“Game of Thrones” Episode 6, “Blood of My Blood,” certainly brought a bushel basket of new developments. In no particular order:
Benjen Stark, Ned’s brother, whom everyone thought dead, appeared out of the mist and snow to rescue Bran and Meera from one angry band of wights;
Sam Tarly’s father ridiculed his first- born for being fat, insulted Gilly for being a wildling and otherwise acted like a total jerk;
Edmure Tully, Caitlyn Stark’s brother and bridegroom at the Red Wedding, showed up alive, if most likely not entirely well, as a captive of Walder Frey;
Tommen drank the Sparrows’ Kool-Aid and declared politics and religion to be the twin stanchions of King’s Landing;
Drogon found Dany (see above); and (finally)
Arya reclaimed Needle and presumably her identity as a Stark.
However, with the exception of this last, which I’ll get to in a moment, none of these were really surprising. All were variously foreshadowed, hinted at, and had their seeds planted at various times over previous seasons of the show (Keep in mind this is coming from soneone who never gets the murderer right in mysteries). I don’t intend this as criticism—actually it’s a relief to be freed of mayhem for a week to focus on storytelling,
For a number of viewers I’m certain the reappearance of Benjen Stark was the most surprising, at least after they got over their initial “Who in the world is that?” Given that we last saw Benjen in Season 1, this reaction was predictable. If you recall, our last view of Benjen was his departure from Castle Black to scout north of the Wall, at which point he seemingly disappeared into oblivion. However, if you’ve read or even glanced at the George R.R.Martin novels, you’ll notice that Benjen, as listed in the Stark family tree, is described as (I’m paraphrasing here) “missing and presumed dead.” Based on this ambiguity alone I never bought his demise, and since a body never turned up, I expected a living Benjen to appear at some point. And so he did—at the most fortuitous moment.
Sam Tarly’s father isn’t worth discussing, so we won’t linger. Nevertheless, while foreshadowing is a major theme this week, I fully expect the sword Heartsbane to be put to use before this season ends, and by the budding maester himself.
Edmure Tully? The last we saw of him he was being hustled out of the Frey banquet hall as the slaughter began at the Red Wedding. Edmure was always more valuable to Walder Frey as a live captive as opposed to a dead Stark in-law, so again, no surprise there. But am I looking forward to the eventual hellish torture of Walder Frey? You better believe it.
While GoT has obviously been pointing toward Tommen’s getting religion, it feels like there’s a great deal more to come. I can’t help but think his conversion was Step One in a Margaery game plan, no matter how demure she appeared when Tommen announced the alliance of church and state. That girl is still Olenna Tyrell’s granddaughter, and has she ever learned her lessons well. With no love lost between the Lannisters and the Tyrells, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that she sees a Tommen-High Sparrow partnership as the best way to permanently render the Lannisters politically as well as militarily impotent, what with Jamie ordered off to Riverrun for Lannisters vs. Starks, Round Two.
Despite all this, the most intriguing development—and for me the one real surprise of the episode—was Arya’s refusal to go through with the assigned murder of Lady Crane. One of the more distressing arcs of GoT has been Arya’s transformation from a lovable girl with a strong moral sense into a killer with a hit list. Not that she doesn’t have cause—betrayal and witnessing your father’s public beheading will do that, not to mention seeing your brother’s corpse paraded about topped by Grey Wolf’s head. A real turning point came when she abandoned a dying Hound. While she later voiced some ambivalence about it, the act was perhaps more shocking than her butchering of Merwyn Trent.
Why did Arya knock the cup of poisoned rum out of Lady Crane’s hand? Was she so awed by Lady Crane’s skills as an actress? More likely she was swayed by the actress’ interest and unexpected warmth. Arya hasn’t had any mothering in a very long time, and Lord knows, Jaquen and the Waif aren’t exactly nurturing types. Nor are they any fun, and it was wonderful to see Arya enjoying the troupe’s ribald performance. It would be fitting indeed for Arya to fulfill the Faceless’ mission by becoming an actress and wearing many faces.
So after two seasons in The House of Black and White she finally retrieves Needle and presumably reclaims her identity as a Stark. While she couldn’t beat the Waif as a Girl Who Has No Name, my money’s on her to do so as her father’s daughter.
One final note: I’m not spoiled, but there was a huge anvil dropped when Cersei, in her usual “I always win” manner, told Jamie not to worry about her upcoming trial by combat to be conducted by the Sparrows—the Mountain will be her champion. Guess what, honey? I think the Hound is alive and well and in the employ of the Sparrows. The Clegane Brothers still have a lot of issues to settle, for sure.
To be continued.