The big news in this week's episode of Game Of Thrones
? There was none, really. In a series with as many plot lines running simultaneously as this one has you will, inevitably, hit the occasional where you simply need to give everyone a bit of a breather and let things progress along the lines already set while preparing to move on to the next phase. This was one of those moments. Which is not to say it was not a strong episode - the character work was very strong across the board - just that this episode is really about tying up loose ends from the rather tumultuous previous episodes and that things end more or less where expected.
When last we saw Jon Snow he was headed to The Wall with a band of Wildling raiders. This week they climb The Wall. There's rather a lot of it. It's quite high. Some people fall. Other people almost fall. Other people are helped to almost fall. It goes as you would expect a major wall climb to go which means it adds almost nothing in terms of narrative but it allows for quite a lot of room to flesh out the growing relationship between Jon and Ygritte, which is does very nicely indeed with Ygritte openly calling Jon out on his split loyalties and making a pretty damn compelling argument that their only true loyalty now needs to be to one another. So no real narrative development here, but it's some of the best character stuff involving Snow in better than a season.
Another one? Bran's hanging out in the forest watching Osha and Meera snipe at one another about how to properly skin a rabbit. Does the story progress? Not a bit, but it does a fabulous job of laying out the dynamics within the newly expanded group - Osha clearly not liking that someone else is getting any of Bran's attention - while also throwing in a note that Bran's rapidly evolving gifts may come at a price. It ends where it began but we know the characters a bit better, which is good storytelling in action.
Another? There's Sam and Gilly in the woods, Sam pretty naively behaving as though the pair of them may actually be able to build a life together - their situation contrasted neatly with Jon and Ygritte, making it clear that domestic happiness comes only at the cost of betraying his vows.
In King's Landing Tyrion gets a pair of marvelous scenes, one in which he finally confronts Cersei to determine whether it was her or Joffrey behind the battlefield attempt on his life - answer: Joffrey - and another when he goes to inform Sansa of their ordered betrothal. It's a beautifully awkward sequence with Tyrion stumbling over his words as Shae stands on watching. Again, this all plays the only way it could in terms of story but is just marvelously performed.
There are a host of other prime moments - Melisandre meeting with Thoros in the woods and taking Gendry away, Robb's negotiation with the Freys, the closing conversation between Varys and Littlefinger - with virtually all present just adding layers of nuance to characters we may have already assumed we knew all there was to know about. The one bit that that seems to be spinning pointlessly and really needs to move on is the ongoing torture of Theon which adds nothing at all but repetitive squirming at this point. We already know he's a weasel and that his captor is a sadist. It's time to move along.
If there's a 'winner' to this particular episode that honor goes to the older generation, the face to face meeting between Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell playing out note perfectly, both characters so incredibly strong and both actors playing the parts to perfection. As the audience you have to know how this is going to end. Even Olenna knows how it's going to end, and acknowledges as much. But the pleasure is in how it gets there and this particular road is very pleasurable indeed.
With four episodes left The Climb
stands as a welcome breather, a bit of time spent with favorite characters before the speed and chaos ramps up once again. We do, after all, still have Danaerys marching towards King's Landing with her army and dragons, we have the Wildlings moving on the wall, we have the White Walkers and their army of the dead still presumably moving south and Stannis still awaiting his opportunity to make a move while Robb is rebuilding his forces. There's chaos coming, lots of it, and moments like this are what will make all of the coming chaos matter when the wave finally hits.
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