Another epic and sweeping episode of Game of Thrones this week leaving me feeling like I had just watched a feature length movie rather than an hour long drama. I marvel at the narrative structure and how the production covers everything so well week in and week out. This week was particularly intriguing as the conversations were brilliantly executed with ferocity by key members of the cast. Although I do watch the episode several times to get the gist of some of the smaller things, it is actually great repeat viewing. The second or third go-round showed me all of the things that I missed in the first pass. How many shows can you really watch over and over and not get bored? The layers they weave feels perfectly executed and this week was a dialogue heavy episode that left me thinking what an amazing show I am watching. I make the decision of how I can possibly validate giving the show a lower grade than anything in the “A” realm but anything in the “B” realm and I feel like I am not giving the show its due. It is just that damn good keeping me firmly on the edge waiting for what will happen next.
There is never an episode that feels like every part is nothing less than hand-crafted for both die-hard fans of the show and the books too. First we catch up with Sam and Gilly, daughter of Craster as they are making a fire in the cold. They share a nice moment as the incestuous baby coo’s and Sam sings a song to Craster’s “daughter” Gilly. Sam is a very likable character and I am very curious how his arc will eventually play out as Season 3 nears an end. I did get a sneaking suspicious that something in the woods was watching the trio as they prepared to sleep for the night.
North of the Wall Jon Snow and the Wildlings are preparing to ascend the great wall of ice and reach its 700 feet high top. Ygritte continues to praise Jon for his talented tongue but then begins to mock him a bit before warning him that she will cut off his manhood should he stray from her. Yikes. A strong woman in Westeros is nothing new but Ygritte is taking it to a whole new level with her verbal sparring. As the men begin climbing up the wall, its massiveness is revealed and the climbers look like ants crawling on an ice cube at a summer picnic. I was greatly impressed with the CGI in this sequence and how the production is really pulling out all of the stops. Unfortunately Ygritte breaks a crack in the ice when they are considerably high causing their losses to be great as men plummet to their death. Only Jon, Ygritte, Tormund and Orell are able to make it to the top after suffering some key losses to their party. Still it was a pretty magnificent sequence and I was genuinely impressed.
Bran is in the South and bickering and in-fighting between Osha and Meera (Anyone else think she looks like Shia LaBeouf??) continues as they skin rabbits. Eventually young Bran who has considerably grown breaks it up before it escalates and gets worse. Jojen is sleeping but suffers what appears to be a seizure although he is merely having one of his visions. Meera comforts him so that he does not choke and when he wakes he regales to Bran that the vision was of Jon Snow. The bad news is that the vision consisted of seeing Jon surrounded by enemies on the wrong side of the wall. The quick comfort that Bran took in knowing his brother is OK is dashed by this news. Bran continues to command his scenes despite of his condition and stature. He does a good job of putting out the fires amongst his piece mail group.
Theon continues to be tortured near Winterfell and he seems to be very much out of it after the extended period of being severely beaten. After a round of sheer brutality and a Medieval round of Jules Winnfield’s “Say what again” game has Theon trying but failing to guess just who his captor is exactly. “Which body part do you need the least?” Theon pleads but his captor says “Please is not a body part.” It is something out of the SAW handbook as a weak and exhausted Theon tries to think of just who is torturing him. His captor is having a grand time in as cruel a fashion as one can imagine. Eventually Theon loses part or all of his finger (I could not really tell) after mistakenly guessing that his captor was the son Rickard Karstark who was beheaded last week by Robb Stark. In his state Theon seems to have already given up important intel including that Rickon and Bran are still alive albeit he does not know where. Still the scene is grim and I am not sure how Theon is going to make it out of this pickle. It was a sadistic and grotesque scene but unlike shows like “The Following,” Game of Thrones knows how to use violence to their advantage to push the narrative forward rather than do something for shock value.
The Brotherhood without Banners has Arya practicing her archery skills with Anguy, a master archer that makes certain to let the little but tough as nails Stark know what she is doing wrong. Melisandre along with Beric and Thoros discuss in their native tongue just how the Lord of Light has worked in their favor. She seems fascinated by Thoros’ devout following of the religion and just how many times Beric has been brought back to life. They allude to their not being another side when you die and Melisandre seems to be disappointed to hear that. Quickly afterwards, the red woman aka the Shadowbinder takes Gendry away leaving little Arya heartbroken. In return for King Robert’s bastard, the Brothers receive gold for their loss and try their best to explain the situation to Arya but she is not having it. All I could think was that somehow, someway this is a Chess-like move that may make Stannis’ run at the throne more of a possibility. A King’s blood runs through Gendry’s veins and Melisandre has already told Stannis just how instrumental royal blood is to their endgame. Angry at the brotherhood for being taken, Gendry pleads with Thoros and Beric to please let him be a part of their group. Before leaving, Melisandre assures Gendry that he is more important than a foot soldier and that he will make King’s rise and fall. It is hard to believe that Arya has darkness inside of her but Melisandre sees it and assures the young Stark that they will meet again. That chick is scary on all accounts. I believed this to be one of the best scenes of the episode as it shows just how desperate times are even for even the “good guys.” Then again the line is grey when trying to figure just who is good and who is bad.
Meanwhile at Riverrun, two of Walder Frey’s men have come to meet with the King of the North and discuss their position. Since Robb has gone ahead and gotten married breaking his promise to wed one of Frey’s daughters, they have come to collect. Robb desperately needs Frey’s armies to replace the men of Karstark that they have lost. They request that in addition to an apology, Frey is to gain control of Harrenhal AND finally Lord Edmure is to marry one of Frey’s daughters within a two week period. Tall order to be sure and this certainly puts Edmure in a tight spot having to marry a 19-year old woman that he has never met. As much as it might suck for Edmure, Robb has gained the army that he needs.
While in Harrenhal, Roose Bolton who was cordial to the Kingslayer and Brienne last week dines with the two. However, Bolton alludes that Jaime can return to King’s Landing without Brienne and assure his father Tywin that he had no part in his maiming. The pauses and space between his speeches reveal that clearly he is after the Lannister’s money and looking for a payday. Jaime and Brienne have formed an odd partnership in all of their time together and he insists on bringing the tall female warrior. This is turned down by Bolton who orders her to stay in Harrenhal as she has assisted in Catelyn Stark’s treason. I suppose that the strange pairing had to end sometime but Jaime looks damn disappointed when he hears he cannot take the towering Brienne with him.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion and Cersei are still reeling from their father Tywin’s request last week. The brother and sister tandem are to marry Sansa and Loras’ respectively. Seeing Lady Olenna and Tywin exchanging barbs about their children and grandchildren is like watching an Ali-Frazier fight. These are two old pros that are in the middle of the ring throwing their best punches. Cersei is nearing menopause and her match is gay while Tyrion (I think) lets Sansa know in private that they are to wed much to his dismay. Hearing Tyrion say “this is awkward” to the beautiful Sansa are not words I ever expected to hear the Imp say. Tywin and Olenna continue to battle in their war of words before the Hand of the King begins to draft an order that Loras will join the Kingsguard if he chooses not to marry Cersei. However Olenna snatches up his quill calling his bluff and breaking the writing instrument in half. This Lady is totally bad ass and has clearly seen it all. She knows her way around the royal negotiation table and I see an Emmy in her future.
As Varys and Littlefinger discuss their recent machinations, there is a montage showing what they have wrought in their ill-fated plans. Ros has been killed in the most brutal fashion by Joffrey with a crossbow. (One of the arrows was a bullseye crotch shot) Tyrion tries to get more information from his sister and they go as far as thinking that the only way out of this mess is to kill Sansa and Loras. The red-haired Stark daughter is seen weeping next to Shae as her fate is revealed: she is set to marry Tyrion and will not be leaving King’s Landing anytime soon. Heartbreaking to the last the Game is…
“The Climb” was worth it and it covered a heck of a lot of ground is just the one hour. Trying to wrap my head around all that transpired in the episode is impossible. All it did was lead to me to watch the episode a second, third and a final fourth viewing. This is a sweeping epic story that continues to find new ways to delight and entertain. Game of Thrones gives us just another reason to hate Mondays; we have a long six days to see just what happens next.