Every week this season, Indiewire will be bringing you a unique collection of viewpoints on “Game of Thrones,” as it is a show that elicits a unique sort of reactions. Our writers are well-versed in the world of the show and the culture surrounding it, and we look forward to seeing how their opinions fare in the cutthroat world of Westeros… Sorry, that is, the cutthroat world of television criticism.
LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 Episode 5, ‘The Door,’ Opens Up Many Secrets
What Happened This Week?
We pick up this week as Meera drags Bran through the wilderness, while Bran flashes through visions of his family (and beyond) which savvy fans will no doubt have a great time analyzing frame-by-frame. Before the White Walkers catch up with them, they’re rescued by a masked rider… Who we later learn is none other than Benjen Stark, the long-lost uncle to the Stark children, who was presumed dead after venturing beyond the Wall.
Some relatively minor confrontations move plots forward: Arya continues to be the worst at actually assassinating people, thwarting her own attempt at poisoning the lead actress of a troupe and thus marking herself for slaughter at the hands of “the Waif” (finally had to look that character’s actual name up — “Game of Thrones,” you’ve done better). And Samwell finally gets Gilly to his family home, but while his mom and sister are cool, his father proves to be as hateful as previously advertised, especially when he finds out that Gilly is a wildling. Gilly and baby Sam get official permission to stay, but when Sam gets kicked out of the house, Sam decides that all of them should leave together.
Meanwhile, Margaery Tyrell and King Tommen make a deal with the High Sparrow that cements a partnership between the crown and the new religion (and gets Margaery out of having to perform the ultimate walk of shame). Jaime gets stripped of his role as the Lord Commander of the King’s Guard, and sent to retake River Run — which Cersei supports, mostly because it’s an opportunity for the two of them to make out… Sorry, I mean, flex their power.
And then we end as all “Game of Thrones” episodes should — with Daenerys pulling yet another baller move. This time, she’s reunited with Drogo the dragon, who she rides to her new army of Dothraki to remind them who’s in charge, and why. Emilia Clarke’s ability to fully own dialogue written in a fictional language cannot be understated. The episode ends in hurrahs.
The Importance of Identity
Surprise! “Game of Thrones” delivered a relatively bloodless episode — in plot if not in spirit. Beyond the violent shock and awe tactics, this show excels when the game is actually being played. I have always enjoyed Margaery, and I bow down to her ongoing skill at manipulation and adaptation. While I don’t really think she is Westeros’s once and future sovereign, her canniness has more than earned her time as queen of the Seven Kingdoms — however brief that time may be, since Daenerys is clearly, finally heading across the Narrow Sea. Her conquering ways don’t sit right with me, though. Will she be a wise leader, or one who just wants what is hers, no matter the cost? I never liked the idea of her ruling the way she has in Meereen. Maybe if she has wise counsel…
Also, huzzah for the Stark family reunion continuing! Not only did Bran meet his long-lost Uncle Benjen (does his Children-aided resurrection give him extra powers?), but Arya finally came to her senses. I was so over her Faceless Man training, since renouncing her family name seemed antithetical to being one of the heroes of this series. There is virtue to being a Stark, or to a lesser extent, a Tully, and with Edmure set to go to Riverrun, where a bunch of people (Brienne, Jaime) are convening, this promises to be a pivotal battle before Winterfell.
What’s so excellent about this episode is that while previous seasons setting the table could be frustrating, I’m enjoying the anticipation, and cheered several times. Politics and wise thinking have been given their due, and staying true to oneself seems to be paying off (yassss, Gilly and Sam!). And hey, isn’t identity key to who is supposed to be destined for the Iron Throne?
— Hanh Nguyen, Contributor: The Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly, GameSpot, Tech Republic (@hanhonymous)
Table Setting, But Plenty of Drama
The mother of dragons finally lives up to her title, in an episode which started slow but really delivered by the end.
It didn’t seem that this week’s episode would offer any signature moments. After the death of Hodor last week, we almost needed a bit of a breather to come to grips with one of the season’s most poignant departures. That’s why producers took half an episode to show us Samwell’s dad is a complete asshole and why the pudgy hero never should have taken Gilly and her son there in the first place.
But by the middle of the episode, we learn that Bran has been saved by a mysterious character, who turns out to be Ned Stark’s brother Benjen (here’s where the “After the Thrones” cool segment “Who the F!&K was That” comes in handy). And we also learn that Cersei and Jaime have once again underestimated the High Sparrow, who turned their son the king into a devout follower under their noses (don’t these two ever get tired of being out-maneuvered by a guy who gets his wardrobe from the dustbin behind the nearest pub?).
Finish it up with Daenerys proving her control over her beloved dragons by riding one over the heads of her Dothraki army, and you have an episode where table setting and dramatic moments came together to give us a propulsive story which raised more speculation than it answered. It has been frustrating to see characters like Cersei and Jaime (and Tyrion, who we didn’t even see this week) wringing their hands on the sidelines while other characters get all the action. Perhaps with this latest turn, we’ll see the Starks finally begin to make an impact on the various wars at hand, while the Lannisters figure out how to get back in the game.
— Eric Deggans, TV Critic, NPR (@deggans)
READ MORE: Hodor’s Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Moments: An Appreciation in GIFs
“It’s hard to have a good talking episode without clever lines.”
Let’s, like Lady Crane, be fair: “Blood of My Blood” was a carefully crafted episode. It cohered cleanly, with neat parallels between the story lines. Decisions, reactions: This episode featured a series of characters — Sam, Arya, the High Sparrow, Tommen, Dany — making choices about who they are and what they stand for, and parsing the reactions of the crowds that matter to them. I can see what the writers were trying to do. And there were a couple of great moments: Arya with Lady Crane was excellent, and Arya and Sam both reclaiming the swords that matter to them opens up some exciting avenues. And Gilly! I love her more and more. But having been fair, let’s also be honest: this episode was pretty dull.
It’s not just that it was an episode that put wheels in motion, rather than delivering the fiery triumphs of the last two weeks. I don’t categorically dislike an episode that is mostly about talking, rather than battling zombie hoards or storming down the barricades. But it’s hard to have a good talking episode without clever lines, or real personality on display, and “Blood of My Blood” felt lacking to me in both regards. Tommen being weak isn’t new, nor is Cersei (this season) being blindly vengeful, nor is Walder Frey being terrible. If an episode’s emotional force is going to depend on hard choices being made and personality being tested, we need to see some transformation too. And then, on top of that: So many scenes featured the slow grinding miseries of piety and etiquette. I’d rather watch White Walker swarms than an awkward dinner party any day.
— Sarah Mesle, Senior Humanities Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books (@sunsetandecho)
A Buffet for Book-Readers
The show is finally starting to pull the far-flung threads of the story together. Tons of old characters we haven’t seen in a while are now back in play – Lord Frey, Edmure Tully, and a mention of the Brotherhood Without Banners. But the biggest surprise return is the long-lost Benjen Stark. I think the first time I saw a forum post asking if the mysterious Coldhands could be Benjen Stark was about 15 years ago –– that’s how long book readers have been waiting for that particular shoe to drop, and coming right on the heels of last week’s Hodor revelation, it’s breathtaking. But if the other longstanding book reader question resurfaces and Syrio Forel appears in next week’s episode, I will eat my hat.
The Tarly family reunion scenes were fantastic, although I was hoping to see more of Sam’s older brother Dickon (“UnREAL’s” Freddie Stroma). Sam’s kindness, humor and generosity once again proved that John Bradley is the show’s secret weapon. Margery is playing a very deep game with the High Sparrow, and poor Tommen is going to regret blindsiding his parents and the Tyrells like that. How amazing was that scene between the resurgent Jaime and Cersei? #TeamLannister4evs. I hope it works out for those crazy kids.
I am so ready for Arya to flee Braavos with the players. Joining a theater company is always a better choice than a mystical murder cult. And if HBO is desperate for a spin-off, they could do worse than a “Thrones” anthology show following wandering players going from town to town and getting into adventures. But as thrilling as it was to see Arya retrieve Needle from its hiding place, she’ll obviously have to face off with the Waif and I wish they could have gotten to that tonight instead of pushing it off for yet another week. And speaking of dawdlers, I’m not sure Daenerys’s closing speech was completely earned. Was there a reason her Dothraki needed to be fired up again? That ending felt a bit anti-climactic.
But all in all, another stellar episode. I gave last week’s episode an A–, but in retrospect I wish I’d given it a full A. Because then this week would be…
— Jay Bushman, Award-Winning Multiplatform Writer/Producer (@jaybushman)
A bit of a split decision this week, as the episode put its focus on either minor storylines or setting up major confrontations to come. But some of the bigger reveals, including the fact that there’s one more Stark alive in the Seven Kingdoms than expected, meant that this wasn’t a forgettable installment.
Final Grade: B+
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO. Get another look at the show below…
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