'Game Of Thrones' – The 10 Most Important Moments In "Blood Of My Blood"

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.

Meet the Tarly Family

We've been hearing about the cruelty of Randyll Tarly since season one, when Samwell Tarly confided in Jon Snow that his father, the lord of Hornhill, threatened to kill him if he didn't renounce his claim to the family castle and join the Night's Watch. And now, we've met Lord Tarly and he's every bit the bastard that we all expected. He feels no pride for his son and looks upon him with disgust. He's wily enough to see right through the cover story Sam and Gilly concocted to cover her wildling origins. He's a nasty piece of work, but it's clear why he's managed to weather the storm of so many wars – he roots out weakness and he destroys it. Game of Thrones has added yet another monstrous father to its ensemble.

While it's hard to see how Sam could possibly be the child of such a man, you can see shades of him in his other family members. His mother is sweet and kind, but also in possession of a backbone that allows her to stand up to her domineering husband. His sister instantly accepts Gilly like a sister, offering her a dress to wear to dinner. Even Sam's younger brother, the new heir to Hornhill who only gets a line or two, seems deeply uncomfortable with how his father is treating his firstborn. It's now easy to imagine Sam's childhood as a loving, caring little boy who only wanted to learn, encouraged by a mother who loved him unconditionally while also despised by a father who can barely stand to look at him. Having now met Sam's mom, we can understand we he would treasure her thimble...and we can understand why him giving it to Gilly in the first place is such a huge deal.

Sam and Gilly Go Off-Book

One of the unique pleasures of Game of Thrones season six is how it has fully set off for uncharted waters. While some characters and storylines are still dealing with book material, others are in bold new territory, sidestepping (or even completely ignoring) the positions George R.R. Martin left them in at the end of the fifth book in the series. Right now, Gilly and Sam are veering in a wild new direction that is taking them as far from the source material as possible.

By taking his father's Valyrian steel and fleeing his family's home with Gilly in the middle of the night, Sam has laid claim to what is rightfully his. He has seemingly abandoned the Night's Watch in favor of personal pride and the woman that he loves. For the first time in a long time, he has decided to take control of his destiny and stand up to his father. Of course, he stands up to his father in the most Samwell Tarly way imaginable – by running away. And there is no way this ends well for them.

Arya Stark Has a Name

One of the great casualties of Game of Thrones has been Arya Stark's innocence. The plucky tomboy who used to chase cats around the Red Keep has become a murderer, a companion to a brigand, and now, an assassin ready to denounce her identity and kill in the name of a mysterious god and his cult of face-swapping followers. Arya, lost and alone and broken and fueled only by a desire for revenge, needed something, anything, to fill the void in her life. Becoming a Faceless Man, letting go of her painful history and denouncing her family's name, seemed like a good start.

But when tasked with poisoning an innocent actress, Arya had an epiphany. This wasn't her. This wasn't her fight. Her fight was back across the Narrow Sea, where her family name was being dragged through the mud, where her enemies continued to cling to power. As she says to the victim she spares at the last moment, her father is waiting for her. She watched him die so very long ago and she ran from her pain. Now, having stared into the abyss, having understood what it means to be no one, she reclaims Needle, her physical connection to the family she left behind, and she abandons assassin school. She is not no one. She is Arya Stark of Winterfell.

Of course, one does not simply walk away from the House of Black and White. Jaqen sends the Waif after her to remove her from the picture – she's seen too much and has disgraced the many-faced god. Arya's trip back to Westeros, to her family and to her name, is going to involve a few speed bumps.

Showdown at the Great Sept of Baelor

It turns out that you don't need an army to win a battle. Well-timed alliances and the right audience are more powerful than a hundred soldiers. The Lannisters and the Tyrells, the two most cunning great Houses in Westeros, have officially met their match in the High Sparrow. The planned military intervention to rescue Margaery Tyrell before she would be forced to endure a walk of repentance quickly turned into a blunder. Jaime, Olenna, and Mace Tyrell had to watch impotently as the Queen was cleared of all charges and King Tommen joined his wife on the steps outside the Great Sept of Baelor to declare a new alliance between the church and the crown. As the crowd roared their approval, three of the most powerful and influential men and women in Westeros stood there with a useless army and egg on their face – they had been outplayed by a barefooted priest in rags. Their king had picked a side.

We saw some fallout from this new alliance in "Blood of My Blood," but there is surely more waiting in the wings. Cersei's trial is just around the corner and her own son no longer supports her. The people have made their approval of the High Sparrow and this new alliance known. Jaime is gone (more on that in a moment). And yet, there seems to be more here than meets the eye. While King Tommen seems to have bought into the High Sparrow's worldview, Margaery is still the big question mark here. She's too smart, too cunning, and too much of a politician to let a man like this change her in a fundamental way. Think back to her scene with Ser Loras in his cell – she was going to get out of here at all costs, no matter what it took. And she was going to get her brother out, too. While everyone else scrambles or basks in newfound confidence, Margaery could very well be playing everyone else for fools.

walder frey

War Returns to the Riverlands

No amount of schadenfreude will ever take away the vicious sting of the Red Wedding, but it sure is nice to watch House Frey squirm. Ruling the Riverlands has not been easy for the "Late" Walder Frey, who has been plagued by the Brotherhood Without Banners and has watched as various houses have risen up against him in support of "Blackfish" Tully, who has retaken Riverrun in his family's name. Still, taking pleasure in watching that old creep watch his world fall apart around him isn't enough. He's still the most loathsome character on Game of Thrones – he deserves whatever dark fate he ultimately meets.

The re-introduction of Walder Frey and his grotesque family serve a number of purposes. They remind us of how horribly House Stark was betrayed during season three, just in case you forgot why Jon Snow and Sansa Stark are so angry all the time. They remind us who the Blackfish is and how House Tully was broken alongside the Starks at the Red Wedding. But most importantly, they produce Edmure Tully, who has been rotting in a dungeon since season three. He was a pawn being used against his will during a wedding massacre and now he's a pawn once more. He's the closest thing the Freys have to a bargaining chip. In the battle for Riverrun, he's their greatest weapon.

The Exile of Jaime Lannister

First, Jaime Lannister had to deal with the death of his daughter. Then he came home to learn that his sister (and the love of his life) had been humiliated by religious fanatics. Then he had to stand by impotently while the king, his secret son, allied with the church against his own family. Of course, the grand climax of this pile of misery came when King Tommen removed him from the Kingsguard and essentially banished him from King's Landing, sending him to help House Frey clean up their mess in the Riverlands. The Kingslayer has seen better days.

The most devastating side effect of this carefully calculated move by King Tommen (which was surely informed by the High Sparrow) is that Cersei and Jaime are no longer together and can no longer showcase a united front. These two may be one of the creepiest couples in the history of fiction, but there's no denying their chemistry – when they're in the same room, stuff gets done. By removing Jaime from the King's Landing chessboard, the Queen Mother has to face her impending trial alone. Sure, she has the Mountain, but her list of allies has grown terrifyingly short. House Stark may have fallen with more bloody and dramatic flair, but House Lannister is falling piece by piece and brick by brick. Soon, this family will be as broken and scattered as their former archenemies. A new era has begun for Westeros and Jaime and Cersei have no place in it.

Daenerys and Drogon, Reunited

Yep, Daenerys and Drogon have kissed and made up. After several seasons of estrangement, the Mother of Dragons has made peace with her most unruly child, which means she can now command her khalasar from atop a fire-breathing, winged steed. She's starting to look unstoppable – all she needs now is, oh, about a thousand ships.

But what happens when Dany reaches Westeros with her dragons and her Dothraki horde? She'll be wading into an increasingly complicated situation where everything is in flux and everything that was certain a few years ago has been thrown from the window like an eavesdropping Stark boy. And Daenerys herself, who has always mixed kindness and justice with her plans of total domination, seems to be shifting her priorities toward the annihilation of her enemies. Maybe it's no accident that Bran was seeing visions of the Mad King, Daenerys' father/uncle. Years of Targaryen inbreeding transformed him into a psychopath. Maybe Dany is ready to literally follow in his footsteps.

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Spoiler Corner

Random speculation and book spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.

  • In the books, the hooded companion who assists Bran on his journey through the far north was a mysterious fellow named Coldhands, whose identity remains unrevealed on the page. He was also introduced much earlier in the book timeline, first appearing to assist Sam and Gilly on their journey back to Castle Black. Fans have long speculated that this mysterious figure was Benjen Stark, but George R.R. Martin has denied this. So one of two things has happened. Either Game of Thrones has revealed the truth about Coldhands before Martin could, or they have completely changed the character to re-introduce a familiar face rather than bring a new character into the fray this late in the story. In either case, it certainly looks like Benjen will take on all of the Coldhands business from here on out.
  • I had assumed that the siege of Riverrun would be excised from the show entirely, but it looks like Jaime will be heading to the Riverlands after all (albeit in a completely different way than he did in the books). If the show sticks to the books, this could be one hell of a storyline, with Jaime forced to navigate some treacherous diplomatic waters.