This review contains spoilers.
6.6 Blood Of My Blood
At times throughout the six seasons of Game Of Thrones, it’s felt that all the story lines are moving except for Daenerys Targaryen’s tale of revenge. Sure, she’s conquered cities and raised an army while being a single mother to three surly teenage dragons, but at the same time, she’s not really done that much either. Daenerys has been a lot of spinning wheels and painful lessons. That’s not to say that there haven’t been great moments along the way, but they’ve been fewer and farther apart than I think most people would like. That’s all changing this season; Daenerys Stormborn is in full effect, and she’s getting ready to bring the pain to the Seven Kingdoms.
Of course, she only appears at the very end of the episode, but it’s an episode loaded down with various people attempting or making power plays akin to that made by Daenerys in the last episode, albeit less flashy than burning a bunch of Khals alive and then walking naked out of a roaring fire. However, it’s a testament to how far Daenerys has come as a character and as a leader, because there are lots of bad leaders to compare her to this week, specifically Mace Tyrell. When Daenerys makes a speech, everyone roars in approval. When Mace Tyrell makes a similar speech before leading the Tyrell forces in what is assumed to be a scrap with the Faith Militant, people just kind of look at him.
Roger Ashton-Griffiths is brilliant as this character, so goofy yet so pompous at the same time. He’s no match for the High Sparrow in terms of being able to manipulate the masses, and even his own mother just rolls her eyes at his attempts to be in charge of anything other than a sandwich. Diana Rigg’s reaction shots this week are amazing; she’s one of the show’s biggest weapons, and we get just enough of her every now and then to remind us all that the Queen of Thorns is a true power broker; Olenna is rich enough to get her way and old enough not to worry about niceties. She knows how to play the game, but experienced enough to know that sometimes being a straight-shooter is the most valuable asset someone has in a world where everyone lies to everyone else constantly. She’s also smart enough to know when she’s been outmanoeuvred, and the High Sparrow does just that by turning Tommen towards the faith and away from his mother’s control.
Speaking of breaking away, it appears as though Arya’s attempt to become one of the Faceless Men is doomed to failure. She was never quite able to get over being a Stark, and that revenge she craved never really went away, blind or not. Given the order to poison an otherwise nice actress in Lady Crane (The Babadook’s Essie Davis), not only does she not do the job, she also tells her just who the person is that put out the hit: her acting companion/competition Biana (Eline Powell). However, with a return to Starkdom means that Arya’s faithful blade Needle makes a reappearance, which doesn’t bode well for the Waif, since Arya now knows which end of the sword is the pointy end and is more able to use it than she was after her dancing lessons with Syrio Forel.
This theme of independence runs throughout the entire episode, courtesy of Bryan Cogman’s script. Sam is finding his manhood again, standing up to his cruel father Randyll Tarley (James Faulkner, last seen as Pope Sixtus on Da Vinci’s Demons). Granted, Sam doesn’t exactly stand up to him; it’s more like sneaking around after he’s in bed to steal the family’s Valyrian steel blade Heartsbane and to take off with Gilly and little Sam after Randyll goes on a prolonged rant about how Wildlings are less than human. Still, by Sam’s standards, that’s practically flexing his muscles and preening. No matter how weak Sam might seem in front of his father, we’ve all seen what he’s capable of when he has to act, and Sam and Gilly remain the most adorable couple in Westeros in spite of Randyll’s insults.
Sam’s going to need to wield Heartsbane before too long, because in the North, the White Walkers are advancing on the wall when they aren’t chasing around Bran and Meera. Fortunately, the two get a protector in the form of a mysterious stranger wielding a flaming flail that makes short work of the approaching undead. Director Jack Bender does a good job with the action sequences. The execution is tight, the editing adds to the surprise and excitement, and the scene leads into the stranger’s unmasking in a very natural fashion.
Of course, the wights are some of my favorite creations on the show, because every sword-carrying skeleton gives me flashbacks to Ray Harryhausen, and every flaming zombie stuntman gives me a gleeful reminder of one of the best ‘man on fire’ scenes in movie history from Swamp Thing. Even the appearance of Dany on the back of a dragon looks pretty good; the show’s CGI dragons can sometimes be a bit dodgy, particularly when they’re in flight, but it’s such a cool scene that it’s easy to overlook the computer and focus on just how awe-inspiring it must be for a Dothraki horde to watch a dragon fly overhead, especially since their Khaleesi is on the back of said dragon, a silver dot in a field of green and black scales.
It’s always nice to see certain people return, and in many ways, Blood Of My Blood seems like a flashback. We see Edmure Tully and Walder Frey back. Needle returns. Daenerys is back riding a dragon. And, of course, a long-missing First Ranger returns to the fold north of the Wall. Everything old is new again, and as always, winter is coming.