Tonight was a rarity in the wacky adventures of Westeros. No 13 different subplots to keep track of tonight. Nope. The action was squarely focused on one setting — The Wall.
And while tonight’s episode didn’t feature a peep from Dany, Tyrion and the rest of that crazy Lannister clan, it ended up being one of my favorite episodes in a season that has consistently delivered some of the series’ best. Tonight we say goodbye to two longtime cast members and one very key character for The Wall subplot. Bonus points if you can spot the movie I reference through this recap.
Jon Snow and his pal, Samwell Tarley, survey far North from their perch atop The Wall. The Wildeners are making their final rally before storming The Wall. Sam is less concerned with his potential grizzly death and instead wants to know what it was like for Jon when he hooked up with Ygritte.
Sam does kinda seem the type who wants those kind of intimate details, doesn’t he? Jon considers a kiss and don’t tell approach, but eventually tries to explain it (poorly). Thankfully there’s no apple pie at The Wall or this conversation could have really gone sideways.
At Camp Wildling, Tormund can barely contain his fury while Ygritte angrily carves more arrowheads. Meanwhile Gilly, whom Ygritte previously spared, sets off to The Wall to warn of the pending attack.
In the library, Sam encounters Maester Aemon, who shares a story of an old flame that proved irresistible. I wondered if he was referring to Margaery’s grandmother? Each episode this season has had a quiet, inconsequential moment that offers nothing more than some solid character development. This was no different and again it marked an episode highlight.
Gilly makes it, but Pyp isn’t sure if he should let her in, but Sam cusses him out. Watch out now, Sam’s bucking up! He apologizes for leaving Gilly in that brothel and swears never to leave her again.
Now onto the episode’s big payoff: The Battle at The Wall. While a lot of this season’s big moments have been a bit understated, this sequence looked like the bulk of this season’s budget was spent here and it paid off.
This fight played out like the GOT version of the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ Helm’s Deep battle. There were mammoths(!) giants (!) and explosions (!). Sadly no dwarf tossing though.
For all his crappy treatment of Jon, when it came time to fight, Night’s Watch commander Alliser took care of some serious business – going toe to toe with Tormund and rallying the troops something fierce before he is wounded and carried out of the battlefield. As giant makes its way to the gates, Jon commands Grenn to take four others to stop the giant from entering. No matter the cost.
Sam and Pip team up on the crossbow and after Pyp finally manages to kill one, he’s ready for another shot. He gets one, but not sure he wanted it the way he got it via an arrow through the mouth courtesy of Ygirtte. Not Pyp! I’ve always like Jon’s Night Watch crew and Pip was a big part of that so while he was never as suave as Prince Oberyn or as idealistic as Robb Stark, I’m gonna miss him.
Sam goes to the Wall’s peak to get Jon’s assistance, but first has to convince the Watch’s squire to man up, raise the elevator and defend himself. The boy settles on a bow and the moment lingers just long enough to hint that it will mean something later on.
Jon comes down from the peak to aid the ground effort and quickly starts turning the tide. He’s got the touch!! Jon may have been everyone’s broad in the first three seasons, but now he’s become the show’s resident bad-a$$ fighter and I’m loving it! And just to make sure the odds stay in his favor, Jon has Sam unleash his Direwolf Ghost. I’ve become a bit cautious anytime a Direwolf shows up. I can take the killing off of major characters, but Direwolf deaths hurt big time. Thankfully, Ghost happily gets to dine on Wildling neck and is safe … for now.
Jon takes out a few more Wildlings before he’s face to face (and drawn bow) with Ygritte. For us non-book readers reared on a cataclysmic death on each season’s ninth episode it looked like this was it. The last scene of our boy Jon Snow, but Ygritte hesitated. Would true love conquer all on the battlefield?
Oh come on, you haven’t been paying attention at all. An arrow pierces through Ygritte’s heart and Jon looks up to spy the culprit and spots the same boy Sam encouraged to take up a weapon and fight. Jon goes to his scorned lover and with her dying breathes says they should have stayed in their cave. As he agrees, she utters her now infamous line “You know nothing Jon Snow” and takes her last breath as the battle rages on around a devastated Jon Snow.
The battle is over, but Jon tells Sam the Night’s Watch can’t stop Mance’s full army of Wildlings for an extended war. The only hope is for him to challenge Mance one on one, defeat him and watch the Wildling tribes splinter into their typical in-fighting. Jon admits it’s not much of a plan, but that’s all he’s got. On the way out the gate, Jon and Sam see the slain giant as well as the bodies of the four Night’s Watch and their friend, Grenn. This has not been the season for keeping the status quo, has it?
So what did you think? Did the big battle live up to the hype? And what are you hoping to see for the season finale?