“Game of Thrones”: Shoots and Ladders


This week Lady Olenna cemented her status as the Julia Sugarbaker of Westeros, Ygritte broke the ice with Jon Snow, and Sansa’s situation went from bad to worse.

First off, this week’s parental guidelines notably lacked a “Nudity” warning, so you can go ahead and skip this episode if that’s your thing.

Up North of the Wall, Spamwise Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilllllllyyyyyy (Hannah Murray) play house in the frozen forest. She teaches him how to build a proper fire, and he returns the favor by showing her the arrowhead he found in the snow and warming her heart with stories of how awesome Castle Black is, with its great soup and singing soldiers. He sings a song for her baby, who seems to like it. Also: they are totally going to be eaten by something.

Due South, Osha (Natalia Tena) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) bicker about who can skin a rabbit better. Bran (Isaac Hempstead) tells them that they are both pretty and can stop arguing. Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) has a vision in his sleep, which looks suspiciously like a seizure. He’s also sleeping under a pelt of what could only have come from the fiercest beast in Westeros: The Cookie Monster.

Jojen awakens to tell them that he saw Jon Snow – and he was on the wrong side of the Wall, surrounded by their enemies.

Speaking of Snow (and snow), Jon and Ygritte (aka “Snowy Egret”) engage in some pillow talk that involves neither pillows nor anything remotely romantic. Ygritte (Rose Leslie) remarks, “You’re a proper lover, Jon Snow,” but then follows it up by adding that she knows he’s still a crow in his heart and that if he betrays her, “I’ll cut your pretty cock off and wear it ’round me neck.” I smell a new line of Shoebox Greetings for Free Folk!

Jon (Kit Harington), meanwhile, seems to realize that he’s gotten himself into a pickle, and that climbing the Wall isn’t going to be easy.

Down South, Arya (Maisie Williams) practices shooting straw men in the head, boobs, and crotch. The fellas from the Brotherhood help her with her technique, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of ToriAmosandre (Carice van Houten), who hits it off instantly with Thoros (Paul Kaye), who recognizes her as a priestess. They chat in high Valerian and he takes her to Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), and she marvels at the fact that he’s had more lives than the cast of Cloud Atlas. She’s never seen the Lord of Light waste so much good stuff on one man, apparently. Also, it must be said that Richard Dormer can deliver more sexy from just one eye than most men can deliver from two.


Tori asks Beric if he’s been to “the other side” and he says that there is no other side – “only darkness.” She reveals that she is there for something – or someone – in particular.

Turns out that someone is Gendry (Joe Dempsie), who is upset that the Brotherhood just sold him to a witch, but probably secretly delighted that his character is being given something to do for the first time in three seasons. Tori sweetens the deal by telling him that he will make kings rise and fall. No, that’s not a euphemism. (But on this show – who knows!) Tori also sees a darkness in Arya – and three sets of eyes (blue, brown, and green) staring back at her from within that darkness – the eyes of people that Arya will kill.

Up on the wall, the Ice Climbers are chugging along nicely, until Tormund McGingerbeard accidentally sends a huge block of ice falling straight into Jon Snow’s precious ticket-seller. He slips but recovers.

Meanwhile, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is still hanging out on the set of Hostel 2 with his nameless tormentor, who asks, “Which body part do you need the least?” Well, as someone who’s seen all of them, I’d say his head. He makes Theon guess where he is and what he’s doing there – and if he’s wrong, he takes a finger. Theon guesses that he’s at Chez Karstark, and that this dude is the son of Rickard Karstark, who is punishing Theon for betraying Robb. At first his friend tells him that he’s right, but then he says he’s been lying, and he rips the skin off of Theon’s finger. Okay, this is officially the worst game show ever.

Oh – and while I have no idea who the hell this guy is or what he’s up to, I tend to believe that he’s not a Karstark (especially since I think both of Rickard’s kids are dead at this point, right? As well as Rickard himself?). Isn’t the whole skinning on giant X’s a House Bolton thing?


Back in LetTheRiverRun, Robb (Richard Madden) greets a group of ambassadors from the Frey, and apologizes for going off and marrying some other chick instead of one of them, like he was a-sposed to. They accept his apology if he’ll give them Harrenhall. His uncle Edmure (Tobias Menzies) protests but Robb gives it up happily, as it’s south of the Mason-Dixon and they don’t even have a Wawa there. They also want Edmund to marry one of the Frey girls instead. He protests, but Robb and Uncle Blackfish (Clive Russell) talk him into it. Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) sits quietly at the table like Banquo’s ghost.

We then cut to one of the most horrifying images of the entire season: the noble Brienne the Blue (Gwendolyn Christie)… IN A PINK DRESS. It’s kind of epic. She sits beside Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as he feebly attempts to cut a hamsteak with one hand, listening to Lord Michael Bolton tell them what will become of them: turns out he’s going to let Jamie go home to King’s Landing, if he’ll tell Papa Tywin that Bolton had nothing to do with Jamie’s misplacing his hand. He says Brienne will not be going with him, as she is guilty of treason for helping Catelyn whisk Jamie away.

Speaking of the KL, we catch up with Lady Olenna (Dame Diana Motherf*cking Rigg) at happy hour with Tywin (Charles Dance). Turns out Lady O is not down with Loras marrying Cersei, because she’s too old (a subject she admits being something of an expert on). Tywin counters that she should be happy to be able to marry Loras off to anyone, seeing as how he’s such a ponce, and she laughs it off, saying that where she comes from they just throw all the shoes in one room and sleep in a pile. She gladly admits that Loras is “a sword swallower through and through,” and even asks Tywin if he’s never tried a bit of buggery himself. He most certainly has not.

On the other hand, where she comes from a brother banging his sister isn’t exactly smiled upon, so Tywin should understand her hesitation. He says that he’s sure that it’s just rumors and that Joffrey is, indeed, Robert’s son. Good luck with that. Isn’t it kind of funny that of all things, the one man who could solve all of Westeros’ problems is Maury Povich?

In response, Tywin threatens to name Loras to the King’s Guard – which would mean he could never marry or produce and heir, and Highgarden would then be passed on to the children of Joffrey and Margaery. Lady Olenna finally caves, realizing that she has met her match. Although I do love that she has emerged as the Westerian answer to Julia Sugarbaker when it comes to delivering cool, calm, and collected one-liners that could cut anyone off at the knee: “And that, Tywin, was the night… the lights… went out… in Highgarden!”

Back up North, Ygritte breaks the Wall (whoopsies!) and kills about a dozen men in a mini-avalanche. She and Jon dangle from their tether, and Orell the warg (Mackenzie Crook) cuts them loose before they can take anyone else with them. Luckily Jon grabs onto something at the last minute and they are saved. Orell looks a tad bit disappointed.


Back in the KL, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Loras (Finn Jones) enjoy the most awkward date since… well, since her last date with Joffrey. Loras is clearly utterly uninterested in her and more excited about frilly wedding dresses and parties than actually being married to her someday. She also compliments his golden rose pin, and he corrects her: “It’s more of a brooch, really.” HA! The one thing that they do have in common is that Loras hates King’s Landing just as much as Sansa does.

Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) watch this episode of The Bachelor: Gay Knight Edition from the window, and then Tyrion asks her flat-out if she called the hit on him at Blackwater. She says it wasn’t her, which leaves only Joffrey to blame. She promises that Joffrey won’t try any more funny business now that Tywin is back in town, and hopes that Jamie will come home and fix everything.

Elsewhere, Shae (Sibel Kekilli) helps Sansa try on her dress for Joffrey’s wedding, but they are interrupted by Tyrion. He tries to get Shae to leave so that he can break Sansa the news about their impending nuptials, but Shae won’t budge and Sansa wants her to stay. Tyrion notes, “This is awkward.”


Down in the Throne Room, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) – in his finest Hellraiser Casuals smock, as ever – and Varys (Conleth Hill) clearly take Jay-Z and Kanye a little too seriously, as they literally sit there and watch the throne. Littlefinger tells him that he’s on to what he did to derail his plans to whisk Sansa away, and how he got his information. He has taken care of things by selling Ros to a client who wanted to do something particularly nasty – we then see that it is Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who has strung up poor Ros (Esme Bianco) and shot her full of arrows like a busty St. Sebastian. Ouch. Can we all agree that Ros has officially had the worst run of it on this show? I’m kind of relieved on behalf of poor Esme that she doesn’t have to come to work anymore.

Baelish points out, “Chaos isn’t a pit, it’s a ladder,” and those that can climb out are the ones that survive. Sansa cries as she watches Baelish’s ship – her chance at escaping King’s Landing – leave. Yes, hon, but your savior would have then probably sold you to someone to use as an ashtray; all things considered, Tyrion’s actually probably one of the best guys to have in your corner. We then rejoin Jon and Ygritte as they climb over the top of the Wall and see the greenish fields of Winterfell in the distance. But the cranky face of Orell promises that it isn’t all hot tubs and earth-shattering oral for these two quite yet.


Notably Absent: TalisaMilano, Marge, Mance Rayder, Daenerys Stormborn (and her entourage), the Night’s Watch, Arya Greyjoy

Notably Dead: Ros, a dozen Free Folk, Sansa’s dreams of having a hot gay husband

Quote of the Week: I have to say this one’s a tie between Ygritte’s wonderfully romantic “Cut your cock off and wear it ’round me neck” and pretty much anything that came out of Lady Olenna’s mouth.

Boy oh boy – never a dull moment, eh? Well, and even when the moments are a bit dull, they’re still pushing the story forward. I seriously can’t believe how much plot they’re able to cram into these episodes (not to mention how many beards). Is ToriAmosandre stealing Gendry so that she can bone him and have another smoke monster? What’s the deal with Theon’s knife-happy new BFF? Is Sansa really going to get married to Tyrion? And are Bran and company going to spend the rest of the show camping or are they actually going to have a storyline at some point? I also think they did a very nice job with that scene where Ygritte broke the wall – pretty cinematic stuff for a television show. I bet they blew half of the season’s fake wine budget right there.

All in all I’d give it a respectable seven out of ten shampoo bottles:

But that’s just one warg’s opinion. What’d you think of the episode?

In 2003, Brian launched the world's first website devoted to horror film from a gay perspective (CampBlood.org), mining an untapped (and occasionally unintentional) source of entertainment and bringing together a huge and colorful population of gay horror fans and filmmakers. When he's not pulling skeletons out of closets, Brian writes reviews for horror megasite Bloody-Disgusting.com, general film site Freezedriedmovies.com, and can be found on the ever-informative RottenTomatoes.com. Brian is also a filmmaker, having produced, written, and directed two shorts (the dark romantic comedy An Apple a Day and the eerie suspense piece Two Story House) that have played at film festivals worldwide and left audiences generally uneasy. A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Brian studied Mass Media and Film at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (I know – crazy, right?) before fleeing the district for the warm and occasionally stinky shores of NYC. Brian is a proud member of the Online Film Critics Society, loving husband to illustrator Andy Swist, and benevolent overlord of their two cats.