This episode of Game of Thrones takes us to the Wall and beyond. Similar to Season 2’s Battle of Blackwater episode, the entire episode shows the siege of Castle Black. Whether or not you love this episode boils down to whether or not you like the Crows-Wilding story. In “The Watchers on the Wall,” we get some closure on a few subjects, but have some even bigger questions to ask. Oh, and there are SPOILERS abound here, so read at your own risk.
One of the biggest parallels is between the Night’s Watch and the Wildling army. The Night’s Watch has been led to believe that the Wildlings are savages, and the Wildlings believe the Crows are oppressors, but are they really all that different? Well, if you’re going off their wild sex adventures, then yes. Sitting atop the Wall, Jon Snow tries to articulate the experience of making love to Samwell Tarly. He uses such phrases as, “She had red hair.” Meanwhile, Tormund is boasting that he fucked a bear. A real life fucking bear, not the UrbanDictionary definition. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of difference between the two factions. As Sam reads through books to learn about all the terrible deeds that the Wildlings have done in the past. Maester Aemon encourages Sam to think about the stories the Wildlings must tell about the Men of the Night’s Watch. That’s when Aemon drops some jewels on Sam.
“Love is the death of duty,” he says. This old man sees right through Sam’s fear. Hopefully Sam heeds the Maester’s words. Once Aemon Targaryen, brother to King Aegon IV, this guy is one of my favorite characters in the show. There’s a quote in there that made me forget that everybody was about to die; “You can imagine all manners of horrors befalling that poor girl and her child. Is it so difficult to imagine that an old person was once – more or less – like you?” Luckily for Sam, Gilly was able to slip by the Wildling elites and find her way to the castle gates. Sam takes Gilly down to a cellar room and then gives her a big ol smooch before promising he’ll come back. Note: Might be too soon, but Game of Thrones characters really need to stop promising loved ones that they won’t die.
Enough of that mushy stuff. It’s time to find out Where the Wild Lings Are. The battle horns have sounded and it’s time for battle. Sam gives Pyp some 411 on how to be a badass, since he is the guy that, you know, killed a White Walker. The speech that Sam makes about losing his identity and becoming “nothing” to make him lose all fear is pretty insightful, especially for Sam, who has come quite a ways from the frightened boy he joined the Night’s Watch as. This isn’t the only great speech. The episode is full of them. They aren’t quite on Tyrion’s level of “Let’s go fuck them in their asses!,” but these guys know what they’re talking about.
It’s also nice to know that, even in the face of death, Alliser Thorne is still a gigantic douche. I’m just thankful he’s with the good guys; I’m already one “cunt” away from wanting him pushed down the Wall, but he’s just so funny. Even the scene where they accidentally drop the barrel down the Wall prematurely had me dying. He may come of a bit strong, but Alliser is a good leader, and a great fighter. On the other hand, Janos Slynt, who used to be commander of the City Watch at King’s Watch before Tyrion shit-canned him, is a coward to the tenth degree. He has no idea what to do while in command, and flees from the top the first chance he gets, hiding in the meat locker Gilly is in. Awkwardly, Jon is left in command.
“Those are giants riding mammoths down there!” Why yes, Jon Snow, that is correct. Somehow, there are giants. And they are riding wooly mammoths into battle. The strategy of the Wildlings seem a bit off to me. This could be due to the fact that Mance Rayder, the guy who organized this whole party, is missing. Climbing the wall is just a distraction, but sending giants to blow through the outer gates is genius. Why does nobody go through the outer gate is beyond me. One of my favorite scenes has to be the video-game like scrolling of Castle Black, showing murder and mayhem from every direction. It really helps to show the chaotic and brutal nature of the battle.
Let’s give it up for Ghost! It’s about time somebody let him out of his cage. Things always seem to be going well for Jon Snow when Ghost comes out to play. Snow goes full MC Hammer on Styr, the cannibalistic Thenn warrior who ate that kid’s dead parents. What a jerk. The war isn’t without its casualties, as two of Jon Snow’s best friends and allies have died. That’s not even the worst, as Ygritte’s hesitation leads to an Omar-esque death – getting shot by a little kid. Ygritte’s death was supposed to sad, and to an extent, it was. However, it was just too predictable. You knew there was no other way for her story to unfold than to die in Jon Snow’s arms, whispering with her last words “…you know nothing, Jon Snow…” It was SO cliché, but I suppose it had to happen that way.
Perhaps Jon Snow really does no nothing. With the castle eventually reclaimed and the promise of impending attacks by the Wildling army on Castle Black, not to mention that the Castle is in terrible defense condition, Snow decides to embark on his own journey to kill Mance Rayder… by himself… with no weapons… without Ghost to protect him. It’s a terrible plan, but the idea of Snow going out on his own is one that I look forward to. Look, it’s not that I’m not sad that all these good characters are dying, but we grew up on Joss Whedon and The Wire; do your worst, George R.R. Martin.
Who won the Game of Thrones this episode?
Hands down, it’s got to be Sam. Love will make a person do strange things. In Game of Thrones, he has arguably grown the most out of any character since making his first appearance as an absolute coward in Season 1. It really all culminates after the talk he has with Maester Aemon about love. Realizing that he has something to really fight for, he grows some balls and tells Pyp to “open the fucking gate.” He is strong enough to continue fighting even when one of his best friends dies in his arms, even managing to put a bolt into a Thenn’s face. With Alliser out of commission and Slynt revealing himself a coward, who better to take command of the Night’s Watch than Sam, himself.
Sadly, we’ll likely have to wait until next season to find out, as we have just one episode left in Season 4. Join us next week for the season finale,
All media credited to HBO