By Jessica Grey
I don’t know about y’all, but I’m still reeling from the loss of Hodor and Summer. Thankfully, “Blood of My Blood” gave me just enough of a chance to catch my breath, but only just. This episode set the stage for some pretty major shit to go down in the next four episodes.
This episode opens right where we left off last week, with Meera trying to drag Bran and his sled away from the cave and to safety. While she is struggling to keep moving, Bran is still stuck in warg-warg land and having rapid-fire, seemingly unconnected visions: falling from the window, the murder of his family members, his father at the Tower of Joy, the wights and the Night’s King, Mad King Aerys and his paranoid delusions, and Jaime slaying the Mad King. The only thing that appears to be consistent is his flashing between images of wights and images of the Mad King’s stockpile of wildfire, while Aerys screams, “Burn them all!” (I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that his vision is hinting at the possibility that the Mad King wasn’t mad in the way everyone thought he was.) As the horde of frosty zombies closes on Bran and Meera, a stranger on horseback appears, with kama and a flaming flail, and fights off the wights long enough to pull the two onto his horse and get the sevens hells away from there.
Then, we make our way down to the Reach, where Sam, Gilly, and Baby Sam are en route to Horn Hill. Gilly marvels at how lush and green everything is in the Reach, while poor Sam is a nervous wreck at the prospect of returning home. I mean, after all, the last time he saw his father, Lord Tarly gave him the option to take the Black or die. So, Sam’s not exactly expecting a warm welcome. Luckily, when they first arrive, Sam’s father and brother are out on a hunt, so Sam and Gilly are greeted by his mother and sister, both of whom are genuinely thrilled to see Sam and meet his young family.
In King’s Landing, Tommen is at the Sept talking to the High Sparrow about what comes next for Queen Margaery. Worried for his wife’s safety, the young king asks if the Walk of Atonement is the only way. The High Sparrow says that it is. He tries to reassure King Tommen that the Faith Militant will protect her and that, because she is not Cersei, the public will be kinder to her. He then offers Tommen the opportunity to visit with Margaery. After their initial embrace, the queen launches into a fairly convincing display—or, at least, one that is convincing to Tommen—of humility and contrition. Knowing Margaery’s propensity for playing the game, and having witnessed her exchange with her brother, this show of redemption and new-found devotion to the gods seems less than transparent and makes me wonder who she’s playing: Tommen? The High Sparrow? Cersei? Everyone?
Back at Horn Hill, Sam and Gilly join Sam’s family for dinner. The whole affair is miserable. Lord Tarly takes every opportunity to hurl abuse at Sam. Finally, when Gilly cannot take anymore, she comes to Sam’s defense and, in the process of praising bae’s courage, accidentally lets it slip that she’s a Wildling. This revelation causes Lord Tarly to become even more of an asshole. Sam’s mother can’t take it anymore, so she leaves, taking her daughter and Gilly with her. Sam’s father eventually concedes to raise Baby Sam and let Gilly work in the kitchen, but he declares that Sam will never be allowed back at Horn Hill. So, that was pretty terrible. But Gilly totally rocks that borrowed frock, so she’s got that goin’ for her, which is nice.
Sam goes to Gilly and apologizes for not having stood up for her—he was afraid that if he challenged his father, Gilly and Baby Sam would be turned away. After she kisses him, he says goodbye and leaves. And then, Sam immediately comes back, picks up Baby Sam and says, “We’re leaving. We belong together. All of us.” Before taking their leave of Horn Hill, Sam stops and takes Heartsbane—the Tarly family’s Valyrian steel sword—from the mantle. When Gilly asks if his dad will come to get it back, Sam replies, “He can bloody well try.” Oooooh! Yes, Sam! Tell it! But where are they going? Maybe back to the Wall? I mean, Sam’s taking Valyrian steel for a reason, y’know?
In Braavos, Arya is back at the theatre watching another performance of the play about the recent struggles for control of the Iron Throne. Though the portrayal is inaccurate, Arya takes a certain amount of pleasure in the scene depicting Joffrey’s murder. Given that she’s the only one there who has witnessed what a tool Joffrey really was, who can blame her? As the play moves on from that scene, she sneaks backstage to poison Lady Crane’s rum. As she makes her way back out, Arya runs into the actress, who confronts her about sneaking into the show. Lady Crane then continues talking to her, thinking that Arya is interested in joining the troupe. She makes an excuse to leave but, as Lady Crane starts to drink her after-show rum while trying to discuss changing the script, Arya comes back and smacks the glass from the actress’ hand, warning her that the younger actress in the troupe wants her dead. Unfortunately, Arya’s not the only one sneaking backstage: the Waif witnesses this dereliction of duty and goes back to report to Jaqen, who then gives the order to kill Arya. Meanwhile, having decided serving the Many-Faced God is not for her, Arya recovers Needle from its hiding place and lies in wait. I don’t think that it’s going to be Arya’s face that is added to the Hall of Faces.
Clipping back to King’s Landing, we see Mace Tyrell marching his forces toward the Sept, but not before giving a ridiculous parody of a motivational speech to his men. Also, I didn’t think it was possible for Mace Tyrell to seem more buffoonish than he normally does but, between the armor and that lead zeppelin of a pep talk, I was wrong. In spite of Lord Tyrell’s overblown sense of importance in the scheme, he and Jaime Lannister march the army to the Sept as the High Sparrow brings Margaery before the public. When Jaime demands the queen be released, else the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant risk being cut down where they stand, the High Sparrow licks the jam right out of his donut. He proclaims that while he and the Faith Militant yearn to meet death in the service of the Seven, that won’t be necessary because Queen Margaery will not have to make the Walk of Atonement. The queen, it seems, has atoned for her sins in another way: bringing King Tommen into the High Sparrow’s fold. Jaime and Lady Olenna are pissed, poor Mace is terribly confused, and the High Sparrow has the most smug look plastered on his face. Later, Tommen relieves Jaime of his position as commander of the King’s Guard, since making a move against the Faith is to move against the Crown. Instead, Jaime is ordered to head their army and march on River Run. Though he balks at the prospect, Cersei convinces Jaime that it is what he must do. And then the two of them do that weird thing they do, getting all hot and bothered over their mutual hatred of everything.
And then we get treated to a face that, I’m sure, most of us would have been perfectly content to never see again: Walder Frey. The show takes us back to the Twins as two of Lord Frey’s sons come to report that River Run has been taken by the Blackfish. After insulting his sons and generally being a terrible human being for a while, Frey releases Edmure Tully, who we haven’t seen since the Red Wedding. This is part of his strategy for making the Blackfish surrender River Run. So, now, between this episode and the last, we have the Blackfish, some Freys, Edmure, Jaime, and Brienne all heading to River Run. Things are about to get real interesting in the Riverlands.
Then, we cut away to where Meera, Bran, and their mysterious rescuer have made camp. This is when we find out that Uncle Benjen is alive, y’all! Well, sort of alive. I think. The White Walkers tried to turn Uncle Benjen, but the Children of the Forest found him and stopped it. Basically, he’s suffered two would-be fatal wounds charged with different kinds of magic. So, yeah. He’s some kind of alive. But, yay! Uncle Benjen! Woo!
Finally, we join Daenerys and her gigantic khalasar on their way to Meereen. She and Daario discuss what comes next, with Daario insisting that Dany is a conquerer who was not meant to sit still on a throne. She tells everyone to wait as she rides off. After a while, the khalasar starts getting restless and, just as Daario resolves to ride after her, Drogon, carrying Dany, comes swooping overhead! When the dragon lands, Dany gives a rousing speech to the khalasar, proclaiming all of them her blood riders and asking them to sail with her to Westeros and take the Seven Kingdoms for her.
So. Anyone else feeling like they need to brace themselves for whatever the show runners are ramping up toward? Or is that just me?