Columns > Published on May 6th, 2013

Recap: Game of Thrones 3.06 - The Climb

This is going to contain spoilers for this episode, and also for the books. I won't tell you what happens in the fifth book, or what I think is going to happen in the next episode, but I will talk about differences between the book and the show thus far. Deal with it.

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some, given a chance to climb, they cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

The Climb is the first episode in a long time that belabored a unifying theme between the disparate characters and locations. Littlefinger's monologue, excerpted above, dovetailed nicely with this episode, in which various characters climb and fall, or climb and succeed, or just keep on climbing, everything else be damned.

Whereas last week's entry was like watching someone set up a long row of dominoes, this felt like that first domino toppling over, starting the chain reaction that'll lead us into the final four episodes of the season. 

I'm going to try something a little different and split the recap by region, because damn, this show is covering a lot of ground. Unifying themes aside.

King's Landing

I would watch an entire show in which Diane Rigg and Charles Dance bicker. The meeting between Lady Olenna and Tywin was fantastic, as the two jockeyed for position while dealing with the skeletons in the family closets—the incestuous relationship between Jaime and Cersei, and Loras' homosexuality. It's a little surprising how much they know, and how much they're willing to overlook, in order to maintain their power.

Also, Tywin is such a smooth operator, so in command of every room he enters, that it's fun to watch Lady Olenna poke at him. In defending Loras she says that boys with often experiment with each other, and she wonders if Tywin has ever done so. And even though he's disgusted at the thought—and, clearly, at homosexuality—he still recognizes Loras' talent as a knight, and is more than happy to sign him into the King's Guard, thereby robbing the Tyrells of an heir.

Meanwhile, Loras and Sansa are discussing their betrothal. It's a win-win. Loras gets to have the big wedding he's always dreamed about (heh) while keeping his dalliances on the down-low, and Sansa finally sees her way out of the hell of King's Landing. And up the ladder she goes...

My favorite moment from last night was the discussion between Littlefinger and Varys in the throne room. I love when this show ruminates on the meaning of power, and I also love it when these two characters—both small fish who wield an inordinate amount of influence—dance around each other.  

Also nice to see Cersei and Tyrion not dancing around each other, and instead attempting an adult conversation, now that they're both in the same boat—stuck in arranged weddings neither of them want. Finally, two characters who despise each other can find a little common ground. It was sort of sweet. 

I was slightly more disappointed with what felt like a missed opportunity: Tyrion goes to tell Sansa they'll be betrothed, and finds Sansa with Shae, Tyrion's secret hooker girlfriend. As Tyrion says, that is awkward.

That they cut away from the conversation was a bummer—though it was powerful when they cut back to Sansa's crushing disappointment. Peter Dinklage is a handsome man, and he'll treat Sansa way better than Joffrey ever did, but to go from marrying a dreamy knight to a scheming, scarred dwarf, it's tough to see the bright side. Down the ladder she goes.  

Oh, and in case you forgot that Joffrey was a dick, he's tested out his crossbow on Roz. Poor Roz. 

North of the Wall

The episode opened with Sam smiling more than he's ever smiled on this show (probably because he's sitting next to a pretty lady and not getting picked on). Oh and I wonder if that dagger hammered out of obsidian is going to be pertinent! (Spoiler alert: yes.) I actually figured it would become pertinent later in the episode, and it was too bad they didn't come back to this story thread. Soon, I imagine. 

We get some more good stuff between Ygritte and Jon Snow. Very good stuff. First, as they prepared to scale the wall, Ygritte indicates she knows Jon is still acting as a member of the Night's Watch but doesn't care, as long as he's loyal to her. (Also, is there anything funnier on this show than when Ygritte drops her voice to a baritone to mimic Jon?)

And then, after they finished their climb—which includes a nasty brush with death—they share a nice moment at the top, sucking face as they survey the grand vistas on either end. Sometimes the climb is successful. Except now they have to get down the other side. 

Also, it was a nice note to end the episode on, considering what happened with Sansa and Roz. Poor, poor Roz.

The Riverlands

There was a lot of interesting stuff going on in the Riverlands. Robb is kowtowing to the Freys, agreeing to marry off his uncle in order to make good on breaking his word. Arya is taking archery lessons, and continuing on her path to being a little badass. Melisandre shows up, and Thoros of Myr gets a nice monologue on faith. Jaime has a very loaded conversation with Roose Bolton, that seems to indicate something is in the offing. (Is Jaime in the Riverlands?)

Most interesting, though, is Melisandre taking Gendry for some nefarious scheme that probably involves his kingly blood. In the books, Gendry goes off with the Brotherhood and has a grand old time, or at least I assume he does, because the Brotherhood seems like a fun bunch of guys.

They're less fun in the show, as demonstrated by their selling Gendry for a bag of gold. Too bad for Gendry. Some people fall off the ladder even though it seems like they never even made it to the first rung. 

And that was an interesting little meeting between Melisandre and Arya. I think I know what Melisandre is referring to, but I won't spoil it. 

The North

Theon still can't catch a break, even though he doesn't really deserve one, because c'mon, he killed two kids. But it was hard to not feel bad for him during last night's torture session.

This is all brand new. Theon disappears for the whole of the third book. It makes sense on the show to keep him around, so the viewers don't forget about him, but last night's session skirted the line of torture porn, which was a little unpleasant.

I'm surprised, too, that they're belaboring the point of who exactly is torturing Theon. So much I'm wondering whether it's a spoiler to even say (even though I did, in previous recaps). If you've read the book you know. Hell, if you check the IMDB page for the actor, Iwan Rheon, you'll know. But I guess they want to make it more of a surprise—which I can understand, as there's potential for it to feed into one of this season's biggest betrayals. 

Kudos to Rheon, by the way. He's got that delightfully unhinged quality that's the mark of a great villain—you can't get a read on him, so you don't know what he's going to do next. He reminded me of an evil version of Matt Smith's Doctor in Doctor Who. There's a boundless sense of glee to both characters, just on different ends of the spectrum. 

Meanwhile, Bran and his crew continue their trek to the Wall. The tiff between Osha and Meera is funny, and it's nice to see them all, but it's perfunctory. It'll be nice when that storyline picks up some momentum. As in, they do anything other than sit around a campfire and talk about visions. Their climb hasn't even started yet...

Other stuff:

  • No Daenerys. Every episode of Game of Thrones that does not include Daenerys makes me a little sad. 
  • Cheers to Gwendoline Christie, the actress who plays Brienne. Pay attention to the conversation between Jaime and Roose. She's sitting in the background, quietly seething over her frilly pink dress. It's a nice subtle piece of acting. 
  • Jojen Reed has a vision, which seems to manifest as a seizure. Which made me think, how horrible must it be to have a neurological disorder in Westeros? 
  • In the opening credits Winterfell has been sacked! Is that new? I didn't notice in the previous episodes. Also, does this show not have the greatest credits sequence ever
  • BOOBWATCH: This was a chaste episode. If you are a pervert, this was a disappointing entry. 
  • "Sword swallower", as Lady Olenna described Loras, is a very funny medieval slang term for gay. (Not that there's anything wrong with swallowing swords.) 
  • Poor, poor Roz.
  • Diana Rigg had a busy weekend. She appeared in last night's episode of Game of Thrones, and Saturday's episode of Doctor Who, the brilliantly batshit The Crimson Horror. Rigg may not be familiar to American audiences, but she's a big deal across the pond—she portrayed Emma Peel in the British spy-fi television series The Avengers.

So, discuss! What did you think about this episode's odd pairings? What did you like about this entry? Not like?

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at

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