A lot of stuff is happening this season and although there weren't any moments in this episode that were quite as gasp-worthy as when Jaime's hand was cut off, or when Daenerys's dragons set fire to Astapor, or when Jon Snow gave Ygritte oral, this episode was still an amazing example of how well this show works when all the gears are grinding and the plot is moving forward and things are happening and everything, but you are well aware that all the things that are going on are all occurring in service to something else, something bigger. And you know—you just know—that when that bigger thing happens, it's going to leave you with your mouth gaping and your jaw on the floor.
Speaking of gaping mouths, we open up on Sam and Gilly and Gilly's baby, who, even sleeping, has that same perpetually wide-open mouth that she does. Kind of cute, I guess? Sure!
This scene is mainly expository as it reminds us that Sam is highborn. His father hates him, sure, but he comes from a "good home." Sam also shows off a pretty fancy knife that he picked up in his travels behind the Wall. Its blade is like onyx and it looks like it might be important. After all, you don't show a shiny, black knife in episode 6 if you're not going to use it by episode 10. The last bit of info that Sam imparts to Gilly, and to us, is that the Wall is just as impressive as legend has it. Sam tells her, "It's 700 feet high, all made of ice. On a warm day you can see it weeping." Scary! And anthropomorphic!
Ah, but the camera pulls away from the three of them and they are bathed in the one and only spot of light and warmth in the cold, dark woods. Maybe they'll stay safe. I would like them to stay safe. Wouldn't it be nice to think that they can? This show just batters the narrative naïveté right out of you.
Oh, and look! It's Bran and Hodor and Osha and Meera and Jojen Reed. And Rickon. Who can now talk. He points out that Jojen Reed is basically having a seizure in his sleep. He doesn't, like, do anything about it, because he is basically useless, but he does notice it.
Meera helps her brother and explains, "The visions take their toll."
Jojen wakes up finally and tells Bran, "I saw Jon Snow."
"He was at Castle Black?" asks Bran.
No, Jojen explains: "He was on the wrong side of the Wall. He was surrounded by enemies."
And, well, Jon is in fact surrounded by wildlings. But also Ygritte. Who is not an enemy. She got him some fancy spiked shoes to climb the Wall. She stole them from an ex-lover because, she explains, "He wasn't good to me the way you're good to me. He didn't do that thing you do with your tongue." And it is true that women will do lots of things for men who give good oral. Anyway, Ygritte knows that Jon isn't being quite upfront about having transferred loyalties. She doesn't care though, so long as he's loyal to her. She tells him, "Don't ever betray me."
"I won't," he assures her.
"Because I'll cut your pretty cock right off and wear it around my neck." Ahhhh!!! And now I'm loyal to Ygritte.
Another character I'm pretty loyal to is Arya. She's practicing archery. She looks pretty good, but the Brotherhood's resident arrow-expert tells her she's not good enough. He advises her, "Never hold. Never aim." Basically, he's like the Syrio Forell of archery. Which, that's an awesome thing to be, so carry on with the archery lesson you guys!
But this happy little scene of practicing how to murder your enemies is interrupted by the arrival of Melisandre. If you remember, she left Stannis in search of King's blood. So what is she doing here? Oh, shit. Gendry. Poor Gendry. Gendry is not benefitting at all from his bastard status. Not that he ever has, I guess. After discussing with Beric Dondarrion about what it's like to die ("There is no other side. There is only darkness, my lady.") Melisandre hands two hefty bags of gold over to Thoros and sets off with Gendry to...what will she do with him? I don't know, but I don't think it can be anything good. Gendry wants to stay with the Brotherhood, but Melisandre tells him, "You are more than they can ever be. They are just foot soldiers in the great war. You will make kings rise and fall." Which, I guess that might sound sort of like a good thing, but I don't think it is. I really don't.
Arya doesn't think so either and runs up to Melisandre, saying that she's sure the Red Woman wants to hurt her friend. Melisandre looks intently at Arya before saying, "I see a darkness in you and in that darkness are eyes staring back at me." Apparently those eyes? Are the eyes of the people Arya will kill. Melisandre says to her, "We will meet again." And I shudder but also think that it will be interesting as the seven hells when they do.
Speaking of seven hells, Theon is not looking well. He is straight up being tortured by the psycho who pretended to rescue him and who now says to Theon, "Let's play a game. Which body part do you need the least?"
This scene is excruciating to watch, worse than watching a cat toy with a mouse or something, because, at least in that case, the mouse doesn't know it's being toyed with. Theon knows and is doing everything he can to try and figure out a way to appeal to this still-unidentified guy, but, as the guy points out to Theon, "This isn't happening for a reason. Except for the reason that I enjoy it."
He also tells Theon, "If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
And then he cuts off Theon's finger. So, apparently, karma can be revisited in a lifetime. Theon sure is suffering for what he did to those two little boys.
At Riverrun, Robb Stark is visited by two of Walder Frey's sons, who agree to help Robb, despite the fact that he broke an oath and shamed their family, if Uncle Edmure will marry one of the Frey daughters. Because Edmure is a jerk who can't do anything right, even light his own father's funeral barge on fire, Edmure refuses. Robb and the Blackfish finally coerce him into doing it, the Blackfish coming right out and saying, "The laws of my fists are about to compel your teeth." And so a wedding is planned! How can anything possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, at Harrenhal, Roose Bolton is having dinner with Jaime and Brienne. Those two are a solid team now, Brienne even helping old, one-handed Jaime cut his meat. Roose, despite being ostensibly one of Robb's bannermen, is letting Jaime go back to King's Landing because he wants money from Tywin Lannister. Jaime wants Brienne to go with him, but Roose refuses. When Jaime starts to get petulant about it, Roose tells him, "I would have hoped you'd learned your lesson about overplaying your position." I guess we'll have to wait and see if Jaime's loyalty to Brienne extends to losing yet another hand, or other important body part.
And now! We have a real meeting of the minds between the Queen of Thorns and Tywin Lannister. To recap, Lady Olenna Tyrell has totally schooled everyone she's talked to, from Varys to Cersei to Tyrion. How will she hold up against Tywin? Well, she starts off strong. Lady Olenna is visiting Tywin because she's opposed to the marriage between Cersei and Loras. She tells Tywin that such a union would be, "Impossible. Your daughter is...old. I'm something of an expert on the subject." Ha!
After some discussion about Loras's sexual preferences ("A sword-swallower through and through.") and whether or not Joffrey is a Baratheon at all, Tywin gets sick of arguing and tells Lady Olenna how it's going to be. He says, "If you refuse to marry Loras to Cersei, I will name him to the Kingsguard."
Oooh, shit. That would ruin everything for House Tyrell. You see, the Kingsguard is for life. And you have to swear never to marry or have children. So all the Tyrell holdings would go to Margaery, which means they'd go to Joffrey. Lady Olenna can't have that and accedes to what Tywin wants, saying, "It's a rare enough thing, a man who lives up to his reputation."
And there you have it, you guys. Lady Olenna was just schooled by Tywin Lannister. Except, I'm not worried about her at all. She'll be just fine. But, damn, that was an impressive encounter.
And, up north, the Wall is falling. This does not look good. Whole sheets of ice are sheared from the cliff's face and it's imposible for Jon and Ygritte to hang on. They fall from the wall but are still attached by ropes to Thormund Giantsbane and Orrell, the Warg. So, that'd be good except that Orell cuts the rope free. Luckily, Jon manages to stick his spikes into the wall and when Ygritte falls he pulls her up. This was a relief because I worried we were gonna go all "Cliffhanger" for a second there. Now, though, Jon knows for sure that the Warg wants them to die. Yikes.
Sansa and Loras, both unaware of their terrible fates, are making terrible small talk. Sansa likes the rose pin Loras is wearing. Loras says it's a broach. Blah blah blah, these two are so boring they deserve each other. Tyrion, and even Cersei, are so much more interesting. Then Loras talks about dresses and weddings because-GET IT???—he's gay. Ugh.
From a not-too-far-away balcony, Tyrion and Cersei talk. Tyrion asks, "I don't suppose there's anything to do about this?"
"We can have them both killed," says Cersei. But she says it quietly. You know when Cersei isn't excited about killing people that she's depressed.
The two talk some more and we learn that it wasn't Cersei who ordered Tyrion killed during the Battle of Blackwater, it was Joffrey, that little piece of shit. They both agree Joffrey is an idiot, but, really, compared to what we find out later, idiot is about the nicest thing anyone could call that little piece of shit.
Tyrion goes to tell Sansa that he is to wed her, but finds Shae there with his bride-to-be. He simply says, "This...this is awkward." And he is right.
In the throne room, Littlefinger sits, his eyes fixed on the iron monstrosity. Varys enters and mentions how the throne is made of 1,000 swords of Aegon's fallen enemies.
Littlefinger replies, "There aren't a thousand blades. There aren't even two hundred."
Which, THANK YOU. That never looked anywhere near one thousand blades and it always bugged me. So, I'm glad Littlefinger said that. However, that will be the only good feeling I ever have toward anything Littlefinger does EVER AGAIN. Because Littlefinger is letting Varys know that he is aware that Ros passed on information to the Spider and, oh, shit. What did Littlefinger do to Ros??? Noooooooo. NoooOOOOoooo. Ugh. I don't think I want to know? Shit.
Varys tries to tell Littlefinger, "I did what I did for the good of the realm."
Littlefinger gets his best voice on, the one that causes chills to run up and down my spine and says, "The realm, do you know what the realm is? It's the thousand blades of Aegon's enemies. A story we agreed to tell each other over and over until we forget it's a lie."
"But what do we have left once we abandon the lie?" Varys asks. He then does that annoying thing where he answers his own question. "Chaos. A gaping pit waiting to swallow us all."
Littlefinger's voice gets even more chilling, "Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. Some are given a chance to climb but they refuse, they cling to the realm or the gods or love, illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is."
It is during this little speech that we see Sansa cry and look off into the sea, at a ship with Littlefinger's sigil on it. Clearly she is thinking about running away with him. Which, fuck. Just fuck. But also? We see that little piece of shit Joffrey. He's been trying out his new crossbow. He's been trying it out on Ros, who he has tied up like a prize on his bed. Nooooooo. Oh, Ros. Her climb is over.
Speaking of climbing, though, Ygritte and Jon Snow made it to the top of the Wall. The clouds have parted. They can see for miles and miles and miles. They look over the land they came from. North of the Wall, everything is covered in snow and ice and it is beautiful and blinding and white. It is all Ygritte has ever seen. Jon offers his hand to her so that he can show her the other side, where everything is beautiful and lush and green. They hold each other and they kiss on the top of the world. Everything, for just that moment and for just those two people, is perfect. Can the story just end here maybe? Can it just end with them up there? It can't. We know it can't and they know it can't. After all, if Littlefinger is right, and the climb is all there is, then Jon and Ygritte are living on borrowed time. Tragedy looms. If you think there's going to be a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention.
This woman always, ALWAYS seems to get her way. I don't know what she's doing with Gendry exactly and if it means singing a hair on his head, I will not be happy, but Melisandre gets shit done. And now that she knows the Lord of Light can even bring people back to life time after time, she's ever more aware of having all the power in the world at her disposal.
Tywin scored a victory over the Tyrell family. Jaime is going back to King's Landing. Joffrey got to try out his new toy. Everything's coming up Lannister. For now, anyway.
Theon. Oh, Theon. I don't see any way out of this, other than death for you. But death would be a relief, wouldn't it? At this point, death would be a relief. Theon will not get his happy ending but, then again, he really doesn't deserve it because HE KILLED AND BURNED THE CORPSES OF TWO INNOCENT CHILDREN.
While no one is as much of a loser as Theon Greyjoy, House Tyrell suffered a few setbacks this time around. One, the Queen of Thorns met her match. Two, Loras is going to have to marry Cersei. And, three, Margaery is still betrothed to that murderous little piece of shit, Joffrey. I have faith that this house can reverse its fortunes, but things look pretty grim right now.
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