Game of Thrones, S6 Ep6 – Blood of my Blood

A particularly eventful episode of Game of Thrones this week, as we witnessed several storylines reach crucial turning points. Key players made momentous decisions, some subplots had major developments, and familiar faces came back into Frey, I mean, play.

With all these elements coming together, the episode felt crowded and could have benefited from more even pacing. Since the show has already overtaken the books in terms of material, the episodes this season have been advancing at a notably faster pace. And while there are some satisfying payoffs for show-exclusive and book readers alike, this accelerated pace can sometimes lead to uneven or frenzied storytelling. But Game of Thrones has a lot of road to cover before it reaches its end game, so we have to play catch up after several slow-moving seasons.

Game of Thrones s6 ep6 aryaArya and Sam were the two characters that truly shone in this episode, as they remembered who they were and as they demonstrated how much they have grown in the past few years. As Arya’s assassination mission continued, she watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) a theatrical reenactment of Joffrey’s death and then she gained sympathy for her target, Lady Crane. When she slipped the poison in the lady’s drink, she seemed as if she was going to go through with the hit but she changed her mind at the last moment, choosing human decency over a life as a Faceless Man. In a triumphant sequence, she digs up Needle and reclaims her identity as a Stark. But she’s put herself in a precarious position as the Waif is on her way to kill her. But this is a season of Stark empowerment so I have a feeling that after all her struggles, Arya will come out on top.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep6 - Blood of my BloodWe were treated to a glimpse of the Tarly home at Horn Hill where we met the different members of Sam’s family. His mother and sister were sweet, warmly welcoming him and Gilly to their home. His father, however, was the complete opposite, and did not hesitate to show his disapproval of Sam. The scenes in Horn Hill gave Gilly and the audience greater insight into Sam’s personality by showing us the kind of upbringing he had endured. While he was lucky to have a loving mother and sister, his father clearly showed him nothing but emotional abuse over the years, and continued to demean and humiliate him even then.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep6 - Blood of my BloodAt first it seemed like he was going to concede to his father’s wishes and leave Gilly and the baby in Horn Hill. But Sam has grown up a lot, has even killed a White Walker, so he realizes his value and no longer feels compelled to do whatever his father tells him. He triumphantly takes his family with him as well as the Tarly heirloom, Heartsbane, another rare Valyrian steel sword that will surely come in handy when the clash with the White Walkers happens on Game of Thrones. Sam the Slayer now has a weapon worthy of his name.

We spent a fair amount of time in King’s Landing, and for a moment, it felt like a big clash was about to happen between the crown and the Faith Militant. There was an impressive standoff with the Tyrell forces and the Kingsguard forming a formidable alliance against the High Sparrow and his followers. Jaime even made a showy attempt of riding his horse up the steps of the Sept of Baelor. But in an anti-climactic development, a new agreement seemed to have been reached between Tommen and the High Sparrow, and the whole matter was resolved surprisingly bloodlessly.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep6 - Blood of my BloodThis was all well and good for the citizens of King’s Landing, who probably don’t need another gruesome conflict to exacerbate their current poverty, but it was frustrating for both the Lannisters and Tyrells. But it helped conclude that tedious storyline, at least for the time being, and to finally send Jaime off into a more interesting direction as he is commanded to deal with the Blackfish at Riverrun (where Brienne is also heading, by the way.)

There was a brief but nevertheless significant scene with the Freys, the odious family we’ve not seen much of since THE wedding. Walder Frey expresses his disappointment with his sons and there was a mention of the Brotherhood Without Banners, something that may lead to the appearance of a character book readers had almost given up hope of seeing on the show. And after the mention of the Blackfish, we see another Tully emerge from the shadows, Edmure, who has been a prisoner of the Freys ever since his disastrous wedding.

The episode ended with a rousing speech from Daenerys as she rode on top of a newly-found Drogon. She declares her intention of sailing towards Westeros and reclaiming the Iron Throne (with a mention of ships that ties with another character who has plans for building said ships) and shows a very inspiring image to her Dothraki followers. It looks like her journey is about to take across the Narrow Sea again. As epic as this scene was, I felt it could have been shown in another episode as this one was too crowded already. I get that Game of Thrones is trying to fit in as many plot developments as possible, but we really could have benefited from a breather before the big Daenerys declaration.

Game of Thrones, S6 Ep6 - Blood of my BloodOne of the most intriguing parts of this episode, however, was the arrival and the revelation of the identity of Coldhands. While this mysterious, cloaked rider never appeared in the show before (and was not referred to by that name), he played an important role in the books. And now that he’s made an appearance, book readers may have hope of other book characters entering the show even at this late stage. Coldhands’ arrival answered another mystery from as far back as the first season of Game of Thrones – the fate of Benjen Stark.

So Benjen Stark is Coldhands, and he conveniently rescues Bran and Meera from some walkers and wights. He also explains that though he was stabbed by a Walker, the Children of the Forest stabbed him with dragonglass to prevent him from turning into one of them. And now, he will help Bran fulfill his destiny as the new Three-Eyed Raven. It’s truly a big season for the Starks.

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