Previously on Game of Thrones: Robb decided he wanted to be friends with Walder Frey after all; Jon broke his vows…a few times, it seems; Jaime opened up to Brie; and Tywin sold out his own kids so he could outmaneuver the Tyrells.
Sam, Gillie, and the baby are gathered around a fire that Sam’s doing a poor job of tending. Gillie gives him some pointers and the flames leap up. She asks about his past, sounding rather impressed to learn he’s highborn, and he shows off an obsidian blade or spearhead he found up north. She asks him about the Wall and he tells her all about the nice venison stew and the fire kept burning in the hall every day and the men who sing. She asks him to sing something for her and he obliges, of course, singing a cute tune to the baby. Awww.
Further south, Osha watches Meera skin a rabbit, poorly, and shows her exactly how it’s done, in one quick sweep. The girls actually turn it into a pissing contest that becomes an argument that very nearly comes to blows, but Bran tells them both to chill out because they need to work together, dammit! They do, and then Jojen, who’s asleep off to the side, starts having what appears to be an epileptic fit. It’s evidently not the first time, since Meera knows exactly what to do. She tells Bran this is what happens when he has his visions. Jojen comes to and tells Bran he saw Jon Snow on the wrong side of the Wall, surrounded by enemies.
Surrounded by enemies indeed. He and Mance’s men are on the move, getting ready to scale the Wall. Jon’s scared, and so is Ygrite, but she’s also excited to see the world from up there. She gives him some boots she apparently got from some ex-boyfriend who didn’t go down on her. See, that’s how you end up losing your boots, gentlemen: not treating your lady right. She knows that Jon has some divided loyalties here and urges him to be loyal to his woman and not to betray her. He promises not to. She seals the deal by threatening to cut his dick off if he does. Yep, that’ll do it.
Redhead guy gives Jon a blade and tells him not to scream if he falls, because he won’t want that to be the last thing she remembers.
Arya’s practicing her archery, pretending that each of the straw targets is one of her enemies. One of the Brotherhood tells her she’s good, but not as good as she thinks she is. She needs to start speeding up. He gives her some pointers and she gets ready to try again, but then notices some people approaching through the woods. He takes the bow from her and tells them to hold up. It’s a few mounted soldiers and Melisandre, who greets Thoros in whatever her native language is (High Valyrian, it turns out). He chats right back to her and she reminds him that he had a job: convert Robert to the Lord of Light. He admits he failed and she scolds him for giving up. He kind of shrugs all that off and takes her to see Eyepatch.
Once presented to him, she examines his wounds in amazement and asks how many times he’s been brought back. Thoros tells her it’s six, and she can’t believe it, because she heard that nobody had these powers. Well, Thoros does. He used to be a priest, and kind of sucked at it, and he lost his faith, and then one day he went on autopilot and prayed over Eyepatch after he was killed and back he came, so now he totally believes in the Lord of Light. Melisandre asks if Eyepatch has been to the other side and he tells her there is no other side. He asks what she wants and she tells them they have someone the Lord needs.
That someone is Gendry, who’s grabbed and bundled towards a cart. Arya protests, loudly, and Eyepatch tells her that they’re doing this for the Lord of Light. Arya calls BS on that, because they also take delivery of two big bags of gold. Gendry, too, voices opposition, but Melisandre tells him he’s going to be rather precious. Arya calls Melisandre a witch who’s going to hurt him. Melisandre grabs her face and says she sees darkness in the girl, with many eyes staring back at her. Eyes that are shut forever. Well, that’s creepy enough to shut Arya up. Off Gendry goes.
The Wall. It’s big and snowy and a tiny line of men (and at least one woman) is scaling it, looking like ants against the frosty bulk. At one point, Jon makes the mistake of looking down, and when he looks up, Ygritte asks if he’s staring at her ass. That helps him refocus a bit, and then Redhead accidentally looses a chunk of ice and almost sends Jon flying back down the wall.
Oh, great, Theon. His not-so-savior is torturing him by taunting him with water he can’t have and depriving him of sleep before threatening to remove a body part. He also reminds Theon of all the deep dark secrets he told about how his daddy didn’t love him enough, and then gets ready to remove a finger. As he’s getting ready, he tells Theon to guess who he is and why he’s torturing him. Jesus, is this what we really have to do? This better have one hell of a payoff, because it’s tedious as hell, and I’m not at all invested in it because it’s just so bizarre. At one point, Theon actually manages to guess where he is (not that I can understand him), and that his torturer is the son of Rickard Karstark. Ohh, man, he’s gonna be seriously pissed off when he hears what Robb did to his dad. Then again, that might work out well for Theon. Oh, no, wait, seems Theon was wrong all along. Whatever.
Walder’s sons have arrived at Riverrrun to meet with Robb and they’re surprisingly conciliatory, asking only that Robb give their father an official apology and Harrenhal. And in return for that, the Freys will remain on the Starks’ side. I’m sorry, but if Robb really thinks he’s getting off that easily, he’s an idiot. The families in this world live and breathe honour and are damn quick to take serious offense when their families are embarrassed in any way. I mean, look at where we ended up! Pretty much everything bad that’s happened so far is due to some sort of slight.
Robb prefers not to look this gift horse in the mouth and happily hands over Harrenhal. They ask for one more thing: Robb’s uncle, Edmure, has to marry one of Frey’s daughters. One who’s already been chosen. Wedding! Good times!
The Freys leave, and Edmure immediately says he’s not going to go through with this. Blackfish gets up and tells him he’d better reconsider that, but Robb calls him off and reminds his uncle that if he refuses this, their alliance with the Freys will be dead. Edmure doubts that, because Frey’s always wanted him for one of the many Frey girls, so he figures if he refuses now, Frey will just give him an actual choice. Cate chastises him for threatening their alliance for a chance at a prettier wife. Easy, Cate. He does have to sleep with this woman. Not everyone gets to marry Sean Bean, you know. Robb tells his uncle he has no time to haggle and calls in what he’s owed for Edmure foolishly attacking that mill or whatever it was against Robb’s orders. Edmure crumbles and Robb promises to remember this favour. He’d better.
Brie and Jaime are being entertained at dinner by their host/captor, Bolton. Jaime’s struggling to cut his meat single-handed, and Brie’s hilariously dressed in a pink gown. Brie tells the man that she’s acting on Cate’s orders, and he tells her that Cate’s not exactly in favour now. She also reaches over and helps Jaime with his meat (not a euphemism) by jamming her fork into it so he can cut a piece off. There’s something kind of adorable about these two together now. Jaime delicately pierces a bit and asks Bolton why he’s not sending them back to Robb. He’s holding Jaime for ransom, apparently. Jaime tells him that Tywin will pay the most for his return. Bolton tells Jaime that he’ll be sending him of to King’s Landing, as restitution for the things his soldiers have done, and Jaime will tell Tywin that this guy had nothing to do with his maiming. Oh, and Brie won’t be accompanying him, because now she’s being charged with abetting treason. Jaime insists that she go with him, but is told that’s not going to happen.
Oh, yes, now we get a Tywin/Oleanna faceoff. I’m rubbing my hands with glee. Oleanna’s been filled in on the proposed Loras/Cersei matchup, and she’s not on board, because Cersei’s, in her opinion, old. Tywin counters that by bringing up Loras’s bedroom antics, which Oleanna owns up to immediately (‘a sword-swallower, through and through’—hee!) Tywin says that he should be grateful to marry the most beautiful woman in the Seven Kingdoms and remove the stain from his name. With a wicked twinkle in her eye, Oleanna asks Tywin if he ever ‘experimented’ in his time. Of course not. She says that in Highgarden they don’t get twisted up into knots over a bit of man-on-man action, but they do tend to frown on incest. Tywin claims that’s a malicious lie, but Oleanna says plenty of others are convinced. Tywin threatens to name Loras to the Kingsguard if they don’t consent to the marriage, which would mean no children for him, and Highgarden would go to the children of Joffrey and Margaery. Oleanna, with some admiration, observes that it’s a rare thing to find a man who lives up to his reputation.
Up at the Wall, the going’s tough high up, with the wind and the cold. Redhead’s practically frozen. One of the men puts a blade in a bad spot, shattering a whole bunch of the ice, causing a mini avalanche, and leaving Jon and Ygritte dangling, supported only by the ropes attached to the others. One of the men says they have to be cut loose, and he goes ahead and does it, but Jon manages to catch hold of the ice with his axe and saves both his and Ygritte’s lives. The climb continues.
Loras is flirting with Sansa over jewelry (his), which really should be a clue to her, but she’s pretty innocent, I guess. Not so innocent that she shouldn’t notice how unenthusiastic he seems, and how the bride seems like an afterthought in his fantasy of a big, fancy wedding. As he talks about what the bride will wear, though, she starts to get a funny look on her face. They change the subject to how much they can’t wait to leave King’s Landing, which is such an awful place.
From a distance, Cersei and Tyrion watch them and talk about how bad their future partners have it, and they don’t even realize it yet. Cersei observes that their father does nothing halfway and excuses her actions by saying she did what she had to to protect her family. Tyrion reminds her that he’s her family too, and that he’s worked hard to help their family survive this mess. She agrees and he pokes around to find out if she was the one who ordered him killed during Blackwater. She refuses to answer, which means no. Tyrion gets it—it was Joffrey, who hates him because Tyrion’s the only one who talks to him the way he deserves it. He thinks it was a pretty stupid way for Joffrey to go about it, though. Tyrion asks if his life is still in danger. Probably, Cersei tells him, but not from Joffrey, most likely from their father. She starts to fantasize about Jaime coming back, and then they wonder who’s going to tell Sansa who her future husband’s going to be. Yeah, that’s going to be an unpleasant scene.
Sansa tries on a new dress, aided by Shae, and talks about her upcoming wedding to Loras. She wonders if they’ll let her invite her family and Shae quickly tells her no. In comes Tyrion, who asks to speak to her alone. Shae’s like, the what, now? And Sansa says it’s fine for him to talk in front of Shae. ‘This is awkward,’ Tyrion understates.
Varys finds Littlefinger in the throne room, looking at the ugly iron throne. They agree that it’s hideous, but has a certain appeal. The dick measuring (sorry, Varys) quickly begins, but Varys isn’t really interested in that just now. He tells Petyr that, despite with he may think, he never wanted to see Littlefinger fail, he just wanted to thwart his plans a bit. Littlefinger agrees that that can be fun. He got to experience that firsthand, by scuppering Varys’s plan to marry Sansa to the Tyrells. And then he reveals that he knows Ros was informing on him to Varys, so he gave her to ‘a friend’ who wanted to try something new. What, it wasn’t enough that the woman got subjected to both Joffrey and Cersei last season? Varys says he did what he did for the good of the realm, and Petyr scoffs that the realm is nothing but a legend. Varys says that, without that, they have chaos: a gaping pit. Petyr creepily says that chaos is a ladder, not a pit, as we see Joffrey, cradling his crossbow, get up and leave his room, where Ros’s arrow-riddled body is still hung up on the bed, like a side of meat.
Sansa tearfully watches Loras sail away as Petyr goes on to say that some, given a chance to climb that ladder, refuse to climb and cling to the realm or the gods, all illusions. The climb is the only real thing.
And speaking of real climbs, the Wallscalers have finally reached the top. Ygritte pulls herself up over the edge, exhausted, and lays there, staring up at the sky. Jon joins her, and they look at the clouds parting before finally propping themselves up and taking in the spectacular view. She’s struck almost tearful by it. Jon helps her to her feet, leads her to the other side, and shows her the lush green landscape of the South. And then he kisses her like a man who’s nearly died and seriously has some vows to get back to breaking.
You know, this felt like a much tighter episode that most of the others so far. There was a nice flow to it that helped the various storylines click together, rather like the episode last season that was linked together by that comet. I’m a bit tired of this strange Theon story, but the others worked, and it was rather delicious watching Oleanna and Tywin go head-to-head.