Last week’s Game of Thrones was, in a word, quiet, especially compared to the previous episode’s heartrending narrative.
“Blood of My Blood” heralded the second half of the sixth season, and it was the calm before a storm; paced carefully and masterfully, it set the table for more pieces of the political game, slowly but surely letting everything come together and readying them for the forward march. It might seem like the characters were moved around the board like hapless chess pieces, but in the end, isn’t that what everything really boiled down to—pitting pawn against pawn, knight against knight, king against king, all the while protecting your own?
It started in the North, that place of eternal cold. Hodor’s sacrifice (RIP, dear one; you will be missed) was not enough to keep Meera and Bran safe. The Walkers were relentless in their pursuit, and Meera was growing weary from pulling Bran along. The Stark scion was still lost in his visions, and in them, he caught his first glimpse of Mad King Aerys II Targaryen as he was screaming, “Burn them all!” (Remember Jaime recounting this particular memory to Brienne in season 3? Yeah.) Bran also caught flashes of Robb Stark’s death, their father’s execution, and other extremely significant moments in Westeros history. And then there again was the moment with the Night’s King wherein he touched vision-Bran, after which real-world Bran woke up and told Meera (quite unhelpfully, I might add), “They’ve found us.”
Right on cue, a horde of Walkers came running through the woods, and Meera—she really deserved a break, poor girl—was desperate, and it was clear she was agonized by her helplessness. When all hope seemed lost, she bent over Bran’s prone body, apologizing, for her inability to protect him, it seemed, though she really had done the best she could and no one could say that she was lacking.
And then in rode their savior.
A man in black, on horseback, drove the Walkers away with a flaming flail, and then he took Meera and Bran with him.
Later, it was revealed that the mysterious rider was Bran’s own uncle Benjen Stark, long-lost ranger of the Night’s Watch, presumed dead beyond the Wall. Well, that presumption was half-right; Benjen was indeed struck with a Walker’s blade, but the Children of the Forest prevented his transformation, piercing his heart with a shard of dragonglass. Nonetheless, seeing a kind-of alive Stark was good news; they’re kind of in short supply, or so the rest of the real believed. Benjen would be Bran’s guide in mastering his visions and would ensure that he’d be ready for his meeting with the Night’s King in the near future.
South in the capital, the High Sparrow gave a speech about sin and atonement, while the Rose of Highgarden stood serenely awaiting the verdict for her transgressions. Jaime marched in with the Tyrell army and rode his horse up the steps of the sept—honestly, his flair for the dramatic could rival Daenerys’s, but hers was another plotline—in a bid of power against the Faith, demanding Queen Margaery’s release.
However, this plan was derailed—as all the other Lannister plans since Tywin’s death, really—when King Tommen himself emerged from within the sept and declared that the Faith and the Crown would now work together, basically making the Westerosi government a theocracy. (Yes, because that worked so well for Baelor the Blessed.)
Furthermore, the young, naive, and (quite) gullible king relieved his uncle (and father, let’s not forget) from his duties as Commander of the Kingsguard. Jaime was mad about this, as to be expected, and he went to his sister about this, but Cersei told him that this would be for the best. He would be at the head of another army to subdue the Riverlands—which had fallen back into Tully hands, care of Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully—and he would show the world just what happens to enemies of their house.
Of course, the Lannisters weren’t the only ones thinking about the loss of the hold on the Riverlands. Much madder about this was Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, the traitorous old man who was one of the main hands behind the Red Wedding. He rebuked his sons Lothar and Black Walder about losing Riverrun—seat of power of the Riverlords—as if one could lose a castle. He wanted retaliation for it, obviously. After admonishing them for losing the Blackfish in the Red Wedding in the first place, he told them to present to the Blackfish the weapons they used to kill his family—Lothar the knife he used on Talisa Stark, murdering both her and her unborn child; and Black Walder the one he used to slit Catelyn Stark’s throat while she was weeping for her firstborn. Lord Frey also wanted them to use the Brynden’s nephew Edmure—groom of the Red Wedding, apparently kept alive all this time—as a bargaining chip.
In Horn Hill, Samwell finally set foot on his home again, Gilly and Little Sam in tow. His mother, Melessa of House Florent, and sister, Talla, were ecstatic to see him. They were warm to Gilly, who seemed overwhelmed with everything in sight. They were glad to see Young Sam, though they were led to believe that the babe was Samwell’s own.
Come dinnertime, however, all happiness fled them. Samwell’s father, Lord Randyll, was not delighted to see him. He saw Samwell as a disgrace to their name, and his barbed words roused Gilly into defending her protector. Lord Randyll learned that Gilly was a Wildling, and he was even more disgusted of them. He berated his son even more until Melessa stormed out of the hall, taking Talla and Gilly along. He gave his son till morning to leave his house, though he said Gilly could stay and he would even let the babe be recognized as a Tarly bastard. However, Samwell left with both, and he even stole his father’s most prized possession—Heartsbane, House Tarly’s ancestral Valyrian-steel sword.
In Braavos, Arya botched up her first assignment, knocking the poisoned wine right up from Lady Crane’s hand. The Waif saw this and reported to the Kindly Man, who found it a loss. The Waif was to kill Arya—for the House of Black and White did not give three chances—though the Kindly Man told her to not let the girl suffer. It was interesting to note, for Faceless Men were supposed to be free of emotions. (Though by the Waif’s smirk, it was clear she did not intend to obey the Kindly Man’s instruction.) Arya retrieved Needle from its hiding place; Arya would always be a Stark, and this proved that she really would never be just No One.
Farther east, Daenerys outdid herself again. She was leading her Dothraki people, presumably on the way to Meereen. And she was reunited with her wayward dragon son Drogon—and she could ride him at will now! This creature of fire made flesh inspired awe in the Dothraki, and they were even more willing to lay their lives for the Dragon Queen. She declared all of them her bloodriders—and the episode’s title itself was a call to a khal’s bloodriders—and extracted from them an oath to sail on wooden horses (there’s no Dothrak word for ship) and get her the Iron Throne.
The next episode, titled “The Broken Man,” has the following synopsis:
“The High Sparrow eyes another target. Jaime confronts a hero. Arya makes a plan. The North is reminded.”
In the previews, Sansa and Jon’s bid for Winterfell seemed to be on a slippery hill. Jaime would be facing the Blackfish as was his mission, and Olenna was blaming Cersei for the mess both their houses were in.
What would be taking place, and who was the broken man?
Would the High Sparrow bear down on the Tyrells? Their army’s attempt to free Margaery might have irked the High Sparrow enough to fast-track Loras’s punishment. Margaery’s conversion might have also revealed details of her grandmother’s hand in Joffrey’s assassination; this puts the Queen of Thorns in a precarious position, enough to criticize Cersei for her stupidity, and rightfully so.
Would Jaime fight the Blackfish? Would he be reunited with Brienne? The knight was tasked by Sansa to get the Blackfish on their side, and if she arrived at the same time as Jaime did, their meeting could mellow out Jaime’s disposition; she’s a good influence on him, especially this far away from Cersei’s clutches. That’s not to say that he would march with the Starks himself, but maybe he’d let her talk to the Blackfish in peace. Maybe.
Would Arya escape the Waif? Arya’s skills had considerably improved, and with her Water Dancing training coupled with what she learned from the Order of the Faceless, she might stand a chance of actually winning against the Waif. What was her plan, and would it be successful? Would she sail for Westeros, as a stowaway or something, or would she go another direction, perhaps even one that would lead her to the Dragon Queen? After all, why put a Stark scion, who was the most interested in Targaryen monarchs and dragons, in Essos if she would not meet the one her house helped put down? Daenerys already had one member of an enemy house working for her. Another would prove as an advantage, especially since Arya’s Stark blood could help in rallying support from the North when time came for taking the throne. And wouldn’t it be deliciously ironic—Stark and Lannister helping a Targaryen take the throne, when Stark and Lannister destroyed and dethroned a Targaryen before?
Would the North be dealt another bad hand? Would the remaining houses loyal to the Stark name recognize Sansa’s claim, or would they find her too weak? Would her blood be enough? The North remembers, it was often said, and hopefully, the North would remember how halcyon things where when Starks held Winterfell and would once again raise arms for the time of the Wolf.
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