As Game of Thrones moves closer to the end of season 3, certain plot elements have definitely begun to coalesce, while some others that were perhaps forgotten or had been dormant for what seems like ages have suddenly returned the forefront of the narrative.
That, of course, is in reference to Melisandre’s arrival at the Brotherhood Without Banners’ camp to collect Gendry, thanks to his apparently not-so-secret bloodline. This inactive plot thread swiftly sparked to life once more and offered a reminder as to how deep the bench is in this series in terms of storyline. But, thankfully, Gendry’s apprehension by Melisandre also showed how well the series handles rekindling these older threads; because when it comes to Gendry the “king’s blood” in his veins, had pretty much taken a backseat to hiking through the very populated woods of Westeros listening to Arya recite the names of people she’s going to kill.
The constant shifting of character priorities and levels of importance is certainly one element that keeps Game of Thrones so much fun to watch and, like the recently-returned Beric Dondarrion or even Barristan Selmy, they act as intriguing bridges between enormous stretches of story. The sheer number of characters and plot threads that have come and gone – or have simply arrived and seemingly gone nowhere – can be a bit chaotic at times – but, like Littlefinger, it is a chaos that the series seems to make excellent use of when possible.
But what was really remarkable about ‘The Climb’ was how the series has – for the past three episodes, anyway – managed to combine outstanding set pieces with a more coherent throughline, making the mostly disparate storylines feel more united within the confines of a single episode (something that the series may have struggled with a bit during the beginning of the season). Like the merging of House Lannister and Tyrell, the combination of set pieces with a cohesive throughline for the characters (even when they’ve absolutely nothing to do with one another) has proven to be a fruitful relationship.
In fact, with the obvious exception of ‘Blackwater‘ – an achievement so great even the characters on the show can’t stop referencing it – ‘The Climb’ may be one of the most cinematic efforts the Game of Thrones has undertaken in terms of content, striking visuals and structure. This is an incredibly far-reaching episode; it invites nearly everyone to the table, and yet it doesn’t feel like an hour of simpy sitting down and watching characters talk about events that have yet to happen, even though that makes up the vast majority of its runtime.
Of course, visually speaking, the highlight belongs to the spectacle of watching Jon Snow, Ygritte, Orell and Tormund Giantsbane scale all 700 feet of the Wall. This certainly fits into the aforementioned cinematic quality of the episode, with a show-stopping moment as Jon Snow struggles to save himself and Ygritte after Orell cuts them loose following the collapse of a huge chunk of the Wall.
But more important is the emotional aspect that is conveyed once Jon and Ygritte reach the top and she looks out at either side for the first time, seeing the great expanse of the world beyond what she’d always known. And naturally, the scene is bracketed by the drama of Jon Snow and Ygritte swearing allegiance to one another (outside those they’ve already sworn to), which helps to illustrate their climb wasn’t merely for the demonstration of some impressive special effects.
More impressive still is the manner in which all the other storylines managed to flow into one another (with the exception of Theon’s continued misery). The key component being Jaime’s situation improving little by little while, back in King’s Landing, Tyrion and Cersei continue to see theirs deteriorate due to their respective betrothals. This is entirely due to the standout character in the past few weeks, Tywin Lannister.
The verbal pummeling Tywin’s delivered to anyone (typically his children) when they’ve come asking for anything or offering unsolicited advice has been impressive – especially when one takes note that he’s typically busying himself with writing a letter or some other duty befitting the King’s Hand while verbally vanquishing his foes (again, typically his children). In ‘The Climb,’ however, Tywin finds himself in the presence of Lady Olenna, brewing up the future of their two families while simultaneously working to quell some persistent rumors surrounding their respective houses.
In the end, the episode integrates the characters at varying stages of the same figurative climb quite well. Some, like Littlefinger, are more adept at seeing the chaos as a means to rise above, while others like Beric view things a little differently; because he knows no matter how high anyone manages to climb, there’s only darkness after the fall. Alas, poor Ros found this out the hard way, as her second trip to King Joffrey’s bedroom proved to be her last…
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview below: