‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: The Climb Makes Killers of Us All

Credit: HBO

I sort of understand how the characters feel in this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. Coming into my recap of last week’s episode (“Kissed By Fire”), I was replacing a writer who had a deep knowledge of the books and wove that into her recaps. I am only still on the first book of the series, but come to the show with a huge love for it just from having watched the HBO series. It can be a bit chaotic, delving into something so serious, so well-established: the Internet is often a pit of chaotic opinions and impulsive hatred. But as we learned during Sunday’s episode (titled “The Climb,” and yes, I promise I will keep all Miley Cyrus references to a minimum): you either keep moving forward or you get swallowed by the politics. 

“The Climb” was no subtle sidenote; no filler episode meant to take up space before the epic events to come. “The Climb” was a thematic clincher. A real walloper poised to drive home the fact that everything in Westeros pretty much sucks, and then you die. But in the middle is the climb — and you can either find peace, struggling for your own piece, or let the climb control you. And nobody likes to be controlled unless they’re getting something out of the deal.

The episode starts out with ladies showing the limits of their own power. Who’s a gal got to sleep with to get a couple dragons and in turn some respect around here? Everyone was tested, and no one really won. Because as much as progress has a place, the past will sure as hell try its damndest to stay put.

Don’t Be Tarly for The Party:
Samwell and his lady Gilly spent their fifteen seconds of episode hanging out around a fire, casually admiring old blades on the world’s worst first date. Now: is that an obsidian blade or dragonstone? Either way, that blade is probably the only reason we even saw these two at all this episode — unless, of course, someone on staff was dying to be serenaded by those smooth Tarly vocals.

The Literal Climb:
Ryk, Tormund, Ygritte, and Jon Snow spent the whole of the episode really going at The Wall. This was the literal climb to go along with the metaphorical climb everyone else was dealing with elsewhere in Westeros. The whole thing was quite epic: The Wall is over 700 feet tall — some say the top is hidden well above the clouds. Plus, the whole thing is made of ice …certainly a tricky trail to travail for any Crow or wildling. And overall, the entire ascent is treacherous. Large chunks of ice fall at a moment’s notice, there’s snow and wind whipping up everything around you, it’s cold as — woops! — Ygritte’s accidentally set off an avalanche of ice that took out more than half of the wildling crew climbing. An event that almost sent Ygritte and Jon to their graves — thanks to Ryk’s seeming inability to help a brother out when in need. Somebody’s a little butthurt they’re not getting any action on this trip, eh?

But Ygritte isn’t stupid: she knows that Jon Snow’s alliances fall elsewhere (he’s nothing if not honorable and loyal), but that doesn’t mean she’s not going to be privy to those alliances should they end up coming out on top. Jon Snow will be loyal to his woman! Plus, let’s be real: if you have to choose between The Night’s Watch and the Wildings, you’d probably just choose whichever one licked your bits the best, too.

Bran the Peacekeeper:
I’m still not sure what the deal is with the Reed siblings, and it seems like the jury of Bran is still out, as well. I mean, I hope they’re good people, but you just really can’t be too sure who’s good and who’s bad when it comes to people scrambling about in the wake of winter (which is coming).

Clearly, Meera and Osha are not going to be simpaticos any time soon — they could barely agree on how to skin a rabbit. In fact, they’d probably prefer to skin each other like those rabbits than be mates of any sort. But Jojen’s nightmare dream-thing reminds them all that there’s a far greater rivalry out there being played out by many others. His visions send him to The Wall, where he sees Jon Snow with the wildings (or, as that little cupcake from Love Actually said in his grown-up voice, “the enemy”).

Brotherhood Without Morals:
Melisandre is here — no doubt to muck things up with her general terribleness, right? It’s not hard to forget that the Brotherhood Without Banners and Melisandre both believe the same religion and worship the same Lord of Light — especially since they both go about it so differently. I mean, Melisandre’s all vagina-cloud-monster-babies that murder people and the Brotherhood’s all “let’s bring Beric back to life for the 800th time!” Melisandre is bugged out by the power that Thoros of Myr seems to possess, deeming it impossible. However, it seems to be that (at least at this point), Thoros’ humility about the whole thing is what’s putting him down the right path.

But Melisandre isn’t all without power: she made a quick case out of getting Gendry for herself, in the name of the Lord of Light. Our favorite Baratheon bastard is heading for somewhere, we’re just not quite sure where that is at this point. Our money is on him being the one that she mentioned to Stannis that she could “use” to create another demon-vagina-smoke-monster. So much for the brotherhood being about, well, brotherhood. Gendry was sold off for a few bags of gold and that was that. At first convinced it was a betrayal, Gendry is understandably upset. However, Melisandre assures him that he is “more than they are. They’re just a bunch of foot soldiers, but you’re going to make kings rise and fall.” Is that some fancy way of telling him he’s really good at being a blacksmith, or that he’s actually destined for legitimate greatness? 

And chalk another loss up to poor Arya. Again! Anyone Arya cares about seems destined to be taken away from her. (Arya is the personification of the “forever alone” meme. If Westeros was a place that existed now and had memes.)

But Melisandre has a prophecy for our littlest Stark gal, who called Melisandre a witch outright. “I see a darkness within you. And in that darkness, eyes stare back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes — eyes you’ll shut forever. We will meet again.” Something tells us our tiny murderer-in-wait’s list of kills might have something to do with those eyes. I’m just convinced Arya is going to plow down fields of men when she’s older and faced with battle. But who knows maybe she’ll end up being a total flower! Either way, I am so into an Arya vs. Melisandre showdown at some point in this series’ 9 billion year future.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Robb Stark:
Oh Robb: you’re so pretty — when will that face catch up to its brain? The Tullys and the King of the North meet with some Frey representatives who are like “well since you totally screwed us over, our lord wants Harrenhal” (seriously — why does everyone want Harrenhal so bad? It’s a mess. A real fixer-upper if you ask me). But Robb’s all “I can’t give you Harrenhal yet, but how’s about Edmure Tully to marry your Roslin Frey?” At first, Edmure puts on a hissy fit that only he could pull off, but Robb insists: sorry, uncle, you’re getting married.

Theon and That Crazy Motherf**ker:
You guys: dudes be ca-razy on this episode! And no crazy has been more simultaneously enjoyable and messed up than this brunette chimp gleefully toying with our poor, misguided Theon Greyjoy. Seriously, though: this little fella is a right monster, he is. And his chilling line towards Theon feels like a direct quote from George R.R. Martin and the showrunners themselves: 

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Westeros Middle School:
And unhappy endings are the secret end to every middle school girl’s first crush: which, if you’re a young, niave ginger just looking for a little salvation and stability in a foreign place filled with chaos, is likely to be on a gay boy. Always, in fact. Poor Sansa doesn’t even realize how wrong she’s got it. Thinking she hit the lottery getting set up on a date with Loras Tyrell, Sansa is pretty much living my middle school experience. You go in expecting a handsome prince with a great taste in brooches and a wonderful vision for the future, only to later find out your dreams were all a lie and that you won’t be marrying the most popular boy at theater camp.

She also (somehow) has no idea that Loras is gayer than Christmas and more camp than a row of tents. I mean, he even know what sort of gown she’d wear (fringed sleeves!). Man, I’m not one to stereotype, but whether you live in the realm or the real world: some things never change for a young gal. They find a footing and common thread in their hatred for the Red Keep (man, politics be so unfair and political!), but it doesn’t last for long.

…Because Sansa is getting married to Tyrion Lannister whether she wants to or not, you guys. Too bad she doesn’t realize that Tyrion rules and she’s lucky to have the halfman, even if their marriage ends up a loveless one.

The Ultimate Sass-Off:
We all waited patiently for the inevitably epic showdown between Olenna Tyrell and Tywin Lannister, right? Personally, I was rooting for Olenna on this one, but homegirl managed to get bested — at least it wasn’t by some slouch. You see, Tywin wants Cersei to marry Loras but Olenna knows that even though she’s a nice face, she probably can’t have children anymore, which would essentially mean the death of the Tyrell name (Loras must have all of the babies!) However, these two both have cards to play against each other: Tywin shows his hand as a big ole homophobe, and asserts that Loras’ sexual orientation is something that needs hiding.

But Olenna came out swinging, not batting an eyelash at the fact that Loras is “a sword-swallower through and through.” Has Tywin ever got in on a bit of sword-swallowing himself? Maybe a little game of “hide the sword” or “touch the sword until it bellows” (all games that I just made up that are most definitely euphemisms for getting in on some man-on-man action)? “Never!” he asserted, which, of course. Olenna’s not backing down at this point, though, and lays out some real talk for our Hand: Loras might be gay, but that’s so not as bad as the fact that your twins Cersei and Jaime diddle each other on the regular. But Tywin won’t back down: if Olenna refuses his proposition, Loras will be sent to the Kingsguard where all members are forbidden to marry or breed, which will essentially end the Tyrell name and lineage, which we all know Olenna has no time for. So she seceedes this round to Tywin, and is clearly impressed: “It’s a rare enough thing: a man who lives up to his reputation.”

Littlefinger, Big World:
We watch Littlefinger set sail for better days from Sansa’s teary-eyed point of view on the shore, being left behind. She had the chance to play the game, to keep climbing towards her own freedom, but she refused — trusting a family who has done nothing but use her as a pawn this whole time. Maybe not your best decision, Sansa, but maybe also not your worst, since we all know how awful Littlefinger is — especially after what he let Joffrey do to Ros!

Which: poor Ros! Lord that was messed up. Joffrey, king of the a**holes is shown mid-Littlefinger-monologue with a crossbow in hand and a strung up and arrowed-out Ros on his bed. Dead from climbing well beyond her reach. I wish we got less of the rabbit and Theon finger-skinning and a bit more on the end of Ros, considering she’s a character we’ve actually gotten to know over the course of three seasons.

Littlefinger’s monologue was an especially telling one — really summing up the narrative strides we’ve made in this particular episode: the Realm as those who once knew it was a lie they told themselves to feel better. But what happens when that lie is left to die? Chaos, says Varys. But see, chaos is a ladder, not the pit. Many who try to climb it fail. Some are given the chance the climb, but they refuse. Others try and fail. But in the end, the climb is all there is: the ladder is the only thing that’s real. So happy those who make the climb think they’ll be when they reach the top: but that happiness is only momentary, before the chaos starts all over again.

And no one’s getting more stiffed on the happy endings front than, well, everyone. Which is really quite a feat, considering there are 27 main characters in this show, and we’ve got 4 weddings on the horizon. I think the biggest question here is: what do you get for the psychopathic boy king who has everything and hates all of it? That registry’s going to be a bloodbath.

Other Things to Discuss:

– Brienne’s pink dress. I mean, COME ON. What sort of dreck was that nonsense?
– Those tips to slink up the wall also double as the best way to handle the political madness that is life in the Realm: “Sink your metal deep, and make sure it holds before your next step.” Truer words, my dudes.
– Jaime’s storyline was pretty minimal this week: apparently he’s going to have a chance to go back to the Red Keep, just not with Brienne. Womp, womp. Loved the bantering back and forth between Jaime and Roose Bolton, though.
– Mostly, I’m just stuck on why Roose doesn’t drink. (A+ line alert: “You do understand how suspicious that is to ordinary people”) Because I mean, hey guys, your living conditions are the worst (but with magic!). Let loose and have some wine every now and again. Because let’s face it: your lives pretty much suck.
– “The Lysa Arryn of Chairs.” Perfect, sick burn, Varys.

What did you think of this week’s Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments.

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