With all the responsibility that the Night’s Watch has, it is important to remember that the men who fill their ranks aren’t proud volunteers. They are some of the worst criminals and reprobates in all of the realm. It is these men that are asked to defend the rest of the kingdom from things that go bump in the night. The stories we heard about the scary people beyond the wall was one thing, but last night’s penultimate Game of Thrones episode, titled The Watchers on the Wall, featured those ghouls come to life. The Wilding attack was upon us, and they brought with them Giants riding Mastodons.
The entire episode was devoted to the Night’s Watch vs. the Wildings, a rarity for Game of Thrones. The action was all over the place, including one great continuous shot of the battle across Castle Black, but the storyline never left the Wall. We heard nothing from Tyrion, Dany, or the rest of the extended cast. Not even a quick post mortem on Oberyn’s eye popping demise. Everything this week was at the Wall.
The Wildings have a clever plan to sack Castle Black. The Wilding party of Tormund, Ygritte, and those flesh eating Thenns will attack the Castle from the rear, while Mance will lead a direct assault on the Wall with thousands of men. The Thenns have a warg who can see through the eyes of an owl. The warg scouts the area, and when Mance’s army is spotted by the men on the Wall, the secret attack will begin. Mance, obviously wanting to make a grand entrance, sets fire to most of the woods in front of the Wall. The bonfires help illuminate the sheer size of the attacking army.
Before the attack officially commences Gilly arrives at Castle Black, safe from the Wilding attack last week. Sam takes ownership over Gilly’s safety and finally professes his love for her. He locks her and the baby in a safe room, and promises he will return to her. Sam grew up during this episode, and his choices with Gilly represented one big change for him. Ygritte meanwhile is scouting the Castle grounds, and the Wilding party is ready for their sneak attack. After being taunted for loving a Crow, Ygritte gets pissed and promises that she will kill Jon Snow. With that the attack is on.
While the Wildings attack from the rear, Mance’s first line moves towards the Ice Door. Jon said that entrance should have been sealed due to threat of attack, but he was overruled by the leaders at Castle Black. Leading the way towards the door are the much talked about Giants. At first glance they looked like over-sized David Crosby inspired creations, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. One of the Giants even gets to ride on a Mastodon for even more ridiculousness. The Giants and company reach the gate and attach chains to the bars. All at once the Giants and animals work together at pulling the gate apart. The Night’s Watch drop barrels of oil onto the attackers to repel them, and it sends them running.
During their flight one of the Giants is killed, and the other Giant doesn’t take too kindly to that. He lifts the gate up just enough so that he can get into the tunnel. It takes a group of good men to stop the Giant dead, but it is clear that leaving this tunnel unblocked will be the Achilles heel of the defenses. Alliser Thorne admits as much to Jon Snow before he leaves his post to go help out the men below fight off Tormund and Ygritte’s raiding party.
That leave Janos Slynt in charge of the Wall, but he is clearly not up for it. He’s told that Throne needs him down at the base, and makes his withdrawal from the Wall. Slynt is so frightened of what he finds when he lands at the base of the Wall that he runs and locks himself into the same storeroom that Gilly is hiding in. When Thorne goes down from a bad wound it leaves only Jon Snow in charge of defending the Wall.
Jon makes his way down to the base floor where he has a brutal fight with the leader of the Thenns. Jon almost gets killed, but puts a hammer into the Thenn’s skull to end the contest. It is then when he is trying to catch his breath that he realizes that Ygritte is standing there with him dead to rights. Her bow is cocked and ready, but yet she hesitates. She talked a big game about killing Jon, but face to face she is brought back to their magical time in the caves. Right before she can kill Jon an arrow goes into her heart, and she falls to the ground. Ygritte dies in Jon’s arms, another casualty of the attack.
The battle eventually wraps up with Jon and the men holding the Castle, but only for one night. Jon knows that Mance won’t stop because of a minor setback. With a limited number of men and weapons, Jon decides the only way to truly save his people is by going to see Mance. He’ll either convince him not to attack or kill him. Either way Jon thinks that is the right path for him to take. Our last view of him is with Sam watching from the tunnel as Jon heads out to meet with the King of the Wildings.
This episode shows what storytelling Game of Thrones can do when story is forced to stay in one place. Lots on tape for next week’s season finale, including Tyrion’s fate. Also no finale is complete without another great Dragon scene.
Did you enjoy this week’s episode?