Monday, May 30, 2016

Blood of My Blood

In season six, Game of Thrones has famously "moved beyond the books," into story material George R.R. Martin has not yet published. Yet this week's episode actually did a lot for readers of the books.

North of the Wall, Bran and Meera were rescued... resolving a plot point that's been dangling since way back in the first season/book. Benjen Stark is alive (mostly), and on the scene to help his nephew. How long his role as protector will last (and whether there's any more to it than that) remains to be seen. The show seems to be merging Benjen with the book character Coldhands. Meanwhile, certain details in the books suggest they actually aren't one and the same... or maybe they are. So in a way, the mystery is resolved and preserved at the same time. (Write, George, write!)

As a side note, there were several interesting moments spliced into Bran's rapid procession of visions, including a glimpse of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen (who Jaime killed to become the "Kingslayer"). I'd wager there are already articles up around the web analyzing the other visions frame by frame, trying to decide if there's any significance to the flashbacks we saw. I'll leave them to it.

Sam returned at last to his family home, a reunion that went as well as expected. After one of the most awkward dinners in Game of Thrones history that didn't end in at least one murder, Sam decided not to leave Gilly with his family after all. Plus, he made off with the family sword. Placing a blade of Walker-slaying Valyrian steel in the hands of someone who has actually killed a Walker seems like a significant plot development. Indeed, it could actually be the point of this whole trip south, despite the stated aim of Sam reaching Oldtown to train as a Maester.

Things took a turn for the worse in King's Landing. (Don't they always?) Young, impressionable Tommen was.... uh, impressed... by the High Sparrow into finding religion. I'm quite curious as to whether Margaery's professed conversion was indeed genuine, but I suppose it makes no matter in the final result. The king is now in the High Sparrow's sway. The Faith Militant have seized even more power in the kingdom. Cersei and Jaime find themselves increasingly on the outside.

Jaime in particular has been quasi-banished to sort out things at Riverrun, where we've just learned Walder Frey is sending forces too, with an imprisoned Edmure Tully as a bargaining chip. As with the Kingsmoot material this season in the Iron Islands, this is a case of the show suddenly backtracking to scoop up material from earlier in the books, material that until now seemed to have been skipped over. Suddenly, all the players who were last seen in the Riverlands in the books are headed there on the show. Of course, this remains a somewhat unresolved thread that we're waiting for book six to take up. Suffice it to say, when both Brienne and Jaime make it to Riverrun, I'll be quite interested to see what happens next. (I've been waiting years, so a few more weeks won't hurt.)

Over in Braavos, Arya's training as an assassin may soon be at an end. Unable to go through with killing her mark, she has now marked herself for death at the hands of the Waif. But she's also gone back to retrieve her sword Needle from its hiding place. Just how much killing is in Arya's immediate future? And just how are the Faceless Men going to react? The Waif doesn't seem at a professional remove in this whole affair any more than Arya; could this too be a test of some kind? It's hard to believe that a season-and-a-half at the House of Black and White is just going to culminate in Arya back on the run with barely more skills than she had going in.

Then lastly, the final moment: How Dany Got Her Dragon Back. I'm not sure a speech from the back of a dragon is as inspiring as it is terrifying... but hey, Dany is a conqueror, as Darrio said. Provoking terror is part of the job description.

I'd call the episode a B+ overall. It was more of a "setup" than "payoff" sort of episode... but one with a lot of fun scenes and bones thrown toward readers of the books along the way.

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