Game of Thrones S3E6 “The Climb” Synopsis
Spoiler Warning: If you’ve yet to see GoT S3E6 “The Climb” be sure to turn away now! We’ll be discussing key plot points during the synopsis, and we’d hate to ruin the surprise!
S3E6 “The Climb” takes is even farther into the political intrigue and individual character stories that span the Seven Kingdoms (and beyond), and as you might have guessed, the episode’s name chronicles Jon Snow’s journey as he climbs the frozen ice wall that separates the land of Westeros from the Land of Always Winter.
The wildlings have traversed the Wall many times now, with Tormund Giantsbane (one of Mance Rayder’s chief “generals” who is seasoned at climbing the Wall’s frosty heights) leading the pack with iron and bone ice axes, heavy thick spikes, and a safety rope system. Even still, the Wall is incredibly dangerous, and pieces often break off as the Wall weeps–proving that the massive structure is a living and treacherous thing indeed.
“The Climb” also takes us all over George Martin’s fantasy world with its layered, multi-faceted story, touching upon the travels and adventures of the main characters including Arya Stark who’s being held “hostage” by the Brotherhood Without Banners–and she’s quite mad at them for selling Gendry (one of Robert Baratheon’s illegitimate children) to the Red Witch Melisandre for a few bags of gold–as well as Danaerys Stormborn as she continues her trek across the cruel sands of Essos, breaking the bonds from slaves and reforming thousands of years of tradition in her wake.
We also return to the summery warm shores of King’s Landing where the tyrannical boy-king Joffrey rules, and is slowly being manipulated by the conniving (and quite brilliant) Margaery Tyrell at the behest of her grandmother Olenna Redwyne (also known as the Queen of Thorns for her crass and devious nature…yet she’s been a major player of the Game of Thrones for decades).
In last week’s episode we also learned of a rather scandalous plot that was drummed up by none other than Tywin Lannister, the patriarch of House Lannister–one of the richest houses in all of the Seven Kingdoms–and Lord of Casterly Rock. The plot involves his children, Cersei and Tyrion, who he uses as pawns in a twisted game of chess: after learning of Lord Baelish (Littlefinger)’s plot of trying to escort Sansa Stark to the Eyrie, thus ensuring that he has the rightful heir of Winterfell and subsequently the heir of the entire North, Tywin aims to crush Baelish’s plan by marrying Sansa to his son, Tyrion.
If Tyrion were to marry Sansa, the claims to the North would be in the hands of House Lannister. Tywin also plots to marry Cersei, the Queen Regent–who’s famed for her ruthless nature and beauty–, to Loras Tyrell to ensure that the Reach may one day be under House Lannister’s reign.
The Tyrells also have their own agenda, however, and one of the main reasons that Margaery Tyrell is planning to marry Joffrey is so that House Tyrell may one day rule the Iron Throne. Love has nothing to do with it, assuming of course that anyone could actually love Joffrey, and all of these plots web and weave around one another in a true dynamic fashion that punctuates the series’ flair for medieval swordfights and supernatural mythical fantasy.
The episode starts off with Samwell and Gilly trying to stay warm near a fire. Gilly is one of the late Craster’s daughters who had given birth to a son–something that was damning as Craster gave all newborn sons to the White Walkers as a truce to leave him alone–, and Samwell had saved both her and her son from the onslaught that broke out when the Night’s Watch men turned on Mormont and slayed him and both Craster in his keep.
Samwell is awkward around Gilly, as he doesn’t know how to act and he’s never been good with women, but the two generally warm up to one another as their adventure continues. Gilly is very thankful for Sam’s help, as she would probably have been killed–or worse–if Sam hadn’t rescued her. Sam is a crow, that’s indeed true, but his skills aren’t up to par with the Rangers…yet he does know how to get back to Castle Black, where he and Gilly can finally rest assured in safety.
During their fireside chat, Samwell shows Gilly the dragonglass spearheads he found back at the Fist of the First Men. These spearheads were actually gifted from the mythical Children of the Forest, and they have a very distinct function: to kill White Walkers. Other than fire, the obsidian is basically the only way to kill them for good–but of course Sam and Gilly don’t know that….yet.
Climbing The Wall
We then venture to Jon Snow and the rest of the wildlings, who are preparing to scale the legendary and famed Wall and scout the forces of the Night’s Watch. Tormund Giantsbane will lead the expedition, with various other wildlings including Jon Snow and Ygritte. The Wall is treacherous to say the least and is filled with countless dangers, especially since the wildlings are making use of simple iron and bone ice axes, spikes and bootspikes to venture upward.
Tormund has scaled the wall quite a few times, something that Jon Snow found to be impossible, and the expedition surely leaves him fearful and wary–but he can’t turn away or say no, as he must prove that he is a true wildling or he will end up with his head on a spike.
Despite his efforts to fit in, Ygritte knows the truth of Jon Snow, and knows that he is just acting. Ygritte is very insightful and reads Jon like a book; she sees a loyal man that, despite his broken vows, will remain loyal to his cause regardless of what happens. She acknowledges his nature and his choices, and tells him that his secret is safe with her.
“I’m your woman now, Jon Snow. You’re going to be loyal to your woman.”
The Red Witch
Meanwhile in the heart of the forests near Riverrun, Arya is practicing her archery skills with the rest of The Brotherhood Without Banners. Anguy, the talented archer, gives Arya tips about her form and ability in bowcraft as she lets loose on wicker targets while reciting her death mantra that includes all of the people who have wronged her (Cersei, Ilyn Payne, and the Hound to name a few).
Soon they realize they have a rather surprising visitor who arrives with an escort of armed guards; a woman dressed in the iconic red robes that pronounce her as Melisandra, a priestess of R’hllor who’s loyal to Stannis Baratheon, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Melisandre notices Thoros of Myr–another respectful priest of R’hllor–and Thoros gives her a brief tour and introduces their leader, Beric Dondarrion.
Remember when Melisdandre left Stannis on an important journey? Well this is where she planned to go, and she has a very particular mission.
Thoros also discloses that Beric has been resurrected multiple times, something that Melisandre disbelieves and is extremely envious of. She has been serving the Red God all her life, and has given herself up to R’hllor in every way; she feels if anyone should have this ability, it should be her. Thoros further divulges that it is not “his” ability, but the Red God’s: he merely asks for R’hllor’s favor.
The Brotherhood Without Banners may in fact seem like a loyal and justified bunch of soldiers, however they reveal their true nature when they give Gendry up to the Red Witch with much disdain and argument from Arya. Gendry has accompanied Arya ever since their escape from Harrenhal, and they have formed a bond as friends.
Furthermore, in episode 5, Gendry revealed that he planned to stay with the Brotherhood and act as their blacksmith to mend their mail and forge their swords–something that Arya disagreed with.
The Brotherhood sells Gendry to Melisandre for two paltry bags of gold, and he is taken away–no doubt to be a victim of one of Melisandre’s horrible fiery sacrifices to the Red God–to Arya’s dismay. She is disgusted with Thoros and Beric, however she has no idea what fate awaits Gendry at the hands of the Red Witch.
Scaling the Wall
The wildlings are now upon the Wall’s northern face, and it’s too late to turn back. They cling to its frozen surface like ants, making slow yet sure progress with each stab of their ice axes and bootspikes. The wind is treacherous with its frosty, biting blasts, threatening to knock the wildlings from the Wall’s surface. Nothing short of actually doing it could prepare Jon for scaling the Wall, and he quickly finds out how dangerous this expedition really is.
Jon’s heart skips a beat when a piece of the Wall breaks loose, causing him to lose his footing and slip. If it weren’t for the safety rope attached to each of the climbers, Jon would have surely met his doom, but the rope pulls taut and he is saved. Tormund gives a jolly laugh of approval, shaking off the danger, as he’s a seasoned climber–and has the heart of a wildling to boot.
The continue onward, the Wall looming high above, an ever-intimidating spectacle that’s quite alive despite its steadfast appearance.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
After beheading Lord Karstark, King Robb lost the considerable forces that the Karstarks brought, thus losing many precious soldiers he needed for his cause. The Lannisters have just had a considerable bump in their forces with the alliance with the Tyrells, who brought both men and food–something that the North is losing in quick numbers.
The Young Wolf also lost his allegiance Lord Walder Frey, a lord in the Riverlands who controls the Crossing, a vital bridge that spans the forking Trident River and is one of the most strategically advantageous positions in the entire region. Robb disgraced Lord Frey when he married a woman other than Frey’s daughter, who he was promised to, thereby breaking his solemn oath and forfeiting his deal set forth by Frey.
The Freys are quite seedy–and Lord Walder is a crass pervert of sorts with dozens of bastard sons–however they are a vital source of soldiers and one of the main houses of the Riverlands. And they control the Crossing.
In dire need of reinforcements and the use of the Crossing, Robb Stark must needs suffer his pride and ask the Freys for help, and is willing to negotiate and make up for his past transgressions. Walder Frey sends emissaries to discuss terms with Robb, who is staying in Riverrun with Catelyn’s brothers–Edmure and the Blackfish.
Frey wants even more than he wanted before: a formal apology from the King in the North himself and Harrenhal, one of the largest castles in all of the Seven Kingdoms despite its decrepit and burned nature, as a gesture of restitution and goodwill. King Robb agrees. The emissaries continue with the demands, revealing that Walder wishes Edmure, the heir to Riverrun, to marry one of his daughters, thereby ensuring that the Freys are in line to reign over the Riverlands–as Riverrun is the capital of the region.
Edmure is surprised to say the least, and initially disagrees wholeheartedly. Robb points out that Edmure was in the wrong to sack the Stone Mill–which put his forces at a disadvantage and foiled Robb’s plans. Edmure finally agrees, but isn’t chuffed about having to marry a Frey woman.
The wedding is planned to commence in a fortnight, with the King in the North in attendance at the Crossing.
The Lion and the Thorn in his Paw
Meanwhile, back at King’s Landing, two of the major players in the Game of Thrones sit down to discuss the alliance between lions and roses. Olenna Redwyne–the illustrious Queen of Thorns–attends a meal with the patriarch of Casterly Rock, Tywin Lannister, to talk about the marriage plans between Loras and Cersei as well as the royal wedding of King Jofrrey and Margaery Tyrell.
At once Olenna disagrees in her perfectly frank nature, much to Tywin’s chagrin (as he would have expected as much), yet Tywin pushes onward. Despite the fact that Loras is one of the most famed knights for his skilled swordsmanship, his “nocturnal activities” have become quite well known to people like Tywin, and he reveals as much to Olenna.
Olenna knows that Loras is indeed a “sword swallower”, as she puts it, and the opportunity to wed Cersei would give Loras a chance to dispel that rumor. Olenna also divulges in the vicious “rumor” between Cersei and Jaime’s supposed incestuous relationship, which Tywin fervently refutes, and the two actually toss blows back and forth in the form of words.
Olenna is openly crass and speaks her mind, saying that Cersei may indeed be too old to have children. Loras is a direct heir to Highgarden, the Tyrell’s castle-city (and capital of the Reach), so him having children is quite important.
In response, Tywin tells Olenna that if Loras will not marry Cersei then he will name Loras to the Kingsguard, which would mean Loras could not ever marry or have children.
Tywin is quite used to getting whatever he wants regardless of what it is, but in this case, Olenna disagrees and will not cower to his will. She breaks the quill pen, and leaves Tywin compelled to make good on his threat.
Meanwhile Tyrion and Cersei meet for a rare talk, wherein Tyrion wants to know the truth behind the assassination attempt during the Battle of the Blackwater. Cersei plays her role quite well, trying to mislead Tyrion, but eventually she reveals that it was Joffrey who ordered Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard to kill Tyrion.
Tyrion asks if his life is still in danger, and Cersei tells him that Joffrey won’t do anything now that Tywin is around. Joffrey was paying Tyrion back in full for Tyrion’s ill treatment of him, but the boy-king also hates the fact that the dwarf doesn’t baby him or respect him–instead Tyrion treats Joffrey like he should be treated, which has garnered hate within the boy, and manifested in the failed assassination attempt.
They also talk about the coming engagement between Tyrion and Sansa–which Tyrion is very much dreading. Even still, he must persevere, and sets off for Sansa’s quarters to inform her of the upcoming matrimony. Shae is there, tending to Sansa, and Tyrion tries to get Shae to leave but Sansa insists on her staying…and Tyrion delivers the bad news with a heavy heart.
As the ship sails away to the Eyrie–that very same ship that Sansa had dreamed about, the ship that would deliver her from the snake’s den that is King’s Landing–Sansa watches, teary eyed and discontent. She had so looked forward to finally escaping this living hell she finds herself in, but she won’t find a way out this easily…
Atop the Wall
As the wildlings make their slow ascent, the Wall proves its treacherous nature as an entire chunk of its face cracks and slides off, leaving the other half of the party falling to their doom. Jon, Tormund, Orell and Ygritte are all that remains of the expedition, and the crack spreads to them, leaving Ygritte and Jon dangling precariously above a wretched fate.
Orell the warg tries to cut the rope while Tormund uses his strength to keep from falling, clamped into the side of the Wall with his ice axe. Jon sees the rope start to fray under Orell’s blade, and tries to swing his way to the side of the Wall like a pendulum to fasten his grip within its icy surface.
A millisecond after the rope is finally cut, Jon finds purchase into the side of the wall, establishing a grip, and Ygritte falls past him. The rope pulls taught and Jon supports her weight, saving her from a death-dealing drop. The entire moment only lasts half a minute but feels like a lifetime and instills a moment of true suspense, showing how dangerous the Wall really is.
Finally what’s left of the expedition reaches the top of the wall, with Ygritte and Jon laying on solid ground, relieved that they survived the terrifying situation they had just faced.
Orell looks at them with wary distrust, as he had tried to send them to their doom, his hawk circling above to scout the skies. Jon and Ygritte finally get up to look out at the impeccable view offered by the height, revealing a truly incredible landscape that stretches all across the Seven Kingdoms.
The view will be short lived, though, as they still have to face the rigors of the Wall once again to get down…