We start the episode Beyond the Wall where Samwell fails at making a campfire. Gilly helps him, and he tells her about the Wall and Castle Black. After admitting that he isn't a good singer, he helps sing to Gilly's son. He also shows her a black-glass dagger that he picked up at the Fist of the First Men, but surely that won't be importa—
Then we're off to the North, where Meera and Osha are trying to skin rabbits, and are about to skin each other. They get this close to starting when Bran orders them to stop. Jojen provides a distraction by having some sort of mid-sleep epileptic fit, which Meera explains is caused by his visions. The fit passes, and Jojen awakens to tell them that he saw Jon Snow, surrounded by enemies.
And speak of the devil, we go back Beyond the Wall where Jon and the Wildlings are preparing to make the climb. Ygritte trolls him for bit by openly discussing sex, before the conversation takes a serious turn. She knows that he's still loyal to the Watch, but won't snitch because she's his woman. They start to have a heartwarming moment when she tells him that they have no one to depend on except each other, but the effect is somewhat diluted when she tells him what precisely she's going to do if he betrays her. Tormund then shows up to give Jon some useful climbing advice—don't scream if you fall, it makes for crappy last words.
In the Riverlands, Arya is pumping arrows into a target, reciting her "prayer" as she goes. As Thoros of Myr watches, amused, Anguy gives her some shooting advice. Melisandre shows up, and she and Thoros chat in High Valyrian for a bit, mostly about how he had failed to convert Robert Baratheon, until he finally takes her to see Beric Dondarrion. Melisandre is somewhere between awed and horrified that Beric's been revived six times. She wonders how Thoros could have such power, but the priest clarifies that the power belongs to the Lord of Light. He gives some backstory about how he had fallen into sin, and lost his faith, but found it again when the Mountain killed Beric. In his desperation, he had prayed to R'hllor to revive him, and the Lord answered. Now both he and Beric are His faithful servants. Melisandre begins to tell them what she needs, which is presumably the "King's Blood" she was talking about a few episodes ago, because in the next scene Gendry is put in chains. Arya protests that Gendry wanted to join the Brotherhood, and Melisandre replies that what he has in him puts him above them. After the Red Priestess makes some cryptic comments about Arya's future we go to...
...The Wall, for all of five seconds, where we see Jon, Ygritte, and the Wildlings climbing it and then we're off...
... to Somewhere in the North, where Theon's life sucks. The Boy starts to show off his crazy, on the off chance that there was anyone in the audience who didn't already work out that facet of his character. He proposes a game to his prisoner: Theon wins if he can guess who The Boy is, and The Boy wins if Theon begs him to cut off his little finger. Driving a knife into said little finger with each wrong answer, The Boy relents when Theon guesses Karstark. The Boy pretends that he had guessed right for a couple seconds. Then, dropping the act, his sets to work on the little finger in earnest, until Theon starts screaming for him to cut it off.
At Riverrun, Robb meets with some Frey representatives. The King in the North is doing all that he can to placate them, but there's one thing they want that's not within his power to give—Edmure Tully's hand in marriage. The Lord of Riverrun balks at marrying a Frey girl sight unseen, but eventually caves under the Blackfish's threats, Catelyn's reproaches, and Robb's apologies. It's looks like they're all going to a wedding at The Twins!
At Harrenhal, Jaime, Brienne, and Roose Bolton are having dinner. Jaime is about as good at left-handed eating as Samwell is at building campfires, but luckily he too gets help from the woman sitting next to him. He and Bolton have a back-and-forth about Roose's options, but once Jaime promises to say good things about him to Tywin, Bolton tells him that they are free to go. Or, more precisely, Jaime is free to go; Brienne, Catelyn's accomplice, isn't going anywhere. Jaime firmly tells Roose that Brienne has to go too, but Bolton dryly responds that one would think that Jaime, after all that's happened to him, would have learned not to overplay his... position.
In King's Landing, Olenna Tyrell and Tywin Lannister haggle over whether Loras should marry Cersei. Because Olenna's a lovely lady and Tywin's a warm-hearted patriarch, comments implying Loras's homosexuality and Cersei's incest come out. Pointing out that neither of them of them wins if Joffrey isn't Robert's son, Tywin offers to name Loras to the Kingsguard—which would force him to take oaths giving up marriage and inheritence. Olenna concedes, noting that it's so rare for a man to live up to his reputation.
Up North, Jon and the Wildlings are still climbing the Wall. An ice collapse drops a bunch of Wildlings to their deaths, and leaves Jon and Ygritte hanging. Despite Tormund's protests, Orell decides to cut the rope, declaring that Jon and Ygritte's weight will pull him and Tormund down. Just as the rope is about to be cut, Jon is able to swing them both to safety.
Then we return to King's Landing where Loras and Sansa are sitting by a fountain, having a sort-of date. Loras is all awkwardness, but Sansa's overjoyed to be finally getting the hell out of King's Landing. Tyrion and Cersei watch them from a window, wondering which one of the four has it worst. The conversation turns to the attempt on Tyrion's life during the Battle of the Blackwater. Although Cersei doesn't outright say it, Tyrion realizes that Joffrey was behind it, partially because it was pretty stupid to openly attempt to kill him in front of the army, rather than use poison. Cersei tells him that Joffrey won't try anything with Tywin around, leading Tyrion to muse that all the Seven Kingdoms are united in fear of his father. In Sansa's quarters, she and Shae are discussing wedding dresses until Tyrion shows up to be the bearer of bad news.
Elsewhere, Littlefinger is sitting near the Iron Throne, just admiring it. Varys shows up to begin one of their little snarkfests, mentioning how Petyr must be sad to marry his second choice. Littlefinger then turns around and, like, totally wins the argument by mentioning how it was him who foiled Varys' scheme with Sansa, and how Ros is doomed. The Spider disgustedly says that he's trying to stop the country from falling into the pit of chaos, but Littlefinger responds that chaos isn't a pit, it's a ladder. He then gets off a nice monologue that you've heard if you watched all the trailers (here!). As he continues in voiceover, we see Sansa in tears after Tyrion's news, and find out just who that friend of Littlefinger's with unusual tastes that he threatened to sell Ros to is—Joffrey, his desires fulfilled, having pumped Ros fill of crossbow bolts as she was tied to his bed.
And we end the episode with the climbers finally getting to the top of The Wall. Ygritte, who had spoken of how much she wanted to see the world from up top, takes in the view for all of three seconds before making out with Jon.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Abnormal Ammo: Anguy asks Gendry to make bodkin-point arrowheads for them. "Penetrates plate at 200 yards."
- Adaptation Expansion:
- The entire 'negotiation' between Tywin and Olenna was nowhere to be found in the books, and its content elaborates considerably upon numerous points that were originally only implied. In particular, no character in the books ever comes close to openly admitting to know that Loras is a sword-swallower, and the Tyrells' refusal of Cersei is explained only very vaguely and in flashback.
- The meeting between Melisandre and Thoros is new, although most of the exposition found therein was originally distributed between a few of Thoros's other scenes.
- The cut rope, the archery advice, and Tyrion delivering the bad news to Sansa were all added.
- Adaptational Heroism: Tyrion tells Sansa in advance about the Arranged Marriage, rather than springing it on her moments before she's forced to the altar in tears.
- Always Save the Girl: Invoked—Ygritte knows Jon is still loyal to the Night's Watch, but is hoping his love for her will overcome this. And if it doesn't, she's going to cut his balls off.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Tywin gets tired of Olenna's firm resistance and trumps her with Royal prerogatives; if she doesn't cave Loras will be made a member of the celibate Kingsguard, meaning the Tyrell name will wither and fade, as Joffrey's sons would inherit instead.
- Anyone Can Die: Ros, a Canon Foreigner who lasted two and a half seasons, finally meets her end at Joffrey's hands.
- Arranged Marriage:
- Edmure is given one with a Frey girl whom he has never met. He complains, but everyone forces him to agree to it.
- Tywin and Olenna's negotiation is all about this topic.
- As You Know: Tywin says to Olenna, "I'm sure you're familiar with the Kingsguard vows," and proceeds to list them anyway.
- Beneath the Mask: Littlefinger, in his banter with Varys, finally starts to show his true colors as the terrifying sociopath we all know he is.
- Beyond the Impossible: According to Melisandre, bringing Beric back six times should be impossible, even for a Red Priest.
- Big Damn Kiss: Jon and Ygritte as they stand at the top of the Wall, looking out over Westoros.
- Blessed with Suck: Jojen's visions come with seizures.
- Brick Joke:
- No one likes it when a Lannister pours them a cup of wine.
- Theon vs the Horn-Blowing Cunt.
- Arya practicing with a bow refers back to her Establishing Character Moment in the first episode. She's skilled but in need of schooling, as she doesn't know the first thing about shooting in combat conditions.
- This itself is called back to at the end of the episode when it is revealed Joffrey has shot Ros full of crossbow bolts in the same locations Arya shot the straw figure—head, heart, and crotch. Makes you wonder where he shot first.
- A painful one when the brotherhood sells Gendry to Melisandre, and he bitterly remarks that he was thought they were brothers and he could be one of them. In the previous episode he told Arya that his last master sold him to the Night's Watch, but he can have a family and control of his own life with these men.
- Littlefinger makes "good" on his promise about what happens to bad investments.
- Poor Theon finally comes face to face with "that fucking hornblower" and the very horn which tormented him at the end of last season.
- Tywin once again shows how much he appreciates conversation with smart, snarky, and outspoken ladies not afraid to directly call him out.
- When Loras describes how he dreamed of marrying a bride wearing a "beautiful gown of gold and green brocade," it's reminiscent of the richly decorative cape that Renly wore at the Tourney of the Hand.
- Ygritte imitates Jon's voice again.
- Sansa says that Shae is the only person she trusts, "even though she's warned me not to trust her." Remember the last person who used that line on a Stark?
- The Queen of Thorns tells Tywin that it's a pleasure to meet a man who lives up to his reputation, having been disappointed previously that Tyrion wasn't the Depraved Dwarf and Deadpan Snarker of his reputation.
- Cat Fight: It's not over a man, but Osha and Meera's bitchiness to each other has all the marks of this. However, under the circumstances it's not particularly funny, as Bran points out how screwed they are if the two best fighters can't keep off each other's throats.
- Chekhov's Gun: Samwell keeps the obsidian blade because he thought it looks pretty.
- Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity: With the obligatory Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb and Cut the Safety Rope tropes.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Subverted. Arya mentions she doesn't like Melisandre, but Gendry brushes her off and Anguy indicates she's just jealous. It takes less than a minute for Arya's suspicions to be justified, as Melisandre takes Gendry prisoner and he's dragged away from them.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: The Boy gleefully skins Theon's finger and promises that this is far from the end of what he has in store for Theon.
- Commonality Connection: It's on a subconscious level, but Sansa and Loras begin to form this. See their Distaff Counterpart entry for a full explanation.
- Composite Character: Melisandre takes Gendry away for her sacrifice, in place of Edric Storm.
- Conflicting Loyalty:
- Jon promised to Ygritte that he wouldn't turn traitor. Now he has two vows to keep.
- The members of the Brotherhood clearly aren't happy about giving Gendry to Melisandre, but apparently they need gold more than they need him.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Ros is used as Joffrey's target practice.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Ygritte tells Jon Snow that she is with him until the end... but if he ever betrays her, she will chop off his cock and wear it on a necklace.
- Description Cut: Played for Drama, but it's the closest thing that applies. The moment after Littlefinger says, "The climb is all there is," we see Jon, Ygritte, and the others finish their climb up the Wall.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Ros.
- Distaff Counterpart: Sansa and Loras. Although neither of them are fully aware of the other's suffering in this episode, Sansa (an aspiring Princess Classic) and Loras (an aspiring Knight In Shining Armour) have learned the hard way that life isn't a fairy tale. Both of them carried romantic ideals, believing that they would "live happily ever after" with their beloved Baratheon ("Prince Charming" Joffrey for Sansa, "The Good King" Renly for Loras). Both have been crushed emotionally when their dreams transformed into nightmares (Joffrey turned out to be a sadistic psychopath and executed Sansa's father, while Renly was murdered not long after Loras pushed him to become king).
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Arya calling the Red Woman a witch (though from her reaction when she looks into Arya's soul, the reverse might also apply).
- Double-Meaning Title: The climb refers to the ascension of the Wall and also to the chances taken by jumped-up upstarts like Littlefinger to climb the social ladder.
- Do Wrong, Right: When Tyrion deduces that Joffrey was behind his assassination attempt, he initially takes more offense to the asininity of the plot.Tyrion: So he wants me dead, fine, but his stupidity! He could have had me poisoned and no-one would have known! But the King, orders the Kingsguard, to murder the Hand of the King, in full view of his own army... the boy's an idiot!
- Drop Dead Gorgeous: Ros in her final scene.
- Due to the Dead: Thoros relates how he prayed over Lord Beric's body the first time he was killed, even though he stopped believing in the Lord of Light long before. "Because he was my friend, and they were the only words I had."
- Everyone Has Standards: Varys, one of the creepiest characters in the show, is thoroughly disturbed by Littlefinger and disgusted by just how cruel and ruthless he is.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted. The boy finally reveals his identity to Theon. He's the son of Rickard Karstark and has been torturing Theon for betraying Robb Stark, seeing how the war has cost him his brother Torrhen...then he laughs and reveals he's lying.
- Failed a Spot Check: When asked to guess where he is while being horribly tortured, Theon manages to list most of the major castles in the North except for the one with a well known reputation for horribly torturing people.
- Fingore: Theon gets it worse than ever before, as his finger is slowly skinned until he begs for it to be cut off.
- For the Evulz:
- The Boy says he's torturing Theon because it is fun, not for any higher purpose.
- Joffrey apparently shot Ros full of arrows for fun, and possibly for sexual pleasure.
- Groin Attack: Arya confirms she really was aiming for the straw man's balls. However, Anguy isn't impressed, as in combat she won't have time for that kind of precision-guided retribution.
- I Lied: The Boy admits this in telling Theon he had a chance at avoiding losing his little finger.
- Incompatible Orientation: Loras is somewhat awkward while conversing with Sansa, but he does seem to genuinely want to help her escape King's Landing through their marriage and give her a better life in Highgarden.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: There might be a subtle display of this when Tywin has his conversation with Olenna. He finishes his drink and needs a refill while she has barely touched hers. This could be interpreted as a slight sign of stress on Tywin's part, despite his outward calmness.
- It's the Journey That Counts: Subverted from the usual heroic version with Littlefinger's sociopathic "Chaos is a ladder" speech.Littlefinger: The climb is all there is.
- Kick the Dog: Littlefinger and Joffrey's treatment of Ros.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: The Boy keeps working on Theon, even admitting that he has no particular reason for it beyond his own enjoyment.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Although Loras is not romantically interested in Sansa, his adherence to knightly ideals plays a part in wanting to rescue her from the hell she's in, and he willingly enters into an Arranged Marriage with the girl so that he can whisk her away to Highgarden. Say what you will of his grandmother's and sister's ulterior motives, but Loras is more honourable than that. He understands that King's Landing is a terrible place for Sansa, and he sees her as a Damsel in Distress who is held prisoner by the "monster" Joffrey.
- Last-Second Word Swap: After Jaime insists that Brienne accompany him to King's Landing, Bolton warns him not to overplay his...position.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Theon asks if guessing right in their game means the Boy will let him go, the latter has this to say.The Boy: If you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention.
- Loud of War: The Boy wakes up Theon with a really loud horn, implicitly revealing who the "Horn-Blowing Cunt" from the previous season was.
- Meaningful Background Event: Hanging behind Jaime and Brienne, only glimpsed briefly, is a banner with the Bolton sigil on it. The shape of the flayed man hanging on an 'X' is identical to Theon's position.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Sansa is in tears as she watches Littlefinger's ship sailing away; having already thrown away her chance to escape from King's Landing, she's now trapped into her Arranged Marriage to the Imp.
- Mythology Gag: Littlefinger saying the Iron Throne isn't made up of even 200 swords, let alone the thousand of its reputation. In the books it is much larger.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Jaime is aware of what this trope implies.Bolton: I should send you back to Robb Stark.
Jaime: You should. Instead you're sitting here, watching me fail at dinner. Why might that be?
Bolton: Wars cost money. Many people would pay a great deal for you.
Jaime: We both know who would pay the most.
- Not His Sled: Those who've read the books might have thought the previous episode was the last we ever saw of Gendry, as he only shows up in one brief scene after deciding to remain with the Brotherhood. But here, Melisandre comes to collect him and sends his story in a completely new direction.
- The Nothing After Death: According to Dondarrion, he only sees darkness before he comes back to life.
- Of Corsets Sexy: We have a brief fanservice shot of Sansa in a corset as Shae helps her dress.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Littlefinger is notably less genteel in this episode, showing how furious he is that Varys scuppered his plans to abscond with Sansa and arranging Ros's murder as a result. Varys also lets his Sissy Villain persona slip when he threatens Littlefinger back.
- On a lighter note, Tywin actually snarks back at Olenna, and seems to be hiding a smile for some of the conversation, suggesting that he is actually enjoying the game with a Worthy Opponent, until he's slightly thrown off guard by the mention of the twincest, which prompts him to stand up and refill his cup in an attempt to conceal it, before finally relying on his usual stern approach.
- Cersei and Tyrion have an uncharacteristically unguarded moment with each other, showing how upset they both are with their marriage plans. Cersei even admits openly that Tyrion did in fact save the city, and without him Stannis would have won before Tywin arrived, while Tyrion reassures her that Jaime will return and forcibly prevent her forced marriage to Loras.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Melisandre, of all people, after taking a look at Arya's soul.
- Jon Snow when he realises Ygritte has guessed he's a Fake Defector.
- Ygritte gets a big one when she realizes she's accidentally triggered an avalanche.
- Order vs. Chaos: By the end of the episode it's clear Varys and Littlefinger have this dynamic going on, with Varys wanting to keep order for the good of the realm while Littlefinger wants to incite chaos to produce more opportunities for himself. Varys and Littlefinger are now staunchly on opposite sides.
- Pet the Dog: Cersei of all people acknowledges Tryion's role in saving the city from Stannis.
- Party Scattering: Gendry and Arya, who have been travelling together since Season 1, are separated when Melisandre buys him from the Brotherhood. note
- Pimped-Out Dress: Brienne is forced to wear one, and looks incredibly uncomfortable.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Tywin is clearly disgusted by Loras's homosexuality and Olenna asking if he had any past experiences with it.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Thoros's original mission was apparently to convert Robert, not Aerys as in the books, which saves anyone the trouble of having to explain how the latter wasn't always quite so obviously insane.
- Red Shirt Army: The Wildling's expedition to attack Castle Black consists of Tormund, Orell, Jon Snow, Ygritte, and twenty unnamed characters, six of whom fall to their deaths while climbing the wall.
- Refuge in Audacity: The only explanation for Olenna getting away with openly asking Tywin if he ever engaged in any gay behavior (even suggesting he engaged in it with his cousins) before very pointedly talking about how while homosexuality is more tolerated in the Reach, siblings having sex is decidedly not.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Boy mocks Theon by saying that he betrayed Robb just because the Starks didn't appreciate him enough and Balon Greyjoy didn't love him, and in his betrayal, he became nothing but a colossal failure. And since Theon told him that Bran and Rickon are alive, he's failed them too.
- A Shared Suffering: Tyrion and Cersei.
- Scenery Porn: The shot at the top of the Wall.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Ros's entire storyline since her introduction in the first season.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Pink doesn't exactly suit Brienne, but she manages to pull off wearing her first dress of the series rather well. This is in contrast to the books, where the pink silk actually makes her look uglier.
- Shown Their Work: Anguy's archery advice to Arya is actually pretty accurate—when using a longbow, you really do pull with the back muscles and try to draw and release quickly.
- Situational Sexuality: Olenna refers to the "boys surrounded by boys" version of this, when she asks if Tywin ever dabbled.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat:
- Tywin actually joins in with Olenna's Politeness Judo and Passive-Aggressive Kombat, making it clear that he respects her, and possibly even enjoys having a Worthy Opponent.
- As usual when they're around each other Varys and Littlefinger engage in some as well; however, it takes a turn for the darker by the end of their conversation.
- Stepford Smiler: Loras sadly tells Sansa, "[King's Landing is] terrible, isn't it? The most terrible place there is," which clearly indicates that Loras is suffering in silence.
- The Stoic:
- Tywin's reaction to Olenna directly asking if he ever dabbled in homosexuality is very firm, but is not shocked or offended.
- Moreover, her point blank accusing his children of incest is merely met with more stoicism, and a cold reminder that this would screw over her family as well if it were true.
- Take My Hand: Jon saving Ygritte from falling. Said verbatim.
- Talk to the Fist: Edmure declares that no law can compel him to marry someone he hasn't chosen, then Blackfish says, "The Law of My Fist is about to compel your teeth!"
- Teeth Clinched Teamwork: Osha and Meera are at each other's throats. Bran demonstrates that his lordship is not merely an honorary title by identifying the liability and quickly putting an end to it.
- Title Drop: Littlefinger refers to everyone's struggle to get to the top and reach their happy ending as "The Climb." Some fail and never rise again. However, in the end, there is no happy ending. The Climb is all that exists.
- Vertigo Effect: During the Wildlings' climb of the Wall, Jon Snow briefly looks down and the effect is used, demonstrating just how enormously high it is (or just that Jon is getting dizzy at the sight of it).
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Littlefinger tells Sansa that now that he's got his long-desired ship, he finds that all he wants now is more.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Arya and Gendry really let the Brotherhood have it for giving him to Melisandre.
- We Will Meet Again: Melisandre says this to Arya.
- Women's Mysteries: Olenna refers to the "change" Cersei will undergo before long, but says she will spare Tywin the details. Tywin actually snarks back, "The years punish us as well, I promise you that."
- Worthy Opponent:
- Olenna considers Tywin one and obliquely tells him so at the end of their chat.
- Tywin knows he's fighting an equal in Olenna; he joins in with her snark to some extent and he clearly has no illusions whatsoever about who really runs the Tyrells, as shown by the fact that he doesn't insult her by mentioning that he really ought to be negotiating with her son, who is technically the head of the family.
- Varys and Littlefinger have their customary dialogue to this effect, though by the end of it their Friendly Enemy status appears to have been destroyed by Littlefinger's treatment of Ros and contemptuous refutation of Varys' principles.
- Would Hurt a Child: The Boy says he plans to eventually hunt down and kill Bran and Rickon (assuming he will be so kind as to kill them cleanly rather then "play a game" with them beforehand).
- Yank the Dog's Chain: For multiple characters this episode.
- Sansa has found some solace in King's Landing at last with the promise of marriage to Ser Loras Tyrell, which would allow her to leave the capital and live in Highgarden. She even turns down Littlefinger's offer to help her escape by ship. Then the poor dove is informed that the marriage to Loras has been called off and she's to marry Tyrion Lannister instead. She's in tears as she watches Littlefinger's boat sailing away without her.
- Ros enjoyed greater power, some revenge, and a degree of protection as an informer to Varys. Then Littlefinger has her brutally murdered by Joffrey.
- Gendry thinks he's finally gained control over his own life and found a family with the Brotherhood Without Banners, only for them to sell him to Melisandre.