The title of “The Climb” refers to the precarious ascent of Ygritte and Jon Snow up The Wall and a key phrase in Petyr’s speech about chaos (a speech which wasn’t half as meaningful as the show believes). It’s also an effective description of the purpose of this episode. Game of Thrones regularly reaches dazzling heights, accomplishing exceptional moments (as in the past two episodes) as captivating as the sun breaking through the clouds atop The Wall. But this episode is all climb, all plot development: pieces moving around a chessboard.
Many events in this episode were predictable developments: Sam is still hopeless; Melisandre catches up with Gendry and his “king’s blood”; Robb wins the support of Walder Frey; Theon gets tortured.
“The Climb” has strong moments – see: Cersei and Tyrion’s conversation – but is mostly wheel-spinning. The most vital, exciting character of this season – Daenerys – isn’t seen, while last season’s star – Tyrion – is given too little to do despite a lot of screentime. Omitting his awkward conversation with Sansa felt like a mistake. The one surprising development – Ros’s horrid fate – was handled clumsily: her circumstances were clear from Littlefinger’s speech without needing a shot of her (inappropriately sexualised) dead body.