This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
Pyp….Grenn…..THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOKS 😥
There isn’t really that much to say about this week’s episode; it was pretty self-explanatory. What I found interesting is that with all the goings on in King’s Landing and the rest of Westeros, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the imminent peril that the Night’s Watch were about to face. Jon’s story in this season so far has been mostly filler, but it has all been leading up to this moment. You may even have forgotten who the hell Mance Rayder is (in my opinion they should have shown him in this episode, even briefly, to remind watchers what his biz is), but his threat is ever looming, and, like the rest of Westeros, we may well have thought not much of it. Mance wants the Freefolk to destroy the Night’s Watch, and then Westeros. It all comes crashing down, seemingly quite suddenly. To the north of the Wall, Mance Rayder sits with his massive army of Wildlings, giants and mammoths, ready to attack. To the south of the Wall, on the Westeros side, Tormund, Ygritte and Styr await the King-Beyond-the-Wall’s signal. The signal is given, and both armies pincer-attack Castle Black. The story that Tormund was telling, by the way, was about him having sex with a bear. Tormund’s…member…is a subject that he likes to discuss often – we saw a glimpse of how raunchy he can be in season 3, but yeah, pretty much he allegedly has a huge Johnson, and engaged in coital activities with a bear (not realising it was a bear at the time…apparently).
For obvious reasons, this episode shares many similarities with “Blackwater”, so it’s hard not to compare the two. Whilst “Blackwater” have the awe-inspiring wildfire sequence, “The Watchers on the Wall” was not without its merits. For starters, how great was that awesome Wall-scythe-anchor-thing? That may or may not have been a nod to “Blackwater” – in the books, Tyrion has a massive chain built around the bay to trap Stannis’ ships in before igniting them. Some fans were a little peeved that the chain didn’t make it into the show, so maybe this is a little tribute to it. And we finally got to see some giants and mammoths in action, squishing and squashing all in their paths. Whilst their arrows did look a bit like a weapon from a JRPG, it was a good way to show just how fierce and powerful they are. Additionally, I think that a lot of the battle choreography was better than “Blackwater” – it looked sloppy and unpredictable, which makes sense when this episode focused on fights with Wildings, who essentially trained themselves and are undisciplined, whereas the soldiers featured in “Blackwater” were castle trained military men. Plus, dat panoramic shot.
Ygritte’s death was mega sad and very well done. The build-up, with Jon, seeing her alive and safe, smiling, was heart-wrenching. I’m not sure if, given the chance, she would have opened fire – if she wanted to kill him, she would have done last season when she shot him. But it’s ok, because Olly the kid gets there first. In retrospect, there was a lot of foreshadowing indicating that he would be the one to kill her – firstly, she very obviously arrow’d his parents, and the two exchanges a look before he runs to the Wall. A few episodes later, he claims that he is a great shot with a bow. During the battle, he finds one on the floor, and off he goes. Foreshadowing…this show is full of it! The scene ends with a beautifully heartbreaking shot of Jon cradling Ygritte in his arms as the battle rages around him. On the subject of sad things, although Pyp and Grenn’s deaths were pretty upsetting, I also found myself sympathising with the giants: there is a moment when Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg, (or Mag the Mighty for short) the giant that opened the gate in the tunnel, sees his fellow giant get killed. He pauses for a second, before letting out a cry and anguish. Mag is witnessing the extinction of the giants – in the books, there is a song called “The Last of the Giants” that explains this – right before his eyes. It’s only natural that he is a bit peeved.
This episode also saw quite a lot of character development – not just from Jon, who became stone-cold following Ygritte’s death, but also Sam and Alliser Thorne. Sam, who is usually the source of a bit of comic relief, really came into his own in this episode (and said a swear!) and it is apparent that he is no longer the snivelling craven that first arrived at Castle Black in season 1. And Ser Alliser, who has, quite frankly, been a total knob up until this point, was actually rather likable in this episode! During his 1 on 1 with Tormund, I didn’t know who to root(?) for. Not Janos Slynt though – the slimey coward! Although he will earn no XP from the fight, so that’s ok. Also, I love that Jon spat blood in Styr’s (the bald cannibal guy) face – something dishonourable that he must have picked up from Karl “Fookin’ Legend” Tanner earlier this season. It’s nice to see, as highlighted in the Jon v Karl fight, that Jon Snow isn’t invincible; I mean, Styr very nearly kills him before Jon decides to fight dirty. Though he does survive an anvil to the face, so kudos on that, Jon.
At the end of the episode, Lord Snow heads off to try and assassinate Mance – he believes that without leadership, the Wildlings will fall into disarray. A similar thing happens in the books, although in this instance Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne coerce Jon into going. I don’t think that there is really anything else to say about this episode. I am gutted about Pyp and Grenn – who are both very much alive in the books – but they both died honourably and in service to the Watch, and to be honest, it would have looked a bit silly if all of Jon’s comrades had survived. Still, unexpected and sad. Oh, also, Ygritte was probably pregnant with Jon’s child (I can’t really see them having a spare pigs intestine contraceptive in the sex-cave) so there’s that….
Anyway, next week is the final episode of the season, which is extremely upsetting. We have a lot of loose ends to tie up, and I for one can’t wait. Also, I am very curious to see when this scene comes into play –