Game of Thrones – S6/E6 “Blood Of My Blood” Review

No separation of Church and State here


Beyond the Wall
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Picking right up from where we left off, Meera despondently curses through the bitter snows beyond the Wall, barely managing to drag Bran with her. He’s still jacked into the Matrix; free from the shackles of the late Bloodraven, he can look at whatever he pleases. We share his trippy, lightning-paced vision. It seems he does, as we speculated last week, have some Harry Potter – Voldemort esque connection to the Night King; he can see the army of the dead and he witnesses (almost) first-hand the devastation and horrors of Hardhome. Most excitingly of all, we get our first glimpse of the Mad King in his final hours, bellowing maniacally, as Jaime always told us, “burn them all!”. Among the apocalyptic flashes of wildfire and snow zombies, we’re given another teaser for the Tower of Joy. The blue-balling continues, at least for now.

In reality, Meera breaks down, her body and mind succumbing to the toil of dragging the incapacitated Bran as the dead draw near. In what’s a deus ex machina which we’ll forgive because it’s such a damn cool scene, a mysterious figure on horse back rides in and kills the zombies with a fiery, morning-star mace. He whisks away Bran and Meera, telling them “the dead don’t rest”. It’s a thrilling beginning to the episode; well lit and performed, as well as tantalising in its hints at what’s to come through Bran’s visions. Their saviour, who looks and sounds conspicuously like a certain missing uncle, reminds us a hell of a lot of Fellowship of the Ring era Aragorn; rugged and unkempt as he steams in to fight off the undead with weapons of fire.

Horn Hill
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We pick up with Sam and Gilly as they near the Tarly’s home. CLUNKY EXPOSITION ALERT! Sam’s prattling on about trees etc and Gilly actually says “you’re a nervous talker.” We got that, thanks so much, writers. If you don’t think your point is sufficiently clear, in the words of Patrick Stewart, MAKE IT SO. Don’t literally have one of the characters tell us. Sam continues on the exposition train by reminding us that his dad kicked him out, forcing him to go to the Wall.

Where the scene should have begun is the point at which Sam and Gilly discuss their lies; they’re to tell the Tarlys that Sam is the baby’s father, that way they should be welcomed and the child will be taken in, receiving an education as well as the other perks of being a member of the ruling class. It’s also made clear that Randyll Tarly isn’t a fan of wildlings, so that’s another lie to keep in mind as we enter Westeros’s zany “Meet the Parents” spin-off. We get our first look at Horn Hill and it is absolutely massive, far more in keeping with the pretty, cliche castles of fantasy stories than anything else we’ve seen so far. They’re warmly greeted by Sam’s mum and sister, who swallow the lies immediately. Gilly is suitably awe-struck by the scale of the wealth and grandeur before her, as you would be having only previously seen little wooden huts and then an ancient, dingy castle that’s falling to pieces. The Tarly alpha males are notably missing from the friendly welcoming-party. They’re coming back later and it’s going to be a hell of an awkward dinner.

 

The Sept

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The High Sparrow has got his hooks in Tommen, oh so graciously allowing the King to see his wife. Margaery seems to have bought the Sparrow’s spiel and is, on the surface at least, changed by her imprisonment; she’s actually become very bloody creepy, spouting religious rhetoric and wearing a smile that never quite touches her eyes. Tommen’s reaction to his wife’s new faith is a mixture of cautious agreement and “what you talking about, Willis?” We really hope Margaery is just putting this on and being extra careful, otherwise that’s a hell of a shift in character by somebody who, just a couple of episodes ago, was defiant towards the Faith.

Horn Hill (Again)
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Gilly’s been done up like a Disney princess. Sam, as you’d imagine, is loving it. Rags to riches in a couple of hours; the girl from up north’s doing all right for herself. As predicted, dinner is unbearably, ball-crushingly awkward. Sam tries to break the silence by trying to have a chat with his dashing brother, only to be immediately proven a complete Wally. Randyll, father Tarly, looks like there’s a rod up his jacksy.

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His first line of speech is to shut down his daughter and her bothersome feminist ideas. When he’s going on to tell Sam just how fat and crap at fighting / generally unmanly he is, Gilly properly puts her foot in it; she lets slip that they journeyed to Castle Black from beyond the Wall and, to the mockery of the Tarly men, tells them that Sam killed a White Walker. Uh-oh. Randyll goes off on one about how much he hates wildlings and how Sam has dishonoured him yada, yada. He points at Heartsbane, the Tarly ancestral Valyrian steel sword, telling Sam he’ll never wield it (we think he might). In this opportune moment for the Night’s Watch’s most maligned recruit to grow a pair, he fails to do so, meekly sinking into himself as him mother and sister take Gilly away. Mother Tarly is clearly a liberal as she has a go at Randyll for treating their guest that way. Anyway, we learn that Gilly and the baby can stay, but Sam’s gotta go.
Randyll is superbly brought to life in all of his, living up to the stories of cruelty and malice Sam’s told of him. He’s like De Niro in “Meet the Parents”, but with absolutely no humour, and really racist. Charming chap.

Not before a little wobble, Sam decides he’s had enough and, in a touching moment, tells Gilly that they, and the baby, “belong together”. They leave in the middle of the night, Sam swiping Heartsbane as they go. Told you so, even if it was a little sooner than we thought. If he can get away with it, which will be a tall order considering who’ll be after him, that sword is going to be damn useful at the Wall. It’s possible that they’re just going to go AWOL, trying their best to live normally. Knowing Sam’s trueness of heart and his love for Jon, it seems likely that he’ll head back up north. He doesn’t need his Maester’s chain; he’s already vastly knowledgeable and, with his direct experience with the While Walkers, more than capable of being an asset in the impending zombie invasion.

 

Braavos

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Arya watches a rendition of the murders of Joffrey and Tywin, of course callously carried out by the evil imp. Whilst it’s fascinating to see the public’s perception of the events, and that it’s totally crap, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. Arya notices that the actress playing Sansa, as well as the others to be fair, have it in for the target of her assassination. Arya poisons the lady’s drink, but then bottles it (haw haw) by having a nice chat with her. When she goes to drink it, Arya dramatically slaps it out of her hand and tells her that “Sansa” wants her dead. She leaves but, uh-oh, the pesky Waif has spotted her cop out. As Arya confirms that she’s, obviously, still Arya by fetching Needle, Jaqen gives the Waif permission to take her out. He tells her not to let Arya suffer (yeah, right). It’s evident that Jaqen holds some affection for his now-failed apprentice and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he may himself forsake the Faceless Men to help her out. Maybe he’ll sacrifice his own life in Arya’s stead. After all, only death can pay for life.

 

King’s Landing

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In what should be a pretty momentous event, the Tyrell troops enter King’s Landing, marched right up to the Sept by Jaime and Mace. What we’re seeing is essentially the beginnings of a military coup, so you’d think there’d be a heck of a sense of grandeur and significance wouldn’t you? Well not in this instance; nobody seems to mind all that much. Mace gives a poncey speech to his men at which Jaime, along with all of us, cringes with embarrassment. We’re not given any indication as to the reactions of any of the common soldiers, a frustratingly recurring theme in GoT; it seems the show makers care as much for the common people as Cersei. A quick shot of the men laughing or looking awkward would’ve injected a little more comedic value to the scene, as well as confirming that they too think their rotund little Lord is a buffoon, his lack of real authority compounded by his overly flamboyant armour. He’d be laughed out of any tavern in the land looking like that. Mace included, the production design and attention to detail devoted to the Tyrell army is top-notch; their armour is distinctive, they possess their own unique style of marching, and their shields are expertly designed so that their spears can rest easily upon them. Coming from somebody who analyses that kind of thing pathetically closely: well done, costume department et al.

With still-creepy Margaery standing atop the steps ready for her walk of penance, the throngs of commoners before her probably waiting for her kit to come off, Jaime threatens to kill the High Sparrow and all of his swastika-forehead minions. There will be no walk of shame, Jaime tells him. The High Sparrow smugly agrees. The doors of the Sept open to reveal poor, impressionable, weak Tommen has been converted to the Faith and that a new era of harmony between church and state is dawning. That should end well, then. As the commoners cheer the young King and Queen, their families wear the looks of people who can smell a steaming, fresh pile of sheep shit but can’t quite figure out where it’s hidden. “What’s happening?” asks Mace to his mother. “They’ve beaten us, that’s what’s happening” she replies, her most promising protege warped into a religious zealot before her eyes. As always, Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna comports herself as a woman who’s thoroughly enjoying her role, and we love her for it.

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As the sun glitters on the armour of the mustered Tyrell army and the peasants cheer for the victory of the Faith, we’re dipping our toes into the conventions of cliché, Disney-esque fantasy. We doubt the harmony will last long. We half expected the rightly furious Jaime to say “bollocks” to it and order the inevitable butchering to begin. But it seems that, for the time being at least, the Rose and the Lion have conceded defeat to their children. With the people of King’s Landing so clearly behind their relatively new King and Queen, will the older generation still wield the power to which they’ve become to accustomed. Perhaps if they step out of line, and they will, they’ll have a revolution to contend with.

Tommen banishes Jaime from the Kingsguard and the city, ordering his Duncle to reclaim Riverrun from the Blackfish’s forces. It seems Baelish wasn’t lying to Sansa after all. Venting to the unusually calm Cersei, Jaime intends instead to fetch Bronn and his mates to do some SAS subterfuge / general killing to the Faith. Cersei, becoming more an more like her late father, tells him to stop being silly and lead the Lannister forces as he’s bidden. From her tone and demeanour, she’s playing the long game and definitely has some sneaky master-plan being woven in the shadows that only her smug, shit-eating grin could betray. We know she’s aware of the Mad King’s stores of wildfire beneath King’s Landing and that she’s always hated the city. Perhaps, in an act that would betray the moment that defined Jaime’s entire life, Cersei might also be planning to “burn them all.” Maybe Jaime will, for symmetry, kill her as well? That will have to wait because, for now, they start getting jiggy with it, and we cut away.

The Twins

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Slimy, treacherous bastard Walder Frey berates his sons for losing Riverrun. He goes on to moan at them for losing the Blackfish at the Red Wedding. Suddenly everyone’s going on about the Blackfish despite the fact that we haven’t actually seen or heard from him for years, and that was a brief encounter at best. If he’s as good as everybody keeps harping on about, we can’t wait to see him in action. Walder orders his sons to take back Riverrun, but they inform him that many of the minor houses and commoners of the North are rallying against the Frey – Bolton axis of evil, including the Brotherhood Without Banners.  We’re not sure how that would come off given the lack of build-up, but this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about; they could whip out anything from seasons ago and expect us to remember exactly what it is. Fear not! G4me0ver will be here to explain it all! Edmure Tully (remember him? See what we mean? We haven’t seen him for years!) to be used as bait to lure out the Blackfish. With Jaime bringing the Lannister forces to join the many players at the siege and Brienne also on her way, Riverrun is going to prove a hell of a melting pot.

Beyond the Wall (Again)

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It is Benjen! That other character we saw really briefly years and years ago. We can imagine a lot of “casual viewers” turning to each other and going “I don’t get it.” Anyway he’s all twisted and undead-looking, so clearly the show makers have decided to amalgamate his character with that of Coldhands, Bran’s mysterious mate from the books. He seems to know a lot; after he was stabbed and left to die by a White Walker, he was saved by the Children of the Forest by dragonglass to the heart, a parallel with how the Walkers themselves were created. How is it that Dragonglass both kills and creates White Walkers? Bran, Benjen informs him, is now the Three-eyed Raven and, when the Night King “finds his way to the world of men”, Bran will be ready and waiting. He literally is becoming Harry to the Night King’s Voldemort. Perhaps the mark left on Bran which broke the magical ward of the Children of the Forest will have the same effect on the Wall. After all, that too is, as well as being a massive physical obstacle, blessed with magic. Benjen gives him some rabbit blood to drink (yum) and we’re left to contemplate exactly what this all means.
North and South of the Wall, the Starks are assembling for war.

Essos

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Daenerys leads her huge Khalesar through the desert. She and Dario discuss how exactly they’ll get across the Narrow Sea, he reckons she’ll need about 1000 ships. Now who do we know who might soon be able to deliver a fleet of that size? Daenerys stops suddenly because there’s a pretty mysterious gust of wind, she goes off to investigate and, after what’s a long and boring wait for Dario and the Dothraki, returns riding the now colossal Drogon. She gives an inspiring and spine-tingling speech, mirroring that given by Khal Drogo all those seasons / years ago. It goes down a hell of a lot better than Mace Tyrell’s. The Dothraki are riled into frenzy; they’ll follow their queen beyond the edge of the world and kill whoever they find there. Dany has levelled up once more; no longer content to tell everybody who she is, she’s grabbing the dragon by the horns and becoming the true successor to the Targaryen conquerors of old she was born to be. Soon, we hope, the storm will break upon Westeros.


What do you think?


Dan

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