This week, “Game of Thrones” explores whether blood really is thicker than water. The plot takes an unexpected turn, shifting suddenly from the status quo of the previous episodes. The focus in “Blood of My Blood” moves away from the usually featured protagonists to feature some of the more peripheral characters. With Jon and Sansa absent and only a few short minutes dedicated to Daenerys’ journey back to Meereen, the episode turns to Sam, Gilly, Tommen and Arya for the majority of the episode. Brandon Stark’s opening vision frames this installment with the sudden confrontation between characters and their long-forgotten pasts. In remembering the past, the characters find themselves caught between old bonds and new ties and are forced to make definitive choices about whom they are aligned with.
Arya’s and Sam’s stories fit together surprisingly well as the episode unveils their respective journeys in Braavos and Horn Hill. Sam finds himself confronted with his one true enemy: his father. Randyll Tarly has been little more than a looming presence since the beginning of the series. Sam has carried his father’s hatred and disappointment for him through each season, but this is the first time he faces his father head on. Proving himself to be the one thing that Sam truly fears, Lord Tarly’s hateful words render Sam uncharacteristically speechless. Gilly is the one to come to Sam’s rescue this time, repaying him for each of the times he saved her life and her son’s. It is this heroic act that convinces Sam to reject his old family and take up a new one. With newfound confidence, Sam reclaims his family’s sword and his dignity as he leaves Horn Hill once more, but this time voluntarily.
Arya, on the other hand, finds herself questioning her alignment with the House of Black and White. Sent on a mission to kill a talented actress, Arya acts as a spectator for a play recounting past events involving the royals, including some members of her family, in King’s Landing. Arya admits to seeing the play three times, which she deems necessary to properly complete the assassination of actress Lady Crane, but her fit of giggles as she watches Joffrey die for the third time indicates that she has ulterior motives. This is the first sign in “Blood of my Blood” that Arya is questioning her ability to truly become “no one” and serve the Many-Faced God. Joffrey, who has been on her death list since he sentenced her father to die, is a key part of Arya’s past and should have no meaning to her if she is really devoted to stripping herself of her identity.
Evidently, the actress has a profound effect on Arya. Moved by her talent and her words, Arya remembers what it was like to lose a member of her family. On her way to poison the actress’s rum, Arya catches a glimpse of a prop—the wooden representation of her father’s severed head. This effigy reminds her of the anger she still feels that propels her to avenge her lost family members. Once she meets Lady Crane, she introduces herself as Mercy to the actress—fittingly, as she later saves Lady Crane from becoming another victim in the Hall of Faces by knocking the poisoned rum from her hand. Like Sam, Arya also retrieves her sword, Needle, given to her by her half-brother Jon Snow. With this act, Arya abandons her service to the Many-Faced God. As her second chance is now exhausted, she becomes a target of the Faceless Men and may soon join the ranks of the faces in the House of Black and White.
In another instance of religious fanaticism, the High Sparrow’s manipulation tactics have come to a climax in this episode. The Sparrow exploits Tommen’s naiveté, causing him to align the crown with the Faith and betray his family. Tommen’s animosity towards the High Sparrow has been slowly decreasing since his mother Cersei’s walk of atonement. With Margaery now also seemingly “devoted to the Seven,” Tommen seems to forget how the High Sparrow tortured and humiliated his mother. This is especially ironic considering how the High Sparrow had praised Tommen’s and Cersei’s bond in the episode prior. Tommen also forsakes his “uncle” Jaime, and banishes him from King’s Landing, rejecting his old family for Margaery and the Seven. The High Sparrow’s triumph in King’s Landing simultaneously proves that currently he is the most politically proficient character in the series and that Tommen really is far too young and naive to be the ruler that the Seven Kingdoms require.
As Sam, Arya and Tommen close the door on their current arcs, the line between blood and water blurs. While Sam and Tommen leave their blood relatives behind, Arya rediscovers her zeal to avenge her own. Meanwhile, the danger of religious fanatics becomes more imminent and threatens to spill more than just familial blood. As the plot reaches a tipping point, danger lurks in the temples of Westeros in the weeks to come.
Contact Dani Sundell at [email protected].