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“Chaos is a ladder.”
It’s a quote that almost certainly springs to mind whenever any Game of Thrones fan thinks about Lord Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), alias Littlefinger, the master manipulator who was once dead set on winning the Iron Throne — and now is simply dead, straight up. The man’s grand ambition was already fairly clear based on his earlier scenes in the series, but season three’s sixth episode, “The Climb,” spelled them out plain as day:
“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. They refuse, clinging to the realm or the gods of love — illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”
Of course, we now know that even Littlefinger wasn’t immune to falling from such a great height, given his death at the hands of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in season seven. Looking back at the iconic speech from “The Climb,” Littlefinger’s fate feels like a greater cautionary tale when considering the themes of the story from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (and, of course, author George R.R. Martin): When it comes to the true nature of chaos, Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) was right — it’s not a ladder, but a gaping pit waiting to swallow us all.
Speaking of Varys, the final scene in “The Climb” also happens to be the final scene between Varys and Littlefinger in the entire series — not that we knew it at the time. The two power players were often pitted against one another in the early goings of Game of Thrones, leaving many fans unsatisfied with the fact that Littlefinger died without another Varys encounter. With that said, looking back on the scene now, it actually plays quite nicely as an end to their mutual storyline. Standing together in the throne room, Varys tells Littlefinger, “Thwarting you has never been my primary ambition, I promise you.” The subtext: It was a secondary ambition at best, and even likelier a pastime on the fringes of Varys‘ greater schemes and plots. Likewise for Littlefinger. The two men make their primary ambitions known to one another in the scene: Varys is doing whatever he can for “the good of the realm,” while Littlefinger is doing everything he can for his own chaotic climb toward power. There’s no reason for them to interact any further, as much as one enjoys seeing the two actors chew on scenery together.
Here’s what else is discussed this week on “Winter Was Here,” the Game of Thrones rewatch podcast from The Hollywood Reporter and Post Show Recaps:
• A deeper dive into the prophecy about the intertwined fate of Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) and Arya Stark;
• The conversation between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) that speaks to one of the greater themes of the series;
• Why a throwaway line about Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) should leave fans feeling less concerned about his ambiguous season-seven fate;
• Some shade thrown toward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), who is having a very hard time solving a very obvious mystery;
• And more!
Listen to the podcast in the player below.