Posted on Monday, May 30th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
We were due for a table-setting episode of Game of Thrones. The previous two hours were so full of vital revelations and so jam-packed with action that a little bit of wheel-spinning was inevitable. “The Door” and “Book of the Stranger” were all about pulling off a series of complicated maneuvers that had already been carefully set up. “Blood of My Blood” is all about setting up the dominoes that will come crashing down in the home stretch of season six.
And while nothing huge happened, there’s still a great deal to talk about.
The History of Westeros: Live on Stage!
In last week’s episode, we were offered an extended look a stage play adapting the recent history of Westeros and poor Arya Stark was in for quite a shock. Across the Narrow Sea in Essos, far from King’s Landing, the events we have been witnessing firsthand for six seasons are viewed quite differently. Joffrey was a noble king. Eddard Stark was a traitorous, bumbling fool. The victors write the history books and those history books become fiction and that fiction soon becomes truth in the eyes of the masses. When the smoke clears, it’s anyone’s guess what the common people of Westeros and Essos will think about the Starks and the Lannisters and the Baratheons. It certainly won’t resemble the truth.
“Blood of My Blood” invited us to watch another portion of the play, revealing an alternate take on the Purple Wedding and feeding into the common belief that Tyrion Lannister was the one who murdered his nephew. Although Peter Dinklage sat this episode out, he was there in spirit on that stage, being played as a cackling villain with a hooked nose and zero remorse for his insane actions. While this season has offered a measured look at Tyrion the even-handed politician and skilled negotiator, his actions will never speak louder than his false reputation. His physical appearance has forever doomed him to a lifetime of supposed villainy. Tyron may very well be the most skilled player in the game, but as with his victory at the Battle of the Blackwater, the world will never know the truth. That’s the tragedy at the heart of this entire show. No one will remember Tyrion as a hero, much like how no one will remember Hodor and Yoren and Pyp. History devours all and the details are lost.
Bran and the Infinite Well of Knowledge
So Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven now despite pulling a Luke Skywalker and never finishing his training. With the magical cave of wonders destroyed by the undead and poor Meera Reed struggling to keep him alive in a forest full of murderous skeletons, Bran continues to be trapped in Mystical Vision Land, with his mind transporting him on a fast-paced montage of necessary information. Most of what he sees is stuff we have already seen and stuff that he already knows: the origins of the White Walkers, the terrifying battle at Hardhome, and, most horribly, visions of his father and brother both being murdered.
However, there are tiny snippets of brand new material glimpsed here and their inclusion is very interesting – Game of Thrones doesn’t do anything by accident. For the first time, we see King Aerys Targaryen, better known as “The Mad King,” the final Targaryen ruler whose increasingly insane actions led to Robert’s Rebellion in the first place. We see him on the Iron Throne and we hear him give the command that caused young Jaime Lannister to shove a sword through him: “Burn them all.” We then catch glimpses of green wildfire, previously utilized by Tyrion at the Battle of the Blackwater, but whose wildfire is this? Is this the stores that the Mad King had on hand, the wildfire that he intended to use against his own people and Lannister forces alike? Or is this a flashback to Blackwater? Or is this a glimpse into the future, a look at wildfire that has yet to come into play? After all, if you want to battle an army of zombies who are susceptible to flames, that certainly sounds like the weapon of choice.
Why would Game of Thrones show all of this to us? Why remind us of the Mad King and wildfire and Jaime executing his own king and forever damning his reputation? It certainly feels like Bran is on the cusp of something enormous. He has so much power that he can only process it in montage. If he can slow it down, we might find something vital to the history of this entire world.
The Return of Benjen Stark
The last time we say Benjen Stark, the head ranger of the Night’s Watch set out beyond the Wall and never returned. That was in episode three of season one. He’s been presumed dead for over five years. However, Ned Stark’s younger brother made a triumphant return in “Blood of My Blood,” revealing himself to be a hardened zombie-fighter who was rescued by the Children of the Forest and put to work battling the undead menace after narrowly escaping death at the hands of a White Walker. It’s the kind of payoff that can only function in longterm, serialized storytelling – it took Game of Thrones fifty-three episodes to bring Bran’s lost uncle back into play, a setup and payoff that is almost as impressive as Hodor’s shocking and tragic origin story.
We never really got the chance to know Benjen back in the day, but his mere presence speaks volumes. After season after season of House Stark being broken down, season six has been building Westeros’ resident punching bags back up in a big way. No one is bringing Ned and Robb back, but there are more of their family members alive than previously thought…and they’re all starting to find one another.