(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)
Those who are more privy of HBO’s future plans may correct me on this, but seeing as the events of the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire, A Storm of Swords, are supposedly being spread out over two seasons, we can reasonably expect that Game of Thrones will be at least an eight-season affair. (Should viewer interest hold, there’s no reason that couldn’t be extended somewhat.) The best thing about “The Climb” is the way it lays that vast amount of story time to come ahead of us, and makes us anticipate that vastness, rather than dread it. There’s so much still to see, after all.
The most obvious example comes when we rejoin the Brotherhood Without Banners, who have willingly given Arya’s dear friend Gendry over to Melisandre, who needs him for reasons that one can only assume involve draining his secretly-royal blood for nefarious purposes. (Or possibly just fashioning excellent arrowheads.) Arya being Arya, she can’t help but confront Melisandre on the matter – the fact that she’d likely have done this anyway even if she knew just how powerful Melisandre really is, acts as further evidence that she’s the strongest soul in all of Westeros – and she’s told that she will, in fact, take lives, and that she and Melisandre will meet again. Prophecy is a big deal on Game of Thrones – it crops up all the time – but as we’re still relatively early on in the story’s overall run, we’ve yet to see precisely how prophecies tend to play out, or how accurately. That gives the scene a remarkable feeling of unresolved dramatic tension, especially as Arya’s hitlist never seems to be far from her mind.
“The Climb” light on incident, heavy on long-term promise.
That moment is the only one to approach the heights of last week’s season-best episode, but very few scenes in this Denaerys Targaryen-free outing fall flat, either. The low point is likely the continuing non-saga of Theon Greyjoy and his many trials at the hands of his mysterious torturer. The point’s been made already: Theon is clueless about his predicament, his torturer is cruel and, so far, anonymous, and this is a very, very bad season to be Theon Greyjoy. Let’s get some real movement or nothing at all on this next week, yes?
Much better was the wicked pairing of Lady Olenna and Tywin Lannister, whose verbal spar nicely outlined the respective “weak points” of their clans. It’s interesting, though a little disappointing, that sexual politics aren’t really so different in the Seven Kingdoms from our own world; as seen in previous episodes (remember Joffrey’s remark about condemning those who engage in gay acts to death, even if it was only to “impress” Margaery): heteronormativity remains a plague, as is the notion that younger – more “beautiful,” more virile, more able-bodied – is always better. It’s easy to forget, amidst the show’s more fantastical elements, just how depressingly earthbound its social, political and sexual dynamics really are.
The episode ends with a solid if not earth-shattering revelation courtesy of Lord Baelish, whose climactic speech ties the episode together in a slightly clumsy but still effective manner, noting the ways in which we construct meaning and purpose out of illusory forces, while the pursuit of greater means remains perhaps the only quest of any real import. What makes the speech really work – besides Aidan Gillen’s go-for-broke delivery – is its juxtaposition with Ygritte and the apparently cunnilingual gifted Jon Snow, who complete their treacherous climb up the Wall and lock in a tender embrace. With Ros fatally pinned to Joffrey’s bedpost like a voodoo doll, does Martin’s universe really offer enough lasting hope to make room for a pair of genuine lovers? It seems unlikely, at least for long, but the insistent nature of hope seems to be another tie connecting the Seven Kingdoms to our own.