Whether it’s a climb to power or a climb over the highest precipice in the land, episode six of ‘Game of Thrones’ has its characters scrambling to find the nearest foothold and use it to their advantage. Not that life has ever been outright cheerful for our heroes, the second half of the season is off to a grim start.
North of the Wall
The adventures of Samwell and Gilly have to be had in quiet, especially in the evening, for the night is dark and full of terrors. Whether Rast or any of the deserters, White Walker, or just a hungry dire wolf, the two are outnumbered by a lot. Apparently not ego-wounded from the last time Samwell proudly showed her the treasure of his mother’s thimble, he decides to show off another one of his treasures — Chekhov’s dragonglass.
Further south — actually, as far south of “North of the Wall” as you can get — Ygritte and Jon Snow prepare for their climb of the Wall, so they can attack the Night’s Watch on the other side. Jon is unabashed with his worry, but Ygritte calms him with confidence of Tormund’s skill, to whom they’ll both be tethered, along with bug-eyed Orell the warg. Ygritte is more concerned with having The Talk and securing Jon Snow as her man. Emo as he is, Jon Snow doesn’t seem torn up about having broken one of the last of his vows.
On the way up, however, an errant axe-chop causes a split in the ice wall, and most of the Wildlings fall to their death. Tormund and Orell are able to bear down, but Ygritte and Jon Snow swing wildly, too much weight for the first two to bear. Considering his life not worth the life of an untrustworthy crow, Orell cuts the rope connecting he and Tormund to the swaying lovers. Jon pendulums to a foothold in the nick of time and pulls Ygritte up to safety.
Exhausted and weak, the four finally make it to the top of the Wall — possibly the only Wildlings who attempted the climb. Jon Snow locks eyes with Orell and his eagle overhead. It’s awkward. But the sun breaks through the clouds, and the view of Westeros below is quite a sight to behold.
Somewhere in the North
Meera Reed and Osha the Wildling have an angry rabbit-skinning contest, which is a bad-ass forest-woman pissing contest. Neither trusts the other, but both are very capable protectors. Bran gets them to calm down and apologize to each other begrudgingly since they’re all after the same thing.
Jojen seems to be having a green dream and his body erupts into seizures, a side-effect of having The Sight. Rickon utters his only line of the season and somewhere T-Dog cheers at his television. Meera calms her brother down and he regains consciousness only to inform the others that he saw Jon Snow on the wrong side of the Wall, surrounded by enemies.
Elsewhere, in parts unknown (although assumedly in the general vicinity of Winterfell), Theon is awakened by his mysterious captor blowing a horn. Those who really paid attention in school may remember the end of Theon’s inspirational speech in season two to the Greyjoys in Winterfell, interspersed with random blows on a horn, and he screams, “And whoever kills that ****ing hornblower will stand in bronze above the shores of Pyke!” Callback? Or is Theon just plagued by horns wherever he goes?
His creepy captor denies him water, threatens him with a knife, and asks which body part he needs the least. To make it into a game — you know, so it’s fun for Theon — the mystery man tells him if he can guess who he is correctly, he’ll admit to it and stop trying to slice off random extremities.
Theon spits out a few guesses — each wrong one losing him a segment of pinky — and lands on the Karstarks, naming him one of the sons of the recently beheaded patriarch, Rickard Karstark. Mystery boy goes along with it for a moment, saying Theon guessed correctly… and then informs him that he’s also a liar, and goes back to his pinky, flaying the skin right off the bone. It was gross. Who would do such a thing?
And before people start feeling bad for poor Theon, let’s remember for a moment what he did to Winterfell and what he would have done to the Stark children if he had found them. George R.R. Martin and I share dark ideas about justice.
Near the Brotherhood Without Banners’ Hideout
Anguy gives Arya archery lessons, and although he’s no Syrio Forel, it’s always much nicer and more believable to watch someone constantly in training than to ask audiences to believe a young girl is suddenly amazing with weapons.
The Red Woman appears at their doors and asks for an audience with Beric Dondarrion. It seems news of the walking dead travels fast, and she needs to see it with her own eyes, all but disbelieving a sinful man like Thoros of Myr could have brought back his friend over and over. She surmises that the Lord of Light is trying to tell her that someone’s in his camp who’s supposed to serve her needs…
Melisandre emerges from the cave hideout — I guess no location-shrouding hoods are needed for crazy priestesses who can just ask the fire real nice where people are hiding — and her men fall upon Gendry, who’s had just about as much bad luck this series as the Stark family. It seems he’s needed in some plan of Melisandre’s, and we know from an earlier episode that her crazy witch magic is fueled by Stannis Baratheon’s royal blood, which Gendry the bastard shares, via his late father, Robert Baratheon.
Arya is shocked that they would let one of their own go so easily and obviously for gold, but they gently remind her how badly they need gold if they’re to fight a war that’s against every house fighting in a war.
The one family that has enough soldiers to help Robb Stark’s cause is the family of the woman to whom he was betrothed in season one, in exchange for passage across the Twins’ Crossing. Two Freys have come to speak with Robb, Catelyn, and Edmure and Blackfish Tully to strike a deal. In exchange for their help in this war, they ask for a formal apology for Robb’s having gone rogue and marrying Talisa, ownership of the bleak and haunted castle of Harrenhal, and for Edmure to wed Roslin Frey within the fortnight, since the Frey patriarch is close to death and now suspicious of long engagements.
Robb thanks them for their time and asks for a moment alone, where Edmure stomps his feet and pouts that he has to marry a girl and he doesn’t even get his pick of one of the Frey children, as Robb would have had he honored the deal. Robb appeals to Edmure, saying he fully admits it’s his blunder that has gotten them all into this mess, but it would really help the war and, by the way, reminding Edmure that he haven’t been all that helpful in the war up to this point.
Roose Bolton dines with Jaime and Brienne, who dons a pretty pink dress and doesn’t even need to make a snide comment to convey to the audience how much she loathes it. Bolton pretends to consider whatever he is to do with Jaime, and Stumpy reminds his captor how much gold he could get in return for a trade… and how much wrath would befall him if Tywin were to find out the Boltons had the opportunity for a trade and refused.
Bolton agrees to return Jaime to King’s Landing on the condition that Jaime impresses upon his father that Bolton had nothing to do with cutting off Jaime’s hand. Brienne promises to return him safe and sound, but it seems Roose has other plans for someone who’s committed treason.
Lady Olenna appears in Tywin’s solar to appeal on her grandson’s behalf and not allow him to marry Cersei. Self-described as old and knowing of such things, she informs him that Cersei is nearing menopause and would therefore not bear any of Loras’ children. Tywin reminds her that her grandson is gay, a fact which doesn’t seem to phase her, and she seems shocked that Tywin himself never “experimented” in his youth.
Olenna also counters with the fact that incest is a much harsher rumor to deal with than a little “sword-swallowing,” and Tywin threatens to add Loras of the Kingsguard, where he will never be able to take a wife, thus halting the Tyrell name. He also calls her bluff that if she truly believes Joffrey is the product of inbreeding, then he’s not the actual king, and why would she even want Margaery to marry him? These two are good.
Her bluff called, Lady Olenna begrudgingly agrees to the coupling.
Outside in the garden, Loras and Sansa have the most awkward flirtation known to man, and even Loras seems shocked that Sansa’s gaydar seems to be in the shop.
Tyrion and Cersei look upon them from a window, moping about what’s to come for the four of them. Tyrion quips that he’s not sure which of them actually has it the worst. He takes the rare opportunity of mutual disdain for their father to try and get Cersei to admit who ordered the hit upon him at the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and she seems to suggest it was Joffrey.
Back in her room, Sansa and Shea pick out a suitably drab outfit for Joffrey’s wedding, and Tyrion enters, ready to give the bad news… to both his new bride and the woman he had hoped would be his bride. It’s super awkward.
Littlefinger and Varys encounter each other in the throne room, and after some traded barbs about Littlefinger ending up with his second-choice Tully — Lysa Arryn — Petyr expresses mock surprise that Varys seems to be so scared that he will get the things he wants.
Varys quips that everyone likes to watch a friend fail, and Littlefinger concedes that, yes, it actually did feel good when he thwarted Varys’ plan to save Sansa by trying to marry her to Loras. He also lamented the loss of his worker, who had apparently been a spy for Varys, but who was now given to a friend in order that he might have a “fresh experience” with her. The scene cuts to Joffrey who has hog-tied up Ros, the informant, and riddled her with arrows from his crossbow.
Varys reminds Petyr he only acts upon what’s best for the realm, and Littlefinger dismisses that as a child’s story. Varys inquires if his nemesis is simply hoping for chaos to swallow them all? Littlefinger says chaos is a ladder, and some who climb it fall, while others don’t have the strength to start the ascent. But the climb is all there is.
Sheesh, if this guy loved chaos any more, he could probably bring Gotham to its knees. Who is the hero Westeros deserves?
Thus ends episode six of this season’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ Theon’s mystery torturer seems to have set a foreboding tone in motion, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
‘Game of Thrones’ airs Sundays on HBO.