Game of Thrones – The Climb


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This week’s episode was unfortunately a fairly dull affair in the lands of Westeros. It was by no means a bad episode yet by the high standards this series has set was not a particularly memorable one. While it did reposition several story arcs and flesh out a few characters, the major flaw of this episode is that it fails to do this in a coherent manner.

Episodes that focus on character development and are driven by dialogue more than action are imperative to the structure of a series narrative. Shows such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad have made an art form of delving into the characters to carefully illustrate the motivations behind their actions.

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In ‘The Climb’ many characters are introduced and yet their arc is never followed up. There appears to be a policy of not going two episodes without at least slightly touching upon each of the divergent plot lines. I feel this is at the detriment to the series overall. For example, in previous episodes we were shown Melisandre leaving Stannis to look for “king’s blood”, while a couple of episodes later Stannis is confessing his betrayal to his wife and visiting his daughter. Bran has a dream guided by Jojen Reed and then in this episode we have a peak at how these efforts are affecting Jojen’s mental and physical health. In isolation they are relatively innocuous developments yet when placed together a pattern of cause and effect develops. Personally I would be much more satisfied seeing two to three scenes of a plot line in one episode rather than having the same scenes stretched out across as many episodes.

Part of the reason for the lack of story coherence across the breadth of ‘The Climb’ may be explained by the fact that next week’s episode is written by George R.R. Martin. It is entirely possible that the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the source material for the show, may have been assigned a few of the choicest morsels that would have otherwise have appeared. Martin, who previously worked as a television screenwriter for The Twilight Zone, writes an episode a season and last season’s effort was the outstanding penultimate episode ‘Blackwater’. 

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”the climb5

‘The Climb’ did provide a few intriguingly morbid developments. The Brotherhood is revealed to not be more morally ambiguous than we have been led to believe  while Theon is unable to correctly guess the identity of his torturer. Show-watchers with a very keen eye for detail may be able to do so.

The relationship between Ygritte and Jon continues to develop and finally the questions surrounding Jon’s true loyalty and desires are examined. The reasons why Mance Rayder and the wildings believe his betrayal has always been somewhat a mystery and a slight source of bewilderment for viewers. In a couple of beautiful scenes that bookend the episode we see that Jon’s relationship with Ygritte has fuelled not only a respect for the wildings, but the cost of his honor, vows and duty to the Night’s Watch.

 The theme of personal desire vs sacrifice is a recurrent theme and prominently exhibited Littlefinger’s closing monologue/discussion with Varys.

 “Chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder and … the climb is all there is”

And finally, a development that may have gone slightly under the radar was the death of Ros. She was a character created for the TV show and hence proved divisive among book readers. I personally enjoyed her journey and the expositions she provided for many of the people first in the North and then King’s Landing. Her final moments at the hands of the psychotic boy king Joffrey were a brilliant reminder of how truly monstrous he is.

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