Not every week in Westeros can be exciting and full of bloodshed. But it’s not always what you need for good, epic, fantasy. The writers on “Game of Thrones” continue to impress this week with an hour of dialogue driven politics and character development that entertains to no end.
In the North, Bran Stark and his friends continue to move toward the Wall. Osha the Wildling, and Meera Reed almost come to blows before the boy defuses things. Later, Jojen has a vision he relays to Bran. He saw Jon Snow Beyond the Wall, surrounded by Wildlings.
In his unknown dungeon, Theon’s torture continues at the hands of his captor. The boy promises to free Theon if he can guess his identity and their whereabouts. Theon theorizes that the boy is a Karstark, working for King Robb. The boy confesses such, before declaring himself a liar and proceeding with the torture.
“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”
At Harrenhal, Roose Bolton eats with Jaime and Brienne to discuss their fates. After some deliberation, they’re in agreement that Jaime will continue on to Kings Landing, but Roose intends to keep Brienne with him for her treason.
In Riverrun, Robb meets with the Frey emissaries to discuss an alliance. Walder Frey demands a formal apology for Robb’s betrayal (marrying Talisa), the castle Harrenhal, and for Edmure Tully to marry a Frey daughter. After some argument with Edmure, the demands are agreed to.
In the Riverlands, Arya receives bow training from a Brotherhood archer. Soon after, Melisandre arrives and essentially buys Gendry (the Baratheon bastard) from the Brotherhood, despite Arya’s protest. before leaving, the Red Woman touches Arya and sees much killing in her future.
“Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
In Kings Landing, Tywin Lannister meets Lady Olenna about the upcoming marriages. After discussing the “awful rumours” about their children, they banter and threaten and eventually come to terms. Cersei will marry Loras.
Elsewhere, Sansa and Loras discuss their supposed nuptials, much to Loras’s chagrin. Soon after, Tyrion informs Sansa that they are now betrothed. She’s understandably devastated.
Soon after, Varys and Littlefinger meet in the throne room and discuss the Realm, and their respective schemes. Littlefinger reveals that he’s been aware of Varys’s arrangement with Ros (Littlefinger’s assistant). Her fate is then revealed: Joffery has bought her, and used her for shooting practice.
Beyond the Wall, Sam and Gilly continue to move south toward Castle Black. Sam shows the girl his dragonglass dagger and then sings her a song. The cheesy romance is a little churning, but a bit of cutesiness never hurt anyone.
Finally, we see Tormund’s Wildlings and Jon Snow scale the Wall. The group has a few near falls, and Jon and Ygritte are almost cut loose when a large ice sheet tumbles down. The group eventually makes it with minimal casualties. Jon and Ygritte are the last to the top, and embrace each other, looking down over Westeros.
“I see a darkness in you. And in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes you’ll shut forever.”
For such a slow, dialogue driven episode, it’s frenetic. The action constantly jumps between locales, though Kings Landing gets the lion’s share of the screen time. Not a moment is wasted though, and every scene is chock full of great lines and entertaining banter. The scene between Tywin and Olenna stands out especially. Two tyrants, brilliant and methodical toe-to-toe with their silver-tongues. It’s a masterful scene and Dance and Rigg both command the camera.
The climbing of the Wall is pretty impressive visually, and has enough tension to make up for the lack of action this week. The dichotomy between chaos and order is explored in each scene and the symbolism is nice and subtle, while also being easy to digest. While we see much pessimism and bleak tragedy throughout the episode, not all is lost. Sansa is broken. Ros is dead. Gendry is in the hands of a “witch”. But, there is hope. There is a new dawn over the horizon. The world is greener on the other side of the Wall.
“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Or maybe not. Overall, it’s not the best episode “Game of Thrones” has produced. It’s a far cry from the worst. It’s a necessary exposition-filled hour. The story has to develop and this was the best way to show it. It’s a transition between the intro to the season and what will be (hopefully) the thrilling climax.