Television

The Watchers on the Wall: Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 9


*Spoiler alert*

An entire episode dedicated to the Wall may sound like a tedious affair but it was, in fact, quite an enjoyable experience, not to mention frightening because I was so invested in the well-being of the characters I like best at the wall (Jon, Gilly, Sam, Ghost, Aemon), that despite knowing what was coming, it was hard to stop my heart from beating fast. I had not been sure of how spending the complete episode at the wall, unbroken, would work out for the penultimate episode but it did well. However, there is still so much left to happen in the finale that I feel as though they might have to transfer something to the fifth season.

 

‘It’s this person…this whole other person. You’re wrapped up in them, they’re wrapped up in you. For a little while you’re more than just you- oh I don’t know. I’m not a bleeding poet.’

As the inevitable war approaches, Sam spends the night trying to get Jon to tell him about the one experience every man craves to know of- what had it been like, being with the flaming woman who is now hunting him down with vengeful arrows. Sam points out that while the vows of the Night’s Watch explicitly forbid taking of a wife and fathering of children, they say nothing whatsoever about the actual physical act of love. Jon’s attempt at explanation was one of his most endearing scenes yet; him and his crinkly eyes.

‘Anyone else tries to kill him, I’ll have an arrow for them.’

Ygritte is indeed full of bitterness and she warns Magnar of Thenn (after a perverse remark by the latter) that Jon Snow is to die from her arrow. While she sharpens a bunch of said arrows by the light of a fire, a cloak-clad figure clutching a baby in its arms slides quietly from behind their camp and makes its way to Castle Black.

‘Nothing makes the past a sweeter place to visit than the prospect of imminent death’

Maester Aemon’s scene with Sam Tarly was another endearing bit about recalling past loves before the actual battle. While returning to get some sleep however, Sam was reunited with Gilly and even as she is let in through the gates, the battle gong sounds, for the wildlings north of the war have set fire to the forest. Sam promises Gilly he will never leave her again and locks her in a dark storeroom (‘Is this never leaving me again?’) before he rejoins his brothers at the wall. Before the chaos of war however, he manages to steal an impulsive kiss from the woman he loves. I quite enjoy how Sam is slowly coming into his element. This episode proved just how much stronger he has become.

‘This is not the end; not for us. Not if you lot do your duty for however long it takes to beat them.’

When the war bugle sounds, Thorne is ready at the top of the wall with fiery barrels and lit up arrows, cranking shafts and pulleys and frayed ropes that just about work. He talks about leadership, belittling Jon Snow once again but Jon is quiet, bending his will towards subservience- the one thing needed right then. When talk of the crusade from behind reach their ears however, Thorne abandons the northwards-facing post atop the wall to Slynt and descends to lead his men himself. But Slynt must soon abandon his post too. Finally, finally everything about Jon Snow is to come to a head. With poor leadership and unmanned posts, Jon takes the helm atop the wall while from the north descend bulky giants and mammoths- the complete season 4 CGI budget poured down the neck of one episode in the bulwark of the wildling thrust. The wildlings begin to scale the wall and break the gate while Jon does the best he can to hold them back from above.

Down below and injured, as the Thenns and wildlings led by Tormund and facilitated by Ygritte, charge through the gates, the brothers start to fall back. Sam is there when Pyp dies in his arms and he decides that finally something more needs to be done. He surprises himself by murdering a man and encourages Ollie, the little survivor who’s dead camp had first raised the alarm at Castle Black, to pick up a sword or something and just fight. Grenn and a bunch of other young brothers die defending the gate against a giant but not before they take him down with them.

‘You know nothing Jon Snow’

Jon is the one who ultimately descends into battle and kills Magnar with a hammer through his skull. As he turns away in exhaustion, he is face-to-face with Ygritte. He laughs when he sees her holding up an arrow aimed at his heart but her split-second hesitation is enough for little Ollie to magically kill her from atop some steps with a single shoot. He sort of winks at Jon as he turns away but Jon is concerned about the woman he had loved who then dies in his arms with one last mumbling of her famous dialogue. I never liked Ygritte; not on the show, nor in the books and found her you-know-nothing-Jon-Snow to be nothing more than presumptious belaboring despite it’s irony.

‘Great victory? Mance was testing our defenses. He almost made it through. And he has more giants, he has more mammoths. He has thousand times as many men. They will hit us again tonight. And we can hold them off for a day or two but never beat them.’

Tormund is captured and led away and for the moment, the battle is at an end. Until the next night,  the brothers have been given some time to recuperate and burn their dead. There is nobody left to lead, of course; as dawn  lightens the sky Jon realizes with an eerie sense of foreboding, that they have been terribly weakened in the first day itself. Understaffed and unequipped, only a miracle or timely intervention of some sort can save them and Jon knows it. Thus he decides to go outside alone and talk to Mance. Although Sam tries to dissuade him, he soon sees that Snow is adamant to go.

‘Jon? Come back.’

Sam beseeches Jon and he gives another crinkly-eyed smile, this time there is a darkly affectionate undertone, as though he is indulging a young child’s fantasy. And then he disappears into the light.

I love how Jon Snow finally came into his element on the show too. I cannot help but maintain how I think he is one of the most resourceful characters in the series- he has leadership qualities coupled with a benevolence that makes him worth rooting for.

The question in my head is, how much are they planning on packing into the finale? There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done. Tyrion, Arya, Jon and Stannis all play a part in the conclusion of this season, and even Daenerys and her dragons are apparently a part of it (from the trailer). Are things going to be readjusted and shifted? Is the big Lady S. shock coming next week or next year? I can’t wait for next week to know how the season wraps up. It should be in for quite a packed finale.

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