No Jon, no Sansa and no storming Winterfell and cutting Ramsay Bolton into tiny pieces (yet) this week, which is disappointing. Despite the absence of its two central figures, though, there were definite signs that House Stark as a whole might be reuniting very soon, with Uncle Benjen popping up to save the infuriatingly useless Bran and the exhausted Meera and answer a few fan FAQs about his whereabouts for the past five years; and Arya, having caught up with season four via that idiotic play, deciding it’s FINALLY time to stop messing around with these Faceless jerks and get her name and her sword back. Hurrah! It’s only taken my entire life, but whatevs.
While the Starks are heading back to their roots, however, the Tullys are already there, with Catelyn’s M.I.A-since-the-Red-Wedding uncle Blackfish having returned from the longest bathroom break in history to take back Riverrun. Just in time for it to become the most-popular place in Westeros! After this week, just about everybody’s heading there; Lannisters, Freys, Starks…. I hope somebody’s ordered in plenty of snacks. And maybe a DJ for the reunion disco.
Yes, this was an episode steeped in the show’s history, with reunions and recaps everywhere. As well as Arya’s play and Bran’s visions reminding us of things we’ve either already seen (Ned! Robb!) or already known (the Mad King!), much of the rest of “Blood of My Blood” involved suddenly returning to and resurrecting long-discarded characters and their storylines, what with Benjen, the Freys and even Ser Needle making their comebacks, while (courtesy of a justifiably irate if resolutely uninteresting Gilly) we also got a recap of what Sam’s being doing, and a reminder that his Dad’s a jerk. I might have pruned some of it – we really did not need to spend so long at House Tarly, just grab the sword and get going, Sam – but all together, it adds to the general season six theme of the show’s various disparate strands beginning to draw together. We’re on the home strait.
Who will make it to the end is another matter, of course, but, thanks to Margaery, several thousand people whom the Lannisters and the Tyrells were quite happy to sacrifice get to live another day, at least. In a frankly glorious scene, Jaime, looking and sounding fabulous, and with the ridiculous Mace and the majestic Olenna at his back, challenges the High Sparrow to hand over Margaery and Loras or be cut down by the Tyrell forces, only to find out they’re a day late and a dimwit short; yes, the magnificent Margaery has grown tired of waiting for everyone else to rescue her, and saved herself from Cersei-style mortification by recruiting the beatifically stupid Tommen to Team Sparrow, instead.
(Let me pause here to think about what a gorgeous, world-beating couple Jaime and Margaery might have made if he hadn’t been sleeping with his sister, and she hadn’t married both his sons. Sigh. I guess there’s always fanfic.)
On the one hand, Tommen switching sides is a disaster of epic proportions, since the only thing more powerful and fascist than the Faith Militant is the Faith Militant in control of the Crown, but on the other, it’s quite possibly the best thing ever, since it means him sending Jaime off to join everyone else in the Seven Kingdoms at Riverrun and the chances of a Jaime/ Brienne/ Tormund love triangle of awesomeness shooting up by about 100%. Yay for Turncoat Tommen! Even a stopped clock’s right twice a day.
Which brings me to the other blonde contender for the Iron Throne. Not so much a stopped clock as a broken record, Daenerys is now back giving her usual chest-beating speeches to the Dothraki, as opposed to the Meereeneese or the Yunkans; let’s face it, the tribes and the languages may change but the words are basically the same – “I’m awesome! The Seven Kingdoms are mine, let’s go burn’em down – raaaaaargh!” (Not an exact translation, but you get the drift.) It’s all very rousing the first six or seven times you hear it – especially when Drogon drops in to give it added oomph – but it’s getting somewhat tired now, and highlights that Daenerys’s main strength is also her principal weakness; she’s terrific at spectacle and conquest, but absolutely useless at the ins and outs of day-to-day governance that come after the fight’s over. So the places and people she take over will always, always lose out in the end. As Daario puts it, “You weren’t made to sit on a chair in a palace…. You’re a conqueror, Daenerys Stormborn.” With a completely blinkered, vastly inflated view of her own entitlement and abilities, and a worrying obsession with fire. Daario and the Dothraki may think she’s amazing but, at this stage, instead of cheering her on as the great change the Seven Kingdoms need, I think the rest of us might have to start worrying that the Targaryen apple really may not have fallen too far from the Mad King tree.