'Game Of Thrones': The Climb
Before this week's recap, important inquiry: did anyone else get this song stuck in their head when they learned what the title of the episode was? Just me? Good, okay.
On a much darker note, this episode, which kicks off the second half of the season, had been plodding along (in comparison to many of the other episodes this season) until BOOM, the extended sequences in King's Landing. Before we formally get to them, remember this: "Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."
And so we ascend.
What did he see? Jon Snow on the wrong side of the wall, surrounded by enemies. More on that later.
We saw the aftermath of Melisandre's departure from Dragonstone last week (aka the happy fun times Stannis Baratheon family hour), but what exactly was the Red Priestess doing so far from her king?
Well, now we know the answer to that question. While Arya's practicing to kill her enemies in the head, the tits, and the balls, she sees an entourage pulling up to the Brotherhood Without Banners, and lo and behold, it's Melisandre and her escorts. In a twist unique to the show, she's looking for something—something that only the Brotherhood has.
Close by-ish in Riverrun, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Edmure Tully, and Brynden Tully meet with two envoys from the Freys. Now, the Freys have always been nasty, but this scene, in which they bargained for the terms of Walder Frey's alliance with Robb, underlined just how different they were from normal people.
So while he's totally willing to negotiate Jaime's terms of release, which would result in him going back to King's Landing (have fun in that snake pit), not so lucky: Brienne, who, despite following Lord Bolton's king's mother's direct orders, will not be joining Ser Jaime on his journey to King's Landing, and in fact will be going back to Robb Stark's camp as a traitor. Ah, shit.
Speaking of King's Landing, jesus christ is that place a total shitshow. Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell literally try to one-up each other with family sexual secrets: Sure, my grandson's gay, but at least he isn't f*cking his sister! There aren't many older women on "Game of Thrones," so watching Olenna declare Cersei "too old" is both strange and disorienting.
Never fazed, the lion lives up to his fearsome reputation, so instead of fighting Tywin and potentially losing all chances for the Tyrell name to go on if Tywin appoints Loras Tyrell to the (on paper, celibate) Kingsguard (side note: yup, Loras is officially the only Tyrell son), Olenna disengages, bites the bullet, and approves the new marital arrangements.
Boy, are those arrangements giving everybody grief, especially the Lannisters involved. As Sansa Stark awkwardly tries to woo the Knight of Flowers (who, not to give in to stereotypes or anything but... he's very stereotypical), Cersei and Tyrion Lannister watch, both of them harboring their own thoughts: Tyrion of "how did I not see this coming/good lord the Stark girl deserves better" and Cersei of "I'm going to be a beard and my twin brother, with whom I've engaged in incest many a time, is gods know where."
But these new marital arrangements aren't the only rift between Cersei and Tyrion. Yo Cersei, remember that time a member of the Kingsguard tried to kill Tyrion in front of a bunch of royal soldiers during a battle against somebody else? Yeah, that's still a thing, and Cersei's unwillingness to talk about it shows that even though in theory, the two of them are all in this together, there are some things that nothing, not even being on the same sinking ship, can make better.
It is with that thought that Petyr and Varys meet in the throne room. What starts out as a cordial conversation becomes a ringing truth about this episode, this season, hell, this series. "Chaos is a ladder." Varys had thought he'd figured it out, by attempting to make the Tyrell-Stark marriage happen, but Petyr Baelish is not a man to cross, as he carefully explains in a meticulously-scored moment. Sure, he has a thing for Sansa, but that doesn't mean that he won't punish her for perceived sins.
It might be awkward for Tyrion to tell Sansa that they're to be man and wife (in front of Shae, no less), but it is absolutely devastating for Sansa to watch Littlefinger's ship set sail for the Eyrie knowing that she no longer has him and she no longer has the promise of Highgarden. And for those who actually double cross the man with the nightingale pin... let's just say that there are people in the market for human targets.
While Petyr's talking about the metaphorical ladder of chaos, Jon Snow and his merry band of distrustful wildlings make their way up a very large, very real Wall. After the events of last week's sexual awakening, Jon Snow thinks that he and Ygritte have a better connection, but as she warns him, "Don't ever betray me." Tough luck, man—even the people who are your friends don't really trust you.
That whole trust thing comes into stark (ha) relief once they're all metal-footed up and on the Wall itself. It's a looooong way up, which means it's an even longer way down. So when a giant sheet of ice and snow falls off the cliffside, what's a wildling to do but fend for him or herself? But Orell takes this whole self-preservation thing to a more sinister level when he cuts off the rope with the express purpose of releasing Jon Snow and Ygritte from the line that holds himself and Tormund Giantsbane.
"The climb is real."
Some closing thoughts:
- Sam and Gilly, sitting by a fire... This episode opening scene might seem a bit superfluous (hell, Sam's entire storyline might seem superfluous), but trust, there's meaning in—oh hey, what's that shiny black blade you got there Sam? What could it possibly mean in the grand scheme of things?
- Theon continues not getting it together. Side note: the showrunners are taking a loooong time to reveal the truth about Theon's torturer, who isn't one of Yara's men, isn't a Karstark, and certainly isn't very compassionate toward his ever-suffering captive.
- Melisandre's comment about Arya's "eyes" is an instance of the show foreshadowing something that's very far in the future. For those of you in the know... oh yes, please let them meet again.
Read more of NT's "Game of Thrones" recaps here.