Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 9 “The Watchers on the Wall”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Well, I’d been hoping to see whether Tyrion is executed or manages to escape this fate. But that will have to wait for next time, because this episode takes place entirely at…

The Wall: We open with Jon and Sam standing atop the wall, on watch for attacks from Mance Rayder’s wildling army. Sam asks Jon what it was like, being with Ygritte in an intimate fashion. Jon stammers out some lame metaphors for how it felt, then exclaims, “I’m no poet!” Sam sagely nods in agreement, “No, you’re not.” Jon asks Sam if he didn’t … have experience with Gilly. Sam says of course not, but implies he might be interested. When Jon mentions the vows of the Night’s Watch, Sam points out that they forbid marrying, and fathering children, but not any other sort of activity with females.

Sam leaves Jon and heads down the Wall to Castle Black. He goes to the library and meets Maester Aemon, lamenting that his actions led Gilly and her baby to their deaths. Aemon comments that Sam is obviously in love with her, which Sam denies, but Aemon knows from the way he spoke about her earlier. Aemon says he too was once a young man, Aemon Targaryen, and he could have had a very different life to the one he ended up with.

There is a cut scene to the party of wildlings who attacked Moles Town, with the leader talking to Ygritte. He questions her loyalty, but she says all she wants to do is kill Crows (Night’s Watch men). She thinks Jon is probably dead, but if she met him she wouldn’t hesitate to put an arrow through him. Uh huh.

There’s a knock on the gate of Castle Black. It’s Gilly! The guard doesn’t want to let anyone in, but Sam pulls out some swear words, which astonishes the guard so much that he opens the gate to let Gilly and her baby in. Sam leads them into safety and they have a moment of reunion, in which he kisses her. Horns sound – the Wall is under attack from Mance’s army to the north! Sam says he has to go defend the Castle; Gilly doesn’t want him to leave her. He promises he won’t get killed and will return. That’s a pretty bold promise in Westeros!

Commander Alliser orders men to fire flaming arrows from the top of the Wall. Barrels of oil are also readied to drop on the attackers. Mance’s huge army charge the wall, some starting to climb the ice. Then giants appear, and a huge mammoth! They are going to smash through the tunnel gate. And then suddenly the wildling party on the south side attack Castle Black at the same time! It seems they somehow coordinated their attacks, but how they did so is entirely unclear. Alliser heads down to defend the castle, leaving his second in command on the Wall. This guy is a bumbling coward, unable to give orders, and even denying that giants exist, despite them firing huge bows that destroy part of the fortifications on top of the Wall in a spectacular manner. Another guy lies, saying that Commander Alliser needs second-in-command guy down below. He departs in relief, leaving Jon in charge by default. Jon rallies the men and they continue firing arrows at the attackers. He also orders six men to go down and defend the tunnel from the giants. They scare the mammoth away with fire, but one giant lifts the gate and enters the tunnel, where the six men make a desperate last stand.

Second-in-command reaches Castle Black, which is the scene of a huge running battle. He flees to a hidey-hole. Commander Alliser is wounded and dragged away to safety. (It’s not clear if he’ll survive or not.) Sam is loading crossbows, and handing them to a friend to fire at the wildlings. He gets a few, but is then shot with an arrow in the neck and dies a gurgling death in Sam’s arms. Sam decides to get help and heads up the Wall to get Jon. The boy manning the lift cage is too frightened to push the lever that will send Sam up, so Sam gives him a stirring speech and tells him to grab a weapon and defend the castle. The boy rallies and pushes the lever, sending Sam up the Wall. Then he looks around and spots a simple bow lying on the ground.

Jon heads down from the Wall with Sam and appraises the situation. He gives Sam a key, and says he needs help. Sam takes the key and opens a door… behind it is Ghost, Jon’s wolf. Ghost charges into the battle, ripping out the throats of several wildlings. Jon fights one of the meanest wildlings in a brutal encounter, getting his face banged into an anvil, which must really hurt. The combatants get separated in the melee, and then Jon runs into Ygritte…

She has an arrow ready to shoot him, but hesitates. They exchange a tense few words, and time slows down as the battle around them becomes muted. It’s a dramatic moment, and everything hinges on what Ygritte chooses to do: will she shoot Jon, or will she put her bow down and fall into his arms?

You can see the conflict raging inside her, as the arrow wavers…

The moment stretches a little more…

And then the boy who operated the Wall lift fires his bow and Ygritte falls into Jon’s arms, an arrow through her back. The boy gives Jon a quick thumbs up and runs off to fight more wildlings. Way to kill the tension. They share a few regretful words, and Ygritte dies.

Atop the Wall, the defenders let loose an avalanche of ice and a huge swinging chain with a mean looking metal blade on the end, which sweeps all the climbers off the Wall. Mance’s army goes into retreat, returning to the forest. Back down in Castle Black, the defenders are victorious, with only the wildling commander left alive, with a few arrows in him. He is captured and taken away for interrogation.

Dawn breaks, and Castle Black has withstood the assault. Second-in-command is discovered cowering in a room. Gilly is happy to see Sam again. Jon is not so happy. Besides losing Ygritte, he knows that Mance still has thousands of men and will attack the Wall again, and again, until it falls. He needs to go north and confront Mance, and kill him. Then the disparate wildling bands that he has united will bicker amongst themselves and forget about attacking the Wall. Sam begs him not to go, but Jon leaves his sword with him (not wanting it to fall into enemy hands) and sets off through the tunnel, into the North.

Well. That was quite an episode. We finally have the resolution of Jon’s relationship with Ygritte, which hovered over him, and her. The wildling band south of the Wall has been destroyed, so no more raids by them. But what fate will befall Jon on his quest to kill Mance Rayder? And what will happen to Gilly, who technically isn’t allowed to stay in Castle Black? I see some hard decisions for Sam in the future. Oh, and why didn’t Jon take Ghost with him? Seriously?

Next up is the last episode of Season 4. I’m guessing it’s going to be a huge one.

One Response to “Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 9 “The Watchers on the Wall””

  1. Glen says:

    That cowardly second-in-command you mention, Janos Slynt, was the leader of the City Watch in Kings Landing (“Goldcloaks”) that betrayed Ned Stark after Robert Baratheon’s death. He was rewarded for it by Cersei (with Harrenhal) but Tyrion later stripped him of it and sent him to the Wall.

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