[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Episode 6, "The Climb"

Courtesy of HBO

"If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."

Just the other day, some GoT fans and I were discussing which of the series (either book or film) motto's bests works as a descriptor of the series as a whole. "You win or you die," was a favourite, and yes, obviously. I'm rather partial to "the night is dark and full of terrors," and equal considering was given to "anyone can die." But I nominate the above quote, said with delicious aplomb by Iwan Rheon, who hasn't had much to do in the Dany-fied storyline Theon has been stuck in, essentially a stop gap plot meant to keep him on the show between last season and next (or more reasonably, season five). 

Elsewhere, I've seen this episode, the first on the down hill stretch of season three (the first half of the season are about setting the stage, getting the players in place. The second half is about pushing the boulder at the stage, and watching everyone run of their lives), called the weakest of the season. I disagree. Episodes like this are the reason I watch the show to begin with. I'm not invested in Game of Thrones as an action series, I'm not expecting fireballs and sword fights every week, and I'd be disappointed if there were. I'm in it for the politics, the machinations of the characters, and the intrigue. Anyone calling this episode weak surely doesn't recognise that as much happened in this episode as happened in any of the action heavy episodes. The battles were just fought with words.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that cuts their meat with their elbows.

What I most enjoyed about this episode was the delicate patience it displayed. It allowed, as last week did, for scenes to unfold, without unnecessary fragmenting. The triumph, from an editing perspective, was the Brotherhood scenes. In earlier seasons, or in other episodes, that story might have been crux of the entire episode, with a cut when Melisandre arrives at camp, and another after Thoros' speech, breaking the section into three. Instead, we got a solid chunk devoted to learning everything we need to about these characters, and finally Melisandre has the chance to reveal her true self. In the books, at first at least, she is limited to interacting with Stannis, who is devoted to her, and Davos, who hates her. In that situation, she is in control, she holds the power. It is a welcome deviation from the source material to put her up against Thoros.

They are opposing sides of the coin, and that was the real thrust of the episode: opposition. Melisandre, devout in her allegiance to R'hllor, 100% behind the cause and has absolute faith in Stannis. And Thoros, an admitted atheist, a drunk and a braggart who gave up his solemn duty to chase whores and fight in tourneys. And yet, he is the one with the power, that the Lord of Light has seen fit to bless with magics, while Melisandre is forced to resort to shadow tricks and fire gazing. You can sense the seething envy coming off her as she molly grubs Beric's wounds.

Tyrion and Cersei formed an uneasy alliance in their shared misery after the revelations of last week, and Tyrion discovered that it may well have been Joffery, not Cersei, that ordered his death on the Blackwater. Whether this is true or not comes down to how much you trust Cersei, to which I feel the sane answer is "not at all," but she has made the substantial point this season of telling everyone that she can no longer control her son. Why then, if he did order the hit, protect him any longer? Either answer, she or him, works, and both build towards future events. It was an odd scene, considering the usual level of animosity between the characters, with Cersei even admitting and nearly thanking Tyrion for his efforts as Hand, something he has craved from every quarter and never expected to receive, least of all from her.

I wondered at the start of the season exactly how much Diana Rigg would get to do in the role of Olenna, considering the character has all of two scenes in the novel. The answer is, give her a scene a week with the other characters, gradually moving her up the power chain of King's Landing. From Sansa to Cersei, to Tryion and Varys, and now finally to the Hand's chambers and an audience with Tywin himself. Another set of opposing forces, perhaps the two people who have played the game of thrones better then anyone else, if only because they've managed to live longer then people usually do in this world. Tywin, who keeps things close to the chest, and Olenna, who says exactly what she's thinking. While Tywin favours skirting subjects, Olenna goes for the graphic metaphor. While Tywin vales his intentions with threats and posturing, Olenna calls him out, forces him to action.

The weak points of the episode were few, and restricted to the subject of the Wall. Jon and the wildlings climb, while Sam and Gilly admire his obsidian blade. And the Reeds continue to be useless (personal bias: I hate them), though setting up Osha and Myra as opposing forces, each only desperate to protect those they've sworn to, was a nice touch. Not that it will pay off, because nothing does where the Reed children are concerned. Sansa's scenes were partly filler too, if only because it just added more evidence to the already made case that Sansa is still a child grasping at fairy tales. And we already knew that she and Shea were a refelction of each other, one niave and innocent, the other jaded and aware.

The episode ended with my favourite dichotomy, Varys and Littlefinger, and for once Littlefinger came out on top. We also got yet another metaphor for power, which has been called a shadow, knowledge, power, and now a ladder. Littlefinger manages to destroy Varys, if only briefly, and the irregular look of defeat on Varys' face was heartbreaking, especially as the viewer tried to figure out if Littlefinger was bluffing and trying to get Varys to reveal something, or if he actually had bested the Spider in his game. And then the slow realisation that Littlefinger is telling the truth, and that poor Ros has come to a terrible end. And then we got to see that end. For a wholly original character, she lasted a lot longer then anyone expected, and I'm sad to see her go. But it gave us our final opposing pair of the evening, Joffery having made the perfect shots that Arya was practising at the beginning. And the vision of eyes that will be snuffed out as Arya continues to lose herself in the darkness.

"If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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