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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Climb” (S3, E6)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Climb” (S3, E6)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 3, Episode 6: “The Climb”

Original Air Date: May 5th, 2013
Director: Alik Sakharov
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

This sixth episode from season three derives its title from both the featured scaling of The Wall accomplished by Jon and the Wildlings, and also from the great, ominous speech Baelish gives Varys about how chaos is an opportunity for those that seize it.

“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. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love–illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

The episode’s powerful ending is framed by hope and fear: the hope of Jon and Ygritte’s love, and the fear of the evil men can wrought in the name of power.


However, it’s a much quieter moment that stands out all these years later rewatching the episode because of something we’ve since learned about one of the characters. Melisandre has been led by the Lord of Light to find the Brotherhood without Banners, where she plans to take Gendry and his king’s blood back with her to Dragonstone so he can be sacrificed. While there she meets the six-time reincarnated Ser Beric Dondarrion.

Thoros of Myr explains to her how his prayers to the Lord of Light brought back his friend. “You should not have this power,” she says to Thoros in High Valyrian. Thoros was a terrible priest, one who abdicated his duty and faith to his Lord for whores and rum. Yet he has the power to overcome death, something Melisandre, in all her many, many years has never seen before. Why wouldn’t she, a true believer and servant of R’hllor, have this power instead of a drunken fool?

Now that we know just how long Melisandre has actually been alive, think of how many people she has seen die. Think about how many friends she’s lost, and how much pain she has suffered because of it. What would it have meant to bring any of them back? What kind of gift for her love and dedication would that have been from her lord?


But there’s yet another sadder, possibly much darker moment here. Looking at Beric, who has conquered death repeatedly, she says, “You’ve been to the other side.” Whatever exists beyond this world Beric has been to it, has seen it. Hundreds of years of pushing off her own death, of refusing to face that unknown herself, and now Melisandre can find out what the Lord of Light has to offer.

“The other side? There is no other side. I have been to the darkness, my lady,” he says. It’s a crushing response, arguably the single darkest moment on the show to this point, and she brushes it aside as if it doesn’t register.

But it’s so important to her that years later, when the Lord of Light gives her the power to bring back Jon Snow, she asks him the same thing: “Afterwards, after they stabbed you, after you died, where did you go? What did you see?”

And Jon gives the same bleak, chilling answer Beric Dondarrion did: “Nothing. There was nothing at all.” Two people that have never met, but who both died and miraculously came back, gave her the same hopeless answer.


Melisandre has quite literally put off her own death and dedicated her entire existence to serving the Lord of Light. But if there is nothing waiting for her after this life, what was her service for? What did she do with her time here? What has been the point of her life?

There are obviously major implications beyond just her own personal story, too. Is the darkness and nothingness that might await us when we die any worse than what the White Walkers bring? The White Walkers exist, they are, and they have goals and ambitions. Whereas the actual dead seem to have nothing. If the Lord of Light doesn’t bring us salvation, just nothingness, is he any different from The Great Other, the Lord of Darkness who rules the dead? Are they really the same terrible god?


Now it’s possible Ser Beric and Jon Snow only found nothing on the other side because the Lord of Light wasn’t done with them yet; you could even say, then, that they weren’t truly dead yet. But that’s probably easier for us to see and rationalize than it is for an old and tired Melisandre, who is just coming to realize she may have suffered hundreds of years of pain and death all for nothing.

The night is dark and full of terrors, but what does it matter if life and death is too?

What do you think of Melisandre’s story now that we know the truth about her? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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