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Tag Archives: Arya Stark
“Dragonstone” is a homecoming. For Game of Thrones, that means something very different than for the standard alma mater. In Westeros, it means throne rooms, dead bodies, and lush locales in which to do the same thing we do every season — try to take over the world. But the show starts its seventh season with an episode about being away, coming back home, and reflecting on what’s changed, within and without, since you left.
We don’t know who’s pulling the strings that tie the different corners of Westeros together. It may be the Old Gods; it may be The Seven; it may be the Drowned God; or it may be the Lord of Light. Septon Ray suggests they may all be different names for the same thing. But whoever has that power has left any number of those in Westeros and beyond in some sort of weakened state. They’ve taken away people’s strength, sapped them of their power and position, and left them, in a word, “broken.”
“Blood of My Blood.” The title gives it away. Though Game of Thrones is frequently centered on the idea of familial legacy, this episode in particular focuses on the bonds of family, the connections between parents and children and the other ties of kinship that can both pull us into place and break our hearts. These are the people who can save us, help us, make us stronger, but who also have a unique capacity to wound us, to frustrate us, and to unravel us.
Nowhere does “Blood of My Blood” explore the different sides of this idea more than in Sam’s return to his childhood home. Despite the smaller stakes and lack of major reveals as compared with the rest of the episode, Sam’s homecoming proved to be the best part “Blood of My Blood.” Game of Thrones spends most of its of time focused on the larger machinations of the plot in one form or another. Even when it’s not devoting time to the dragons or magic or other fantastical elements of Westeros, the show anchors itself around the titular game of thrones, as different players vie for power and an the existential threat comes from the north.
Despite this, Sam’s visit home has the feeling of something apart from the major story arc that drives the series. There’s no magic at play in Horn Hill. And while this brief stop is intended as a respite for Sam, Gilly, and Sam Jr. on the way to the Citadel, where Sam intends to earn his maester’s chain and ostensibly help Jon, there’s also little larger relevance to the detour when it comes to the show’s overarching plots. Instead, these scenes with Sam’s family offer a quiet character study, one whose chief purpose is to tell us more about who Sam is, where he came from, and what he’s become since he left home.
It’s easy to reduce “The Door” to its big reveal. For all of the mysteries and unanswered questions floating around in the background of Game of Thrones, sometimes the most moving reveals are the ones that fill in gaps you didn’t even realize were there, in surprising and unexpected ways.
“I fought. I lost. Now I rest…You’ll be fighting their battles forever.” Alliser Thorne’s last words hang over “Oathbreaker.” The grand stories we tell both eschew and crave finality. A good journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but when we’re truly invested in it, we don’t want the ride to stop. We crave the spills, chills, and surprises. So heroes come back from the dead, siblings thought long lost reappear, and like the white walkers headed toward the gate, the story marches on.
Empathy can pull us in strange directions. When we see someone who has been wronged, we want justice for them. We want the people who have perpetrated that wrong to pay for their crimes. We share in the victim’s anger and root for their revenge. But show us someone suffering and we will empathize with them just as strongly. We pity the person in pain, and want their suffering to end.
What makes these impulses peculiar is that sometimes they conflict. Sometimes the person suffering is the same perpetrator of the original wrong, and yet we still feel for them in their anguish. Show us someone being broken, physically, mentally, or spiritually, and we cannot help but feel sorry for them, even if the ills they’re enduring are wholly deserved and well-earned.