[SPOILERS] We have crossed the halfway point this season on Game of Thrones, the hit HBO series based on the popular books by George R.R. Martin.
"The Climb" was the title of episode six, and focused on the growing ambitions of several characters and quick-shifting alliances.
This week in Westeros ...
Still a prisoner of the Brotherhood Without Banners, Arya is practicing archery when they receive a visitor: Melisandre, the Red Priestess who serves Stannis Baratheon. When speaking with Thoros of Myr, she reveals some of his backstory — an interesting, sympathetic character. Melisandre has come to take Gendry, King Robert's bastard son. Servants to the Lord of Light, and needing the gold the was offered, Thoros and Beric hand over their new "brother" to the Priestess. Arya, angry, confronts Melisandre — they have an awkward exchange in which the Priestess says they'll meet again, before dragging Gendry away. These Lord of Light people are all insane.
After that genius move with executing the guy that half of his army followed, King Robb needs to find more help. In order to attack the Lannisters, he needs to make good with Lord Walder Frey — the guy whose daughter he was supposed to marry before going gaga for his current queen. After meeting with Frey's emissaries, they agree to forgive his previous slight if he publicly apologizes and if his uncle, the not-much-older Lord Edmure Tully, marries one of Frey's daughters. Edmure initially refuses, but caves once Robb points out the importance of this alliance.
"I've won every battle, but I'm losing this war." Yeah. That's because you're a great warrior but a crap politician and diplomat, Robb.
Jaime and Brienne
Looking much better than when we last left him, Jaime Lannister is trying to eat a meal with Brienne and Lord Bolton. Alas, having one hand makes it difficult to cut meat. Eventually getting annoyed with his pathetic attempts, Brienne just reaches over with her fork and holds the meat while Jaime cuts. Speaking of Brienne — whoah! Weird seeing her in a dress. Anyways, Bolton agrees to allow Jaime to continue to King's Landing, betraying Robb Stark by doing so. Brienne, however, must remain as a prisoner, despite Jaime's protests that she come with him. It's touching how attached they are to each other now.
Ah, Theon Greyjoy. Still a prisoner, still getting tortured. His captor still refuses to reveal who he is, just deleting in slowly ripping off Theon's finger. Ouch. Yet, still not feeling very sorry for Theon. "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention," smirks his captor. That should be the tagline for the entire series.
Tywin and Olenna
YES! Finally. Charles Dance and Diana Rigg going at it. Alas, the scene was not as grand as I imagined it being, but it was still fun watching these two great actors on screen together. In order to free up Sansa Stark to marry Tyrion, Lord Tywin is ordering Lady Olenna's grandson, Ser Loras, to marry his daughter — Queen Cersei. Olenna protests, declaring that Cersei is too old. After some witty back-and-forth and veiled insults, Tywin gains the upper-hand by threatening to draft Loras into the celibate Kingsguard if he doesn't wed Cersei. Apparently happy with meeting a mind to match her own, Olenna consents.
Tyrion and Cersei
These two have spent most of the series at each other's throats, but now are able to commiserate over their shared plight at the hands of their father. Both are being forced into a wedding that they do not want. While suffering together, Tyrion confirms that it was Joffrey, not Cersei, who tried to have him killed during the Battle of Blackwater. While he spends his time calling Joffrey's methods stupid, Cersei is lamenting about how the Tyrells are stealing history from the hands of the Lannisters through this familial merger. Tyrion points out that at least when Jaime gets back, Ser Loras might die and Cersei would be free. Regardless of what happens, he and poor Sansa are still screwed.
Poor Sansa still does not realize that Ser Loras is gay. When she brings up their wedding plans, Loras starts talking quite excitedly about the wedding — what flowers they should have, what the wedding dress will look like, how things will be decorated. Come on, girl. Oh well. Tyrion, in the most humurously awkward exchange of the episode (Tyrion: "This ... this is awkward."), arrives in her chambers soon after she meets with Loras. Shay, Tyrion's secret lover and Sansa's handmaiden, is also there, making it more awkward. It was a hilarious scene. But HBO was mean and decided not to let us actually see the part where Tyrion explains to Sansa that she's marrying him instead of Ser Loras. Tyrion and Shay's faces would have been priceless to see!
Bran is still making his way to the Wall. His party — his brother, Hodor, Osha, and the Reeds — are camped out in the forest, with Osha and Meera Reed bickering. On the verge of losing his sanity, Bran orders them to make nice. The exchange between the two is really good, and you're seeing some of that old bite in Osha that we haven't seen in a while. The fight is broken up when slumbering Jojen begins to have a seizure; Meera mentions that it's a side effect of mind-controlling the animals. Lovely news for Bran. Anyways, Jojen wakes up and says that he saw Jon Snow... on the wrong side of the Wall!
With his Wildling compadres and fire-headed lover, Jon Snow begins climbing the Wall. Just before, though, Ygritte reveals that she knows Jon is still a Crow. She loves him, though, and they're in it together. "I am your woman now, Jon Snow." She then adds, like any good girlfriend, that if he ever betrays her than she'll cut his "cock off and wear it around [my] neck." A healthy relationship is built around such threats. On the way up the wall, an avalanche wipes out a lot of the Wildlings. Jon and Ygritte almost go with it, but manage to survive the climb. They reach the top and share a picturesque smooch, overlooking the less-wintery side of the Wall.
Varys and Baelish
These are two of the most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms, and their interactions are always interesting. In this episode, Lord Baelish reveals himself to be arguably the most dangerous man in Westeros. Ros, the beautiful prostitute who had been spying on Baelish on behalf of Lord Varys, has been given to that sadistic brat King Joffrey to kill (another recurring character bites the dust). Baelish has been given the Vale and Lady Arryn, and earned favor with the Lannisters by keeping Sansa away from the Tyrells. He is playing the game of thrones better than anyone yet, perhaps because he understands it better than anyone. His exchange with Varys:
"The realm? Do you know what the realm is? It's the thousand blades of Aegon's enemies; a story we agreed to tell each other over and over, until we forget that it was a lie."
"But what do we have left once we abandon the lie? Chaos," replied Varys, "a gaping pit ready to swallow us all."
"Chaos isn't a pit: it's a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again; the fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm or gods or love. Illusions! Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is."
You could write a political treatise on that exchange (the noble lie!). Ambition is the most powerful mover in Westeros, and Littlefinger has more of it that anyone else. Varys is right to be concerned. As he said in a previous episode, Littlefinger would let the whole kingdom burn if he could be king of the ashes. A dangerous man.
Beric: "Forgive my manners; I don't see many ladies these days."
Brynden Tully to Edmure: "The laws of my fist are about to compell your teeth!"
Lady Olenna on Ser Loras: "A sword swallower through and through!"
The episode lacked action, but there was still a good pace to it. The writing was far more humurous than usual, and the tone of the episode itself was not as dark as previous ones — minus the tragic end of Ros. I have a feeling, though, that this light-hearted pause is just for a moment, perhaps softening us up for a coming blow. Tune in next week to see what happens!
Comment below or tweet at @RobinsonOB to share your thoughts on this episode!