Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 6 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "The Climb."
"Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them." -- Petyr Baelish
The sixth episode of this season's "Game of Thrones" is called "The Climb," for more reasons than one. The most obvious -- the Wildlings' ascent of the Wall -- gives us Jon and Ygritte armed with picks and ropes as they scale the monstrous ice sheet. Elsewhere, Melisandre pays an unfortunate trip to the Brotherhood Without Banners in search of king's blood (and delivers Arya a minor prophecy), Theon continues to enjoy some terrible tortures, Jaime and Brienne share dinner, Samwell sings in the woods, and Tyrion gives Sansa bad news.
Of all the episodes this season -- or possibly even of the series -- this was the one that deviated furthest from the plot of the books. Many of the scenes were completely new (as was all the strange focus on Loras's homosexuality, which is never directly acknowledged in Martin's original saga). But because most of these new scenes focused on characters outside the main locus of power, our Power Rankings didn't shift appreciably. Read on to find out why. (Also, if the lack of movement is starting to bore you, don't worry: a similar calcification took place around this time last season, before the tumultuous end of season shook things up again.)
The Power Rankings
Using a complex algorithm that takes into account each player's wealth, military might and dominion over lands, along with a "bonus" factor that adjusts for unquantifiable assets that could influence events, we've surveyed the lay of the land to figure out who is winning the game of thrones after the sixth episode of season three of "Game of Thrones," entitled "The Climb."
1. Tywin Lannister (Last Episode: 1) Tywin goes to plead his case with Olenna Tyrell, who rejects Cersei as a prospective granddaughter-in-law. "She's rich, the most beautiful woman in the seven kingdoms, and mother of the king," says Tywin.
Olenna disagrees -- Cersei is old. Pretty soon her "change" (menopause?) will be upon her and she won't be able to bear any children. Tywin counters by pointing out Loras's nighttime habits, and while Olenna knows that Loras is a "sword swallower through and through," she also notes that the Tyrells "don't tie [themselves] into knots over a discreet bit of buggery." Incest, on the other hand ... But Tywin isn't having it. He threatens to name Loras to the Kingsguard if he doesn't marry Cersei, with Joffrey and Margaery's son set to be the new heir to Highgarden. (It should be noted that in the books, Loras has already joined the Kingsguard at this point, and that he has an older brother back at Highgarden who is already the Tyrell heir). Olenna accedes.
As Tyrion later says, "Loras will certainly come to know a deep and singular misery."
2. Margaery & Olenna Tyrell (Last Episode: 2) No Margarey this week, though Cersei gives her the charming moniker, "the little doe-eyed whore." Olenna, on the other hand, is just as fierce as ever, calling her grandson a "sword swallower through and through" and snapping Tywin Lannister's quill with equal aplomb. The showrunners have given her far more scenes than her character had in the books -- probably because Diana Rigg has been delivering such a crackling performance.
3. Daenerys Targaryen (Last Episode: 3) No Daenerys this week, though next week we will return to Slaver's Bay and get our first glimpse of the city of Yunkai.
4. Joffrey Baratheon (Last Episode: 4) Joffrey appears briefly near the end of this episode, but in fine form as the resident sadist of King's Landing. If you'd forgotten the lovely scene last season when our shithead king excitedly watched two whores torture each other, here's a reminder of Joffrey's kindness. Ros (poor Ros) is repaid for her betrayal of Littlefinger by being served up to Joffrey as a new amusement. We see her dead body hanging on the bed, pierced through the breast, crotch and head with arrows as Joffrey gazes enchantedly at her corpse. Gross.
5. Robb Stark (Last Episode: 5) The King of the North meets with envoys of the Freys, who demand a formal apology, Harrenhal and Edmure Tully's hand in marriage. Edmure wants the luxury of picking his bride, as Robb had, but he refuses, claiming that the laws of gods and men state that no one can force a man into marriage.
"The laws of my fist are about to compel your teeth," Blackfish tells him, reminding him of the disaster at the stone mill. Robb chimes in -- he's won every battle, but he's losing the war. Edmure's duty is clear.
These characters are important, but don't make it to the top five in our Power Rankings -- yet.
Theon Greyjoy Theon's torture keeps getting worse and worse. The creepy-looking kid who led him out of -- and back to -- his prison, played by Iwan Rheon, now seems to be his principle captor. He's at least as twisted as Joffrey. He bets that he can get Theon to beg him to cut off his finger -- and, with the help of a nasty little needle/blade, he succeeds. We still don't know who this sadistic freak is definitively. Theon incorrectly guessed that he was the son of all the major noble families in the North -- except the Boltons. And it increasingly looks like that's the only possibility.
Jon Snow Jon finds out early on this episode that his new gal pal Ygritte had suspected him of being a double agent for some time. She promises not to reveal his secret -- as long as he promises, now, to be loyal to her. He does. We'll see. In any case, the couple spends most of this episode rappelling. Only instead of redeeming a LivingSocial gift certificate at Brooklyn Boulders, they are scaling the Wall, which is 700 feet tall and made -- at least according to Sam -- all of ice. (He may have been exaggerating. In the books, the Wall is made of stone and magic, but is covered in a sheet of ice.) The climb gets dicey for a while, when an avalanche prompts one of the Wildlings to try to cut them loose. But Jon saves the day, allowing him and Ygritte to get all the way to the top, where they make out in view of lush CGI landscapes north and south of the Wall.
Samwell Tarly Sam's also heading south of the Wall with a Wildling woman, but his relationship with Gilly is considerably less steamy than Jon and Ygritte's. They mostly seem to walk slowly through the snow while Gilly accuses him of being rich and nurses her baby. Sam tries to impress her by showing her his cache of obsidian arrowheads, but she thinks their lack of apparent utility makes them worthless.
Bran Stark Not much new in Bran land. He's still heading toward the Wall with Osha, Hodor and the Reeds. (It seems like he's been traveling for ages, which is kinda weird because Winterfell's not that far? But I guess he can't walk, and they don't have horses.) Meera and Osha squabble over the proper way to skin a rabbit. Then Jojen has a seizure, which Meera explains is a sign that he's having a prophetic vision. When he wakes up, he tells Bran that Jon Snow is north of the Wall, "surrounded by enemies."
Arya Stark Arya's still being led through the Riverlands by the Brotherhood Without Banners. On their way to Riverrun, they encounter Melisandre, of all people. (How she sailed from Dragonstone and rode through the middle of Westeros in the company of an armed guard without being accosted by the Lannisters, the Boltons or the Starks remains a mystery. Magic?) She speaks in High Valyrian with her fellow red priest Thoros of Myr and demands that the Brotherhood give up Gendry, whom she recognizes as Robert Baratheon's bastard. Arya's furious that Beric and Thoros would give up their sworn brother for a bit of gold, but they insist that their actions are endorsed by R'hallor, the one true god. Still, Arya can tell that Melisandre intends nothing good for Gendry, so she calls the red priestess a witch. Melisandre grabs Arya by the head, looks into her eyes, and tells the young Stark girl that death and mystery lie ahead. Arya is shaken by the prophecy ... as are we.
Sansa Stark Sansa's really excited to marry Loras. She loves talking about fashion with him, though he seems dismayed that she can't tell the difference between a pin and a brooch. When Sansa tells Shae about her wedding plans, and how Loras loves green and gold brocade, Shae basically rolls her eyes, amused that Sansa doesn't seem to know that Loras is gay. (Much is made, throughout the episode, of the Tyrell heir's sexuality. Indeed, way too much to be plausible in the context of everything else we know about sexuality in Westeros, and way more than was ever made of it in the books.) Still, Sansa's devastated when Tyrion tells her he's being forced to marry her. Near the end of the episode, Sansa sobs while staring at Littlefinger's boat out in Blackwater Bay -- indicating that she now plans to follow him to the Vale after all ...
Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish ...which seems to have been Littlefinger's intention all along. One commenter on our Power Rankings last week guessed as much and Baelish essentially confirms it in his talk with Varys in the Red Keep this episode, when he says that his machinations foiled the eunuch's plans for Sansa. Littlefinger probably thinks that Sansa would never leave the dashing, kind and rich Loras for him -- but that she would gladly leave the ugly, kind and rich Tyrion for him. And he's probably right. If Littlefinger manages to abscond with Sansa before she marries Tyrion, and can convince her to marry him instead, he really will become one of the most powerful people in Westeros. He'll be perfectly positioned to climb the chaos ladder all the way to the 200-sword Iron Throne, the good of the realm be damned.
Cersei Lannister Cersei finally understands that she's powerless without the support of Tywin, Jaime or Joffrey. She can't think of a way to get out of her betrothal to Loras. And she even admits, in her conversation with Tyrion, that she wasn't the one who ordered him killed. Joffrey was.
Tyrion Lannister Tyrion's not particularly better off than Cersei. They're both stuck under their father's thumb. For now.
Brienne of Tarth & Jaime Lannister Brienne and Jaime are both out of sorts in Roose Bolton's Harrenhall. Brienne looks miserable being forced to wear a "pretty" red dress, while Jaime can't even cut his meat without Brienne's help. They both get a surprise when Bolton tells that, though Brienne has to stay in Harrenhall to pay for her treason, Jaime is free to go back to King's Landing, as long as he tells Tywin that Bolton isn't responsible for his missing hand. If that's not a sign of Bolton's lack of commitment to King Robb, what would be?
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.