When all was said and done, this week’s episode of Game of Thrones felt like cresting the top of a huge rollercoaster. You get one moment to catch your breath and then it’s all quickly downhill to the season finale from here.
Jon Snow finally climbs the Wall, Ygritte gets a little too intense, Arya gets a lesson in archery and vigilantism, and Sansa gets some bad news. There were some interesting deviations from the books and some pointed parallels drawn between characters that became clear when the episode came round full circle. It might not have been the most exciting hour this season, but there were definitely some exciting scenes.
Note: Book spoilers are mostly avoided in the review, but are fair game in the comments. Proceed with caution.
A moment of silence for Ros, the most important whore in King’s Landing. We’ve admired her brazen beauty, bemoaned her extra screen time in season one, and come to love her as a voice of the commonfolk of Westeros. That was a truly cruel ending for a beloved, if minor, character. But, that’s what you get for doing the right thing and double-crossing Littlefinger.
But can we take a moment to appreciate how cool—and creepy—it was that Joffrey’s arrows pierced Ros in the exact same places that Arya hit her target dummy earlier in the episode? Damn.
I assumed from the title that “The Climb” would be about climbing a ladder of ambition and I was wrong. It’s much more than that. Littlefinger was just starting to make me groan at his moustache-twirling villainy (seriously, does NO ONE ELSE notice Littlefinger spending hours alone staring hungrily at the Lysa Arryn of chairs?!), but then:
“Do you know what the realm is? [A] story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget that it’s a lie.... Chaos isn’t a pit. It’s a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, never get to try again. The fall breaks them,” he continues. “And some, given a chance to climb, they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
There he is, the most dangerous man in Westeros. He has nothing to fight for, nothing to lose, just his own desire to prove to everyone that he alone can wrangle all of that chaos and be its master. It certainly helps to have spies as his weapons.
That hot kiss between Jon and Ygritte was a nice palate-cleanser after such wickedness. It’s nice to be reminded that there are some good things happening in Westeros, even if they’re usually short-lived. When you put yourself in Ygritte’s snowshoes, it’s easy to be overcome with emotion at seeing, first, her world from on high and then to see a new, greener world that, up until that point, had been out of reach. While I agree that Jon and Ygritte may really only owe loyalty to each other, Ygritte was perhaps a bit too into loyalty. Jon had a perfect “Uh...” face when she threatened to cut off his cock if he ever left her.
Also: Orell’s eye roll when Jon dashingly came to Ygritte’s rescue on the wall was kind of hilarious. Young love can be pretty nauseating when you’re a bitter old wildling with only an eagle for a companion.
But at least their love is true.
I felt a bit cheated that we never got to see the precise moment Sansa and Shae learned about Tyrion’s engagement. “Awkward” doesn’t even begin to cover the emotions running around in that bedchamber. While Littlefinger provided a coup de grace to the hour, Tyrion got most of the best lines. (As usual.)
I wonder if Sansa ever hears the rumors about Loras, locked up alone as she is most of the time, or if she’s really just that dim. I lean towards the latter. Anyway, it’s a moot point because Loras won’t be getting his gold and green brocade dream wedding, to the supreme disappointment of me. That wedding would’ve been more fabulous than Joffrey’s and certainly more, well, gay than Edmure’s joyless wedding to Roslin Frey.
I want to feel bad for Edmure—and anyone—forced into an arranged marriage, but he just doesn’t get the concept of taking one for team Tully, does he? You can accept your fate with some dignity, no? Then again, if Robb had done just that... Yeah.
Lastly, Gendry’s getting a bigger part in the story. It’s good news because I like the character. (But it’s not good news for poor Gendry.) While it was strange to have Melisandre cross paths with Arya, it was tighter for the story to use Robert’s bastard’s “kingly” blood for her designs. If anyone’s more dangerous than Littlefinger, I’d argue that it’s the Red Priestess.
What are we to make of Arya and Joffrey’s internal darkness? Two sides of the same coin? Foils for each other? Arya’s darkness comes from revenge, Joffrey’s... well he’s just a sadist. Only on Game of Thrones can someone be “just” a sadist. Were the mirrored arrows merely a visual bridge to connect the strands of story a bit?
Other points of interest and quotes of the week:
- Olenna vs. Tywin. We’ve been waiting for these two heavy-hitters to get a scene together and it did not disappoint. I loved Olenna calling Cersei old. Tywin firmly denying any youthful experimentation with stableboys. Olenna’s final “It’s a rare enough thing, a man who lives up to his reputation.”
- Cersei’s “We can have them both killed.” Oh, Cersei. That’s your answer to everything.
- Loved Iwan Rheon’s performance tonight. What an absolute bastard.
- Samwell has dragonglass but can’t light a fire. What did they teach him on the Wall? Yeesh.
- Bran. Jojen. Skinned rabbits. Yawn.
- So the elder Bolton is going to try and put an end to the Jaime/Brienne road trip. Not cool.
Next week: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” Yesssss.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 PM E/PT on HBO.