Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 9 ("The Watchers on the Wall") brought us the long awaited battle between the Night's Watch and Mance's wildlings army. It was a fight four seasons in the making, and it turned out every bit as epic as we'd expected.
Need some clarity on exactly what went down in the biggest battle in the show's history? Read on for Wetpaint Entertainment's recap of the action.
We open with Jon (Kit Harington) and Sam (John Bradley) on their freezing watch, discussing girls. Sam wants to know what it's like to love a woman, and also thinks Night's Watch members are totally maybe allowed to have intimate relationships with ladies as long as they don't marry them or get them pregnant. He's actually right, if you want to be super literal about their vows. Not that it matters, 'cause he never did anything with Gilly, which is why he wants Jon's input in the first place. Jon tries to describe love and lovemaking, but quickly gives up with a "Well, I don't know, I'm not a bleeding poet."
Meanwhile, over in the Wildling camp, Tormund is claiming to have fucked a bear, but Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is in no mood to hear it. She's clearly carrying around a lot of pent up anger, but Styr isn't convinced she'll be able to kill Jon when push comes to shove. She's not having that, either; in fact, she declares that Jon is hers and hers alone to kill. This was not the right woman to score, Jon.
Later, Maester Aemon catches Sam sneaking around the library at night, reading. Quite the rule breaker, that Sam. He's reading up on Wildlings, and Maester Aemon calls him out for worrying about Gilly. He reminisces about the good old days when he was still Aemon Targaryen and all the girls wanted a piece of him. He was also in love, once upon a time. "Nothing makes the past a sweeter place to visit than the prospect of imminent death," he concludes before ending the conversation.
That works out for Sam, because as he's leaving the library he hears Gilly at the gate. He insists that she be let in, and promises that he'll keep her at Castle Black, which probably would be a more comforting thought if it weren't about to, you know, be attacked by a giant army.
Which it is, because Mance has lit his giant fire and is blowing the horn of war.
This is it folks. Time for the good stuff.
Preparation for Battle
Well, almost time for the good stuff, anyway. First the Night's Watch has some time to prep. They load up barrels of explosives and such, and Alliser Thorne even has time to remind Jon that he really, really doesn't like him, even if they do need to work together at the moment.
Sam stores Gilly somewhere safe in the castle, and when she tries to convince him not to fight he insists he has to, because that's what men do. To prove how very manly he is, he grabs her and kisses her. Go Sam! She makes him promise not to die.
This is all very well and good, but can we please get to the fighting already?
Yes, yes we can. The Wildlings finally get the move on, and it's an intimidating sight. Giants, mammoths, a whole army of angry men ready to bring it — Mance has created quite the fighting force. The Night's Watch, meanwhile, has, um, Alliser to inspire them. Yeah, not very confidence inspiring.
On the other hand, they also have the Wall to help them, which allows them to rain down firey arrows on the army. That's something, but the fact of the matter is that Mance's force is huge, and eventually they're going to be able to break into the tunnels that Alliser refused to block up a few episodes ago.
Speaking of Alliser and his poor leadership, he's left the top of the Wall to go deal with Tormund and co., who are breaching from the south. He even makes a semi-inspiring speech: "Tonight we fight. And when the sun rises, I promise you, Castle Black will stand! The Night's Watch will stand!" Great. You'll live for one night, guys. Yay?
Back at the top of the Wall, Janos Slynt proves useless (we get that giants are from stories, dude, but there are some literally right in front of your eyes, so now is not the time to deny their existence) and eventually gets called away, leaving Jon in de facto charge.
What comes next is a whole lot of action. Bloody, brutal, and almost overwhelming, in a good way. All the key players are hacking away, and shooting arrows, and sympathetic side characters are getting killed. There are major losses on both sides, but Mance's crew just keeps coming. The whole thing is very Helm's Deep 2.0, but it's certainly an impressive spectacle for TV.
Notable moments include Alliser and Tormund facing off (Tormund gets the better of him), Sam killing a Thenn like a badass, and a mammoth and a giant getting blown up while trying to take out the tunnel gate.
Sam eventually calls Jon down from the top of the Wall to help deal with things in the castle proper, since apparently everyone has just accepted that Jon should be in charge. He gets down from the Wall just in time to get attacked by Styr, who he manages to kill in a hardcore fight... only to come face-to-face with Ygritte, who has an arrow aimed right at him.
Would she be willing to kill him? We'll never know, because that little boy whose family she murdered a while back puts an arrow through her first. She dies in Jon's arms, telling him one last time, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." Sniff.
In the end, the Night's Watch wins the night, and Tormund is even captured, but as Jon despondently points out, that doesn't mean much. Maybe the Night's Watch can last another day or two, but Mance's army is too big; they can't win this way. So instead he's going to, um, go assassinate Mance. Yep. That's it. Just go out and assassinate the leader of this huge army somehow. That's his entire idea.
Sam thinks this isn't a very sound strategy, and Jon agrees that it's a bad plan. But it's the only plan they've got, so he's going to do it. So the gate is raised, and out he goes.
Final Notes and Thoughts
- Jon, Summing up how screwed they really are: "Those are giants riding mammoths down there!"
- Sam to Jon: "Jon? Come back." We love their friendship.
- We could have done with a little more time spent on Ygritte before she died.
- Those wide shots of the scenery were fantastic.
- At one point Jon rolled through fire without a problem. More fuel for the "Jon is a secret Targ theory?"
What did you think of of this episode? Let us know in the comments below!