'Game Of Thrones' Recap: 'The Climb' Slows Things Down... For Now

May 6th, 2013 10:47am EDT

GOT: Thomas Brodie Sangster, Ellie Kendrick Part-way through last night's new "Game of Thrones" episode, "The Climb" (not the Miley Cyrus song, but a weird metaphor for ascending the top tier of Westeros politics), Theon's still-nameless torturer uttered a line so on-point for the series that it felt like a purely meta conversation-starter: "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention." That's sort of "Game of Thrones" in a nuthsell, no? And it spoke odes to where a lot of our favorites ended up last night. Because in Westeros, happy news is always terrible news.
Let's start with some of our "outsiders" (meaning those totally unaware of what's going on in the rest of the realm):
Sam and Gilly are trudging through the snow, trying to get... who knows? Do they even know? Does anyone really care? They build a fire and he sings her a song and her baby falls asleep. The end.
Bran and his band of sightseers and lollygaggers are still arguing about stuff and getting pretty much nowhere. Jojen has a dream. Meera and Asha argue about how to cook a squirrel. Rickon has a line. That's about it.
After being featured so prominently this season, Jaime and Brienne only have a brief check-in scene. They're in Harrenhaal, eating dinner with Roose Bolton. Brienne is wearing a dress (a real sight to be seen) and Jaime can't cut his meat without his sword hand (and watching him attempt to do so is actually fairly depressing). Roose plans on taking Jaime back to King's Landing and sending Brienne to Robb. They both protest - Brienne swore to accompany Jaime to King's Landing, and she's no oath-breaker. And Jaime, well... Jaime has grown fond of the "wench" (his word, not mine). It's all very touching.
The aforementioned scene with Theon and his torturer is another tantalizing tease at just who this little worm actually is. He plays a little game with Theon, saying that if he can guess who he is, he can keep his pinky finger. And if he can't, then... well, you know. Theon guesses that he's the son of Karstark, Robb's bannerman who was executed in the last episode. But he's wrong, of course, and he loses his finger, of course. And it's disgusting, OF COURSE.
Perhaps the most shocking bit of the episode comes from the Brotherhood Without Banners subplot. While Arya practices her bow and arrow techniques (she's not very good, which is either a continuity error or a mark of her recent distractions - remember how she bulls-eyed that target in the pilot episode?), their group hears a sound in the wood. It's a band of intruders, led by a cloaked and hooded woman: Melisandre. It's always fascinating when two otherwise unrelated groups of people find themselves in this world, and I never expected this meet-up (especially since it doesn't happen in the books). Melisandre chats with Thoros, her fellow R'hollor-worshipper, and is in awe at the recently resurrected Beric. But she's there for one sole purpose: to take Gendry back to Dragonstone. He's King Robert's bastard, which means he'll be useful in the ritual she intends to perform so that Stannis can ascend. Arya has a royal freakout when the red-haired sorceress kidnaps her friend. "You're a witch!" she tells her. "You're going to hurt him." This stops Melisandre cold in her tracks. She senses something in Arya, something unseen. "There's a darkness in you," she says, before listing a series of things she's foreseen - the color of the eyes of men Arya will slay. "We will meet again," she tells the girl, before departing with Gendry and her fleet.

The bulk of this episode revolves around the recently de-virginized Jon Snow and his now-girlfriend (I guess?) Ygritte. They're just as flirty as always, with her throwing insults at him just to see if they stick. It's pretty cute, in that way where you know this temporary happiness has to be some sort of rouse. He's still faithful to his black brothers, after all, and Ygritte knows it. As their fraction of the Wildlings plan to mount and cross the Wall, his true purposes will soon be known, and the pressure is weighing hard on him. But Ygrtite urges him to be faithful to her - now that they've slept together, he has legitimate stakes in something, at long last.
And they do cross the Wall, after a super close call (a shaft of ice falls and Orell almost cuts Jon and Ygritte loose because they're dragging down their attached rope - but Jon saves the day, duh). Once they're finally up there, on top of the world, they look out - first at the land they've just left, and then over at Westeros - and then share a very romantic and passionate kiss while the sun sets around them. In any other show, this would be sweeping and hopeful. But on "Game of Thrones," it leaves the bitter taste of "what now?"
Further south, Robb finally meets up with the Freys, who are upset that he broke his marriage vow to one of their own, but are willing to participate so long as somebody marries the sister they've selected. They want it to be Robb's uncle Edmure, who openly protests. He's pissed that he has to subject himself to a loveless marriage so that Robb can be victorious, but Robb reminds him that he has no choice - if someone doesn't marry this girl, they're all doomed. It's ironic, to say the least, that Robb is preaching about duty vs. love when he's the one who got them into this pickle in the first place. The shadow of Talisa lays heavy over their deliberation. Edmure eventually concedes, but still isn't happy about it. Lady Catelyn sits on silently, as is typical this season (and not to my liking - Catelyn is a favorite of mine and her lessened role drives me a little bonkers).
Back in King's Landing, some pretty serious business is going down. Tywin and Olenna have a FANTASTIC deliberation about Loras and Cersei's hypothetical nupituals. Olenna isn't down with the pairing. Tywin reminds her that rumors of Loras's homosexuality have tainted his image and that of his family. But Olenna reminds Tywin that the same could be said of Cersei and Jaime's relationship. After some apt bickering (seriously, Charles Dance and Diana Rigg OWN these roles and it's such a pleasure to watch), they finally agree.
Sansa and Loras have a touching scene by some pretty fountain, daydreaming about their upcoming wedding. Loras is excited for the music and dancing and outfits... and the bride, of course. Sansa is pleased that she's finally getting exactly what she wants: a handsome husband of high birth, a family that appreciates her, a place to call home. But, alas, those dreams are moot, for Cersei and Tyrion watch this meeting from a balcony and remind us all that the waves are about to come crashing down. "I wonder which of the four of us is getting the worst deal?" Tyrion wonders aloud. Cersei reminds him that they're all pawns in their father's master plan. It's a sad day when you feel bad for Cersei, but I finally do. I feel way worse for Sansa and Shae, however, especially after Tyrion goes to deliver the bad news to the both of them. "This is awkward," he says, before the scene cuts away. We don't see the girls' reactions until later, when they stand on the dock and look out at the ships. Sansa is weeping, Shae looks out, dead-eyed. Remember that thing about happy endings basically not existing here? Yeah...
The episode closes with a chilling monologue from Littlefinger, who's chatting with Varys about his various misdeeds. Varys reminds him that everything he does is for the good of the realm, but Littlefinger isn't buying it. He goes on and on about how chaos breeds true leaders (or whatever) - his last big talk before he leaves King's Landing. As he speaks, we see that he turned Ros over to Joffrey, who shot her to death with his crossbow. It's a sick moment in a show full of sick moments, but I worry that it might forever taint the good graces the show has built up this season. Ros doesn't exist in the books, and therefore her death doesn't exist in the books, so adding such a despicable scene just to shock audiences seems in bad taste. Let's hope Ros's death serves more of a purpose going forward.

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Photo Credits: Helen Sloan - Keith Bernstein/HBO

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