Game of Thrones Watchers on the Wall Recap
The intricately done opening credit sequence which visits the many houses of Westeros and across the narrow sea is deceiving as this episode only needed to stop by the wall. Even last year’s episode “The Rains of Castamere” in which the Red Wedding took place bounced around other story lines; this episode is unique in the series in that it only focuses on the story happening at Castle Black, and that it promises that a huge amount of the season’s story will be included in the final episode of the season, promising at least one season-ending cliffhanger.
We start tonight on the top of the wall with Sam and Jon talking about sex. What else as doom lays at their doorstep? We then see an owl which is really a spy by a Thenn warg in the wildling camp south of the wall. At the camp, Thormund is also talking about sex…with a bear. Ygrette calls his bluff, and she’s very focused on killing crows and that if Jon is alive, she claims the kill. Styr, ever the charmer, says that she’ll serve him up some “ginger minge.”
Samwell gets busted doing some late night reading by Aemon. Aemon knows that Samwell loves Gilly, and that he warned Jon Snow that “love is the death of duty.” Aemon tells Sam of the time he was once in love when he was the future king. “Nothing makes the past a sweeter place to visit than the threat of imminent death.” Samwell goes out to the back gate to hear Gilly pleading to Pip to open the gate. “Open the fucking gate!” he yells at Pip. He hides her in a kitchen storage room as the horns of battle sound from atop the wall. Samwell promises not to die, and finally kisses Gilly.
The Thenn warg sees that the Night’s Watch is preparing and orders that it’s time to attack. Jon looks north of the Wall to see a huge fire started in the forest. Alliser says that they should have sealed the gate as Jon suggested. He’s confident in the Watch’s chances against the first Wildling raid. Pip is all nerves and Samwell tries to calm him. When asked how he killed a White Walker, Sam says that he lost his identity; when you’re nothing at all, there’s no reason to be afraid. Now his new confidence comes from being Gilly’s protector.
Ygrette does a quick scout of the southern gate and Thormund’s gang heads off to attack from the south just as an even bigger contingent, including giants and a wooly mammoth march from the north. The small band protecting the southern gate are outnumbered and Alliser heads down to aid the fight and puts former Kingsguard Janos Stylt in charge atop the wall. Astute watchers will remember Stylt was sent to take the black by Tyrion for betraying former hand of the king Eddard Stark. Now we get to see the kind of man he really is. He panics and is told he’s needed below so that Jon can command the archers on the Wall.
Alliser has never been more likable as an inspiring commander at the souther gate. The old man can swing a sword, too and slays some wildling scum. Jon Snow comes into his own commanding the fight against the vast wave of attacking wildlings.
One of the giants shoots a massive arrow at one of the observation decks and then right into an archer, sending him flying to the back of the gate where the Thenn leader Styr is just starting his slaughter. Witness is the orphan boy Olly who looks shell shocked. In witnessing attackers within the castle, Janos sneaks into the storage room where Gilly is hiding. Meanwhile, Sam and Pip are sniping with a crossbow when Pip takes an arrow through the neck.
The giant riding the mammoth reach the gate and tie onto the steel bars with hooks and chains. While the mammoth pulls, one giant pries at the gate with a massive crow bar. Jon sends down Grenn with a team of five to hold the north gate from within. Alliser is down below and goes head to head with Thormund and is injured and pulled inside. Sam runs across to a vantage point and shoots a Thenn in the head with his crossbow. He then has Olly send him to the top and instructs him to find a weapon.
Up top, the Watch drop flaming oil barrels on the giants and mammoth, sending the mammoth running off. They shoot a huge spear right into the back of one of the giants but can’t get the rest of the oil barrels off; instead they explode up top. The remaining pissed off giant starts to lift the gate himself. Sam makes it up top and tells Jon he’s got to go fight. The six watchmen say their vows before taking on the angry giant.
Jon instructs Sam to release Ghost to help fight off the wildlings. Jon jumps out and heads straight for the fighting. Some incredible camera work and choreography pans around the scope of the battle as Sam goes to release Ghost who kills a wildling within seconds. Styr spots Jon and wants to fight him right away. It’s Valyrian steel verses Styr’s huge two handed axe. Jon gets his sword knocked out. Ygrette sees the two fighting and freezes. Styr corners Jon near a smithing station and Jon buries a hammer right into his skull, killing him almost instantly. Ygrette comes around the corner and draws her bow but can’t let go. Just then, an arrow hits her. It was shot by Olly. Jon goes to hold her, and she says that they should have stayed in the cave in which they first came together. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she says with her last breath.
A good amount of wildling climbers are making it up the wall and Eddison Tollett, who Jon left in charge, orders the Watch to “drop the scythe,” a huge blade attached to a chain that peels off a thick layer of ice to collapse on climbers. The blade slices right through the climbers, and Eddison proclaims “they’ve had enough for tonight.”
Thormund gets captured despite his attempts at dying fighting. Samwell goes to relieve Gilly and finds Janos sitting in a corner. Jon announces his plan to go to Mance Rayder to try to end the attack. He basically surmises that he’s dead either way, he might as well attempt to stop Mance. Going through the tunnel, he sees Grenn and the other five brave souls who were successful in fighting off the giant in the tunnel. Jon hands his sword to Sam and heads out of the north gate to meet Mance. Episode over.
It was a unique episode and an epic one by far. It was apparently the most expensive episode shot to-date. The forest fire was awe inspiring and, so were the giants and mammoths! The historically weak Night’s Watch holds their own with Jon stepping up in place of the cowardly Janos Stylt and eventual injury of Alliser. But this first wave of attackers in just a small test of the Wall’s abilities. Jon knows that there’s not much of a chance against the coming waves of Mance’s army and has no choice but to set off for Mance himself.
This is the first time that Game of Thrones has broken from their tradition of penultimate episode shockers; Ned Stark’s beheading, The Battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding. The battle at Castle Black leaves Tyrion’s fate for the last episode, as well as a handful of storylines including Arya and the Hound, Stannis’ whereabouts and Jon Snow’s journey to Mance Rayder. Creators promise the best finale yet, and we’re all going to be there watching.