So, that was the biggest battle “Game of Thrones” has ever done, huh? “The Watchers On The Wall” ably follows up to the legacy director Neil Marshall started with the previous record holder, “Blackwater” back in season two; and trumped it.
Here’s every big moment on the biggest episode ever:
Boys Will Be Boys
The episode opens up with a number of dude chats, as both sides — the Wildling armies on either side of the Wall, and the Night’s Watch at Castle Black — prepare for the conflict they all know is coming.
But first: bro time.
Samwell talks to Jon Snow about what it’s like to have sex, asking pertinent questions like, “How big were her feet?” But really he’s asking about himself and Gilly, going as far as to explain that having sex is, “open to interpretation from the vows” of the Night’s Watch. It’s not losing your virginity if you do it up the butt, right Sam?
Speaking of which, over on the Wildling side Tormund is telling a story about the time he had sex with a bear, and Ygritte is having none of it. The Thenns, including their leader Styr, think she’s upset because they have to go fight Jon Snow, her former lover, but she defers. And later, dies, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
And the last dude chat is between Maester Aemon and Samwell, where the old blind man essentially high fives Sam and tell him to go for it. But the most surprising revelation?
Daenerys Ain’t The Last Targaryen
Aemon is the last Targaryen, as he tangentially explains. For those not in on the back-story, the blind Maester Aemon is the brother of Aegon, a man who would go on to father the man known as The Mad King. Aemon could have been King, but decided to leave for The Wall instead.
Once he left, Aegon died and Aerys became king, leading to Ned Stark and Robert Barantheon teaming up to take him down, Jaime killing Aerys, the Targaryen’s getting exiled, and every goddamn awful thing that’s happened on the show.
To sum up: if Aemon hadn’t left for the Wall, none of this show would have happened.
Sam Gets His Groove For The First Time Ever Back
Sam kisses Gilly! A smoocheroo, for real! And then he’s positively sassy for the rest of the episode, giving orders, cracking jokes, and killing Thenns. If he ever has sex, he’s going to be unstoppable.
The Battle Begins
Once the fight starts about 15 minutes into the episode, it’s pretty much non-stop from there. Alliser Thorne, to his credit, gets the Night’s Watch going and commands the troops. He even jumps into the front of the fray, before getting wounded by Tormund and taken out of the battle.
On the other hand, Janos Slynt shows his true colors, running to hide in the same room as Gilly is hiding in. Women and Slynts first, I guess?
On Top Of The Wall
Though most of the character drama takes place down below, all the killer action sequences are on top of the Wall.
In rough order: the men hang horizontally off the Wall, so they can fire flame arrows directly down on Wildlings trying to scale the ice; they drop flaming frickin’ barrels on top of a frickin’ mammoth, scaring it off and nearly killing a giant; and they drop a giant scythe/anchor in a descending arc to literally wipe the Wildlings off the Wall.
Though they’re eventually left in a situation where the Wildlings still outnumber them 1,000 to 1, we’re beginning to understand why the Night’s Watch has, historically, been so hard to beat.
Tunnel Of Love
On the bottom of the wall, a giant, anguished over his fellow giant getting killed, picks up the gate to the inside of Castle Black with his bare hands, and charges a small group of Night’s Watchmen. In a truly heroic act, they stand their ground, chanting the Night’s Watch oath and taking down the giant — though at the cost of their own lives. Sob.
Tracking That Shot
Just to show off a bit, Marshall frames the fight at the bottom of the Wall in one, long tracking shot. Zipping from place to place, showing the sheer scale of the battle, it’s a bravura moment that seamlessly shows off the awesome sword-fighting on display.
You Know Nothing
And then it happens. Jon fights Styr one on one, ending the cannibal Wildling’s life with a well placed hammer to the head… Only to turn around, and see Ygritte aiming an arrow at Jon. Would she fire? Could she kill him?
We never find out, because she gets shot through the heart, and one of the other Night’s Watchmen is to blame. Jon cradles her body, near tears as the battle rages behind them. “You remember that cave? We should have stayed in that cave,” Ygritte tells Jon.
“We’ll go back there,” Jon says, winking at the audience because we all know he’s setting up her patented catchphrase.
“I hate Mondays,” Ygritte says, the life disappearing from her eyes. Jon places her body in a pan of lasagna, and mails her to Abu Dhabi.
More Like Tormund Giants LAME
The Wildlings on the South side of the Wall are beaten, and only Tormund is left alive. Perhaps because of what they shared North of the Wall, or perhaps because of his sweet, sweet beard, Jon throws him in chains, sparing his life and holding him for questioning.
Regardless, I’m looking forward to Tormund hanging around, even if his situation has changed dramatically.
Time To Take The Fight To Them
Knowing nothing, and also that the Night’s Watch can’t beat Mance Rayder’s army in the long run, Jon does the only dramatically cool/responsible thing and heads North to take on the Wildling leader, one on one.
Does this make sense, particularly with Jon telling Sam that there’s no one else left to lead? Can Jon even work his way through an entire army to find Mance and kill him? And would the army stop, even then? All I know is, we only have one episode left to find out.
Next week, season finale time! But before that, what did you think of the Battle of Castle Black?