This episode was transitional in different ways. "The Climb" was the episode title. The climb is the literal description of Jon Snow's and the Wildlings' perilous journey up 700 feet of a possibly sorcerous ice wall. It's also the metaphor for Littlefinger's opportunity to move to a higher level of power as chaos covers the land. I thought a few things, especially Littlefinger's motivations, were much too obvious but this is television.
We open up with Sam showing Gilly his obsidian spearhead and general ineptitude at outdoorsmanship. But his heart's in the right place and after Gilly's horrific existence that might count for a lot with her. In contrast the quite skilled outdoors women Osha and Meera argue over the proper way to kill, skin and cook rabbits. Violence seems imminent but Bran orders them both to kill that noise. I wish we could get 15 episodes a year because Bran and Arya are growing and changing very quickly. I hope they don't recast. Jojen has a vision of Jon Snow beyond the Wall surrounded by enemies. The viewer already knows this. This is why I wished the Reeds had been introduced last year. What does this add?
As Arya practices her archery under the watchful eye and careful critique of Anguy, she notices a party approaching. It's Melisandre and her escort. She is displeased to find Thoros here. Thoros was supposed to convert Robert but obviously failed. When Melisandre sees Beric she is shocked speechless that Thoros was able to resurrect him six times. Apparently this is beyond her powers. Thoros speaks of losing his faith in King's Landing amid lust and decadence but finding it again when he prayed Beric back to life. Melisandre thinks that's all very interesting but she wants Gendry (Robert's son) for some yet unknown purpose. To Arya's and especially Gendry's dismay Thoros and Beric agree to this, also taking some gold in exchange for Gendry. To say that Arya is angry is an understatement.
Somewhere the Unknown Young Man (UYM) plays psychological games with Theon. UYM would have enjoyed Abu Gharib. He prevents the dehydrated and exhausted Theon from sleeping, throws water away rather than give it to Theon and conversationally asks Theon which body part he needs the least. But just to show he's not all bad he tells Theon to play a game and guess his identity and Theon's location. Theon seemingly guesses correctly and UYM briefly stops abusing Theon. Just as Theon is starting to enjoy this respite the UYM points out that he was lying and flays Theon's little finger so badly that Theon begs him to amputate it, just as the UYM said he would. In this night's most chilling line when Theon asks if he will ever be released the UYM smirks and says "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention." If you hated Theon for what he did to the Starks do you think this is karmic justice?
Robb meets with the Frey emissaries. Walder Frey wants a formal apology, Harrenhal and a marriage between Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. Edmure refuses but both Catelyn and Robb guilt trip him into agreeing. Bolton dines with Jaime and Brienne. Bolton sardonically notes that he's pleased that the martial and masculine Brienne has been dressed as befits a woman. Bolton says he should send Jaime back to Robb. Brienne points out that she was acting on Catelyn Stark's orders but Bolton retorts that Catelyn Stark is under arrest. Jaime starts to run his spiel about how rich the Lannisters are but Bolton shuts that down by reminding Jaime what happened the last time he played that card. Bolton agrees to let Jaime go to King's Landing as restitution for his maiming but refuses to part with Brienne.
We finally get a scene between Tywin and Lady Olenna Tyrell. Olenna doesn't like the proposed match between Loras and Cersei because Cersei is sliding towards reproductive irrelevance due to age. Tywin comes back with snide comments about Loras' homosexuality. Olenna questions Tywin's sexuality and when that doesn't work drops the incest card, claiming it would embarrass the Tyrells to be married to such a woman. But Tywin has the nuclear bomb. He threatens to name Loras to the Kingsguard, thus preventing him from marrying or inheriting. Olenna concedes. I loved this scene. You can see that it's nothing personal between these two, just business.
Sansa doesn't know her fate and evidently hasn't picked up on the fact that Loras is more interested in the pageantry and gala of a wedding, the clothing and parties, than he is in the bride. Cersei and Tyrion share some complaints about their Dad and worries about Jaime. Tyrion bluntly demands to know if his sister tried to have him killed but learns from her silence that it was Joffrey. Tyrion goes to see Sansa to explain that she will be marrying him. Shae is there and rather arrogantly refuses to leave. Tyrion tries to let Shae know in code that there are some things he doesn't want to do that she doesn't want to hear about but no dice.
Varys and Littlefinger verbally spar. This didn't really add a whole lot except for the aforementioned climbing the ladder metaphor and casual Littlefinger reveal that he discovered Ros was working for Varys. Littlefinger takes sadistic pleasure letting Varys know that he gave Ros to Joffrey, who used her for crossbow practice. Littlefinger suggests Varys mind his own business in the future.
And of course there is the climb, this episode's most special effects laden portion. Before the climb begins Ygritte reveals to Jon Snow, that is after she's done teasing him about his previous virginity and surprising aptitude at unusual sexual practices, that she knows he's still loyal to the Night's Watch but come what may she's loyal to him and he needs to be loyal to her in equal measure. I mentioned before I love her accent. I truly enjoyed the panoramic visuals of the Wall here and the excruciating climb. There's a reason most people don't climb it. It's damn difficult. This Wall climb is equal to anything in film. Ygritte told Jon that her leaders didn't care about her, something that is proven true when she and Jon fall off the wall and Orell cuts the line to save himself. Jon is able to save Ygritte from a 700 foot fall. The duo reach the top of the Wall. In a scene that is reminiscent of similar scenes from the movie Titanic, they embrace and kiss. They are indeed at the top of the world.
There was a lot in this episode about trust and the costs of trusting the wrong people. Making a mockery of last week's heartfelt Gendry speech about finally truly belonging and being part of a family, his new "family" sells him to Melisandre for presumably nefarious purposes. The Brotherhood Without Banners justifies this by claiming not only a religious duty but that Gendry's sale is for the greater good. I always say never trust utilitarians. Dastardly people. Sansa continues to be not only naive but frankly a little dim. I can't find fault with her for not immediately picking up on Loras' homosexuality or the Lannister-Tyrell dynastic rivalry over her. But when she asks Shae if she'll be able to invite her family to her wedding, you have to wonder where this girl's brains are. When Sansa cries, watching (presumably) Littlefinger's ship leave, I was mostly unsympathetic. Ever since she's been in King's Landing she's trusted the wrong people. I liked Arya's confrontation with Melisandre. For a moment I thought Arya was going to try to brain her with what looked like a rock she was carrying. With Jon and Ygritte each having saved the other's life and having been intimate, their trust bond seems quite strong. We'll see if that continues.
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....