Monday, July 3, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.6: "Blood of My Blood"

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6.6 “Blood of My Blood”
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Jack Bender
Commentary by John Bradley (Sam), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Jonathan Freeman (DP), Jack Bender

Oh, look, another episode with some seriously weird character moments that don’t make any sense in any context!

A massive chunk of this episode is given over to Gilly and Sam at Horn Hill—more than it deserved, really. Sam and Gilly decide their cover story is that baby Sam is Sam’s and they’re going to imply that Gilly’s a whore from Mole Town because Randyll hates Wildlings (I think I’ve mentioned before that it makes no sense for Randyll to have any opinion whatsoever about Wildlings). They meet Sam’s sister and mother first, and Talla and Meleesa are absolute joys. Talla wants to tell Sam all about how Randyll wants her to marry a Fossoway of all things (but red or white Fossoway?), then wants to be Gilly’s best friend and get her a new dress and a bath and. . . . She’s a talker.

Then they have dinner with the whole family, and it’s the most awkward dinner ever. Randyll glares at everyone. Gilly doesn’t know which fork to use. Dickon is obliviously stuffing his face. Sam tries to make small talk but he doesn’t know a lot about hunting or curing meat, and then lets slip that Gilly’s a better hunter than him and the whole jig is up. (Everyone in this show is so bad at keeping secrets.) There’s two real problems with this scene. The first is how Randyll’s abuse (and the patriarchy) magically disappear; Talla and Meleesa have no problem talking back to Randyll. This is a man who clearly has very strict ideas about gender roles and who threatened to murder his oldest son if he didn’t join the Night’s Watch. But the two women sass him, argue with him, and ultimately storm out of the room, Gilly in tow. With the number of storylines (especially Cersei’s) that rest on women aren’t allowed to do things in the patriarchy, there’s a serious problem with how often the patriarchy just disappears when Benioff and Weiss want to do something “fun”—like Talisa. Or Talla and Meleesa.

The other issue is the reinforcement of Sam’s worth as a killer. Gilly gets mad at Randyll yelling at Sam, so she yells back that Sam’s a greater warrior than either Dickon or Randyll, and he killed a White Walker and a Thenn (props to John Bradley's face acting in this scene). Meleesa at least tries to argue that being the maester of the Night’s Watch is a great honor, which starts to move away from to-be-a-man-is-to-be-a-killer motif, but Gilly yanks it right back. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense that she would bring up Sam’s fighting prowess (such as it is) and courage to show Randyll (who believes that this is how men prove their worth) that Sam’s a good man. Randyll wouldn’t accept anything else. But coming on the heels of this continued motif since season three with Sam, it’s yet another way that Benioff and Weiss shove Sam into this traditional manly-man role instead of showing that the manly-man thing is bad and destructive the way that Martin does.

Sam bids Gilly goodbye, then bursts back into the room, grabs her and baby Sam, storms into the dining hall and grabs Heartbane, the massive two-handed Valyrian steel sword, off the mantle, and leaves. I honestly don’t know what purpose any of this served. The very best I can figure is that Sam knows Jon needs Valyrian steel to help fight the White Walkers. Otherwise, he’s going to the Citadel to learn to be a maester. He’s not going to need to fight at the Citadel (probably). It’s an act of defiance against his father, sure. There’s the implication that if Randyll wants the sword, he can try to come take it back. There’s a bit of Sam asserting his rights as firstborn (which he gave up when he joined the Night’s Watch). But none of that gels or is stated well enough to explain why he does it beyond the writers giving him a badass moment of badassdom.

In King’s Landing, Margaery’s getting her long-game on. The High Sparrow explains to Tommen that yes, the walk of atonement is entirely necessary (because it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if we weren’t threatening women with sexual humiliation), but it won’t be as bad as Cersei’s because the people actually like her. Tommen goes to visit Margaery, who assures him everything will be fine and says the High Sparrow has opened her eyes to her own sinful nature.

Outside, the Tyrell forces, led by Mace in some truly ridiculous armor, march up the street and interrupt the High Sparrow’s speech preceding Margaery’s walk. Jaime threatens the entire Faith Militant, and the High Sparrow says that’s not necessary, because Margaery’s walk is hereby cancelled because she and Tommen have come “into the light.” Tommen emerges from the Sept with the Kingsguard, who have new sigils—a crown and a seven-pointed star. Mace has to ask Olenna what’s happening, and Olenna says the High Sparrow’s won. This earns a smirk from the High Sparrow, again telling me that he’s not as pious as he seems, but his true motivations and such never really get chased down. He feels more like a plot device than a character; he’s there to make life difficult for everyone else, not to truly pursue his own ends.

In the throne room, Tommen fires Jaime from the Kingsguard for raising his hand to the Faith. Jaime snarkily asks if he’s going to have to walk naked through the street now or spend a few months in a sept dungeon first. Tommen kicks him out of the city entirely, which is a convenient excuse to get him out taking care of the Riverlands problem. Walder’s mad at his sons for not finding and killing Brynden immediately; they argue that the Brotherhood without Banners is making life difficult and he reminds them that he still has Edmure hostage, so Brynden has to surrender.

So . . . this has been a problem for like a year? And we’re only dealing with it now why? I guess cause this is when Jaime’s available to handle the problem since he had to make his entirely idiotic detour down to Dorne. We’re not following a logical progression for the plot anymore; we’re just ticking off plot points. Before he leaves King’s Landing, though, we have to have another super disturbing scene between him and Cersei that shows that character development isn’t a thing in this show.

Back up above the Wall, Meera’s hauling Bran’s limp body on a sledge while he stays in vision-world, seeing a succession of things that he (again) has no way of seeing (except magic—you know, the kind Martin purposefully kept out of his story). The dead finally catch up and Meera prepares to die, but a cowled warrior appears and saves them. When they stop to rest, the cowled man—who’s obviously supposed to be Coldhands—reveals himself as Benjen Stark and tells Bran he’s the best hope they have against the Night King.

I’m just gonna leave this right here:

In Braavos, Arya’s watching the play again. She goes backstage to poison Lady Crane’s rum and winds up having a heart-to-heart about how the last scene sucks because it’s written all wrong. Arya suddenly has a whole lot of sympathy for and understanding of Cersei, of all people. This makes absolutely zero sense in terms of Arya’s character. She decides Lady Crane doesn’t deserve to die and dumps out her rum, then warns her about the younger actress. The Waif, of course, sees every bit of this and goes to get permission from Jaqen to kill Arya while Arya retrieves Needle.

Finally, in Essos, Dany and her new enormous khalasar ride through a canyon. She asks Daario how long until they reach Meereen; he says a week. She asks how many ships he thinks she’ll need now; he says about a thousand, but nobody has that many ships. She plans to ride to Meereen, somehow get a bunch of ships from a navy that doesn’t exist, then go to Westeros and take it back. He says she’s not meant to sit on some iron chair, but to conquer things. She’s a conqueror. She takes this bit of advice on board, then disappears into the badlands. After a few hours, she comes back riding Drogon. She gives a thundering speech turning the entire khalasar into bloodriders and getting their allegiance to help her conquer the Seven Kingdoms.

Again, a couple of problems here. Throughout her time in Meereen, Dany has no ideas of her own, or when she does, they’re always kill burn destroy and she has to be talked down and given a better option. The men in her life determine her ideas and character for her; she constantly changes personality based on who’s yanking her chain at any given moment. Here, Daario tells her she’s a conqueror, so she decides she’s a conqueror and goes and does something dramatic and badass. Also, turning the entire Dothraki nation into bloodriders? Bad idea. Bloodriders are a khal’s immediate defenders, his closest friends, his most trusted advisors. Their duty is to die for him or with him—if their khal dies in battle, they’re supposed to burn his body, avenge his death, take his khaleesi back to Vaes Dothrak, and then kill themselves. Having something 100,000 bloodriders is meaningless for one thing, and for another, means that if anything happens to Dany, she’s just committed genocide (assuming all of the Dothraki follow tradition, but we all know how little Benioff and Weiss care about tradition). Finally, this again echoes her speech just before walking into the fire at the end of season one wherein she frees all the slaves and creates a new khalasar out of them, one built on equality. We’re rehashing the same plot points, again.


Next week: The Hound returns. Heavy-handed intrigue in King’s Landing. Sansa and Jon look for allies. Yara gives Theon a “pep talk.”

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