Game of Thrones was very un-Game of Thrones like in tonight’s episode, “Blood of My Blood.” People acted heroically. Family and love won above hate and bigotry. And no one died. Not even a single direwolf. On any other show, this might be the status quo. On Game of Thrones, it’s a goddamn miracle. Here’s everything that went down in the uncharacteristically gratifying “Blood of My Blood.”
Sam, Gilly, and Baby Sam haven’t gotten much screen time this season — until now. The family has finally made it to Sam’s home, Horn Hill, and the welcome is just as Sam predicted: his mother and sister are just as lovely and welcoming as you would imagine someone related to Samwell Tarly to be. Sam’s father is not.
You may recall from Season 1 that Sam was sent to join the Night’s Watch as an alternative to his father killing him. That is how much Randyll Tarly doesn’t want Sam to carry on his family’s name. Randyll is exceedingly rude to his son, fat-shaming him out of a second helping of bread, referring to Gilly as “it” once he finds out she is a wildling, and letting loose on a self-pitying, ignorant rant about how he sent his son to the Night’s Watch to become a man and it didn’t work.
This is all laughable from the eye of the viewer — and from Gilly, who stands up for the man who has stood up for her countless times, even if Sam won’t stand up for himself. Sam has faced and killed a wight. He has defended Castle Black from multiple wildling attacks and he has been a loyal friend (Sam name-drops Jon proudly and adorably), husband-type, and father.
Sam and Gilly may not be family as defined by any Westeros institution, but they belong to each other nonetheless. Sam’s mother and sister recognize this, offering Gilly acceptance at Horn Hill even if his father will not. But, ultimately, Sam remembers the promise he once made to Gilly: that where he goes, she and Little Sam go, too. They sneak away from Horn Hill in the middle night, with the family sword in hand. They still have the problem of finding a place for Gilly in The Citadel, but, for now, the only things that matters is that they are together as a family.
Last time we saw Margaery, she was asking her brother, Loras, to pull himself together, act like a Tyrell, and hold out against the Faith Militant for as long as it took for them to be granted their freedom. Which is why it was so surprising to see her parroting the High Sparrow’s spiritual philosophy in “Blood of My Blood.” Presumably, she is pretending and hasn’t actually repented her machinations, but her game is very convincing: “I’ve had a lot of time to think about how good I was at seeming good,” Margaery tells Tommen as part of her Join the Faith Militant pitch.
Whatever else Margaery says to Tommen, it works. When the Tyrell army marches up to the Sept, with Jaime Lannister as Lord Commander at its head, the High Sparrow is one step ahead of both the Tyrells and the Lannisters — something that very rarely happens. He lets Margaery out of her walk of shame (as part of a deal Margaery presumably made beforehand), instead opening the Sept’s doors to show that Tommen has joined the Faith Militant. Tommen parrots back the words the High Sparrow spoke to him earlier in the season, calling the crown and the church the two pillars of the kingdom. Together, they will rule and bring glory back to Westeros.
Olenna Tyrell recognizes the High Sparrow’s play for what it is: he has won. At least for now. He continues to play the Tyrells and Lannisters at their own game and make them look like children on the playground. Will this last? Does power on Game of Thrones ever stay in the same hands for now? The bigger question is: who will be left standing when the High Sparrow inevitable falls? It’s not looking particularly well for Jaime, who was stripped of his role in the King’s Guard, a position he has held since before Tommen was born.
This might not be too bad, if not for the fact that Tommen also plans on sending Jaime to retrieve Riverrun. This means leaving King’s Landing, of course, something Jaime is not keen to do given that he and lover/sister Cersei just worked things out. He has vowed to take out anyone who has harmed or who intends to harm his family. He is sick of following orders and losing. Now more than ever, Jaime is playing by his own rules, and Cersei is right there with him.
A Girl Formerly Known As Arya is just Arya again. After what feels like years and years of training (but what was actually probably only months), Arya has skipped out on the House of Black and White and the teachings of the Many-Faced God. She draws the line at killing
Miss Fisher Lady Crane.
It probably helps that Arya has had a recent reminder of the identity she was trying to leave behind in the form of a traveling theater group. She watches them tell the story of the War of the Five Kings three times. She particularly likes the death of King Joffrey. She missed this particular moment in real life, but, on the stage, she gets to watch it over and over again, laughing.
It is a testament to how great of an actress Lady Crane is that Arya is moved by her performance as Cersei. After all, with a lesser actress, Arya would no doubt find as much joy in watching Pretend Cersei suffer as she would watching Pretend Joffrey do the same. Ultimately, though, it is not Lady Crane’s kills as an actress, but rather her kindness that cause Arya to stay her assassin’s hand. Like Arya (and Margaery in King’s Landing), Lady Crane is pretending to be someone she is not to please the masses, to follow the rules, to stay alive. Why would Arya want to hurt her? Who would she be if she did?
Arya leaves the theater, retrieves Needle from its seaside hiding place, and prepares for the inevitable confrontation with The Waif. The assassin is coming for her. The Many-Faced God expects a death and, if it’s not going to be Lady Crane, then it needs to be someone else.
North of the Wall
We pick back up with Bran and Meera not long after Hodor’s heartbreaking sacrifice. Meera is exhausted from pulling Bran’s body through the woods, and it isn’t far or fast enough. The wights are at their heels. Just when it seems inevitable that they will be ripped apart by the ice zombies and join their undead masses, a lone figure rides out of the darkness to save them. It is Benjen Stark — or at least it used to be — Bran’s uncle who led an expedition north of the Wall in Season 1 and never came back. He was left for dead by the wights, but death did not completely claim him. The Children of the Forest found him, drove a dragonglass dagger into his heart, and made him something other than man. He and Bran have that in common. Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven, he is something other, or perhaps more, than he once was. And not because of the slow, experiential kind of transformation everyone on this show (and in life) undergoes. Because something supernatural was done to both of them. This makes them special, it makes them singular, and, in many ways, it makes them oh-so-alone.
Tonight’s was a big episode for familiar faces to pop back up in the narrative. Benjen made an appearance, as did Edmure Tully. Edmure has been a hostage of House Tully since the Red Wedding and, guys, he has looked better. (Although, he has, notably, endured a better fate than most attendees of the Red Wedding.) Walder Frey tends to use Edmure as collateral in the Frey’s bid to win Riverrun back from the Blackfish. Something tells me it is going to be harder than dangling one Tully in front of Riverrun to get the Blackfish to relinquish his hold on the historic seat of House Tully.
Road to Meereen
Never let it be said that Daenerys doesn’t know how to work a crowd. Though we don’t spend much time with the Mother of Dragons in tonight’s episode (there’s only so much that can happen on the road from Vaes Dothrak to Meereen), Dany makes up for her limited screen time by going big. The episode’s title — “Blood of My Blood” — refers to the traditional greeting between a Khal and their bloodrider, and, here, it refers to the rousing speech Dany makes to her new Dothraki army atop a newly-returned Drogon. The speech itself is a call back to a similar one Khal Drogo made in Season 1, but the aid of a dragon certainly ups the wow factor. Ultimately, however, it is Daenerys’ skill as an orator and as a cultural assimilator that makes her so powerful. She speaks to the Dothraki in their native tongue, using the values they understand. We may have ice zombies to worry about, but, when listening to Dany speak, it’s easy to forget there is anything more important than her quest for the Iron Throne.
Rating: ★★★ Good
As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran has more or less been delivered a visual history of Westeros (and beyond), including the rise of the White Walkers and what seems like the Mad King telling his men to murder the entirety of King’s Landing. In conjunction, it’s hard not to notice the connection between the wights and the king’s insistence on “burning them all,” something that we know must be done to prevent the dead from turning into wights. Could the Mad King’s madness have been based in something other than simple, bloodthirsty insanity?
“Well, it wasn’t a very large piece of parchment.” — Sam, on why he didn’t mention to his family that Gilly is a wilding.
“It’s not easy admitting to yourself what you really are.” — Margaery, giving us the theme of this episode.
“You’re the best person I know.” — Tommen to Margaery. Sadly, this is probably true. Tommen is surrounded by mostly scheming, manipulative liars.
“I think our father could learn a thing or two from your father.” — Talla (Sam’s sister) to Gilly. Awkward.
“He a greater warrior than either of you will ever be.” — Gilly, on Sam.
“I’m not angry with you. I’m angry that horrible people can treat good people that way and get away with it.” — Gilly, on Randyll Tarly’s treatment of Sam. She probably wouldn’t like this show, then.
“You’re not what he thinks you are, Sam. He doesn’t know what you are.” — Gilly
“How many times have you seen this stupid play?” — Lady Crane
“You have very expressive eyes, Mercy. Do you like pretending to be other people?” — Lady Crane.
Between Essie Davis as Lady Crane and Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully, this episode was filled with great actors who star on other, prestige TV shows you should probably be watching — Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Outlander, respectively. (Editor’s Note: and Richard E. Grant!)
Mace: “What’s happening?”
Olenna: “He beaten us. That’s what’s happening.”
“You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do anything.” — Jaime, trying to explain to Tommen that he is the king.
When Daenerys asks Daario how many boats she will need to sail to Westeros, he tells her 1,000. Coincidentally, Euron Greyjoy is currently building just that number to gift to the Mother of Dragons in exchange for her hand in marriage. Keep hammering, Euron. (Does one hammer boats together? Probably not.)