This was by far my favorite Game of Thrones episode so far this season, perhaps the entire series. I enjoyed the locational focus, which allowed for watchers to experience the visual text much like the actual book. In the text, readers are allowed to narrow our scope to a single area for an entire chapter before moving on to a different environment. I have made no secret of the fact that Jon Snow is my favorite character, and I was pleased the show finally showed us more than Jon getting yelled at, Jon not being listened to or Jon generally being hated by the everyone at and Beyond the Wall. I almost wish that the show would focus on one location per episode, moving fluidly between the Seven Kingdoms episodically, but I realize that is asking a lot of audiences to remember details so few and far between. To be honest, it is difficult as a reader, also, but oh-so fulfilling. To the North!
We have watched the friendship between Jon Snow and Samwell Tarley grow over the past 3 seasons, and as Jon has become a stronger leader, Sam also is learning who he is and what he is capable of. Jon Snow is a man of loyalty, if nothing else. He may have deserted with Ygritte and the Wildlings, but only because Halfhand told him to. Since he’s returned from Beyond the Wall, Jon has been able to do nothing but wait for the inevitable attack, preparing his brothers although none but Sam, Grenn and Pyp seem to believe in him at all. Still, Jon is capable of great leadership, if he can come to understand what kind of leader he needs to be in order to guide the Night’s Watch through the Wildling attacks. Sam, on the other hand, is no leader, but he is not “nothing” as he surmises to Pyp on top of the Wall. Sam, who once had nothing to live for–no one to be brave for–now has Gilly and little Sam. When Sam and Maester Aemon discuss the importance of love versus duty, and soon after he finds Gilly has indeed escaped the attack at Mole’s Town, it seems Sam makes his decision to choose love. When Sam promises Gilly he will return from the fight safely and then HE DOES.
Oh, I ship it.
It seems Sam’s life has just become much more complicated–as a wife and child are against Night’s Watch vows–but those two are just too adorable together, I can’t help but have a wee bit of hope for them.
When the Wildlings attack the Wall, it is with 1000 to 1 fighters from a 100 different tribes, all united under Mance Rayder. As they prepare for the attack, audiences not only see the united tribes, but spot a glimpse of a mysterious shadowy figure, running with what looks to be a baby. Is this a White Walker?? Audiences also get the chance to see the individuals within the mass of Free Peoples for the first time this season–we see a Warg manifesting his powers in an owl perched on the Wall near Sam and Jon, there are Wildlings and cannibals in the courtyard of Castle Black, while mammoths and giants fight to take control of the tunnel’s outer gate. Yes, the same tunnel Jon Snow told Alliser Thorne to seal a few episodes ago. While Alliser admits freely his hate for Jon Snow, he also readily admits that he was wrong. Alliser tells Jon that a leader must be able to lead in the face of young know-it-alls and be ready to back up one’s decisions. While the temporary Lord Commander is still a huge ass to my bae Jon Snow, we finally get to see why Alliser has risen in the ranks of the Night’s Watch. He is brave, organized and an example of fearlessness in the face of imminent death and danger. When he sees the Wildlings taking the main gate, he descends the Wall to fight, leaving Janos Slynt in charge of Jon and the others up top. Janos quickly proves to be as bad a leader as Alliser is decent, making the Brothers nervous and expressing doubt at their ability even in the midst of battle and, bless his heart, Grenn creates an excuse for Janos to descend the Wall. The man quickly runs to the same basement where Gilly and baby Sam are sequestered, tucked away until Sam comes to tell them the fight is over. In his stead, Jon Snow takes control of the Night’s Watch, dividing the troops as evenly as possible, and sending Grenn and 5 other brothers down to protect the tunnel.
KNOCK. DRAW. LOOSE!
As always, Game of Thrones knows how to kill off characters in the bloodiest way possible. Ygritte and the Wildlings reek havoc on the Night’s Watch; and while Sam and Pyp fight against invasion, Pyp takes an arrow to the throat, care of Ygritte. Sam holds his friend as the life leaves him, but still has the state of mind to keep his bow aimed, killing a fairly large, bald headed cannibal Wildling and proving once again his badassery. The Crows at the Wall are a clusterfuck of good intention; when they begin to lose faith in the face of an angry giant who breeches the gates, Grenn’s group at the tunnel recites the vows of the Night’s Watch:
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
And, while they are terrified, the Crows hold the gate, Grenn and others dying to protect the Wall and keep their vows.
The Crows are not the only ones losing soldiers. The Wildlings are beaten back by the oil, fire, arrows and fury of the Night’s Watch at the Wall. Jon asks Sam to let Ghost loose, and our favorite direwolf starts fucking shit up, straight away going for the throat of a Wildling and tearing him apart. Audiences see once again the boy who escaped the cannibal Wildlings when Jon Snow tells him to pick up a weapon and fight. The boy is scared but brave, and so when Jon Snow and Ygritte finally face off, it is fitting that the boy put an arrow through Ygritte to “save” Jon Snow. Ygritte is complex–she swore to her tribe that she had an arrow for Jon Snow, but when the time comes, the two face off like star-crossed lovers, smiling goofily and genuinely happy to be reunited until Ygritte takes an arrow in the chest. While Ygritte was by no means a villainous character, she herself admits to killing as many if not more Crows than her cannibal cohorts. She is a killer, and while things are not always black and white in the Game of Thrones, they are at the Wall. She is a Wildling attempting to take the Wall and the Night’s Watch has to stop her by any means necessary. Her death becomes the catalyst for Jon Snow to fully commit to a leadership role at the Wall, and, when Jon decides to venture North of the Wall to find Mance Rayder, it is not only to save himself and his brothers, but to preserve the way of life in the Seven Kingdoms.
YOU KNOW NOTHING JON SNOW!
The Collectiva Diva