I don't have quite as much to say about this weeks episode. If last week was a 9 this week was a 7. Some interesting stuff going on in King's Landing and the Riverlands, and obviously the main focus of the episode, also the literal interpretation of this episodes title, was Jon and the Wildlings ascension of the Wall. The alternative inspiration for the episodes title is much more compelling but I'll get to that in a bit.
Jon, Ygritte, Tormund and the other Wildlings rope up in groups of four and finally begin their climb of the Wall. The pacing was great as the sequence was broken up and spread out through the episode to illustrate the length of the climb. Not a lot going on character-wise, other than Ygritte calling Jon out for deceiving the Wildlings, yet still pledging herself to him and expecting the same in return. While almost breaking out into a Celine Dion song, (I have to believe they sang that song on set while filming this scene) Ygritte reveals to Jon that she doesn't care about either side of the conflict, the only loyalties they have are to each other. What isn't clear is what Jon thinks about this. Has he given up on the Nightswatch? Other than that they have a close call when a chunk of the Wall takes out most of the Wildlings and forces Orell to cut Jon and Ygritte loose. Fortunately Jon is able to gain footing and save them before the line is cut. This enforces Ygritte's point that they are expendable to the Wildlings.
Before this the episode opens with Sam and Gilly having a fire, and Bran mediating a fight between Osha and Meera. These scenes basically just serve to remind us that these people are still alive and heading to the wall from opposite directions, however, with Jon spending the entire episode climbing said wall you have to ask yourself if these story lines may converge soon. It is a really big wall, but stranger things have happened.
For instance, what the shit is Melisandre doing in the Riverlands? I don't mind this scene, we get some insight into the Red God and Melisandre's mission, but it doesn't make sense for her to be there. Sure she has some enigmatic powers, and maybe she was drawn to Thoros performing his miracles, but there is a substantial distance between Dragonstone and the Riverlands. It is not a big deal but I'm bringing a map to the podcast tomorrow. The Brotherhood selling Gendry to Melisandre followed by her cryptic words to Arya are the most intriguing parts of this sequence, but they do raise more questions than they answer.
Theon's torture scene is not only disturbing but also doesn't answer any questions. Theon's captor, who lets just call Satan until his name is revealed, plays a game with Theon and seems to divulge some information. But it turns out he is just evil and simply enjoys torturing other people in any way he can. Back to square one... minus a pinky finger. We do, however, get the best summarization of the series and the show thus far in this scene; "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
Robb meets with two sons of Lord Walder Frey to set terms for his apology. The Frey's know they hold all the cards in this negotiation and even go as far as to make demands, not requests. One of Lord Frey's demands is to marry one of his daughters to Edmure Tully, Robb's uncle and Catelyn's brother, after his father's death Edmure is now the lord of Riverrun. As such, technically Lord Frey owes Edmure homage, but Robb is desperate, the Frey's press their advantage and Edmure reluctantly agrees to marry the Frey girl. The wedding must take place within a fortnight and should give Robb the men he needs to continue his war. The other demand Lord Frey makes is Harrenhal, the largest castle in Westeros. Harrenhal has already changed hands multiple times and has also been promised to a few different people.
Roose Bolton, bannerman to Robb Stark, holds Harrenhal currently. He also hold Jaime and Brienne and is treating them surprisingly well compared to the other men who have impeded them. Lord Bolton elects to release Jaime and send him to Kings Landing in order to gain favour with Tywin, it is unclear now where Lord Bolton's loyalty lies and Harrenhal is a very important strategic asset at this point in the war.
Another, more subtle, war is being fought in Kings Landing and we get another scene following the Queen of Thorns meeting with all the snakes and politicians in the capital. Lady Olenna meets with Lord Tywin to discuss the proposed marriage of Cersei and Loras. It is very interesting seeing the Lannister patriarch parley with his Tyrell counterpart, as these two are the masterminds of their respective families and are both insatiably ambitious. While they are shaky allies at the moment they spend the majority of their conversation vying for power by pointing out and trying to take advantage of the others vulnerabilities, culminating with Lord Tywin putting the Queen of Thorns firmly in her place.
The other fantastic scene in Kings Landing has us witnessing a conversation between Lords Varys and Baelish. These have always been highlights of the series and this episode's is no exception. The two conspirators meet in the throne room and while normally the Spider has all the information and upper hand this is truly Littlefinger's scene. Beginning by telling Varys that his plan to marry Sansa Stark to Loras Tyrell is thwarted, Littlefinger builds into a revealing monologue about his process of dealing with the unexpected. "Chaos is a ladder." Throughout Littlefinger's discourse his voice is laid over a scene of Joffrey, still psychotic, having just tortured and killed Ros, and then Sansa in tears after being informed that she, in fact, will not marry Loras but rather Tyrion. Sansa's liberation from the Lannisters is now impossible and Highgarden is lost to her. The coupling of his words and these scenes demonstrates Littlefinger's resourcefulness, and how he responds to the chaos, as in one action he takes revenge on Ros for conspiring with Varys, ruins Varys' and the Tyrell's plans for Sansa, gains favour with Joffrey and has created a situation in which he is now Sansa's only escape. A real Michael Corleone moment. The monologue ends with Jon and Ygritte completing their own climb, earning them a nice moment of respite before they have to continue their mission, hopefully next week.
All in all a decent episode, the drama in Kings Landing more than makes up for the slower start, and Jon and Ygritte made it. While Jaime got some good news Theon is not having a good time, two characters we hated but have come to empathize with if not root for a little bit. Robb is losing allies and is now doing what he has to in order to continue his war. Both Stark girls are disappointed again, it has been heartbreaking to witness their naiveté being stomped on. Four episodes left this season and its clear that certain stories are going to be coming together soon. Also Yunkai has been in the opening credits twice and still not mentioned or visited, hopefully next weeks episode changes that.
I guess i did have a lot to say...