Sam and Gilly are adorable. Sam never lived in the wild, nor this far north, nor had to do much of anything for himself. He thinks when it comes to fires, the more wood, the better. Gilly has lived her whole life north of the Wall and knows the fire needs to breathe to get bigger. She tells him to take the big log off and, unlike 99% of the men, he actually listens and lo and behold, the fire starts raging. But Gilly is strangely impressed by someone so highborn that they’re incapable of taking care of themselves. Sam shows Gilly what he found at the Fist of the First Men, the dragonglass. He doesn’t know what it does, but it is pretty to look at. She asks him how much longer till they get to the Wall and what’s it like and when he tells her the truth, she doesn’t believe it. He tells her how great Castle Black is and then he sings a sweet song to her and her baby. Really the cutest scene ever.
Not cute is what happens to the rabbits in the next scene. I like a good hamburger as much as the next carnivore, but watching adorable little rabbits skinned makes me question my choices. Meera and Osha are squabbling over who is better at de-furring Peter Cottontail, but they’re basically just fighting over who will be the queen bee of this group. Meera talks about her prowess with a bow and arrow, Osha boasts how she’s good with her fists, and back and forth it goes. Bran’s sick of the two bickering and tells them to stop and they make nice. Just then, Jojen starts having a fit while having one of his visions and Meera runs over to take care of him until it passes. Jojen tells Bran that he saw Jon Snow. He was on the wrong side of the Wall, surrounded by enemies.
Hey, I’m having the same vision. There’s Jon and he’s surrounded by wildlings on the wrong side of the Wall. They’re preparing to climb the steep icy monolith and Jon is scared. Ygritte admits that she is too, but says she’s waited her whole life to see the world from up there (wonder if she has an interest in pissing off the wall a la Tyrion). Ygritte kids Jon about their first time, but you can tell the girl is smitten. She lets Jon know that she doesn’t believe he’s suddenly given up being part of the Night’s Watch, but she does believe that he is loyal and will be loyal to her now that she’s his girl. She is such a sweet girlfriend, she tells him if he ever betrays her, she’ll go Lorena Bobbitt on him and wear his c*ck around her neck.
Arya is practicing her archery, shooting at a straw man while reciting the names on her kill list, while Thoros and others from the Brotherhood look on. Anguy is watching carefully and giving her advice. He tells her she’s not as good as she thinks she is, she needs to release more quickly and trust that her eyes will help her aim. As he gives her some more pointers, she spies someone coming.
It’s Melisandre and some men from Dragonstone. She greets them with “Valar morghulis” (all men must die) and Thoros comes over and responds, “Valar dohaeris” (all men must serve). Red priests commonly speak High Valyrian. She tells Thoros that the High Priest gave him a mission, to convert King Robert to a believer in the Lord of Light (like she converted his brother Stannis). But Thoros failed. Well, win some, lose some. Thoros brings her into the cave to see Beric. She seems troubled by his appearance and is shocked to find that he’s been brought back to life six times. She did not think that possible. She is concerned about Thoros having that much power, but he demurs. He only asks, it is the Lord who answers as he chooses.
Thoros tells a story of how he was a priest who didn’t believe, who thought talk of the gods was just to make sure children behaved. He said the prayers, but it was just for show. Until the Mountain drove a lance through Beric’s heart and Thoros prayed for his dead friend, and this time the prayer was answered. And from that day on, he knew that theirs was the one true god and that all men must believe in him. Melisandre asks Beric what he’s seen on the other side, but he says, there is no other side. Just darkness. They ask Melisandre why she is there and she explains that they have someone their god needs.
Outside of the cave, Gendry and Anguy are discussing some smith work they need Gendry to do, when Melisandre and her group come near. Arya doeesn’t like her just on sight, and based on what they’ve seen alone both Gendry and Anguy disagree. That is until Melisandre has two men grab Gendry and take him away. Arya tries to stop her and says that Gendry wanted to join the Brotherhood, but Beric explains that they serve the Lord of Light and he needs the boy. That sounds really noble, until they are handed two sacks of gold in exchange for Gendry.
Gendry feels betrayed for the umpteenth time. He thought this was a brotherhood and he could be part of it. Melisandre walks over to him and tells him that he is special more so than any of the brotherhood. Arya comes over to Melisandre, calls her a witch and tells her that she’s going to hurt Gendry. Melisandre looks frightened and grabs Arya by the face and looks deep into her eyes. She sees a darkness in Arya and in that darkness (death) she sees eyes staring back at her, eyes Arya will shut forever. She says they will meet again, and then leaves, taking Arya’s one friend with her.
Tormund, Jon, Ygritte, Orel and the rest of Mance Rayder’s scouting party are climbing the trecherous wall and you can see why it makes such a good barrier. Ygritte tries to lighten the moment, flirting with Jon, and he smiles back at her. Meanwhile, Tormund pulls down a large chunk of ice which hits Jon and causes him to lose his foothold and drop some. But he hangs on and Tormund jokes about seeing if Jon can take a hit. Funny guy.
You know who is also hilarious, the stranger torturing Theon. First he pretends to just be some servant cleaning up the torture chamber, with plans to free Theon and return him to his sister. He plays out this elaborate escape, just to have Theon recaptured. You have to be a particularly evil person to come up with that plan. And now he has the bugle that was driving Theon crazy back at Winterfell and he’s using it to wake him up lest he sleep through the next torture session.
First he asks if Theon is asking for water. He’d love to help, but he doesn’t have any, he says as he pours the water from a pitcher onto the floor in front of Theon. Next, he suggests they play a game called “which body part does Theon need least.” Theon says “Please” and the boy correctly notes that Please is not a body part. Theon is not good at this game. He promises to tell the boy everything, but there is nothing more to tell. He already told the boy how his father was mean to him and how the Starks didn’t appreciate him. In fact, the boy has more information than Theon, because he knows that Theon didn’t kill the Stark boys. But the boy says that would be a hunt to remember and suggests that he wouldn’t fail. Now that the threats are going against Bran and Rickon, it’s not funny anymore (sorry, Theon). This guy is just pure evil.
The boy settles on Theon’s little finger (and unfortunately not Petyr Baelish who I wouldn’t mind this happening to, see below). As he’s getting Theon ready, he says he realizes that Theon has a lot of questions. Where is he, why is he there, what does this guy want, who is he. He tells Theon to guess. If he guesses right, the boy will tell him he pinkie swears. Theon wins the game if he figures out who he is and why he’s torturing Theon. The boy wins if Theon begs him to cut off his finger. Yeah, I don’t get the rules either. Theon asks if the boy will let him go if he guesses right, and his torturer responds with the phrase that best sums up the show, not just this episode: If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
Theon starts guessing. Wrong guesses get his finger cut open, correct guesses get the boy to stop. The boy tells Theon he guessed right when he said he was Lord Karstark’s son and that since the Karstark’s are Stark bannerman, and since Theon betrayed Robb, that’s why he’s being tortured. Good job, Theon, you win. Only…, you forgot to check the rules and the boy is allowed to lie whenever he wants. And he’s lied the whole time. He comes over and starts slowly, painfully splitting Theon’s finger open while telling him that he’s not being tortured for any reason other than he enjoys torturing people. Theon starts screaming, Cut it off, and the boy smiles. Yes, smiles, and says, happily, I win. And Joffrey now has serious competition for worst person ever.
Back at Riverrun, Robb is hosting two representatives from House Frey, Black Walder and Lothar Frey. Robb is asking for Walder Frey’s support in an attack on Casterly Rock. Now, as you recall, Robb had agreed to marry one of Walder’s daughters and have Arya marry one of his sons in exchange for his army being allowed to cross the Twins. Well, Robb went back on that deal and now needs to strike a new one. So Walder Frey’s demands are as follows: a formal apology from Robb for breaking his sacred vow, Harrenhal and it’s adjoining lands, and the marriage of Edmure Tully to one of Frey’s daughters within the fortnight (he no longer believes in long engagements for his daughters). The terms are acceptable (after some arm twisting and a reminder to Edmure that he screwed up by attacking Stone Mill).
Roose Bolton is having Jaime and Brienne to dinner. While Jaime struggles to cut his meat one handed, Brienne struggles not to look silly in the frou-frou outfit they put her in. Brienne tells Roose that she is on orders from Lady Stark (whose bannerman he is, after all) to bring Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing. But Roose mentions that when Robb left, Lady Stark was his prisoner and if she weren’t his mother she’d have been hanged for treason for letting Jaime escape. Roose says he should send Jaime back to Robb Stark. Jaime quite agrees, yet wonders why he is still sitting there (finally able to eat as Brienne stabbed his meat so he could cut it).
Roose says that wars cost money, and Jaime would fetch a high price from many in the realm. But Jaime, regaining some of his fighting spirit, says they all know who would pay the most for his return, and who would suffer the most if he were sent to Robb to be executed instead of returned. Roose is not easily intimidated and suggests that the easiest way to deal with them would be to kill them both and burn their bodies. Hearing that, Brienne goes for her knife, but Jaime thinks diplomacy is the answer here, not violence. He says, even with the war going on, Tywin Lannister would make time for anything Roose had to say to him. Roose says he will return Jaime to King’s Landing “as restitution for the mistakes his soldiers made.” In exchange, Jaime will tell his father the truth – that Roose had nothing to do with his maiming.
Jaime wants to drink to the deal, but Roose says he doesn’t partake. Jaime comments on how suspicious that appears to regular folk. Jaime lifts his goblet to toast his and Brienne’s completion of their journey, but Roose says Brienne will not be going to King’s Landing as she is an accomplice to treason. Jaime insists she comes with him, but Roose tells him he’s not in a position to insist on anything. Hasn’t he learned that lesson yet?
Tywin and Lady Olenna are having a heated exchange. She cannot believe he suggested that Cersei marry her grandson Loras, the most eligible bachelor in the seven kingdoms. Cersei is old, she’s been ridden hard and put away wet, she doesn’t have a penis (wait, that’s Loras’ complaint, not gramma’s). But speaking of that, Tywin is well aware of Loras’ preferences and thinks he’s in no position to complain about a wife a few years older than him. After Tywin plays the gay card, Olenna takes her time and then whips out the incest card. Touche! Oh, but never play bridge with Tywin Lannister, he always holds the trump card. If she doesn’t agree to this marriage, he will appoint Loras to the Kingsguard, have him take a vow of celibacy, and have no Tyrell heirs. What caterer should we hire?
Back to the Wall! The wind is blowing something fierce, but that isn’t their biggest problem. The crack that Ygritte just put in the icy wall is. It causes a fissure to spread across and threaten to shear off a big chunk of the wall, creating an avalanche and plunging them to their deaths. Ygritte and Jon fall, but are still tied to the rest of their group by a rope. But the rope is threatening to pull everyone down and so Orell shouts that they have to cut them loose. He starts sawing away at the hemp.
Jon and Ygritte see that and know they don’t have much time. Jon keeps swinging to get them close to where he can dig into the side of the wall and reaches it just in time to save himself and Ygritte. Jon is very heroic and strong as he pulls Ygritte up and now maybe she’ll stop telling him how he doesn’t know anything.
Awkward party of two. Sansa and Loras are making very uncomfortable small talk about their future together, which they are both quite happy about. Sansa’s gaydar needs a new battery, Loras needs a stiff drink or twenty to get him through this. He says he’s been dreaming of a big wedding forever – the food, the guests, the tournament. Oh…and the bride, of course! He goes on to discuss the wedding gown and we’re whisked away to “Say Yes to the Dress – Westerosi” as he discusses it down to the smallest detail. But he’s very sweet and promises her she’ll just love Highgarden, which will finally get her out of the hell hole that is King’s Landing.
In their own private hell, we find Cersei and Tyrion Lannister. It’s taken forever, but the two siblings finally have something to bond over, even if it is just their shared misery. She has to marry Loras Tyrell, he has to marry Sansa Stark, and neither is happy with the arrangement. Cersei of course has a very reasonable suggestion, “We can have them both killed.” Tyrion ignores the suggestion but makes a keen observation – “it’s hard to say which of the four of us is getting the worst of this arrangement.” He guesses probably Sansa, while adding that Loras will “certainly come to know a deep and singular misery.” Tyrion reminds Sansa that this all started with her interference in the planned marriage of Sansa to Loras, but she is still convinced that was a dangerous arrangement and she did what she did to save the family.
Tyrion reminds her that he is part of the family too and is tired of not getting any acknowledgement. She admits that he saved the city and were it not for him, their heads would be rotting on spikes right now. But Tyrion isn’t in the mood for her thanks, considering she tried to have him killed. Oh, but wait, it wasn’t Cersei after all. It was Joffrey who arranged that. Well, that makes some sense. Tyrion is the only one who calls him what he is. But how stupid to have a member of the kingsguard try and kill the hand of the king during battle. Joffrey isn’t just evil, he’s dumb too – a bad combination. But Cersei doesn’t think Joffrey will try that again, now that Tywin is there.
But Cersei is worried more about the future of the Lannisters. She thinks once Margaery has married Joffrey, she’ll lose control and his new wife will have it all. Joffrey will be hers, and the children, and the legacy. All hers. Tyrion tries to cheer her up, telling her that when Jaime returns, they’ll find a way to disengage her from Loras. But he knows that whatever the future holds, he is truly f*cked.
Shae is helping Sansa on with the dress she’ll be wearing for the King’s wedding and they are talking about Sansa’s wedding to Loras when Tyrion knocks on the door. Tyrion goes to break the news to Sansa that she’ll be marring him and not Loras. Making this situation even more difficult is the fact that Shae is there and won’t leave. So he gets to break the news to both his women, yippee. He starts with a message for Shae – that she may have thought she should stay to listen to what he had to say, but she’s not going to like it and will likely wish she had left when given the chance. That was the easy part. Now for Sansa. How exactly to break it to her?
“This is awkward,” he begins, the master of the obvious. We never get to see the actual discussion. Pity.
Varys comes into the throne room as Littlefinger is sitting next to the Iron Throne. Varys recites the history of the chair, how it is rumored to contain 1,000 swords of Aegon’s fallen enemies, forged in the fiery breath of Balerion the Dread. Littlefinger says there aren’t 1,000 swords. There aren’t even 200 – he’s counted them. Of course he has! Varys calls the throne an ugly old thing, but Littlefinger says it has a certain appeal. Oh yes how he covets it. But for now he has to settle for a seat next to Lady Arryn at the Vale, not the seat he really wants. But Littlefinger looks at this as another step along the way to getting what he wants.
Varys admits to enjoying Littlefinger falling short of his goal for now and Littlefinger admits to enjoying how he thwarted Varys’ plan to marry Sansa off to Loras Tyrell. But then the discussion turns deadly serious, as Littlefinger tells Varys he knows of the spy he had in Littlefinger’s camp – Ros – who he refers to as a bad investment on his part that no longer gave him any pleasure. So he did what he always does, found a way to get the maximum value from her by giving her to a friend who has some new experience in mind to try on her. Varys insists, as he always does, that what he did (asking Ros to spy) was for the good of the realm. But that is not what Littlefinger cares about – only what is good for Littlefinger.
Varys fights for the realm, he says, because he abhors chaos, but Littlefinger embraces it. As he explains his philosophy to Varys, we see examples of chaos and the harm it brings from the truly horrific to the simply tragic. Ros, tortured and murdered by Joffrey, Littlefinger’s “friend” who wanted to try out some new experience on her. Sansa, crying as the ship that was to take her away from King’s Landing is going without her and she is destined to stay a hostage there. All the while, Littlefinger talks about metaphorically climbing the ladder – which is all he has ever done.
While Littlefinger talks about the metaphorical climb, Jon has completed his real climb to the top of the Wall. They’ve made it, to the top of the world, and they look out as the clouds part and the sun shines down upon them. Ygritte takes her first look at the land south of the Wall, and then the two of them kiss.
Melisandre (to Gendry): You are more than they can ever be. They’re just foot soldiers in the great war. You will make kings rise and fall.
Theon: If I win, you let me go?
Boy: If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
Edmure: The laws of gods and men are very clear. No man can compel another man to marry.
Blackfish: The laws of my fist are about to compel your teeth.
Sansa: That’s a wonderful pin.
Loras: Oh, it’s more of a brooch, really.
Littlefinger: It is flattering, really, you feeling such dread at the prospect of me getting what I want.
Varys: Thwarting you has never been my primary ambition, I promise you. Although who doesn’t like to see their friends fail now and then?
Littlefinger: 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. And 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.