Arya Stark, Benjen Stark, Blood of My Blood, Braavos, Cersei Lannister, Coldhands, Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen, Dean-Charles Chapman, Dragons, Emilia Clarke, Essie Davis, Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jaime Lannister, Jaqen H'ghar, Jon Snow, Jonathan Pryce, King's Landing, Kit Harington, Lady Crane, Lady Stoneheart, Lena Headey, Maisie Williams, Natalie Dormer, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Riverrun, Samwell Tarly, Sansa Stark, Sophie Turner, Stannis Baratheon, Stephen Dillane, Television, The Black Fish, The Faceless Men, The House of Black and White, The Night's Watch, Tom Wlaschiha, Tommen Baratheon, TV, Walder Frey, Walk of Atonement
Personally, I felt that this episode of “Game of Thrones” did what it had to do. Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) brief visions provided a glimpse into the past and the future, Arya (Maisie Williams) finally decided to leave the Faceless Men, and two very influential characters returned to the fold – Walder Frey (David Bradley) and Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle) respectively. I felt that the writers handled these moments well, and although Sam’s (John Bradley) extended sequence made the episode a lot worse than it had to be, it didn’t ruin it for me.
The problem with this aforementioned scene wasn’t the quality of the acting – as has been suggested – but rather that Sam as a character doesn’t deserve this kind of attention in the first place. He’s always been one-dimensional, but previously this has been masked by his endearing friendship with Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Now Sam doesn’t have that mask, so to spend twenty consecutive minutes with him is jarring.
It was a shame that we spent so much time with Sam after one of the best Bran scenes of the series to date, because the episode started on a high and then fell flat. Bran’s visions might’ve required several watches to fully appreciate, but when you’ve paused your TV enough times to catch each one separately they become a brilliant flicker of “Game of Thrones” past, present, and future. The shadow of a dragon passing over King’s Landing, a burst of wild fire, the Mad King shouting the phrase ‘kill them all’; what more could you ask for? Then there was the return of Benjen Stark, a character who we haven’t seen since the third episode of the entire series, so “Blood of My Blood” started in a very strong way. It was a pulsating, atmospheric, speculation-building beginning to the episode, and it deserved better than to be proceeded by Sam’s journey home with his girlfriend.
Still, for my money these moments left the episode in a reasonably positive place. There was a scene involving Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), Margaery (Natalie Dormer), and The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) wedged in the middle if we’re following the script properly, but in all fairness this scene didn’t really have much of an impact on the episode. The main reason that it was forced in was to set up the plot twist later on involving the same characters, and to provide the audience with an insight into Margaery’s head space, so on its own it wasn’t very interesting.
When Sam’s scenes were finally over the episode shifted to a more exciting place – Braavos. Arya went to see the play again, and this time we got to see a later scene in which the actors were portraying Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) death at the Purple Wedding. Once again I really enjoyed watching the play, not only because the dialogue was poetic and well-written, but because it offered a new perspective on events that we’ve already seen. The actress playing Cersei (Lena Headey) in the play, Lady Crane (Essie Davis), spoke of her pain and anguish at the loss of her first child which we’ve never really seen from the real Cersei. We know that she feels a great deal of sadness, but she puts her energy into vengeance and malice rather than self-pity, so having Lady Crane act as she did allowed the audience to empathise with the real version of the character a little bit more, and also did the same for Arya.
Of course, this scene had to move the plot forward, and it definitely did. Arya couldn’t kill Lady Crane because she still has a very clear sense of right and wrong, and also because having had the chance to speak to the actress in this episode she realised that the two might have more in common than she thought. This realisation was enough for Arya to give up her chance at becoming ‘No One’ and face a fight for her life against The Waif (Faye Marsay).
We all knew that this was coming, but I do find it slightly frustrating that Arya gave up her chance to live a safe life for the sake of a woman that she barely knows. I understand that in reality Arya’s decision was made for herself, for the sake of the person that she would be giving up if she killed an innocent woman, but perhaps the target could’ve been a more personal one for Arya so that the storyline would’ve been more believable. If Arya had been tasked with killing a friend, say Gendry (Joe Dempsie), who hasn’t appeared on the show for a long enough amount of time that his death would’ve been partly plausible, then her decision would’ve been much more palatable. After all, it’s likely that she’ll be on the run forever now isn’t it?
Well, maybe not, but either way my point is valid because for the character it will seem like that’s what the decision entails. However, there’s still an outside chance that Arya’s mission was in fact another test designed by Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). That might seem like a long shot to some people because Arya has already failed two tests and was told that this was her last chance at redemption, but the test I’m referring to wouldn’t be for Arya at all. When you become ‘No One’ you’re supposed to give up your desires and give your life in service of the Many-Faced God; it seems obvious, but to become ‘No One’ you have to lose your identity. You kill who you’re told to kill and you do so without pleasure; that’s all you do. So, with that in mind, it appears as though The Waif’s bloodlust for Arya breaks the code that the Faceless Men live by. If it doesn’t then they’re a wholly inconsistent organisation and the writers have a lot to answer for.
I’m not saying that Jaqen would let Arya’s failure go unpunished, because the pair made a deal, but surely being banished from The House of Black and White would be punishment enough. Still, a life has to be paid to the Many-Faced God because as we’ve been told before, only death can pay for life. Lady Crane got to keep hers because of what Arya did, so there’s a “Final Destination” style imbalance in place in the world. With that in mind, either Arya or The Waif has to die to pay the debt, but which one it is should be of no consequence to Jaqen. If Arya dies then she is punished for her misdemeanour, and if Arya kills The Waif then The Waif will be punished for wanting to kill Arya. It’s a win-win situation for the Faceless Men.
Obviously, I think that Arya will come out on top, but as I’ve said I expect that afterwards she’ll be banished from The House of Black and White, (probably following a witty line from Jaqen about a girl having a name, only for him to say the name of The Waif – at least that’s how I’d write the scene), or Jaqen would come across as an overly sympathetic character.
Elsewhere, in King’s Landing, The High Sparrow regained the upper hand by humiliating Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), which was an interesting scene, but the practicality of it was questionable.
When The High Sparrow started speaking it seemed as though Margaery was going to do her Walk of Atonement, which deceived the audience, but in reality it was idiotic because that was never the plan. The only reason that the scene was written and filmed in this way was so that the reveal of The Crown and The Faith’s merging was more surprising, so the writers basically ignored all realism for the sake of their soap-opera make-the-audience-gasp moment.
Moreover, the new armour that The Kingsguard were wearing, (which was a merging of The Faith’s symbol and a crown), was stupid because there was no way that the armour could’ve been made in time behind everyone’s back! Making armour in that amount of time, to that level of quality, is almost as nonsensical as building 1,000 ships on a whim… oh, wait, forget I said that and think about dragons.
The whole scene felt so convenient and cheap, which again lessened the impact of the one which preceded it. I’m not saying that it was terrible, or that it wasn’t a legitimate surprise, but it required a real suspension of disbelief and in my opinion the storyline isn’t going anywhere. Tommen will probably die at some point anyway, along with Cersei and The High Sparrow; with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her Dothraki horde on the way I fail to see why I should care about the political battle going on inside King’s Landing right now at all.
The only positive thing to come out of this whole escapade was Jaime’s removal from the Kingsguard and subsequent mission to Riverrun, because this shift in his story will hopefully inject the character with a bit of personality again. Ever since he got captured by Robb Stark (Richard Madden) he’s gone from strength to strength as a character, but this season he’s stagnated because he’s reverted back to being Cersei’s prettiest henchman. Taking him away from his sister can only be a good thing, and at Riverrun there are a multitude of possibilities which could make him exciting again. The most interesting of these possibilities would be for Jaime to reunite with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), which seems likely, or with Lady Stoneheart.
If he does meet up with Brienne then it will be intriguing to see whether or not he’s willing to help her, because he did make a promise to protect the Stark girls and he actually sent Brienne away to do just that. I’m hopeful that he’ll do something to help Sansa (Sophie Turner), but I’m not entirely sure why he would, given that this would hurt Cersei at a time when she needs her family to support her. The only justification I can think of for him helping Sansa and Brienne would be that somehow he finds out about Cersei and Lancel (Eugene Simon) sleeping together in season one, perhaps from Lancel himself or from The High Sparrow.
My dream scenario is that Lady Stoneheart will return, see Brienne and Jaime talking, and kill them both believing that Brienne has betrayed her. It might sound dark, but I think that both of them have had their character arcs now – Brienne killed Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and has also succeeded in helping Sansa, and Jaime could also gain redemption if he helps Brienne, so that would leave them both at a point where they are no longer needed in the story. Don’t get me wrong, I like them both, but with Benjen returning Lady Stoneheart is an all too real possibility, and I want her to start with a bang.
Finally, I should address Daenerys’ triumphant/unsettling scene, given that the episode was titled “Blood of My Blood” which clearly relates to our favourite egomaniac Targaryen. Whether or not you take her speech at the end of this episode as one of growth or as one which marks her slow decline into madness is entirely up to you, but I think that either way this was a slightly weird scene. On one hand it was cool that Daenerys gave a variation of the speech that Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) gave in season one, but on the other it felt like a completely unnecessary moment in the episode. It was very out of place in a fairly restrained hour of television, and it felt as though it had been tacked onto the end of the episode simply because there wasn’t another OMG moment to end with.
I think that the writers are toying with the audience, trying to make us all wonder whether or not Daenerys might become the villain of the piece – the fire to Jon Snow’s unrelenting ice – but I don’t think that the scene should’ve been used to end the episode. Surely Sam’s scenes earlier in the episode could’ve been shortened so that one of Bran’s visions could’ve been explored in more detail, thus providing the episode with a more satisfactory conclusion. Seeing an extended version of one of his earlier visions, such as the Mad King’s death, would’ve been far more exciting than watching Daenerys talk about what she’s going to achieve somewhere down the line.
Nevertheless, I felt that the positive aspects of this episode outweighed the negatives. This might not be immediately clear from what I’ve written, but the fact that I can speculate so excessively about the future of certain characters after watching this episode means that it achieved what it was intended to achieve. The structure of the episode as a whole was questionable – we spent too long with Sam and Daenerys’ scene felt out of place – but the fractured viewing experience was filled with intriguing moments and moved the story along nicely. “Blood of My Blood” opened up a lot of exciting possibilities for future episodes, so as an episode which was designed specifically for that purpose it was more than acceptable.