GAME OF THRONES Season 6, Episode 6: ‘Blood of My Blood’

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Sluggishly paced and shockingly merciful,  the sixth episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones, titled Blood of My Blood, functions as a relatively uneventful follow-up to last week's gut-wrenching entry, deepening and darkening several key character arcs without ever taking them to the exciting heights we've come to expect from the series. It's Game of Thrones at its most tame, its most restrained, its focus fixed almost entirely on architecture rather than action. This isn't to say that the episode is completely bereft of interesting new developments. A handful of characters reunite (albeit under horrifying circumstances), and the air about the characters and their situations thickens with ever-growing tension and urgency. However, it's a shorter episode by at least five minutes, a fact that is reflected in its abrupt ending and an absent sense of closure that, even within the context of this episode, takes away from the plot and prompts much head-scratching. Long stretches of nothing are occasionally punctuated by some compelling twists and a number of revelations that save the episode from being completely forgettable, but rather than continue with the momentum it gains in its closing minutes, it cuts to black. It's a disappointing entry in just about every way, suffering from typical ‘sixth episode slump’ issues and doing little to further develop a mostly compelling story.

Jaime assembles Lannister troops to confront the High Sparrow, only to have his plans hampered by an unexpected wrinkle. Arya gets into some trouble with the Many-Faced God, and Sam and Gilly deal with the cruel Randyll Tarly. Meanwhile, Bran and Meera escape the Night's King and his horde of wights and encounter a mysterious man with knowledge they didn't know they needed.

It's clear that the showrunners are building towards something incredible, but the journey there has been... interesting, to say the least. Luckily, this is the first filler episode of the season, which is both a good and a bad thing. It's good because it means every episode released thus far has functioned as an engaging piece of a larger puzzle, and it's bad because there's rarely any reason to throw filler episodes at people who've stuck with you for half a decade. The series has reached a point where there's so much for these characters to say and do that it's frustrating when they sit around and spew out dialogue that's neither welcome nor needed.

On a lighter note, Blood of my Blood offers up some fun answers to a handful of questions that fans have been asking for years. The list of remaining Starks is far longer than many in Westeros realize, adding new depth and mystery to the widely-held notion that there are few of them left. The Starks have been drawing the shortest straws since Eddard Stark got his lead lopped off the first season, so it's nice to see them making a slow but steady comeback.

At the end of the day, Blood of My Blood falls short of expectations and fails to engage and enthral viewers. However, next week's episode, titled The Broken Man, promises more excitement. It'll air next Monday on Sky Atlantic.


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