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Game of Thrones



Episode 6 - The Climb

8 May 2013

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Gilly and Sam move through forest toward the Wall. Giantsbane leads a party to climb the Wall as Ygritte tells Jon she expects him to be loyal to her even if he is still a Crow. The ice breaks as they climb but they make it safely to the top. Theon's torture continues and he remains unsure who is wielding the knife. Melissandre arrives to collect Gendry and says she sees darkness in Arya. Walder Frey asks for Edmure to marry his daughter in order to send men to fight for Robb. Lord Bolton plans to deliver Jaime back to Kings Landing. Tywin twists Olenna's hand over his marriage plans and Tyrion breaks the news to Sansa.

The Good: Hmm. This was one of the least satisfying episodes of Game of Thrones for a number of reasons. I want to unpack it all carefully because it was entirely down to presentation and not the stories themselves.

The parts of this which I enjoyed without question were:

- Jaime trying to cut his meat with one arm, Brienne helping him and then Jaime referring to his own "failure." A very simple moment which told us what we needed to know about his condition, mental and physical.

- The special effects used to give us the dramatic climb of the wall were excellent and the chance to show Ygritte marvelling at the view was well taken.

- Sam and Gilly looking as vulnerable as possible out in the woods.

The Bad: Most of the episode's content I will discuss in the Unknown. I'm confident that the vast majority of it will pay off down the road. But placed together in this particular episode they added up to an underwhelming set of mysteries and moments that demanded more clarity. Here are the parts I think deserve to be dropped in "The Bad."

Once again Little Finger just came out and made plain his intention to do bad things. Now to be fair his speech about the ladder being the only real thing was hardly specific enough to give Varys something to accuse him of. But he is blatantly implying that he plans on scheming his way to more power regardless of who he has to step on which at the very least feels unbecoming for a man who should want to earn the trust of those in high places.

The montage which accompanied his speech disappointed me greatly. I don't particularly want to see Ros killed but I would have preferred to register her horror at being found out or see Varys' reaction to her corpse rather than the brief glimpse of Joffrey's disturbing desires. Worse than that though was the cut to Sansa staring mournfully at Baelish's ship leaving with a blank Shae next to her. Part of my excitement at the conclusion of last episode was the thought of how on earth they would react to Tyrion giving them the news. To be robbed of that makes me annoyed with the producers even if they compensate for it down the line. I do of course understand the time restrictions they are under but within an episode which had so many failings this felt like a kick in the teeth.

Sadly I have to place Jon and Ygritte in "The Bad" too. I really didn't dislike their story but it has no emotional resonance and so has failed at its primary function. Jon is in a tough position for the communication of emotions. He is a spy and so can only tell us about his doubts and fears through a few brief facial expressions. However the writers need to find a way to get us to empathise with him. The climb of the wall was a terrifying prospect and a deeply confusing one for Jon. Instead of giving us his perspective and playing with the question of what exactly he will do now that he has helped the Wildlings establish a beachhead, the story focussed on Ygritte instead.

As the story was presented she had all the agency. She finds him the equipment for the climb, admits that she knows he has been lying and forces him to be loyal to her above all else. Then once they reach the top the moment is hers and not his. She has achieved a major life ambition and expanded her horizons both literally and figuratively. Now I am a fan of Ygritte, I think she's an entertaining character played well but as far as I know she isn't the focus here. Their relationship has been on fast forward all season and it felt very awkward to have her impose a new loyalty on him. From our perspective she seems naive and pushy. Shouldn't she be worried that he will betray her people?

Finally two moments stuck out to me as not of the sort of quality I'd expect from Game of Thrones. One was Ser Loras' half hearted attempt to hide his half heartedness from Sansa. Either the actor or Ser Loras himself need to do a more convincing job of faking excitement. The other was Melissandre seeing darkness in Arya and sensing the people she will one day hurt. It felt like an underlining of Arya's story in a way that didn't add anything to it.

The Unknown: The rest of the episode was a series of questions which while necessary for the story felt irritatingly compiled to rob the episode of real purchase.

Both Theon and Bran's stories are stuck on repeat and with such short scenes it's hard to feel much connection to them. I do feel sorry for Theon and his confusion mirrors our own about who is putting him through this. But as good as the performance of his torturer was it left me questioning whether a mystery like this is doing much good being dragged out this long.

Walder Frey's terms seemed surprisingly lenient to me. I couldn't help but wonder if he had considered turning on Robb for betraying his word. I did feel sorry for Edmure having to pay for Robb's crime but until I'm sure nothing else is going on it was hard to know what to think.

Similarly I assume that Lady Olenna was agreeing to Tywin's strong-arm tactics and only breaking his quill as a minor act of defiance? It was a good scene, written well and of course performed nicely but again in an episode full of questions I didn't want to be left wondering if she was off to cook up a scheme to change course again.

I'm genuinely confused as to why Lord Bolton is sending Jaime on to King's Landing. Bolton seems to be more concerned with what Tywin Lannister will do to him rather than what Robb might if he discovered this betrayal. Is Bolton so sure the war will be lost or is he planning on switching sides? Or is he simply so afraid of Tywin's reputation that he doesn't want to be specifically targeted during wartime?

The meeting between Melissandre, Thoros and Beric was intriguing but was of course deliberately mysterious. It would seem that Thoros and Melissandre were genuinely given tasks by some higher authority in converting Westeros to the worship of the Lord of Light. And indeed Gendry was the target of her search for King's blood though how she knew where he was I don't know. I'm also left with interesting geography questions because by my reckoning she has moved as far in one episode as some of our characters have in six.

Best Moment: Jaime cutting his food was the only moment I really felt something for but the view from the top of the wall looked excellent.

Conclusion: I'm beyond worrying about the overall direction of Game of Thrones at this point. But for those of us watching one week at a time this sort of instalment is pretty unsatisfying.



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  • Did anyone notice how remarkably similar the wounds on Ros were... to the 'straw person' Arya was practicing her archery on?

    Viewer score: 51 / 100

    Posted by Raine, 08/05/2013 6:11pm (5 years ago)

  • At first I liked this episode but upon rewatch it definetly dips in score. I did enjoy all the scenes with a Lannister's in them. I've grown tired of the Theon torture porn scenes and I didn't think for a second John Snow and Ygritte was in any danger. I'm hoping the table setting is just about done and we start getting to conclusions to these stotylines. Tywin gets my vote for this week G.O.T winner and hopefully now Sansa will get in the game.

    Viewer score: 55 / 100

    Posted by Dave Lopez, 08/05/2013 12:49am (5 years ago)

  • I actually liked this episode more than Robin did. Looking forward to a spirited discussion over the podcast!

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Roberto Suarez, 07/05/2013 9:48pm (5 years ago)

  • The English Office guy cutting the belaying rope was truly silly. We've seen this scenario before in some pretty awful movies and did they really need more drama than climbing a 400' ice wall with antler crampons and five layers of fur on. Sansa's stuff was all pretty weak.The brothers without ambition lost points and Tywin sounded atypically like the kid who was going to take his ball and go home when he played the Kings Guard card. I'm sure, however, we'll get our hair blown back with the rest of the season.

    Viewer score: 68 / 100

    Posted by dbates, 07/05/2013 6:15pm (5 years ago)

  • This episode is not as good as the last two episodes. Compared to those episodes it's rather disappointing. I suppose this episode was a setup like the one before the Blackwater episode last season, which I was also lukewarm on.

    The Good:

    Olenna and Tywin discussion. Has there been a discussion where someone got the best of her? I think it will be a highlight of the episode if it does happen. The CGI was good for the climbing of the wall.

    The Bad:

    Theon and Bran scenes adds nothing new. I hope we get an explanation as to why the guy who is torturing Theon killed those Northern men who were on his side.

    Littlefinger being not so subtle yet again. I like the actor who plays him, it's more down to the writers with what they are doing to him. Some characters are better on the show than in the books like Margaery, Osha, Joffery and Ygritte, but Littlefinger suffered in the adaptation. There are others, but he's the most noticeable.

    While I didn't rejoice when Ros was killed like some of the book readers out there, seeing as her character wasn't in the books, but I didn't have any emotions (my emotion metre was 3/10... this is a thing I'm trying get people to do) to her death like I did when Ned or Lord Mormont was killed. Having Joffery kill Ros was unnecessary as we already know he's evil. I didn't buy that Joffery was becoming a softy because of Margaery. Before the Starks were branded as traitors of the realm, Joffery was all nice to Sansa with one exception when he told her "don't touch me!" after being bitten by a wolf. So he could be doing the same thing with Margaery before the marriage.

    I was going to disagree with you on the actor who plays Loras, but I looked at the picture you provided here and watched his scenes again. Yes, it wasn't a convincing performance. I suppose if I was to marry a girl I don't care for, gay or not, I would have the same look on my face. LOL. I wonder if Edmure had that same look when he was told he has to marry a Frey. I also agree that it's a shame we didn't get a scene when Sansa was told she was to marry Tyrion, instead we got a Littlefinger monologue. I don't know if it was time constraints, because this episode was shorter than the other episodes, only run approx. 51 minutes including the credits. I thought they could have spared a few minutes for that scene.

    I mostly agree with you on your review, with the exception of one thing about the Freys being lenient. There's a history of Walder Frey trying to marry his children to the Tullys and now he has that chance. Since Robb can't unconsummate his marriage, not that he wants to, as a bannerman of the Tullys, WF will get something just as good, having one of his daughter married to the heir of Riverrun. I suppose it depends the person, Robb won't think it's a big demand from WF, since he's not the one to marry a Frey, but to the Freys and Tullys it will.

    Onto last week's feedback, to Robert's question, I was talking about the book regarding Robb's speech before beheading scene. It was at page 280 in Book 1 of A Storm of Swords where he ended the speech with "He killed my honor. I shall deal with him at dawn." I'm not arguing why Robb had to do it, but it would've been better and made Robb look better if that speech was included. I just felt awkward with it cutting away like that. While I'm at the books, I'm someone who's very careful with spoilers. I don't talk about parts in the books till after the show caught up to it, so it made my heart skip when Roberto let out about grayscale. I anticipate non-book readers raw reactions to moments in the show, imagine all the tears I licked (not literally) after the end of the Baelor episode. I suppose it's alright since it's a minor thing compared to the all the amazing stuff that will happen this and the next season.

    About Shireen's hair color, I found it strange that not many people are making a big deal about it. There was more talk on what Gendry meant when he said "milady" to Arya. I wouldn't have mention anything if it was some nitpicky thing like Stannis not having a beard or Renly's peach that book purists were whining about last season. But Baratheon hair color was the evidence that made the Baratheon brothers go to war. Stannis's wife seems to have a much darker hair color than Shireen, but her hair shouldn't matter because remember "the seed is strong" from season 1? I know that professional critics like yourself Robin and Roberto have to deconstruct and/or analyse every scene picking out the flaws, so I'm sure it's weird that an amateur wannabe critic like me pointed out a huge plot hole. As uncommon as that is, even a dog in this case me can have its day once in awhile. Anyway, the show writers better have some good explanation, otherwise it will make Stannis a hypocrite or my eyes are really screwed up. Though I have been looking at her scenes some more and at the HBO viewer guide website and she's a blonde as much as Cersei's children.

    Viewer score: 55 / 100

    Posted by Dave, 07/05/2013 1:57am (5 years ago)

  • Sorry to do this but I can't resist.

    Robert - it was quite literally a cliff hanger :-)

    Posted by The TV Critic, 07/05/2013 12:17am (5 years ago)

  • For me this was another solid episode. Although I understand your criticism I found this episode quite enjoyable. As I understand it this was the biggest departure from the books thus far. Apart from the invented Theon storyline ( which was fantastic b the way) other scenes were "new" too, especially the last part with Baelish. I got a strong Goodfather vide from it with his monologue and the depiction of his poor victim Ros who was shot in the way that Arya hit the straw man earlier. It wasn't a particular revealing scene because we had discussions between these two men in the Throne room before and we already knew that Baelish is a "dangerous man". Still his ladder metaphor was nice. I however fully agree with you that the Sansa/Tyrion scene needed some conclusion and her last shot with Shae watching the ship in the distance was also a bit questionable. Are we supposed to believe that Sansa is now fully on Baelishes side? This was too rushed to be believable if this is the case.

    The Loras/Sansa scene I liked quite a bit. His missing exitement was the wohle point of this scene and his face right before he mentions "the bride" was priceless. Not particularily a necessary scene but it was a lighter moment between mostly serious stuff.

    The climb itself was a bit underwhelming but Orells willingness to let both Jon an Ygritte die in an instant was tense and also understandable from his view. It wasn't Cliffhanger but still good Action-Drama.

    Viewer score: 69 / 100

    Posted by Robert, 06/05/2013 10:29pm (5 years ago)

  • I thought this was a more solid episode and felt more complete than an average Game of Thrones. I hate when people can't separate the books from the show but that being said having read the books I'm always going to have a deeper understanding and emotional attachment to characters that's something I can't separate.

    However I won't get into that in depth here, I just wanted to share this article. While the "test" described here is certainly true for some characters I don't think it applies to Dany or Jon. I think they did start the series off rather blank intentionally but have shown more and more inner thoughts and deepened as the series went on.

    Posted by Derek, 06/05/2013 10:23pm (5 years ago)

  • Putting something in "The Bad" doesn't mean I condemn the whole thing. And I did say at the start of the review that I was complaining about presentation rather than content.

    I have no problem with what Jon and Ygritte went through but I don't really believe that this story is about her. I don't agree that Jon not cutting her loose proved anything. He couldn't kill her in the first place, he's not going to let her die now.

    And he may be relieved to reach the top of the wall but from a viewers perspective that's not a particularly dramatic moment because we had no doubt he would make it.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 06/05/2013 10:16pm (5 years ago)

  • While this wasn't the episode the last 2 were. It simply couldn't be because of basic narrative arc structure. The last 2 episodes were payoff eps. This is a setup episode.

    While I agree with alot of your bad section, I violently disagree with your conclusion about Jon and Ygritte. The only thing bad about their storyline is how little screen-time the producers have given it. As far as the moment being hers, You forget that Mr. Snow is a Crow. it was his duty to patrol the top of the wall therefore seeing the world from its heights shouldn't be an emotional experience. It was. It was for 2 reasons. 1 because he had doubts/fear about even attempting the climb. Moreover, his fears were almost realized... Twice. The first where Ygritte saved him the second where he saves himself then her. The second reason is because Ygritte was there with him. Whenever people face hardship/danger together and overcome it together, they are more connected emotionally.

    Also I want to point out that Ygritte wasn't forcing Jon to be loyal to her. She was stating that one of the things she admires most about him is his deep sense of Loyalty and she knows that as his woman he will be loyal to her. She is telling him this because she knows that he is still a crow, and he needs to resolve this conflict within himself. Which he did when he didn't cut her loose. Those 2 are more connected now than ever before.

    As far as Joffrey is concerned, We needed that scene to reinforce the notion that Joffrey is a very bad guy. He is not Jaime. All season long we've been watching him and Margaery thinking... Maybe Margaery will soothe the savage beast. Much like Brienne has with Jaime. The answer to that notion is an emphatic NO!

    While Roz wasn't a character in the books she was someone who in this version was the connection to the Legacy of the Northmen in Kings landing. She was our agent on the inside, she gave us access to what really goes on behind all those guilded doors. Her character was an exposition hole. Anytime the audience needed to be given backstory or a window into the plots and schemes or needed to learn about a characters inner self, it was Roz to the rescue. This is what I would have put in the unknown section. It is UNKNOWN how the writers will handle the loss of this valuable resource when most of the characters are unreliable narrators.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Swift, 06/05/2013 7:02pm (5 years ago)

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