By Devin Kirby
Now officially more than halfway done (I know, right?), this season of GoT has been pretty awesome. This show has really flexed its writing chops—something not that hard to do with such a talented writer like George R.R. Martin to go off of—and the seemingly-limitless production value of this show made memorably badass scenes like this episode’s intense Wall climb and Daenerys’ previous sacking of Astapor possible. But with all this great character development and set-up, when will GoT give us the huge payoff the first half of the season has been promising? “The Climb” draws us ever nearer to the light at the end of the tunnel, but still falls a little short.
IN THE NORTH
Theon Greyjoy and his Ugly Face
But, like, why are we even seeing Theon at this point? I’m so done with him. Theon continues to get tortured by the still-anonymous kid at a still-unknown location. Whatever. The kid plays a little mind-game with Theon, having him guess who he is and why he’s getting tortured. Theon eventually arrives to the conclusion that the kid is on of Rickard Karstark’s sons, who is avenging Theon’s betrayal of Robb Stark (hah, irony). The kid then “lol jks” Theon, cutting off his fingernail and telling him that he’s just getting tortured because the kid likes torturing people.
It’s tough to watch these scenes for me, because I don’t really care whether Theon lives or dies. He sucks. Screw Theon. Whiny little bastard. I hope this plot moves along, and quickly, because with so much other cool stuff going on, I’m starting to get a little agitated about how much screen time is wasted watching Theon get mutilated. That being said, if this kid is a Karstark, then he and Theon have a common enemy: Robb Stark. That would be an interesting development indeed. But I’m just grasping at straws to somehow justify why Theon’s ugly face keeps popping up on my screen.
Osha and Meera Reed have a little standoff, which Bran has to diffuse. Meera’s brother Jojen, who has magical powers of sight like Bran, has a dream where he sees Jon Snow and the Wildlings. Hodor has a hilariously-timed Hodor moment. Just get to the Wall already. Jesus.
IN THE RIVERLANDS
The increasingly poor decisions of Robb Stark
Two of Walder Frey’s sons, Lame Lothar and Black Walder (do I smell a spinoff sitcom?) visit Robb at Riverrun to present their father’s new terms for the Frey-Stark alliance after Robb broke the original arrangement by marrying Talisa. Frey seems cool with the whole thing, asking only for a formal apology, the fortress of Harrenhal (which was promised to Littlefinger Baelish by King Joffrey for his role in uniting the Tyrells and Lannisters, a union that saved King’s Landing from the siege of Stannis Baratheon) and for Catelyn’s brother (Robb’s uncle) Edmure to marry one of his daughters—pretty reasonable terms considering that House Frey is basically Robb’s only hope of winning this war at this point. Edmure, of course, whines about the arrangement and eventually consents. I cannot begin to comprehend what genetic dumbassery runs through this family. Catelyn freed Jaime Lannister, Robb married Talisa, and now Edmure. Shut up.
Also, I know I haven’t given Brynden “Blackfish” Tully enough love up to this point—he’s crazy awesome and is one of the few members of Robb’s court that seems actually ruthless. But when a guy says something like, “My fists are about to compel the laws of your teeth,” you got to blog about it.
When are Jaime and Brienne going to team up?
Jaime and Brienne are both very uncomfortable as they dine with Lord Bolton. Jaime fails at cutting his own dinner one-handed, and Brienne wears a colorful dress—a fate worse than death for someone who has been trying to subvert stereotypes about her gender her entire life (Brienne has had to face her femininity a lot recently, particularly when she has to be naked in front of Jaime in the bathhouse last episode). But they have each other, and it’s adorable.
Lord Bolton gives Jaime the terms of his release: Jaime will be allowed to go to King’s Landing and return to his father, in exchange for Jaime vouching to Tywin that Bolton had nothing to do with his hand getting cut off, effectively giving Bolton amnesty for whatever inevitable revenge Tywin decides to inflict. It wasn’t until the second of third time I saw this scene that I finally realized what Bolton was saying: Hey Jaime, your father is such a big dog that I’ll take whatever lumps Robb Stark gives just to be sure that he won’t come kick my shit in. Awesome. I don’t know if there’s a special guy who writes for Jaime and Brienne, but it seems like their scenes always shine, and this one is no exception. However, there is one little point of contention: Jaime wants to bring Brienne with him, which Bolton won’t allow. Bad enough he’s letting Jaime walk, but coupling that with also letting Brienne go too (who is technically a traitor like her lady Catelyn Star) would be a one-way ticket to whatever hell Rickard Karstark is in. Obviously these two can’t get split up…right?!
Arya Stark is my favorite character in this show
But goddammit if her story isn’t getting a little dark. Before the Brotherhood Without Banners can release her, they are visited by an unexpected guest: Melisandre, the Red Woman who has become Stannis Baratheon’s advisor and spiritual confidant. It turns out that her and Thoros of Myr go way back, Thoros being a disgraced priest of the same order as Melisandre. It seems as if the Lord of Light’s powers to resurrect people aren’t a really common thing, as Melisandre is shocked at Beric Dondarrion’s stories (you go, Thoros). She tells them that she is taking Gendry for a special mission, telling him that he will become an influential figure in the growing civil war in Westeros (oh, okay). Arya confronts her about taking her friend (crush?), and Melisandre gives another cryptic prophecy before riding off: she sees eyes in the darkness of Arya’s soul, belonging to those who Arya is destined to kill. Arya, an already-skilled archer who just got some pro tips by Anguy/Cool Legolas, just went from sweet little girl to death-dealer. Oh, and she also has an open invitation from Jaqen H’ghar to get trained as a badass faceless assassin. So, is Arya the coolest? Yeah.
BEYOND THE WALL
Since Jon Snow got laid, now it’s Sam’s turn
Sam and Gilly, one of Craster’s daughter-concubines that escaped with Sam after the scuffle at Craster’s Keep, are talking by a fire. This moment has no real relevance whatsoever, but it’s nice to see someone actually be nice to Sam. Little pudgeball deserves it. And Sam still has the dragonglass spearhead-thing he found at the Fist of the First Men. For whatever that’s worth.
Jon Snow has a girlfriend
Just a quick tangent: so this scene was actually filmed on a 50-foot plastic section of the Wall that the actors actually used ice picks and crampons to climb up—an awesome idea as it made the fear and physical stress of the climb super organic and realistic. Of course, everyone in the brief HBO interview about the scene was freaked out by it: Mackenzie Crook (Orell) said he was scared, and (my future wife) Rose Leslie (Ygritte) talked about how physically intensive the whole process was. But, there was one guy who thoroughly enjoyed the whole scene, whose eyes lit up at remembering how fun it was to smash a big thing of faux-ice with a pick: Kristopher Hivju, or Tormund Giantsbane. God that guy is awesome.
But before they head out, Ygritte and Jon Snow share a really nice moment together. She tells Jon that she is his woman, through thick and thin, and that their alliance should be to each other instead of to their respective armies. Ygritte begs-slash-threatens Snow to not betray her, and she promises to return the favor. This is great scene. In a show ripe with loveless partnerships, sexual deviancy, and arranged marriages, it’s refreshing to see actual love between two characters (that aren’t related like Jaime and Cersei). After almost getting avalanched to their deaths while climbing the Wall (a situation that wasn’t helped by Orell cutting Snow and Ygritte loose to save his own butt), they share a passionate kiss on top of the Wall, overlooking a really awesomely-rendered view of Westeros. Despite Orell’s attempt on their lives, despite their brush with death on the climb up, despite the wars and the strife raging in the country below them, Ygritte and Jon Snow are focused on only one thing: each other.
IN KING’S LANDING
Tywin Lannister is Charles Dance and had sex with Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3 so he can do whatever he wants
He and the phenomenally entertaining Lady Olenna finally get to trade verbal punches as they sit down to discuss arranging the marriage of Cersei and Loras Tyrell. I was excited at the idea of two of the most entertainingly-written characters on the show finally get into it, but this scene just fell flat. I don’t really know what it was. Olenna seemed more meandering and less blunt than usual (her bluntness being a big aspect of her charm), and Tywin Lannister didn’t seem as forceful or as menacing as he usually does. I don’t usually dislike the writing in GoT—I think the scenes range from good to unbelievably good—but this exchange was a little mediocre for me. They trade insults about Loras’s homosexuality and Cersei and Jaime’s rumored incest (which is equally true), and Olenna at first denies the marriage on the grounds that she worries about Cersei’s age and consequent ability to bear children. In response, Tywin threatens to appoint Loras to the Kingsguard if he is not wed to Cersei, which would cause Loras to never marry (and therefore grudgingly procreate) and lose his land and titles—including the Tyrell headquarters at Highgarden. Faced with a lose-lose situation, Olenna agrees to the marriage.
Tyrion is awesome/Sansa is sad
What? Two of the subplots finally coming together?! (dammit, now I have to think of a new clever title…or whatever these subplot titles are. Maybe clever was the wrong term. Immature? Hm.)
Sansa and Loras try to get to know each other a little bit (Sansa still thinks that she is promised to Loras by Margaery), which is basically one giant gay joke about Loras, who basically spends the whole time going: ew a girl but omg I’m so excited to plan a wedding! It’s going to be FAAAAAABULOUS! Poor, sheltered Sansa. I don’t think she knows that homosexuality is a thing, let alone that Loras is a homosexual. Sigh.
Watching this unfold from afar, Cersei and Tyrion discuss the crappy lot that Tywin gave them. Beyond that, Tyrion is still on the hunt for who tried to have him murdered at the Battle of Blackwater Bay and why. He long assumed it was Cersei, but after talking to her deduces it was Joffrey. Joffrey has a long-standing dislike of Tyrion, he being the only Lannister who stands up to him (if you have HBO Go, watch for the interactive slideshow feature in this episode that goes over all the times these two have butt heads. Or Google it). Later, Tyrion tells Sansa of their impending marriage—a situation made that much more awkward by Shae, Tyrion’s undercover lover, being literally feet away from them. Poor Sansa. Stark luck, I guess.
Littlefinger creeps me the hell out
Since season 1, the epic power struggle of Westeros has been largely shaped by two pivotal figures that operate subtly and discreetly: Lord Varys the Spider and Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. These two’s almost playful rivalry for control of the Seven Kingdoms has turned into an epic power struggle for the future of the continent: Littlefinger would see the whole country in ruins if it means he could finally have the power he so desperately desires, whereas Varys acts in the vague name of the realm. In this season, Varys has had his time to shine with a memorable monologue and overall fantastic performance in episode 4. Since then, Littlefinger has become an increasingly important and frightening individual. He gets his moment to shine in this episode, with a really great monologue in which he expresses his nihilistic views: chaos is a ladder to be climbed to success, and everything else is just a distraction or an illusion. Unbridled ambition is the characteristic of the strong in Littlefinger’s ideology, a trait which he has in spades.
With Harrenhal under his belt and a political marriage to the neutral House Arryn in his future, Littlefinger appears to be slowly building up a formidable force at his command. Littlefinger also wanted (sexually or otherwise) Sansa Stark, thereby giving him the next heir to the huge army of the North (in Westeros, the North is roughly half the size of the entire continent) should Robb Stark die. Varys actively worked to prevent this, resulting in Margaery’s promising of Sansa to Loras after she becomes queen. After Littlefinger’s spy Olyvar discovered this plot by sleeping with Loras, Littlefinger relayed the information to Cersei, prompting Tywin’s arranging of the Loras-Cersei and Tyrion-Sansa marriages. Also, in personal retaliation against Varys, Littlefinger (who made a large portion of his wealth monopolizing the prostitution trade of King’s Landing) sells his handmaiden Ros, a spy in the employ of Varys, to a certain costumer who had a certain fetish he wanted to try out. This person was Joffrey, who had used a tied-up Ros as target practice for his new crossbow. Joffrey has always had undertones of sadism in him, frequently getting turned on by watching other people get hurt. Now, it seems that he’s fully explored his budding sexual urge—as he stands up from staring at a dead and bloodied rose, the first thing he does is re-tighten his belt.
Sick little prick. I look forward to when somebody (my pick would be Arya) kills his ass dead. RIP Ros’s sultry sex face.
Overall, this was a good, not great, episode. It had its moments of being shocking or touching—Jon and Ygritte’s kiss was a particular highlight, and Littlefinger’s monologue coupled with Joffrey’s murder of Ros was a deeply disturbing scene—but it also had its moments of almost sigh-inducing slow pace. I’m very much looking forward to next episode though, because George R.R. Martin is writing the script himself. Catch that on HBO Sunday at 9, and look out for its recap next Saturday.
Rating: 3 Theon Greyjoy’s fingernails out of 5
Line of the Week: “The climb is all that matters” –Littlefinger
Fanboy gift of the week: Hot Pie, Sansa, Sam, Ros, Cersei, Catelyn, Bran, Ygritte, and Melisandre sing the GoT theme song