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"If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
There was a decidedly lighter tone to Game of Thrones this week, well, until the ending. It's interesting to see the fantasy drama sustain a full episode of delightful turns of phrase and fairly innocuous interactions between some of our favorite, and usually more temperamental, characters. Perhaps "The Climb" is simply the calm before the storm? HBO must be trying to make the audience feel nice and secure - hell, Tyrion and Cersei even had a borderline friendly encounter - and then BAM! Ned Stark is alive and beheaded all over again. Seriously though, after a string of passionate scenes, full of nudity and violence, in last week's "Kissed By Fire", "The Climb" was rather tame and talkative. And still thoroughly entertaining. Probably one of the best installments of the series when it comes to the writing (and perhaps performance as well) because it proved how great it can be without a lot of action or sex, you know, the show's supposed crutches. Yep. Besides the titular event, the rest of the episode takes place in conversations and no one really gets physically hurt. Except Ros and Theon. Oh, and a couple of rabbits. Hm. Is there some kind of connection there?
"The visions take their toll."
Let's start with those poor rabbits and one of the newest ragtag teams making their way around Westeros. Bran, Rickon, Hodor and Osha have recently been joined by the Reeds, Meera and Jojen, on their quest north to meet Jon at the Wall. They, of course, don't know that Jon is only just returning there, not to mention that his and the Night's Watch's circumstances have changes. Well, not yet at least. The short scene finds the small group still getting acquainted with each other as Meera and Osha bicker over who is better at skinning the rabbits. I mentioned a connection between this scene and the latter incidents involving Theon and Ros mainly because the imagery in both, as well as a few words, reminded me of the 'game' being hunted and flayed. Even toyed with. The connection to Theon is rather literal, as the heir to the Iron Islands is having his skin peeled back after being hunted by the Boy. There was also something very familiar about the way Varys and Littlefinger discussed Ros at episodes' end, how she was merely another morsel devoured by the game, and the banter between Meera and Osha when they're having a pissing contest over their dinner's dead bodies. Their feud is cut short, no thanks to Bran's whining, when Jojen starts to have a seizure mid-dream and wakes from his vision of Jon.
"It's you and me that matters to me and you. Don't ever betray me."
And Jon is right where Jojen sees him, on the wrong side of the Wall, surrounded by a bunch of enemies. Could this affect the travel plans of the Little Lords' company? And could you believe Rickon spoke? Back to Jon, who's hot off his first sexual encounter and Ygritte won't let him forget it, at first playfully before speaking more from the heart. These two have got something more than just great banter, they have great chemistry and a real bond. Tormund also seems to have a sense of humor, when he's not threatening to rip your guts out. On top of the jokes, the man with the giant red beard also has some honor since he does his best to save everyone on the line when the Wall decides to shed a bunch of wildlings from its face. Orell, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to see Jon perish so he cuts them loose. What better place for Jon to die than the Crow's stronghold? Too bad, Lord Snow has a few tricks up is sleeve and manages to save himself and his lady. All I could think when they reached the top was one of them yelling, "I'm king of the world!" Elsewhere north of the Wall, Sam is doing his best to keep Gilly and her baby safe and warm. He also shows off his singing voice (a song about the Seven Gods) and some 'treasure' he found at the First of the First Men. That should prove useful. Foreshadowing!
"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. We will meet again."
Arya is still hanging out with the Brotherhood Without Banners, at least until they can get a decent reward for her return, and continues her training in being an all around badass. While she was not so great with needle when trying to stick Throros with the pointy end, she seems much more adept with a bow. Although, as Anguy reminds her, not as good as she thinks. Right after he instructs her to use her eye, she spots an unexpected visitor for this area of Westeros. The Red Priestess Melisandre has come to see the Red Priest and looks to be more than a bit jealous of the drunken warrior's power. He corrects her though, saying it's not him that is powerful but the Lord of Light. They shoot the shit in High Valyrian, Throros recounting how he had already lost his faith before even leaving training but once he saw his friend skewered by the Mountain, he said the only words he knew and his faith was restored. You know, cause so was Beric's life. This undying devotion, with good reason - resurrections are not so common place - is probably what allows the Brotherhood to sell one of their new brothers to Melisandre. So much for family and no wonder Arya never liked that woman. Gendry's off to help make kings rise and fall, probably because of that Baratheon blood of his, but I wonder what the coded message for Arya means? They'll meet again? Don't know where? Don't know when?
"Please! Cut it off! Cut it off! Cut it off!"
Okay. So I mentioned off the top how "The Climb" is one of the more light hearted episode of Game of Thrones in some time and Theon Greyjoy would probably have a bone or two to pick with me about that. If he's got any left. And besides, we all witnessed what he did to Winterfell, not to mention what he allowed to happen to the miller's boys, so I'm sorry if I kind of lump his torture into the lighthearted category. Nobody deserves to be tortured but, well, uh, Theon deserves to be tortured. And boy does the 'Boy' love doing it! How can we not take pleasure in watching a man take so much pleasure in his work. For real though, the Boy (again, I know who it is but let's keep the secret alive) is probably the most sadistic character we've met on Game of Thrones so far and there has been no shortage of the sick and twisted. Iwan Rheon (Misfits) is fantastic in the part as well. There's something about the bright blue eyes and wide smile that makes his torturer even more scary. After a few wrong guesses in the guessing game, as well as a brief bit of misdirection because the Boy likes to surprise (also called lying), Theon ends up pleading for his finger to be cut off instead of been skinned anymore. What's another word for removing someone's skin? I win!
"It's terrible isn't it? The most terrible place there is."
In King's Landing, the various marriage plots continue to unfold and eventually butt heads. Before getting into the actual specifics of the scene between Lord Tywin and Lady Olenna, it's probably worth nothing just how rad it is to get a scene between Charles Dance and Diana Rigg. Dance has been phenomenal since his first appearance, owning the character of Tywin, and the same can be said for Rigg's grasp on the Queen of Thorns, who unfortunately only joined the ensemble early this season. More of these two would be nice, thanks. The exchange pits the family powerhouses against one another and Tywin manages to win (for the moment) by threatening to put the heir to Highgarden in the Kingsguard (you know, like his now one-handed heir) which would force him to forsake his titles and lands. Olenna consents to the Loras and Cersei wedding and even seems pleased to have had encounter worthy of his reputation and her time. The others in King's Landing, however, are not so pleased by the news. Poor Sansa. She just can't seem to catch a break, can she? At least she had one lovely little sit down with Loras before having the bad news broken to her. She should be happy, he didn't have all that much to say that wasn't fabric related.
"This is awkward."
Meanwhile, in what could be the most enjoyable scene of "The Climb" (although not quite as good as the last time the siblings shared a moment), Cersei and Tyrion watch the pair of young-not-to-be-lovers talking emptily by the fountain as they are fully aware of the way things will actually play out. And neither are pleased about it. Cersei is a little more solemn than usual, still hoping Jaime can somehow resolve this mess (hm) and Tyrion makes several amazing jokes at his expense. Poor Sansa. At least Tyrion has the courage to be the one to tell the young Lady Stark that he's ruining her life, and all in front of his actual lover. Yep. Tyrion is a brave man and likely to pay since Shae was already jealous of Sansa when her little lion referred to her as a great beauty. The final sequence devoted to the foiled marriage plot is not nearly as lighthearted as the ones that came before since it shows the consequences of Varys or Littlefinger scoring a point in their duel. I guess the eunuch is not able to protect his birds after-all, especially when it comes to keeping them safe from a mad king. Speaking of, Joffrey somehow managed to come across as even more fiendish than before. Kudos. Not easy. Poor Sansa.
"You're in no place to insist on anything. I would have hoped you learned your lesson about overplaying your... position."
Of course, in Westeros (or across the seas, although no Dany this week) there isn’t just one character having a rough go of it and I’m not sure anyone (alive) can compete with Jaime’s experiences this season. Brienne’s ride has been no picnic either. Things have been improving slightly for the one handed wonder and his female bodyguard since showing up at Roose Bolton’s feet last week. They are being well fed, trying to be anyway, and Lord Bolton even found a lovely gown for Brienne to hate wearing. How nice of him. The pleasantries don’t end there, however, with the captor offering some very promising terms for Jaimie’s release. All he has to do is tell his father that losing his hand was no fault of Roose’s and he’ll be allowed to leave Harrenhaal for home. That all sounds well and good for Jaime but unfortunately the offer is not extended to his travelling companion and Brienne will have to remain behind and face charges of treason. That Roose, there’s something about his weaselly face that scares away trust and I hate the way he’s always playing with his words. So clever, eh? Will new and improved Jaime take the deal even though it leaves his ‘trusted’ companion high and dry? And in a dress. Tough call. Oh, and watch Nikolaj Coster Waldau cameo on SNL.
"And his recent experience has made him wary of long engagements."
In the Westerlands, Robb is trying to mend the broken relationship with the Freys and recruit them for the campaign against Casterly Rock to take the Lannisters' home away from them. The relationship with the Freys is broken to begin with because, if you don't recall, Robb was supposed to marry one of them (of his choosing, how nice) as part of a deal that allowed his army to cross the Twins during an early march. This war has been waging for some time and since that crossing, Robb married Talisa which was a big old f' you to the Freys, not to mention his vows. Anyway, they are back at the bargaining table with two representatives from that oh so loathsome House and it turns out the fences can be mended even though every word out of their stupid mouths sounds sarcastic. The offer is Harrenhaal (sorry, Littlefinger) and Edmure marrying a specific Frey girl. Nope, no choosing this time. It takes a minute for Edmure to comprehend the situation (a great bit of comedic acting from Tobias Menzies) and after repeated rejections, he finally agrees to the idea with the help of the Blackfish threats. Well, that means a lot of weddings are on the horizon; this one, Tully and Frey, in under a fortnight, then Lannister and Stark and Lannister and Tyrell times two. That makes four. Four weddings. Hm. Four weddings and a... something's supposed to follow that.
Game of Thrones Season 3 returns next Sunday with Episode 7, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair," at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. The series stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.