THIS WEEK on Game of Thrones: “The Climb”
It’s getting tougher to piece these recaps together in recent weeks on account of a school schedule that’s getting busier than ever; but it’s a labor of love, and a true pleasure to get to reflect on some of the most memorable television being made. Apologies to the OL community for the tardiness! Hopefully, this look back on ‘The Climb’ will whet your appetite for the next Thrones ep we’ll have coming this Sunday.
The episode this week was a strange mishmash of plodding and excellence. Let’s start with the rotten side of the apple.
Sam looks to be the only member of Mormont’s expedition to survive the chaos at Craster’s Keep; he’s got Gilly and her son (and brother) with him, and they seem to be on their way to the Wall. Sam reminds us that he’s from the Reach, an area of Westeros further south, nearer to King’s Landing. The story is plodding along slowly here, and it makes us wonder why we aren’t getting larger, more significant chunks of some of these stories every other week instead of the scattered crumb trail we have almost every Sunday.
Case in point:
Bran’s story was once one of the most interesting in the series. While there’s still some fascinating stuff happening here, from the arrival of two mysterious younger companions – Jojen and Meera Reed – to the evolution of Bran into what the series is calling a ‘warg’ (his wolf dreams seem a great deal calmer than whatever Jojen is experiencing), almost nothing is happening in this story. They’re headed who knows where, wandering from the ruin of Winterfell, and of all the new characters introduced this season, Jojen and Meera are easily the least captivating and worthy of the time spent on them.
Rickon gets two lines though, which is his season average, so at least that box is checked!
By extreme contrast, we jump across Westeros to a far more critical band of characters meeting for the first time. The two red priests of the Lord of Light encounter one another in the woods between the North and the South and spill a number of crucial details on the mission of their faith. Thoros speaks:
And Mel responds, spelling out Thoros’s now-abandoned directive:
Thoros found some alcohol instead and evidently got distracted. An inadvertent and accidental resurrection of Beric Dondarrion restored his faith, and even Melisandre doesn’t seem to believe it.
Before she goes, Mel reverts to prophetic mode, delving into the eyes of our favorite two captives of the Brotherhood, Gendry and Arya. Mel made it clear a few episodes ago that she was after some king’s blood for some sort of ritual in support of Stannis. Now she’s found it.
Gendry makes a more interesting (and living) source of said blood than the fetal husks sitting in jars at Dragonstone.
Listen to Mel’s brief vision for Arya – she sees a darkness in her, and what’s more, three sets of eyes, all different colours, that Arya ‘shuts’. Arya once had the gift from Ja’qen of three wishes, three deaths. Is this related? Or is Arya doomed to become some kind of deathdealer again?
Theon’s torturer is an ass of the highest order, devious and barbaric, flaying Theon’s finger with a smile. He tips his hand a little with regards to his identity, given his method of torture. I’ll guard against that speculation to prevent spoiling anyone the details, but he’s definitely becoming a fun character to watch, even if his actions aren’t.
Robb’s becoming a very difficult character to root for, even if our fan loyalty to the Starks will probably never be broken after the first season engendered us so strongly to them. He cut Karstark’s head off, losing half his army in the process, and he broke an oath to the Frey’s by marrying with his heart, and now effectively demands his uncle Edmure make reparations for those impulses.
How many weddings are coming now, all likely before season’s end? Joffrey and Margaery’s, Tyrion and Sansa’s, Loras and Cersei’s and now Edmure and whatever daughter crawled out of Walder Frey’s crypts, no doubt.
Roose Bolton was always the voice of caution in Robb’s ear last season, and this season, that voice is divorced from him, housed in Harrenhal. Here, Roose tends to Jaime and Brienne, and in our brief visit this week, he plots to split the two of them up. Why is he sending Jaime onward to King’s Landing, and why is he planning to keep Brienne captive?
I don’t think any of us will forget this scene anytime soon.
Lady Olenna Tyrell continues to steal every scene she’s in, even from former scene-stealer champion, Tywin Lannister. Ultimately though, she’s blackmailed into a deal with the devil; let your grandson Loras marry my daughter Cersei, securing the Tyrells (and thereby the kingdom of Dorne) to my family’s rule, or I’ll instate him into the Kingsguard, where he won’t be able to continue the Tyrell line at all.
Ironically, it’s the Kingsguard where Loras will only have plenty of swords to swallow and not a rose in sight.
Olenna’s too smart for all that; and she admits defeat. Hopefully, just for now.
This was a fun quartet to watch this week. Apart from the show’s hilarious blunder (“French sleeves” in Loras’s dialogue), a perfectly placed scene full of dramatic irony for Loras and Sansa, and bizarre sympathy elicited from us for the Lannister siblings – we actually feel for them and the way Tywin played them. It might have something to do with the fact that it’s been ages – or longer? – since we’ve seen them effectively sit on the same team.
What’s more, if Cersei’s to be believed, Joffrey’s the one who ordered Tyrion’s murder.
How long is Tyrion going to sit on these facts before he acts? Before, or after his wedding to Sansa Stark?
And at last, to the two scenes that gave this episode it’s short, succinct name:
Another amazing throne-side chat between the two smartest men in King’s Landing, Petyr and Varys.
Petyr: “There aren’t a thousand blades. There aren’t even two hundred. I’ve counted.”
His fascination with the Iron Throne is obvious by now. Varys’s fascination? The realm. And maybe even helping those trying to make their way through it.
Ros failed in her climb, after just talking to Shae about how the two of them made it out of their hopeless lives into the nobility. Maybe it was the way Petyr’s speech intermingled with the show’s stunning score, but this scene coupled with Ros’s unexpected death to give me chills. The show built on this upsetting surprise with a surprising moment of beauty, a beautiful juxtaposition:
The Climb is over. The only survivors: Tormund Giantsbane, Orell the Warg, and the two people he just tried to kill during a dangerous (and awe-inspiring ascent up the Wall – at least, given the budgets in television), Jon Snow and Ygritte the Wildling.
After the stunning climb, the vistas of both halves of this western continent of the world are given to Jon and Ygritte. Watch how it all unfolded.
One last, exhausted look at the world they’re leaving behind, before turning to face south:
The camera watches them as they watch each other, with the North behind them, before it jumps a line cameras rarely do, right to the other side to show us the other side of the Wall – this moment also being the instant they kiss.
My film degree is going crazy piecing together cinematography with meaning, but it’s all really simple; the angles take control of the scene, and almost work to unite Jon and Ygritte with their decision to press on past the Wall and into the next part of their lives, whatever that might hold for them.
Never mind the fact that it’s all just fucking beautiful. The camera pans out, and gives us a magnificent view south of the Wall, not quite far enough to see Winterfell, but enough to show us what Ygritte’s never seen before.
A new episode (number 7 already!) arrives this Sunday on HBO. Until next week!
Budrickton, First of His Name, Warden of the Actual North (Canada)