“The Climb” Round-Up: Sacrifice, Survival and Lovers on Top of the World

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By Katie M. Lucas

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The closing minutes of “The Climb” embody the principal struggles in Westeros: the battles for power and survival. David Sims of AVClub.com divides the themes by geography: “In King’s Landing, it’s all about intrigue and subtle sniping and wily characters... Up North, everyone’s just trying to stay alive.” In this episode, players in both locations form alliances to aid their ascents.

Jon Snow and Ygritte pledge loyalty to each other in the face of the 700-foot Wall. HBO GO’s Interactive Features take you behind the scenes, where the actors actually scaled a sheet of ice. “It took about a week,” reveals Rose Leslie, the actress behind Ygritte, tells TV Guide. “Being up there with our harnesses with the wind and snow machines at that height was amazing.” The unforgiving elements made the lovers’ kiss on top of the Wall all the more tender and romantic. Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix.com says of the scene: “Lovers from different worlds coming together despite their differences is a story as old as there have been stories, but that sequence atop the ice really gave new life to the old cliché.”

In King’s Landing, Tywin Lannister and Lady Olenna used words as weapons in their battle for political control. In this week's Inside the Episode, Executive Producer D.B. Weiss explains he finds the verbal sparring between equally matched opponents as exciting as a great swordfight. The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr breaks down Tywin’s strategy: “His threat to disinherit the Tyrells' beloved Loras by giving him what is (ostensibly) a great honor is made all the more acute by the fact that (as close observers may remember) this is exactly what King Aerys did to him when he made Jaime a White Cloak.”

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Check out the Viewer’s Guide to see how the marriage will unite the Tyrells and the Lannisters, and brush up on your history. Westeros was a popular topic this week; students of the realm were part of a 'Saturday Night Live' skit, "Game of 'Game of Thrones,' " a sketch that included an appearance by the Kingslayer himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.   

The boldest strategy this week came from Littlefinger, who handed over Ros to Joffrey to assert his clout over Varys—and to recoup his investment. In HBO GO’s Interactive Features George R.R. Martin explains that Lord Baelish “thrives on chaos because in chaos there is opportunity for advancement.” Rolling Stone’s Sean T. Collins attributes Littlefinger’s ascent to being “able to see the swirling chaos of government as a ladder to be climbed rather than a whirlpool to drown in.” Yet as actress Esme Bianco attests in an interview with HBO.com, the higher you climb, the further you can fall.

What do you think about Littlefinger’s power plays? And Ros’ untimely demise?