Last week we climbed atop The Wall and now we begin our descent down towards the season finale.

The climax of our previous venture in the Seven Kingdoms – “The Door” (full review here) left viewers stirred and shattered as we witnessed what is likely the most poignant and poetic death sequence ever captured on Game of Thrones. Even a full week after first watching, it still chills as much as the Northern snowfall.

Season 6 is truly going from strength to strength, and is firmly en route to becoming the definitive journey for HBO’s leading drama. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are composing their masterpiece right now, and they are doing so with such dignity that you cannot help but marvel.

This week’s hour in and around Westeros might reference blood in the title, but it is the first episode in this season so far where zero is split. Well, some already dead people die, but that’s it…Instead of slacked-jawed battles, we are provided with a deeply lyrical and complex arrangement of sneaky political manoeuvres, major reveals, and a gaggle of returning faces who we haven’t seen for a very long time.


The Title: “Blood of My Blood”

What Does It Mean?

We collect our title this week North of The Wall where Meera Reed is desperately fighting adversity to ensure Bran Stark’s safety.

Following the tragic events last week in which Hodor’s true destiny unfolded, as well as the demise of loyal Direwolf Summer, the twosome – already vulnerable – are now weaker than ever.

Meera drags Bran tirelessly as he experiences an array of deeply unsettling flashbacks which render his journey. We see the Night’s King, the beheading of father Ned, the slain of mother Catelyn and siblings at The Red Wedding, but more importantly warped visions of The Mad King screaming “Burn them all!” with manic vigour. Remember that Tower of Joy flashback in “Oathbreaker”? Good; that will play a further vital role sooner rather than later.

Soon enough the daughter of Howland physically cannot continue and collapses in exhaustion. She gathers the frail remainders of her strength and cradles around the young warg. His eyes flick open and breaking through the weariness, he says “They’ve found us.”

A wave of zombie soldiers – the ones who broke through Hodor’s barrage and took his life – begin to surge towards them. Freezing, alone and unarmed, the duo are practically destined for death, but after such a lengthy string of bad luck for Bran, something good comes his way.


Cloaked in robes and riding valiantly upon his horse, a warrior arrives at the scene, swinging a flaming mace as well as some other unique weaponry. He circles the invaders, destroying them one-by-one in seriously assured fashion. From here he pulls Meera and Bran onto his stallion and dashes through the whiteness.

For those familiar with George R.R. Martin’s source material, this disguised hero is the one they call Coldhands, however “Blood of My Blood” proved a major and ongoing fan theory: Coldhands is an integral link to Bran and his beloved. He is Benjen Stark.

Later on in the episode, the threesome sit around a fire as Benjen slaughters a rabbit for sustenance. Here is where he unveils his true identity, and it is no accident that it has arrived in a season which is slowly seeing the resurgence of the Stark house. Benjen is Ned’s brother and Bran’s uncle who went missing and Robb Stark spent much time searching for. He is also a follower of the Three Eyed-Raven, as well as being half-turned after we discover he was stabbed with Dragon Glass by the Children of The Forest following a White Walker attack.

Now Bran is the Three Eyed-Raven in training ahead of the imminent return of the Night’s King, he has much to master in an increasingly short period of time. “I have so much to learn,” Bran exclaims. “I’m not ready”. “And when he gets there, you”ll be waiting” Benjen returns with confidence.


Most Shocking Moment:

Continuing on from the revival of the great Northern house, we travel many miles from brother Bran and set down in Braavos for this week’s biggest shock.

Arya Stark (or A Girl Has No Name…) returns to the city to watch the foul character play which featured last week. Still on her mission from Jaqen H’ghar to poison actress Lady Crane, she – and we – witness the death of “devoted” King Joffrey Baratheon. In a show in which virtually all other deaths are an excuse for hilarity, the audience is sombre as the blonde-haired ruler is poisoned by his “evil” uncle Tyrion Lannister.

Whilst everyone watches in remorse, Arya cannot help but crack a wry smile and let out a macabre laugh. Lady Crane – who plays Queen Mother Cersei Lannister – gathers her beautiful boy in her arms and relays a powerful and emotive monologue; one laden with sorrow and anguish rather than Cersei’s trademark venom and bitterness.

The Faceless one soon clocks a younger actress – Bianca – backstage memorising and miming Lady Crane’s lines. It is clear that she sees herself as the natural successor and is willing to go to many lengths to land such a role.

Arya seizes her opportunity to fulfil her duty and heads behind the curtain to lace Lady Crane’s rum with the killer ingredient, but soon she bumps into the actress who is inquisitive but kind to her. Following an awkward exchange, Arya wants to flee the scene before it’s “bottom’s up” so she tells a white lie and makes her exit.

The ensemble cast gather to drink and critique today’s audience, and discussion gets heated against Lady Crane because of her popularity with the pundits. As she pulls her glass to her lips, A Girl Has No Name dashes back inside and smashes it from her grip. She then points to Bianca and says “She wants you dead.”

Unfortunately for young Arya, The Waif is backstage too and sees her action. Clearly she is not ready to truly become Faceless – something one predicted earlier this season, along with the scene which followed. She heads to the parade of rocks where she hid her most valued item and gathers it. Arya now has “Needle” in her grasp like she was Arthur with Excalibur, and just like that: she has returned to us.


Biggest Agenda:

Entirely absent from “The Door” but more important that ever in “Blood of My Blood”, we venture to the home of the Iron Throne to unearth the major plays of this week’s episode.

Queen Margaery Tyrell is preparing for her Walk of Atonement. The High Sparrow – quite clearly the most charming, grandfatherly religious zealot nutcase in all of the Realm – allows King Tommen Baratheon to see his dear wife before she pays for her sins in the eyes of the Faith and the Seven Gods.

The High Sparrow is someone who works with brains not brawn, and he has been delicately moving his chess pieces to force his rivals into a state of check. His tender tales told to the young and impressionable royals have been a success. Margaery believes she should make her Walk and does need to purge her soul of sin, and she feels that her beloved brother Loras should do the same too. The King himself has also been bewitched by the Faith’s spell which causes one of the biggest ripples of this season thus far.

As the crowds gather to watch the Queen strip down and be paraded through the streets, Jaime Lannister and Mace Tyrell interrupt proceedings and place their newfound Lannister-Tyrell army at the foot of the staircase. Queen of Thorns Lady Olenna Tyrell also emerges from her royal chariot and watches eagerly as the fireworks start to light.

It is soon revealed however that although the Walk of Atonement is called off due to many-a-threat, Margaery has already paid for her sins, and she has done so with the royal support of her husband. Tommen emerges from behind the Faith leader and alongside his Faith Militant soldiers. He declares that he now supports the Faith and their place in King’s Landing, and together as a united front, the Crown and the Faith will work tirelessly to make the Seven Kingdoms great again.

Jaime looks on in bewildered aggression, Mace Tyrell in utter confusion, and as for Lady Olenna, well, she summarises the situation perfectly: they really have been beaten badly.


Best Overall Moment:

In an hour packed with reveals, returns and revelations – with the likes of Daenerys Targaryen solidifying her new rule over the Dothraki Bloodriders as her fearsome dragon Drogon swoops in for her victory speech, or Samwell Tarly returning to Horn Hill with Gilly to face his gruellingly cruel father Lord Randyll – selecting just one sequence was a challenge…

Of all of those making an appearance in “Blood of My Blood”, few moments crept under the skin which such brilliant assurance as the stride to a major destination: Riverrun.

Following the altercation with The High Sparrow, Tommen sits in The Red Keep where he strips Jaime of his rank as Lord Commander of the King’s Guard. This scene perfectly echoed Joffrey Baratheon’s choice to void Ser Barristan Selmy of his position, not long before he was poisoned..

The King orders his father to march on Riverrun where he is tasked with taking back the castle of House Tully from the Blackfish – Catelyn Stark’s uncle. Meanwhile the widely-loathed Freys have a similar idea too. They have “lost the castle” as Lord Walder Frey mercilessly barks before continuing his twisted ways with young women, and once again Jaime will be in the Riverlands when the Freys and Tullys go to battle.

As well as seeing the Freys for the first time since “The Rains of Castamere” in Season 3, we also see someone else from that fateful night at The Red Wedding – Edmure Tully, none other than Catelyn’s brother.

Adding to the brewing pot of Destination Riverrun, Brienne of Tarth too is riding there, with the goal of enlisting the aid of the Blackfish against the fight with Ramsay Bolton in Winterfell. With talk of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and intrinsic links to not only the resurgence of the Starks, but the Tullys too, maybe we will be seeing Lady Stoneheart after all…


The Verdict:

In an already emphatic season, Game of Thrones continues to pull magic from its endless bag. “Blood of My Blood” perfectly executed integral character moments, whilst providing a cavalcade of major surprises and motivations.

The dynamic across the Seven Kingdoms is taking such vast and enthralling shifts that the landscape for the forthcoming episodes is set to be utterly tremendous.

With Benjen alongside Meera and Bran, and Arya en route to reclaiming her rightful name, we are seeing the biggest progression of House Stark since the early days, and they are coming to claim what is rightfully theirs.

Winter is Coming people; I can feel it…