Sunday, June 05, 2016

GAME OF THRONES (S6E06): "Blood of My Blood"

Episode 6 of Season 6 (S6E06) of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "Blood of my Blood." This is clearly a reference to family and kinship, which are often concepts around which alliances and betrayals occur in A Song of Ice and Fire.  This could also be a reference to the tangled relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister or between Cersei and Jaime and their son, King Tommen Barratheon. The specific family relationships we see in this episode involve the return of a long-lost relative, a disowned son's return to the family manse to his stern father's disapproval and a usually obedient son who breaks with his parents at the most inopportune time on what the best path forward to the future is.

I think the most significant of the examples I listed above is also the most surprising. For the entire series, Tommen has been a dutiful, obedient son interested in other things (Ser Pounce, comes to mind) so it is quite stunning when it is revealed that Tommen (and Margaery, I'm sure) have joined with the High Sparrow, who imprisoned and humiliated his mother (in S5E10 "Mother's Mercy") to form an alliance of Crown and Faith. This allows him to get his wife back safely under his protection, but completely counteracts the plans that a strategic alliance of the Tyrells and Lannisters have made to try and take out a threat to their dominance of King's Landing. It's still too early to tell who will be the winner in this contest but it does show that the High Sparrow is no pushover. I still think Margaery has some  tricks up her sleeve, and her brother, the future of House Tyrell is still in the High Sparrow's dungeons.

The return of Benjen Stark was a long time coming. Benjen is the brother of Lord Eddard Stark who we last saw in Season 1 talking with Jon Snow and going out ranging beyond The Wall. His name has often been on character's lips, for example, it was the (false) report that Benjen had returned to Castle Black that Jon Snow's assassins used to lure him out of his office before stabbing him to death. After the tragic events of (S6E05) "The Door" Brandon Stark and Meera Reed are stuck out in the snow far North of The Wall with out any food or shelter. Happily, just as the wights catch up with Bran and Meera a dark stranger on a  dark horse appears out of nowhere and using a flaming brazier is able to dispatch them all.  Afterwards he reveals that he was saved by the Children of the Forest from becoming a wight himself by plunging dragonglass into his heart (like Bran saw in his vision) and says that Bran is the "three-eyed raven now."

The heart of the episode is built around the return of Sam and Gilly to Horn Hill, the ancestral home of the Tarlys. Although Sam is the first-born son, because of his bookish and unathletic nature his father disowned him and told him to either join the Night's Watch or he wouldn't survive the next hunt he was forced to go on. However, Sam has been ordered by the Lord Commander to go to the Citadel to become a Maester. But Sam doesn't return home alone, he has Gilly and a little baby boy with him. However, Sam's father, Lord Randyll Tarly hates wildlings and during an incredibly tense dinner with Sam's family Gilly inadvertently lets the truth about her origins out of the bag. Of course, Lord Tarly thinks that Sam has picked a wildling bride just to spite him and belittles and denigrates him in front of the rest of the family and banishes from Horn Hill forever. Sam gets his revenge by changing his plan of leaving Gilly and babe with his family while he goes to the Citadel and instead all three of them sneak out of Horn Hill, and on his way out Sam pilfers Heartsbane, the Valyrian sword which has been in Tarly hands for over 500 years.

There are other important moments in the episode, but they are not completely aligned with the "blood" theme. A Girl With No Name Arya decides NOT to join the Faceless Men after all, instead she seems  enamored with the family of choice created by the cast of traveling mummers, deciding instead to save the person she was supposed to kill. She goes back and unearths Needle from its hiding place and waits for The Waif to come punish her for her disobedience.

In Essos, Drogon finally appears and is reunited with Dany, who implores the Dothraki to follow her over the Narrow Sea to conquer Westeros. Hard to argue with a Khaleesi on the back of a dragon!

Another scene that is setting up the major conflict for the season is the re-appearance of the odious Walder Frey. He is going to try to appeal to blood ties in order to ransom the life of Edmure Tully (the groom in the Red Wedding) in order to get the Blackfish (Ser Brynden Tully) to give up his hold over Riverrun.

The highlights of this episode were:
  • For the first time Gilly probably has the best line of an episode when she tells Sam "You aren't what they think you are." A close second is from a multiple winner of the "best line" contest, which is Olenna Tyrell saying tartly "He's beaten us
  • Gilly all cleaned up and dressed up for dinner at Horn Hill was most definitely a highlight.
  • Drogon continues to look amazing. Now that the show appears to have a near-infinite visual effects budget, they are stinting no expense in the depiction of the dragons and it shows.
  • Another episode with no Ramsay Bolton is always a highlight!
There was no low light in this week's episode.

Grade: 9/10.

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