pull. What I do like though is that this solution makes perfect sense to Tommen in that it returns Margaery to his arms while also diffusing the situation with the faith.
Jaime is given even more to do (shocker) when he is dismissed from his role as Lord Command of the Kingsguard. This scene draws parallels to when Barristan Selmy got his P45, which is how Jaime got the job. He argues with Tommen and his Uncle Kevan but they don’t really care and decide to ship him out to the Riverlands. In the next scene Nikolaj Coster-Waldau briefly reminds us of how powerful a performance he can give as he laments that the Broke Brother has turned his own son against him. It’s a shame that this scene then devolves into ANOTHER one of the Lannisters going through the motions. “Everyone’s against us, we’re the only ones that matter, kill them all” etc. etc. Fuck there’s only so many times I can watch the same variation on this scene.
It’s funny being on the Lannister’s side (specifically Cersei’s) and yeah it was cool when she first went on about killing their enemies but she’s done fuck all except talk about it. Again Jaime’s previous development he displayed when travelling with Brienne has all spiralled down the drain. His arc continues to sputter false starts, but hopefully by sending him to the Riverlands, where he is likely to meet with Brienne again, we might get some meaningful development.
Speaking of the Riverlands, we travelled there and reintroduced one of my favourite characters. Not because of what he’s done, and I can’t wait for the episode he meets a gruesome demise, but David Bradley plays Walder Frey so well I can’t help but smile when this cantankerous, licentious old-man berates the family which he cares so little for. He provides a stand-out performance and I love every treacherous second he’s on the screen. I’ll honestly be a little sad when he’s finally gets what’s coming to him. I’m holding out that the Blackfish, who will be reappearing next episode, storms The Twins and kills the lot of them. Preferably during a dinner.
All the scenes with Sam and his family were equally good. There was a thick tension throughout as Sam’s notoriously belligerent father loomed over the time spent in Horn Hill. I was sceptical as to if Sam could shoulder his own storyline this seasons but he is the heart of the show. Sweet isn’t a word I’d use often with Thrones, but his relationship with Gilly is so innocent and pure it’s almost too nice. His reaction to seeing her all dressed up is straight out of a romantic comedy but I still smiled. When he left her and the child I was glum that the show had torn apart its most genuine couple. Then his balls dropped, he came back for them and stole his father’s sword. Damn that was cool.
Arya also had some great scenes, but at this stage anything that isn’t her being hit with a stick is fine by me. Her conversation with the actress was solid in that it reflected her own situation and was the final push in her decision to stop being No One and to return to being Arya Stark. Thrones in general is pretty good at conversations that are heavy in subtext while trusting that the viewing is clever enough to realise what they’re really talking about without having the character explaining it. I also can’t wait for Arya to finally end that smug little bitch who’s been messing her the whole season. Time for needle to wash off the rust.
The finale of the episode was probably the weakest scene overall. Dany walks around with her horde, leaves them and comes back riding on Drogon and gives a big speech and the Not-Mongols go nuts. Right, first you can’t have Mace give a speech early in the episode and make it out that’s he’s a complete idiot, and then have Dany give one that’s meant to be rousing and majestic. Mace’s moment seemed a mockery of the trope that fantasy leaders always give a great speech, but Jaime stares at him like the fool he is. Dany’s speech wasn’t any better than Mace’s, honestly I thought Mace’s was better, but because Dany’s a main character she gets the thunderous applause. Where the rest of Game of Thrones is relatively grounded, Dany’s adventures play out in a way that she is very clearly the main character where the story contorts around her. This didn’t feel like a scene from this world, it felt like a scene from a cheesy fantasy flick. Nothing she’s done has had any of the consequences other character’s face continuously. And how many episodes are we going to end with the “Dany wins the allegiance of her followers” finale. We’ve done this countless times, it’s beginning to feel like the Lannisters talking about their enemies. Whenever they don’t have a scene to end the episode on they just get Dany to give a speech of crowd-surf on some slaves. The scene where Arya blows out the candle would have made a fine ending.
Okay the scene wasn’t that terrible. Taken at face value it was okay. The rest of the episode was mostly really bloody good. I’ve seen people complaining that it’s the weakest episode of the season which baffles me. Not every episode of Thrones needs to have a shocking death or incredible twist. This was an episode of advancement with many strong scenes that will have resolutions in the next 4 episodes, which are sizing up to be explosive.