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Blood of My Blood

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"Blood of My Blood"
Game of Thrones episode
Game-of-Thrones-S06-E06-Blood-of-My-Blood.jpg
Benjen Stark returns and rescues Bran and Meera.
Episode no. Season 6
Episode 6
Directed by Jack Bender
Written by Bryan Cogman
Featured music Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by Jonathan Freeman
Editing by Yan Miles
Original air date May 29, 2016 (2016-05-29)
Running time 52 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Door"
Next →
"The Broken Man"
Game of Thrones (season 6)
List of Game of Thrones episodes

"Blood of My Blood" is the sixth episode of the sixth season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 56th overall. The episode was written by Bryan Cogman, and directed by Jack Bender.

Beyond the Wall, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) have successfully escaped the White Walkers, but are about to be caught by their undead, until they are rescued by Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle). Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) returns to his family's home in Horn Hill, accompanied by Gilly (Hannah Murray) and little Sam, intending to leave them there, but changes his mind after reuniting with his cruel father. In King's Landing, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) attempts to rescue the Queen, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), but learns that King Tommen Baratheon (Dean-Charles Chapman) has united the faith and the crown. Across the Narrow Sea, in Braavos, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) refuses to kill the actress she was assigned to poison by the Faceless Men, and in the Dothraki Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) rides on Drogon and emboldens her newly acquired khalasar.

"Blood of My Blood" was positively received by critics who praised the return of several notable characters, including Benjen Stark, Walder Frey and Edmure Tully. Further praise was given to other plot points, such as Samwell's return to Horn Hill, and Arya's decision to return to being a Stark rather than a disciple of the Many-Faced God. The episode title is a reference to a famous Dothraki saying used between a Khal and his bloodriders. Filming of Bran's visions was put together precisely and also very carefully chosen. In the United States, the episode achieved a viewership of 6.71 million in its initial broadcast.

Plot[edit]

Beyond the Wall[edit]

Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) are fleeing the wights, who continue to follow them from the cave. Bran, still in his visions, witnesses several events: Jaime Lannister killing King Aerys Targaryen, a dragon flying over the Red Keep, his fall from Winterfell which left him paralyzed, the Night King transforming Craster's last son into a White Walker, the Massacre at Hardhome, Ned Stark's beheading, the murder of his mother Catelyn and brother Robb in the Red Wedding, and wildfire exploding beneath King's Landing. As the wights close in, a black-clad rider appears and destroys some of the wights while pulling Meera and Bran onto his horse, allowing them to escape.

Bran awakens to find the rider is his uncle, Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), who had gone missing beyond the Wall. Benjen explains that he was stabbed by a White Walker during a ranging and was left to die and become another wight. He was saved by the Children of the Forest by being impaled with dragonglass. He tells Bran that he needs to become the Three-Eyed Raven and control his warging before the Night King comes south.

At Horn Hill[edit]

Sam (John Bradley-West), Gilly (Hannah Murray) and Little Sam arrive at Horn Hill, the seat of House Tarly. Sam warns Gilly not to mention that she is a Wildling, due to his father Randyll's hatred of Wildlings. They are warmly greeted by Sam's mother Melessa (Samantha Spiro) and sister Talla (Rebecca Benson).

At dinner, Randyll (James Faulkner) insults Sam's bookishness, weight, and lack of fighting prowess. Gilly defends Sam, mentioning that Sam killed a Thenn and a White Walker. When Sam's brother Dickon (Freddie Stroma) insists that White Walkers don't exist, Gilly declares that she saw the act herself, but in doing so reveals her Wildling heritage. Disgusted, Randyll further insults Sam and Gilly, prompting Melessa and Talla to leave the room with Gilly in anger. Randyll tells Sam that Gilly and Little Sam can remain at Horn Hill, but that he must never set foot in Horn Hill again. Sam bids farewell to Gilly, but then changes his mind and decides to bring her and Little Sam with him to the Citadel. As they leave, Sam takes House Tarly's ancestral Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane, as well.

In Braavos[edit]

Arya (Maisie Williams) once again returns to watch the play featuring Lady Crane (Essie Davis). She sneaks backstage during the last act and poisons Lady Crane's rum. As she attempts to leave, Lady Crane stops her, and they discuss acting and Lady Crane's early life. Back in the dressing room, Arya stops Lady Crane from drinking her rum, and warns her that her rival Bianca wants her dead. The scene is witnessed by the Waif (Faye Marsay), who returns to tell Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) of Arya's failure. Jaqen gives the Waif permission to kill Arya, on the condition that Arya doesn't suffer. Meanwhile, Arya retrieves her sword, Needle, from the rocks where she had hidden it and takes it to her room.

In King's Landing[edit]

The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), along with King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), prepares for the walk of atonement of Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer). The High Sparrow allows Tommen to visit his wife, where he discovers that Margaery has become a devout follower of the Faith of the Seven and repented for her sins.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) lead a company of Tyrell soldiers through the streets of King's Landing to the Great Sept of Baelor, where the High Sparrow is presenting Margaery to the people of King's Landing. Jaime orders the High Sparrow to release Margaery and her brother Loras, threatening force against the Faith Militant. The High Sparrow declares that Margaery will not have to perform a walk of atonement, and instead presents King Tommen, who has agreed to unite the Faith and the Crown. When Mace Tyrell asks his mother, Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) what this means, she bitterly replies it means the High Sparrow has won.

In the throne room, King Tommen relieves Jaime of his duties on the Kingsguard as punishment for taking up arms against the Faith, to Jaime's dismay. While speaking with Cersei (Lena Headey), Jaime reveals that he has been given orders to oust the Blackfish from Riverrun, but that he would rather massacre the Faith Militant to release Tommen from the High Sparrow's influence. Cersei warns him that, if he does so, he will be killed, thus defeating the purpose of liberating Tommen. She counsels him to instead lead the Lannister army on Riverrun, as a show of force to their enemies. About her upcoming trial, Cersei expresses no concern, saying it will be a trial by combat and with "the Mountain" as her champion, she has no fear of a guilty verdict. Cersei and Jaime then confidently embrace and presumably begin making love.

At the Twins[edit]

Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley) receives word that Riverrun has been retaken by Brynden Tully, commonly known as the Blackfish, Catelyn Stark's uncle and a staunchly loyal officer in Robb Stark's army. Walder chastises his sons Lothar Frey and Black Walder Rivers, who had been ordered to hold the castle. They defend their loss, as several Riverlords, including House Mallister and House Blackwood, have risen in rebellion against the Freys, and the Brotherhood Without Banners are raiding their supply lines and camps. Walder demands that the Tully stronghold be taken back, refusing to be humiliated by not being able to hold a single castle. He orders his men to bring in Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), held as a prisoner of the Freys since the Red Wedding, and declares that they will use him to retake Riverrun.

In the Dothraki Sea[edit]

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) discusses with Daario (Michiel Huisman) how many ships she will need to cross the Narrow Sea with the Dothraki, the Unsullied and the Second Sons; Daario estimates that at least 1,000 ships will be needed for all of Daenerys's army. Seeing a suspicious gust of wind, Daenerys rides out alone. As Daario prepares to follow her, Drogon flies over the khalasar, with Daenerys riding on his back. Daenerys proceeds to rally the Dothraki by stating that she chooses them all to be her bloodriders, rather than the traditional three chosen by Khals. She then asks if they will cross the sea with her and help her retake the Seven Kingdoms, which they unanimously agree to do.

Production[edit]

Writing[edit]

Series veteran Bryan Cogman wrote the episode, his first of two episodes of the season.

"Blood of My Blood" was written by Bryan Cogman. Cogman has been a writer for the series since its beginning, previously writing seven other episodes, as well as the subsequent episode. The title of the episode, "Blood of My Blood", is a reference to the famous Dothraki saying between a Khal and his bloodriders.[1] Some elements in the episode are based on the sixth novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, which author George R. R. Martin had hoped to have completed before the sixth season began airing.[2] In the "Inside the Episode" segment published by HBO following the initial airing of the episode, co-creators and executive producers of the series David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were interviewed, and specifically referred to Benjen Stark interchangeably as "Coldhands."[3] A long-standing fan theory, it has been speculated that the Coldhands presented in the A Song of Ice and Fire books was actually a re-animated Wight version of Benjen.[4] Martin had previously addressed this speculation, stating that the Coldhands in the book was not Benjen, however that part of the story takes place prior to Bran entering the Weirwood cave, and the television portrayal may be an adaptation from a different story presented in the forthcoming The Winds of Winter.[4]

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cogman described some of the thought process he had when writing the reunion between Samwell and his family, saying, "As much as Sam has gone through, I love exploring those family dynamics. His mother and sister and brother are all fundamentally decent people but his father is just a cold hearted bastard when it comes to his distant son. There's a painful part of the scene where his father just unloads on him and tells him every hateful thing he ever thought about him and Sam can't defend himself. We found that fascinating – Sam has killed a man, he's killed a White Walker, he's emerged as such a great hero, but he still can't stand up to his dad."[5]

Cogman noted, about the Arya storyline in the same interview, that he comes from a theater background, and that "being able to comment on the show and the reactions to the show through the players were so much fun. The show is often accused of being gratuitous in all kinds of way – the violence and the bigness of the characters. It's a huge operatic story. We're able to lovingly spoof ourselves but also play with ideas about how audiences view the show, good and bad, and how a perspective of a story changes. Plus there’s the dramatic deliciousness of Arya watching her own life play out on stage."[5] Weiss also spoke about Arya, saying "We were excited to do the play within the play, and it's a distorted fun house mirror representation of things we've already seen."[3] Benioff continued, "Part of Arya's amusement is just that she knows that they're getting so many details wrong, but she always regretted that she didn't have a chance to watch Joffrey die, and now she gets to. It's obviously a comic version of it, but that gives her great pleasure."[3] Weiss also noted, "Arya is slowly getting seduced by these performances, and Lady Crane, the actress that she's charged with killing, this is somebody who like her has taken as her life's work the job of becoming other people."[3]

In regards to the final scene of the episode with Daenerys Targaryen riding Drogon and emboldening her newly acquired khalsar, Benioff stated in the "Inside the Episode" featurette that the scene is a reflection of the speech that Khal Drogo gave before his death, with Benioff saying "One of our favorite moments from season one was watching Khal Drogo deliver a speech to his gathered khalasar, that speech clearly lingered in Daenerys's mind, and she's echoing almost the exact same language when she's talking to the Dothraki now. She's basically telling them the promise that one of the great Khals had made years before and saying now is the time to live up to that promise and fulfill it."[3]

Casting[edit]

Actor David Bradley (pictured), as well as Joseph Mawle and Tobias Menzies returned to the series after a nearly three-year absence.

The episode saw the return of several characters from previous seasons and the introduction of new characters that had either been mentioned or had some connection to established characters. Joseph Mawle, who was previously cast to play Benjen Stark and was featured in three episodes in the show's first season before disappearing (as he does in the A Song of Ice and Fire series that the show is based on).[6] In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bryan Cogman spoke of the re-introduction of Benjen and Mawle to the show saying "It was great to have Joe Mawle back with us – it must have been a trip for him to step back into the character after so long – but he's also decidedly not the Benjen of season 1. So that was fun to explore."[5] Mawle had been interviewed in 2013, where he expressed his desire to return to the series.[7]

Another return involved the story of the Riverlands with actor David Bradley returning to the show as Walder Frey, who last appeared in the aftermath of the Red Wedding, as well as Tobias Menzies as Edmure Tully, who also had not appeared since the Red Wedding episode "The Rains of Castamere", in the third series.[8] Tim Plester, who plays one of Walder's sons also returned but his other son, Lothar, was re-cast, with Daniel Tuite taking over the role.[9][10]

Several new actors were cast as Samwell Tarly's family in Horn Hill. Samwell's father, Randyll Tarly, had been referenced several times and had been described as "cruel" in his treatment of his oldest son.[11] In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, John Bradley (Samwell Tarly) spoke about the introduction of his family to the series, stating, "When you see Sam with his father and mother and brother especially, he starts to make sense. The character is contextualized. Why is his psyche the way it is? Why does he behave the way he does? Ever since you first saw him, he comes from this very sincere and heartfelt maternal love, and then there's this monster. You can see why he's so damaged. His emotional life has been pulled in so many different directions. He's so incredibly confused."[12] Actor James Faulkner was cast in the role of Randyll, with Samantha Spiro portraying Samwell's mother and Freddie Stroma and Rebecca Benson portraying Samwell's brother Dickon and sister Talla.[13][14]

For Bran's brief vision sequence at the beginning of the episode, actor David Rintoul was cast as King Aerys II Targaryen in a scene that had only been described to that point. It depicts the murder of Aerys, who is repeatedly yelling "burn them all", at the hands of Jaime Lannister.[15]

Filming[edit]

The Cathedral in Girona, Spain stood in for the Great Sept, with some extending CGI altering the building.

"Blood of My Blood" was directed by Jack Bender, who also directed the previous episode "The Door", his directorial debut for the series.[16] Bender had been approached to direct for the series but declined due to the extensive time commitment involved in shooting, which he noted in an interview as having to commit to "four-and-a-half to six months because of the enormity of the episodes".[17]

For the primary King's Landing scene at the Great Sept, with Margaery being presented to the city by the High Sparrow, the grand staircase of the Girona Cathedral in Girona, Spain was used. The cathedral was constructed in the 11th century, and continued its expansion throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as the 18th century.[18][19] According to prior reports, filming took place over the course of approximately two weeks, with many different challenges involved in shooting at the location, including "extras requiring medical attention due to exhaustion and dehydration," as well as the need for extensive security to close off certain areas, during filming, from the public.[20] Parts of Braavos were also filmed in Girona.[21] In nearby Canet de Mar, Catalonia, Spain, the Castell de Santa Florentina, an 11th-century medieval castle, was utilized for the castle of House Tarly.[21][22]

The director of the episode, Bender, conducted an interview with The Wall Street Journal following the airing of the episode, and spoke about filming the play with Arya in Braavos, stating "I staged the whole play, we did it, and the producers came in to watch the rehearsal, including all the fart jokes, all that stuff, some of which was written. So, after we watched the rehearsal, and the guys laughed a lot, I said, 'My only concern is, am I mocking your brilliant show too much?' And they said, 'No, do it more!' They're completely unpretentious, David and Dan, and they loved it."[23] He also noted that several other extra scenes were filmed, but were cut from the final version of the episode, noting that they will likely be released as deleted scenes on the DVD for the season.[23]

In the behind the scenes video published by HBO following the airing of the fifth and sixth episodes, Benioff described Bran's visions at the beginning of the episode as being something that was put together very precisely and purposefully, noting "Even though some of those images flash by in just a fraction of a second each of them was very carefully chosen. And the Mad King was probably the most dramatic of those because we've been hearing about the Mad King from the very beginning of the show, but he's never appeared on screen before. And shooting it, you know, spending a lot of time on what ended up being maybe like a second and a half, couple seconds, of screen time."[24] The new scenes of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, are interspersed with previously shown footage of the White Walkers, as well as wildfire explosions, and other landmark moments from throughout the series, such as Ned Stark's beheading, the Red Wedding, and Bran falling from the Broken Tower in the series premiere.[25] In the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, the Mad King is described as having long, unkempt hair and beard, with nine inch long fingernails.[26] The show's version portrayed his look in a more tidy fashion, with David Rintoul playing the role of the Mad King.[15][26]

Ellie Kendrick, who portrays Meera Reed in the series, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter spoke about the re-introduction of Benjen Stark, or Coldhands Benjen, and working with Joseph Mawle, saying "It was so fantastic. And it's interesting. If you've read the books, then you know about the Coldhands character, who was cut out of the Bran, Meera and Jojen storyline on the show. It was always interesting, having read the books, watching this amalgamation of story lines happen. Benjen is sort of like the Coldhands character in that he's a slightly suspicious guy who is half-dead and half-alive with blue hands. I thought that was very cool, the way it happened. It was a nice marriage between the book and TV revelations rolled into one. I was very excited having him on set. I loved working with Joseph Mawle, and I loved having another member of our rapidly dwindling gang."[27]

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

"Blood of My Blood" was viewed by 6.71 million American households on its initial viewing on HBO, which was a modest decrease from the previous week's rating of 7.89 million viewers for the episode "The Door", likely due to the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.[28] The episode also acquired a 3.25 rating in the 18–49 demographic, making it the highest rated show on cable television of the night.[28] In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 2.684 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, making it the highest-rated broadcast that week on its channel. It also received 0.126 million timeshift viewers.[29]

Critical reception[edit]

"Blood of My Blood" was positively received by critics who praised the return of several notable characters from past seasons, including Benjen Stark and Walder Frey, as well as Samwell Tarly's return home to Horn Hill and Arya's decision to return to being a Stark, abandoning the teachings of the Faceless Men.[30] It has received a 91% rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes from 43 reviews with an average score of 7.6/10, a decrease over the previous episode.[31] The site's consensus reads "Crucial power dynamics are reassessed and significant characters return in the skillfully plotted and gratifying "Blood of My Blood"."[31]

Matt Fowler of IGN wrote in his review of the episode, "Some sluggish stories took better turns this week – albeit sometimes by just ending things for now – while a book character many thought would never appear on the series made a notable splash, answering a big mystery that the novels hadn’t even revealed yet in the process. There were some great moments in "Blood of My Blood", but mostly the big returns made it possible to salivate for the payoffs (and possible characters) to come."[30] He also continued by noting, "this installment probably speaks, more than any other episode so far this season, to the accelerated rate of payoffs we're now getting that the show isn't directly following the books."[30] Fowler gave the episode an 8.6 out of 10.[30] Laura Prudom of Variety also praised the pacing of the episode as well as the season's payoffs, writing "There's a clarity of purpose in Season 6 that certainly gives the impression that we're barreling towards a conclusion instead of just meandering through Dorne or killing time in Qarth."[32]

Todd VanDerWerff of Vox likewise praised the structure of the season, noting the recent absence of Ramsay Bolton as a positive, but continuing, "Though it wasn't as good as the last two episodes, "Blood of My Blood" continued the general upswing in quality Game of Thrones season six has undergone."[33] VanDerWerff also wrote in his review, ""Blood of My Blood" is another exciting hour of television, even if it's a bit more piece move-y than, say, "The Door". The revelations are milder, the characters mostly talk about what they're going to do next, and the stories go from Point A to Point B, instead of Point X, Y, or Z. But there's still plenty going on that's worth checking out."[33] Comparing the episode to "Book of the Stranger", Jeremy Egner of The New York Times said, "The problem with emerging naked from a flaming temple is that it's hard to top. It's hard to top, that is, unless you happen to have a dragon with a flair for dramatic timing."[34]

Aaron Riccio of Slant Magazine criticized the episode, writing in his review "The largest problem with tonight's episode is that it either changes course so abruptly or restates certain theses so redundantly that it feels like a bit of a tease, especially to those not invested in Samwell Tarly's storyline."[35]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2016 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Production Design for a Fantasy Program Deborah Riley, Paul Ghirardani, Rob Cameron Won [36]
2017 Art Directors Guild Awards 2016 One-Hour Single Camera Period Or Fantasy Television Series Deborah Riley Nominated [37]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Shetty, Sharan (January 2, 2016). "George R.R. Martin’s Winds of Winter Won’t Be Out Before Game of Thrones’ Sixth Season". Slate. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Game of Thrones: Inside Sn 6 / Ep 6". HBO. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Bradley, Bill (May 29, 2016). "'Game Of Thrones' Might’ve Confirmed That Fan Theory About Coldhands". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
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  6. ^ Robinson, Joanna (June 14, 2015). "Leaked Game of Thrones Finale Video Hints at a Dramatic Season 1 Character Return". Vanity Fair. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
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  14. ^ Hibberd, James (September 4, 2015). "Game of Thrones casts Samwell Tarly's brother". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
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  21. ^ a b Trivedi, Sachin (September 7, 2015). "'Game Of Thrones' Season 6 Spoilers: Leaked Pictures Show First Stunt Scene By Maisie Williams". International Business Times. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  22. ^ Hopewell, John (July 9, 2015). "‘Game of Thrones’: More Spanish Locations for Season 6". Variety. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  23. ^ a b Calia, Michael (May 31, 2016). "‘Game of Thrones’: Jack Bender on Directing Big Moments With Hodor and Arya". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
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  25. ^ Mathews, Liam (May 30, 2016). "Game of Thrones: Bran's Visions – What Does It All Mean?". TV Guide. Retrieved May 31, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b Walsh, Michael (June 1, 2016). "History of Thrones: Aerys II, the Mad King of Westeros". Nerdist. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
  27. ^ Wigler, Josh (May 31, 2016). "'Game of Thrones' Star Breaks Down Meera Reed's Actions: "Her Job Is to Protect Bran at All Costs"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Porter, Rick (June 1, 2016). "Sunday cable ratings: ‘Game of Thrones’ hits season low on Memorial Day weekend". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
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  32. ^ Prudom, Laura (May 29, 2016). "‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: ‘Blood of My Blood’ Brings Back an Old Friend". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2016. 
  33. ^ a b VanDerWerff, Todd (May 29, 2016). "Game of Thrones season 6, episode 6: 7 winners and 5 losers from "Blood of My Blood"". Vox. Retrieved May 29, 2016. 
  34. ^ Egner, Jeremy (May 29, 2016). "‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 6: A Dragon Queen on the Campaign Trail". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2016. 
  35. ^ Aaron Riccio (May 30, 2016). "Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 6, "Blood of My Blood"". Slant. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  36. ^ Prudom, Laura (July 14, 2016). "Creative Arts Emmy Awards Winners: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Leads Way On Night 1". Deadline.com. Archived from the original on September 11, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  37. ^ Hipes, Patrick (January 5, 2017). "Art Directors Guild Awards Nominations: ‘Rogue One’, ‘Game Of Thrones’ & More". Deadline.com. Retrieved January 5, 2017. 

External links[edit]