This episode had some great scenes, a couple of which I absolutely loved, but it also had one of the most infuriating scenes that I’ve seen in two and a half seasons of this show.
**Spoilers (and anger) under the cut.**
- Sam and Gilly are well away from Craster’s Keep, and apparently Sam can barely even build a fire. Their interactions here provide a sweet interlude and are part of a nicely done introduction to the episode’s biggest storyline, which is Jon and Ygritte climbing the wall. I’d just like to say, though, that Hannah Murray is perfect as Gilly. She has a wonderful sort of fragility, but at the same time it’s clear that she’s fierce and capable and has a lot of practical knowledge.
- The other half of this episode’s introduction has us visiting Bran and company, where Meera and Osha are arguing over how to skin rabbits. Then Jojen has a vision of Jon Snow and we cut to the next scene. I actually could have done without this scene, and I think that it would have been a better segue to go straight from Sam telling Gilly about the Wall to Jon and Ygritte getting ready to climb it. I’m still really struggling to get invested in Bran’s story. In the books I didn’t really like it at all until A Dance With Dragons, and I’m finding it kind of equally boring on the show. I’d hoped that Jojen and Meera would breathe some life into the story, but nope. It’s still the most tedious road trip ever, and Meera and Osha’s sniping at each other isn’t making it any better.
- The first scene with Jon and Ygritte in this episode made me believe their relationship more than any other scene in the show or books. Ygritte’s speech to Jon that they should take care of each other since they can’t trust lords or kings to take care of them was wonderfully delivered and made me feel a lot more emotionally invested in this pair. Later on, as they are actually climbing the Wall, this theory is put to the test, and they are literally cut loose by Orell, forcing Jon and Ygritte to struggle to the top on their own.
- I loved the actual scenes of the climb up the Wall. It felt suitably epic, and I suspect that there were a couple of scary moments for people who haven’t read the books. The final shot of Jon and Ygritte standing on top of the Wall was a little over the top and edging into romance novel cover territory, but I liked it. I think we’ve been given a real sense of the scale of the Wall and what the stakes are for the Wildlings who are desperate to come south of it.
- I enjoyed Arya’s archery lesson with Anguy. I think that showing Arya learning these skills on her journey is good. It always bothers me when characters in fantasy stories are just inexplicably good at fighting, so it’s nice to see that, for Arya, it’s a process that she’s really just beginning.
- I was prepared to hate Melisandre showing up to retrieve Gendry (I was already pretty certain we won’t be getting Edric Storm), but this turned out to be surprisingly great. The interaction between Melisandre, Beric, and Thoros was a great way to show viewers a little more about all of these characters and their religion. Also, it was kind of amusing to see Melisandre, the lady who gave birth to a murderous shadow baby, get kind of freaked out when she sees Beric.
- I’m quickly coming to dislike the Theon scenes as they’re starting to just be torture porn. In the books, Theon basically disappears for two books, and when we see him again it’s after he’s been tortured by Ramsay. It’s shocking, and the reader is moved to pity (hopefully) for Theon because no one deserves what happens to him. I understand why the show runners want to keep Theon around on the show, but I don’t like feeling as if I’m expected to be entertained by long, drawn-out scenes of Theon being tortured.
- Robb negotiates with the Freys and Edmure makes an ass of himself. Brynden Tully is entertaining. Honestly, though, the Red Wedding can’t come soon enough.
- Roose Bolton is becoming one of my favorite characters to watch, and this show does awkward dinner scenes wonderfully. Brienne is a ball of fury in the pink dress that Roose has picked to try and humiliate her. I love the interaction between Jaime and Brienne here as well. The evolution of their relationship to being something very like friendship is illustrated perfectly as she helps him cut his food and when she gently restrains her hand when she’s ready to leap across the table and stab Roose Bolton in the neck.
- Olenna and Tywin together is a scene I’ve been anticipating all season, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.
- Loras and Sansa are also awkward, but this is another surprisingly sweet scene. Sansa is so hopeful, and Loras is trying hard to be kind because (I think) he’s a fundamentally decent fellow. I did, however, catch that Loras said “French sleeves” which is a sloppy bit of writing. French anything doesn’t make any sense in a world with no France. (ETA: Upon reading other recaps, maybe it’s “fringed sleeves”? Still, it sounded like “French” both times that I watched the episode.)
- Tyrion and Cersei are having a rare moment of solidarity as they ponder just how terrible things are going to be for everyone if they’re forced to marry Sansa and Loras. It’s the most vulnerable that we’ve seen either of these characters in a while, especially with each other. It was nice to see them both let their guard down a little and actually act like brother and sister as they’re united in the worry for Jaime and their fear of their father.
- My heart broke a little for everyone when Tyrion went to break the news to Sansa.
- Varys and Littlefinger talk in front of the Iron Throne, and it’s very, very bad. Littlefinger has found out Ros was spying for Varys and has had her killed. I can think of several reasons why this is a good time to think of getting rid of Ros on the show, but the way her death was written is disgusting and misogynistic. We don’t even get an actual scene with Ros. We get Littlefinger gleefully telling Varys how clever Littlefinger is for figuring things out and disposing of Ros–a “poor investment”. Then, we cut to a scene of Joffrey setting aside his crossbow, at which point the camera moves to rest on a very dead Ros, who is only partially clothed, tied to a bedpost, with crossbow bolts sticking out of her (including her crotch). This is probably the most egregious and sickening scene of sexualized violence that I’ve ever seen on this show, and it’s particularly upsetting that this is the way the writers chose to treat a character that viewers have come to know and care about. Ros has grown significantly as a character, especially this season, but in the end the show runners and writers reduced her to a plot device to further hammer home (just in case, I guess, that people haven’t paid attention so far) just how evil Littlefinger and Joffrey are. Even more insultingly, they reduced her to an object for Littlefinger to give, for Joffrey to destroy, and for the viewers of the show to ogle.