SPOILER WARNING! It’s best not to read this review unless you have already seen Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 6
Impeccably written and structured, this episode really showcases the greatest strength of the GOT writers; the ability to take a story this all-encompassing, and a cast of characters this widespread, and bind them all together around one cohesive and meaningful theme. In The Climb, that theme is the endless struggle for advancement through turmoil, whether literally or figuratively.
Jon’s (Kit Harington) climb is literal, in that he, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and his Wildling buddies are attempting to haul ass over the Wall. By hand. That is, they’re using ropes and grappling irons to climb a 700 foot wall of solid ice, which has an alarming habit of suddenly shedding large chunks of itself (making for some very arresting visuals). It’s no wonder that it takes them the entire episode to get to the top – and even then, not all of them make it. It might seem that Jon is one of the few characters with the freedom to make his own choices at the moment, but this isn’t strictly true; cursed with that annoying streak of Stark honour, he’s being torn between his remaining Night’s Watch vows and his burgeoning relationship with Ygritte – who has threatened to cut certain parts of his anatomy off if he ever betrays her.
Practically everyone else is about to be forced into a marriage they don’t want in order to further somebody else’s grand power play. We finally get to see some verbal sparring between Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) and Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), but it ends a little disappointingly from our perspective – Tywin paints her into a corner, forcing her to agree to the marriage of Loras (Finn Jones) and Cersei (Lena Headey). It was great to see Tywin on the ropes, but let’s be honest here – we really wanted that Lannister jerk to lose an argument for once.
The upshot of this is that Cersei will marry Loras, and more importantly that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) will marry Sansa (Sophie Turner). This puts a real spanner in the works for everyone except Tywin, who must be the most hated man in Westeros by now – he’d better watch it, or he’ll be waking up with his throat slashed. Cersei and Tyrion have a rather amusing conversation about their predicament, which makes for great watching. However, we have noticed that as the seasons wear on Peter Dinklage’s ‘British’ accent (which was never that great to begin with) is slipping somewhat. He sounds British, sure, but we’re damned if we could say which portion of this scepter’d isle he is attempting to imitate.
Also being press ganged into marriage this week we have Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), who has been trapped into marrying a faceless daughter of Walder Frey (David Bradley). This is to make up for the fact that Robb (Richard Madden) ran off and married Talisa (Oona Chaplin) instead of one of his daughters, and also to ensure that Frey will send Robb enough men to continue fighting the war, which he is otherwise on the point of losing. Walder Frey, as we know from the first season, is a filthy old dude with an incredibly large family, most of whom he is keen to marry off as advantageously as possible. However, from the few glimpses we had of him in the first season, he doesn’t seem like the type of guy to forgive and forget so easily.
Things are hotting up (sorry) for the fire-worshipping Brotherhood without Banners. Melisandre (Carice van Houten) causes a stir by showing up unannounced and paying good money for our friend Gendry (Joe Dempsie), before carting him off. You might be wondering what the Red Priestess would want with the armourer – well, a couple of episodes ago Melisandre revealed that she needed the blood of a King for a spell she was concocting on behalf of Stannis (Stephen Dillane). There was some speculation amongst viewers that the blood would turn out to be that of Stannis’ daughter, but apparently not. Gendry, of course, is Robert Baratheon’s bastard – possibly his only living bastard, since Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) had them all murdered King Herod style. What Melisandre’s spell is going to accomplish, we can only imagine…
We get another glimpse of Theon (Alfie Allen), who is (still) being tortured by we don’t know who, in a dungeon we don’t know where. His torturer (a gleefully terrifying Iwan Rheon) reveals himself to be a complete and utter psychopath (Westeros seems to have more than its fair share of them), subjecting Theon to both mental and physical torture until he begs to have his own finger cut off. And yet…we’re still not feeling that sorry for him. Yes, Theon’s had a pretty difficult and confusing life, but so have lots of people, and they don’t go around murdering children. Also, he gave in and begged for his finger to be cut off a bit quickly, didn’t he? Sorry, GOT – you’re going to have to work a little harder than that to get us to feel truly sorry for Theon Greyjoy.
This episode comes to boiling point about three minutes from the end, when Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) drops a massive bomb on Varys (Conleth Hill). In doing so, he gives one of those great game-changing monologues we have come to expect from Game of Thrones, ensuring that this visually fascinating, but admittedly rather slow-moving, episode will stick in our minds. Littlefinger’s speech (transcribed below) captures the essence of the mood in King’s Landing, in the whole of Westeros, and perhaps the entirety of Game of Thrones itself: the onset of disorder is not an obstacle, but an opportunity for progression – for those ruthless enough to take it.
“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is 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 the Gods, or love – illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” – Littlefinger
Best Kill: Ros – poor Ros. That’ll teach us not to betray Littlefinger any time soon, unless we want to end up on the pointy end of Joffrey’s crossbow.
Best Scene: The montage of scenelets that accompany Littlefinger’s ‘Ladder’ speech.