Game Of Thrones Recap: "The Watchers On The Wall" Finally Face The Wildlings
The episode is over. Now it's time for fans to deal with the emotional damage.
This week on Game of Thrones, the events that have been brewing all season finally came to a head – just in time too, with next week’s episode being the season finale. As usual, a spoiler warning applies to everything after this sentence.
So the Battle of Castle Black. It’s been coming. We all knew it was coming. And really, after the events of last week, GoT fans should have braced themselves. Even so, it didn’t make the deaths this week any less tragic. Jon Snow survived, but his brothers of the Night’s Watch Grenn and Pyp weren’t so lucky. And then there was Ygritte. Look, when someone does something really likeable on Thrones, it’s usually a sign that they’re about to bite it. We should have seen this coming when she saved Gilly and baby Sam in the last episode.
Kit Harrington's Jon Snow lives to fight another day. But for how long?
Speaking of Gilly, this episode sees her arriving at Castle Black after the raid of Mole’s Town. A devastated Sam Tarly is heading to his chambers after a late night, when he hears her at the gate. Thus, the little happy trio of Sam, Gilly and the baby is reunited. Enjoy the warm fuzzy feelings, they won’t last long.
When Jon and our old friend Ser Alliser Thorne see the wildlings coming from atop the wall, it’s time for some speedy planning – and a pep talk, apparently. “This is not the end. Not for us. Not if you lot do your duty for however long it takes to beat them back. And then, you get to go on hating me, and I get to go on wishing your Wildling whore had finished the job,” Ser Alliser says. Well, it’s good enough.
Meanwhile, Sam and Gilly share a moment, when he hides her in a room deep inside Castle Black and finally summons up the courage to kiss her. The crowd cheers. Gilly asks him to stay, which he can’t because courage, duty, honor and so on. But he does promise not to die, so that’s something.
Outside The Wall, the Wildlings begin their march — Mammoths and giants among them. Grenn, Edd, Jon and Ser Alliser look on from atop The Wall. After a brief moment, Ser Alliser orders the archers to take aim. “Draw,” he shouts.
And they do. Of course, it’s all but pointless because, to reiterate, the wildlings have FREAKING GIANTS fighting on their side. But points for courage anyway.
At the Southern Gate, Ygritte and the oh-so-lovable Thenns launch a surprise attack.
Ser Alliser hits the courtyard near the Southern Gate, ready to lead. “100 generations have defended this castle. We’ve never fallen before,” Ser Alliser says, giving the Night’s Watch the speech of his life. “You will not fall tonight. Those are Thenns in our walls. They eat the flesh of the men they kill. Do you want to fill the belly of a Thenn tonight? Tonight, we fight, and when the sun rises, I promise you, Castle Black will stand. The Night’s Watch will stand.”
What’s with all the speeches by the way? Weren’t all Black Brothers supposed to be strong, silent types?
Owen Teale plays Alliser Thorne, who's all about the motivational speeches lately.
Back atop The Wall, Ser Janos Slynt is losing it. In an attempt to salvage the situation, Grenn steps up and lies, telling Ser Janos that Alliser has sent word that he needs him down below. Grenn and Jon exchange a look as Ser Janos runs off. With no one left in charge, the men atop The Wall look at Jon. This is his moment. You can almost hear inspirational music in the background as Jon commands the archers to aim at the advancing enemy.
But the Wildlings are now climbing the Wall and at the Southern Gate, the Thenns barrel down on the Night’s Watch. Pyp finally hits a man with his crossbow. He’s giddy over his success, but Samwell reminds him there’s more to do. “Is it over?” Sam asks, handing Pyp the reloaded crossbow. And then it happens. Ygritte – arrow – Pyp’s neck. There’s no time for heartbreak or mourning, the battle is in full swing.
In the courtyard, an epic duel is taking place, as the two commanders – Ser Alliser and Tormund – fight it out to the death. Alliser’s death, that is.
“The Wildlings are over the walls. Ser Alliser’s fallen,” Sam tells Jon, who immediately puts the top of The Wall under Edd’s command before heading down to fight.
Huge and frightening, Grenn and his men wait inside The Wall for the giant who has now penetrated the outer gate. To keep his men calm, Grenn starts chanting the Night’s Watch pledge, “and now my watch begins…” as the giant runs straight toward them, shaking the ground much like a smaller, uglier, medieval Godzilla.
So it’s time for Jon to jump straight into the heart of the battle because that’s just the kind of man he is. But first he gives one last command – handing Sam the key, he asks his friend to free Ghost, his puppy/direwolf. Once free, the white wolf goes on a killing spree, ripping apart Wildlings like they’re puppy chow.
It’s while walking away that he sees his ladylove, currently pointing an arrow at him. Unable to control his emotions, Jon smiles. And as Ygritte, completely out of character, gets all choked up at the reunion, an arrow pierces her chest. Jon runs to her. “Don’t talk,” he says, cradling Ygritte close. “Do you remember that cave? We should have stayed in that cave,” she tells him. “Well go back there,” he says, putting on a half-smile. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” Ygritte replies, before the life goes out of her. Game of Thrones writers probably live on fan tears alone.
Back at the top of The Wall, Edd gives the command and an anchor and chain, hidden in the side of The Wall is unleashed. It swings across the frozen ice and knocks the climbing Wildlings off The Wall to their death. “They’ve had enough for one night,” Edd tells the men who cheer, now that the attack has stopped. “Don’t cheer too loud,” he says. “They still outnumber us a thousand to one.”
Down in the courtyard, Jon tells Tormund to stop fighting. “It’s over,” Jon says. Surrounded, Tormund continues to fight anyway. Jon stops him by shooting him with an arrow, before telling them men to take him away. In the end, the Night’s Watch sort of win the battle. Sam returns to Gilly and the Brothers finally have something to celebrate. But to Jon Snow, who lost the love of his life, it’s not a victory at all.
“Mance was testing our defenses. He almost made it through” he tells Sam the next morning. “He’ll hit us again tonight. We can hold them off for a day or two, but we can never beat them.”
Jon has a plan. He’s going to find Mance. We’re not sure what exactly he’s going to do then, but it better be quick and it better be really, really clever. The final episode of Season 4 airs next Sunday on HBO.