Game of Thrones – The Watchers on the Wall

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This is it – the second to last episode – that I didn’t think I was going to get to watch but thankfully my sweet friend Lilah let me come to her house so I could get an hour of freedom from my house of horrors (seriously, boxes everywhere) and watch this episode. The entire episode took place at The Wall and North of The Wall and it seemed to fly by; I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it as much as I did…but it was an excellent episode!

The episode opens on Sam and Jon doing a watch on the top of the wall; they realize that since Mole’s Town was recently attacked it is only a matter of time before the attack comes to the Wall and they are not in any way prepared to defend the Wall against the 10,000 Wildlings that are coming for them. The only thing Sam can think about is that he might be about to die and he’s never been with a woman – but since Jon has, he asks him about it. Jon isn’t really sure what to tell him, other than that for just a little while you are more than just yourself.

Ygritte practices her aim…

Sam also spends some time talking with Maester Aemon; Aemon tells him that he knows Sam is in love with Gilly and while Sam tries to deny it, Aemon says there is no use. He also tells him that he has taken vows that don’t permit him to have a wife; the reason behind that being that “love is the death of duty”. In the midst of this, who might return to the Wall but Gilly herself, with baby Sam in tow and when one of Sam’s “brothers” won’t open the gate, he yells at them until they let Gilly in….and she lets them know what they’ve been suspecting for weeks, the Wildlings are coming and they aren’t only coming from one side of the Wall but from both.

The biggest fire the North has ever seen…that’s about right…

We stop in with the Wildlings to long enough to see Ygritte sharpening arrows; she tells the Styr that Jon is hers to kill and no one should get in her way but she interrupted by smoke billowing over the hills around them…as Mance promised Jon last season, when the time came for him to attack the Wall, he would light the biggest fire the North had ever seen. And from his vantage point on the Wall, Jon sees the same fire and knows exactly what they’re in for…101 sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch against 10,000 Wildlings…and oh yeah, the Wildlings have giants and mammoths. Yikes!

As the battle begins, Allister Thorne admits to Jon that he was right; they should have heeded his suggestions weeks ago and sealed the gate but it’s much too late now and when a leader begins to second guess himself, he begins to lose the confidence of his men. When the news comes that the Wildlings are coming from both sides of the Wall, he leaves the top of the Wall to go down and hold the inner courtyard, leaving Janos Slynt in charge of the action at the top of the Wall…and he proves to be a huge coward. All the man can do is mutter about how he used to command the City Watch in King’s Landing and he shouldn’t be with a bunch of crooks, rapists and turncoats at the Wall. Grenn finally tells him Thorne needs his help down below, opening up the opportunity for Jon to step in and lead his other brother. * I do have to say, as much as I dislike Allister Thorne, he really proved himself in this episode – he fought and led till the bitter end…bitter for him at least *

Jon gives commands from his post atop the Wall.

Sam finally mans up & plants one on Gilly – go Sam!

Sam stashes Gilly and her little son in a pantry deep below the Wall and when Gilly begs him not to leave her, he tells her he must help his sworn brothers defend the Wall – as that is what men do. We later find Janos Slynt slink down to this same pantry and hide, too craven to be involved in defending the Wall with all the other men. 

The Wall proves taller than most arrows can reach, until a giant shoots his bow and arrow and it clears 700 foot tall top of the Wall, taking a sworn brother with hit as it goes over. Casualties are happening right and left; it’s hard to tell who is truly winning – Ygritte shoots one of Jon’s closest brothers through the neck with an arrow and Sam cradles his head as he lays dying. Allister Thorne is wounded but is still leading the men, commanding them to hold the gate as he is pulled off the battlefield to be tended to and from the top of the Wall the men are shooting arrows, dropping barrels of oils to explode on the unsuspecting Wildlings below and fighting the battle the best way they know how.
Jon notices that two very large giants (hence the title giant, right?) are using a mammoth to try and pry open the gate that conceals the tunnel through the Wall and into the heart of Castle Black. He sends Grenn and five other men, telling them that they are to hold the gate – no matter what, hold the gate! The men at the top of the Wall drop barrels onto most of the party, but one giant is fiercely determined to get through the gate and he begins to life the gate on his own, to the horror of the six men waiting in the tunnel interior. When one begins to become scared, Grenn leads them in the vow they took when they became member’s of the Night’s Watch: Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

Well this doesn’t look good at all….

Holding the gate…

Jon leaves the top of the Wall in the hands of Edd and goes down, where he is immediately drawn into battle with Styr, who sees him and knowing that Ygritte wanted to kill him takes his opportunity to steal that from her. The two battle around the courtyard and it seems that Styr has gotten the upper hand for a moment, but when Jon sees his moment he seizes it, smashing Styr in the head with a large mallet. Gross. But also, good job Jon – right? Ha! 

As Jon moves on from Styr’s body, he turns a corner and there is Ygritte with her bow notched, aiming straight for his heart – but yet again she just can’t shoot him and her hesitation also proves her downfall – had she shot Jon and kept moving, she would have been fine. You can’t stop in the midst of battle but she forgets this because whether she wants to admit it or not, she loves Jon and her moment of hesitation gives young Olly the chance he needs to prove what he claimed just a couple weeks ago – he IS good with a bow and arrow; he shoots Ygritte straight through the heart. It’s fitting that Olly killed Ygritte since she helped brutally slaughter his family only weeks ago but I was still sad to see her go…

Ready…Aim… Hesitate…

As Ygritte crumbles to the ground, Jon rushes to catch her in his arms and she softly mutters to him that they should have never left the cave they found back in season three. Jon holds her close to him and tells her that they’ll go back to the cave and with her dying words, she tells him “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” A fun fact for you – this is the first and only time that Game of Thrones had ever used a slow motion shot; fantasy usually leans on slow motion heavily but the producers waited for this moment to make it all the more poignant. As the camera slowly pulls away, the battle rages on around Jon as he clutches Ygritte to his chest; the only woman he has ever loved lost to him.

So sad…

As the sun begins to rise, the brothers of the Night’s Watch take the upper hand – having fought off the men climbing the Wall, securing the gates and forcing the Wildlings back into the cover of the woods. They capture one of the Wilding leaders; Tormund, and Jon has him shackled below the Wall while he assesses the other damage. He takes Sam with him into the tunnel where they find the bodies of Grenn and the five men he took into the tunnel…as well as the body of the giant; they held the gate as instructed at the cost of their lives. Jon announces to Sam that he is going to seek out Mance and try to make a peace – just because they beat the Wildlings back for one night doesn’t mean they won’t regroup and come again. The episode ends with Jon disappearing out of the tunnel and into the wild on the other side of the Wall…

This Sunday is the finale – not sure when and if I’ll get to watch it since I’ll be living in Virginia (YAY!) and my parents don’t have HBO in their cable package (sniff sniff). When that moment comes, I’ll write my final Game of Thrones post for this season…but until I figure that one out, I’ll leave you with this one and hope I find a way to watch it sooner rather than later. Till then – hold the gate.

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