GAME OF THRONES Recap: “The Watchers on the Wall”

     June 8, 2014


Like in “Blackwater,” which chronicled the massive Battle of Blackwater Bay, Game of Thrones allowed “The Watchers on the Wall” (also directed by Neil Marshall) to exclusively focus on a battle.  It also topped “Blackwater” in terms of expense, but did the show do enough to build up the Night’s Watch’s story to make it resonate emotionally as well as visually?  Hit the jump for why “when you’re nothing at all, there’s no more reason to be afraid.”

game-of-thrones-season-4-final-posterIn terms of action, “The Watchers on the Wall” was great (particularly that long, panning shot of the siege itself within the walls of Castle Black — it almost felt like a video game).  The budget had its limitations, but Marshall worked around it in ways that made sense.  In terms of the book, things looked almost exactly as they were described, and the visuals of the giants and mastodons were excellent additions to Game of Thrones‘ canon of monsters.  They also made believers out of the men of the Night’s Watch: these are not just fairy tales.  They are real, walking nightmares.

The thing is, the show hasn’t spent much time at Castle Black lately, outside of the mutiny (which took place at Craster’s Keep).  The narrative there hasn’t seemed to advance almost at all, particularly regarding the Wildling threat.  When Ygritte popped up in the previews after the last episode, I’m sure there were a lot of viewers who forgot she was a person we’re supposed to know (and for book readers it was just a reminder that she was still alive).  Castle Black just simply isn’t as exciting as many other parts of Westeros, so it makes some sense not to linger there for too long.  Still, I’m not convinced the show did enough to build this battle up, especially when the momentum has been with Tyrion and the story in King’s Landing for the past few episodes.  When even is the last time we saw Mance Rayder, the Wildling leader, onscreen?

“The Watchers on the Wall” did take some pauses in the carnage to allow for good character moments, like Sam discovering that Gilly and her baby were still alive, as well as his conversation with Maester Aemon in the library.  As mentioned last week, Game of Thrones is really at its best when it’s an acting showcase.  These conversations between characters are what make the show so compelling, and what make its world so rich.  The battle had some very cool shots (the ice anchor, the beasts, the explosions), but Aemon’s quiet words to Sam, Sam’s later promise to Gilly, and Grenn holding the gate were the moments that, narratively and emotionally, grounded the show in something deeper.

game-of-thrones-the-watchers-on-the-wallAlthough, speaking of narratives, A Storm of Swords‘ version of the Battle of Castle Black was very different than what happened onscreen.  This really shouldn’t be a surprise — there’s long been a growing changes between the source material and the TV show.  Some changes, like making the battle only last one night before Jon went to seek Mance instead of for several days makes complete budgetary sense.  Tweaks like showing Janos Slynt to be a total coward are also fine — he’s a cretan, and what better way to illustrate it?  But to kill Pyp and Grenn, and to make Alliser Thorne out to be some kind of hero in battle — not to mention Jon not doing a damn thing throughout most of the battle, and then going AWOL afterwards to talk to Mance himself? — these decisions don’t seem to have much merit.  Killing Pyp and Green seemed cheap ways to elicit feelings in this hour, especially when their characters could have been (and in other tellings of the same story, are) useful in the future as important (and few) allies for Jon.  And Jon going to Mance on his own instead of being sent (in the hopes he would die) very much changes the underlying politics at Castle Black.

Further, Ygritte’s death in the books was a sad and shocking (though not completely unexpected) outcome and end.  But here, Ygritte hadn’t even been on screen meaningfully in so long that it was more surprising just to see her at all.  For a final farewell though, she did get her due.  Not only did she stand up to the Thenns, she was an arrow-wielding badass throughout the battle.  Her final “you know nothing, Jon Snow” words were perfect, but emotionally, it didn’t feel like the build-up was quite there.

“The Watchers on the Wall” was disjointed in the flow of the season.  It felt saved for the penultimate episode just because there’s an expectation that that is where it should go, because that’s what prior seasons have done, rather than it being the best place for it. Game of Thrones is (in)famous for throwing viewers off track, with shocking twists and surprises at every turn.  Why not mix it up here?

game-of-thrones-the-watchers-on-the-wall-1This isn’t to say that “The Watchers on the Wall” was a bad episode, because it wasn’t.  It just didn’t feel like it had the support it needed to make it epic.  In “Blackwater,” the things that resonated and had a lot of repercussions in later episodes included the Hound leaving Joffrey, Tyrion saving the city (and paying a high price), and Cersei’s “suicide room,” filled with women from the castle including Sansa, whom she drunkenly preached to.  “The Watchers on the Wall” didn’t seem to have those complex character moments to really offset the battle.  And when the show starts killing off even more characters that George R. R. Martin, one just has to wonder.

Episode Rating: Action: A, Characters That Are Not Sam: B-,  Sam: A+

Musings and Miscellanea:

– Jon really was useless here.  He is not the hero of this series, as far as the TV show is concerned.

– “Love is the death of duty” – Aemon.

– I loved Sam getting sassy with Pyp at the gate, even cursing! (Oh my!)

– Why did they kill Pyp and Grenn though, why?  I mean, I get it in the short term — Pyp saying he thought he would die actually created some sense of terror on a show where death is so commonplace.  There’s just no forward-thinking in that decision, though.

– The music was on point in this episode.  It was ghoulish.

– “I know you never fucked a bear, you know you never fucked a bear, I don’t want to hear about the bear you never fucked” – Ygritte.

– “Remember when we were in the cave?  Like 2 seasons ago?  That was me.  Now I’m dying, so you should all be sad” — Ygritte, er, paraphrased.

game-of-thrones-the-watchers-on-the-wall-2– What is the brained count this season?  It must be high.  Nice short brutal fight between Jon and the Thenn, though.

– Ygritte was right though, they should have stayed in that cave.

– “Ginger minge” was killing me.

– What was your favorite “redshirt” death in this episode?  Everyone getting wiped off the Wall was a nice touch, but I think I have to go with the guy who got the giant’s arrow that shot him over the entire Wall.

– The giants kind of made a sound like a wookie.

– The “previously on” had to show that clip of Mance (the only time I even remember him onscreen) talking about the fire again so that the giant one they showed this time made more of an impact.  I guess.  “Oh, that fire!”

– “Nothing makes the past sweeter than the prospect of imminent death. Go to bed, Tarley” – Aemon.

– “Light the fuckers up” – Edd.

– “You know nothing, Jon Snow” – Ygritte.

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  • Daniel O’Reilly

    I would have liked to see this episode much earlier, the way it is in the book (it’s literally one of the first 2 or 3 Jon chapters). There’s so much more that happens at Castle Black in Storm of Swords, and it feels like the show is either going to either write around a lot of it or push it to next season.

    Another example of material at the Wall getting pushed back: Maester Aemon is revealed to be a Targaryen way back in the very first book in the series, and this bit of information only just now made it into the show. Not that it was essential to anything, but it is such a nice revelation I’m surprised it didn’t come up before now.

    Overall, a bit of a let down compared to the previous three season’s penultimate episodes.

    • John Locke

      This was done in the second season of the show.

      • Daniel O’Reilly

        Really? Which episode?

      • JeffNector

        Season 1, when Jon finds out that Ned’s been imprisoned. Aemon is tending to the ravens, and reveals his heritage to tell Jon that he’s not the only one who has struggled to keep his vows to the NW.

      • Daniel O’Reilly

        Ohh. Right. I had forgotten. That was before I started reading the books.

      • Sweet Pea

        LOL. Epic fail. I wish this weeks episode had been that epic.

      • Daniel O’Reilly

        Personally, I prefer an occasional epic fail to being a not so epic troll.

      • Sweet Pea

        Who’s trolling? It is true, that was pretty bad. You ranted, but failed to realise what you were ranting about already happened. Made me LOL anyway, so cheers mate.

    • JeffNector

      This battle also occurs fairly late in a Storm of Swords, definitely not in the first few chapters. Storm of Swords begins with him meeting Mance, and an awful lot transpired between then and this battle. I actually don’t think a whole lot happened at Castle Black, because we barely see it again before the battle starts. That said, I do think they should have placed this episode more around episode 5 this season.

      Also, Maester Aemon revealed himself to Jon in season 1. It was only a reminder in this episode (and, of course, functioned for the story he told).

      • Daniel O’Reilly

        I guess what I meant to say was, it’s “early” in the second half of the book this season is based on (chapter 55; season three covered up until around chapter 50) Had the episode been placed earlier this season, it would have resonated more after Jon and Ygritte had their falling out at the end of last season.

        There are some significant events at the Wall in chapters 65, 69, 73, 76, and 80. And none of those things have happened this season (though a couple have all ready been skipped).

    • the king of comedy

      I agree they should have build up the conflict against the wildings a little more with the battle against Ygritt`s group much earlier in the season and let someone like Allyster Thorne be the one that kills her. It seems like they kept Ygritt alive until this episode just so they could have a tragic death in the 9th episode as usual, but this time it didn`t work so well, since the series didn`t show her that much many viewers forgot about her. It would have been much more tragic to show her as a regular until the 5th episode and then kill her. Still it was a great episode as usual but I would rank it below every 9th episode from previous seasons.

    • smtsinha07
  • Redjester

    Astoundingly great battle sequences. Aside from killing off a couple of the characters unexpectedly, they did the books right.

    Also, anyone else seriously loving the f*ck out of ‘Halt and Catch Fire’? Such a cool show. Lee Pace is like a more refined and polished John Cusack.

    • Daniel O’Reilly

      Halt is great. Allison, now that you don’t have Sillicon Valley (or GOT after next week), you should recap it each week.

      • Redjester

        Agreed. Make it happen, Allison!

        P.S. I’m seriously considering making the Halt and Catch Fire’s intro music my ringtone.

    • LEM

      The previews for “Halt and Catch Fire” didn’t seem interesting enough to bother watching. These other shows are ending their seasons so I’ll have to check it out.

      • the king of comedy

        As a book reader, I can tell you that episode 10 has the potential to be the best episode of the season, you definitelly need to se it. The best episodes so far have been the The Mountain and The Viper, The Purple Wedding, Tyrion`s trial and the Battle at the wall and this episode could top them all.

      • Gold-Shitter

        This man is absolutely correct!! When I saw that cross bow my heart was all a flutter!

      • Daan

        If you’re talking about what I think you are, then unfortunately I think they’re gonna push that to the first episode of season 5, like the Purple Wedding was the beginning of this season

      • the king of comedy

        Maybe you are right, there are many important things that should go down in episode 10 in order to conclude ASOS storyline, we already know something will happen with Bran, Daenerys, Brienne, and still need to finish the story about Stannis, Jhon, Tyrion and Kingps Landing in general, Arya and The Hound, I don`t expecto anymore Sansa and Ramsay in this episode and hopefully the season will end with LS.

      • Gold Shitter

        I agree theres alot to be done this episode but I see that happening at the the very end of the episode. Cat needs to make her way over the pond and teeth grinder needs to put his galoshes on. Otherwise way too many threads hanging for next season.

  • BigJimSlade

    “Further, Ygritte’s death in the books was a sad and shocking (though not
    completely unexpected) outcome and end. But here, Ygritte hadn’t even
    been on screen meaningfully in so long that it was more surprising just
    to see her at all.”

    You sure you remember Ygritte in the book? Just like in the show, she hadn’t been that much a part of the story in the recent timeline, John just discovers her. Hardly dramatic, though her last line in the book about staying in the caves was better…

    • Luka Nieto

      It was exactly the same line.

  • Matt Goldberg

    I couldn’t agree more with this recap. For all of the action, there wasn’t a single moment that was as effective as last week’s fight between Oberyn and the Mountain.

    • Redjester

      Agreed, but a one-on-one fight to the death with not just one, but two beloved characters lives on the line (Tyrion and The Viper) is always going to resonate more emotionally effectively than a massive spectacle of a fight akin to Lord of the Rings.

      Still doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exceptional battle inside an exceptional episode, because it was.

      I’d also like to point out that if Sam or Ghost had been killed off prior to John leaving the wall to find Mance, you might have come away feeling a little differently.

      • Daz

        Absolutely, Redjester. The emotional target that was set-up in ep 8 was completely different to that of Watchers On The Walls, and I thought each met the goals sought for.

        I think parts of this review miss the point. That there was an intermittant set-up for this battle gives aid to the overall theme: One, hugely important situation is going on at the Wall yet everyone else is involved in their own, smaller dramas. Jon Snow isn’t the hero? He offered a fair amount of heroic moments I thought, And this series isn’t about indefatigable hero’s anyway – that’s maybe the most obvious thing about Game Of Thrones.

        Episode probably deserved a B+ (A for action is spot-on) grade overall – but maybe that was the medium that was implied. If so, good work!

      • LEM

        Was Oberyn really beloved? He was a cool character but was barely in the show enough time to make a difference. I think the actor did an amazing job with the little he had to do.

      • Peter J4

        Beloved is in the eye of the beholder – I think the only two big fan favorites on this show are Tyrion and Arya – but he was extremely popular.

    • demonicstrawberry

      I couldn’t disagree more with the recap. Allison (and others) whine and gripe whenever the series spends time with Jon at the Wall; now Allison whines and gripes that not enough time was spent at the Wall to build up for this episode! Sometimes I think recappers, like critics, try to nitpick just for the sake of nitpicking. Gotta justify the existence of her column, right?

      Saying Jon Snow was useless is pretty much the dumbest thing Allison has written yet this season.

      Outstanding episode. A+.

      • Spanky

        How as he not useless? He barely did anything until he went down to fight

        And your comment about nitpickers all the while doing the exact same thing

      • Ashley Renee

        Jon took command of the wall and gave orders. No one was doing anything after Alliser went down to fight the raiders and left Janos in charge. Janos sucked so Jon took charge. Maybe it didn’t look like he was doing anything because he didn’t directly kill anyone from atop the wall but that’s because he wasn’t an archer.

        His actions as a leader might have resonated more in the book, because Alliser and Janos weren’t even at the battle so there was no one to officially give orders until Jon steps up.

  • verasgunn

    That one guy getting killed by the massive Giant’s arrow made me laugh so damn hard.

    • Redjester

      Yeah, that could have easily been straight out of Lord of the Rings. One of those realistic yet absurd yet brilliant moments of this episode of which there were many!

      • Dan

        I felt a strong Helms Deep draw in this episode… in the best kind of way.

  • brNdon

    I feel like the could have cut this battle up with scenes from other storylines.

  • LEM

    When Ygritte was killed and the kid gave Jon the “I got ya bro” nod I laughed my head off.

    • Redjester

      Yeah, that cracked me up also. The kid finally garners up the courage to do something other than cower in the corner and who does he kill? None other than Jon Snow’s girl before nodding at JS like he did him a favor, lol.

  • Peter J4

    – Jon really was useless here. He is not the hero of this series, as far as the TV show is concerned.

    Surely the whole point of the books and the show is that there ARE no heroes?

    I don’t agree that he was useless. He was the one who tried to get them into action, he was the one who trained most of them, he killed one of the most dangerous of their foes.

    The episode had its flaws, but I get the feeling that the recap is based largely on how you feel about Jon. There are characters on this show who bore me or annoy me, so I guess I’d feel the same way about them if they had an entire episode. Oh well.

    • Sweet Pea

      You just don’t get it, do you.


      Jon has clearly been written to be the Hero. If you actually read the books, then you should know all the shit he does makes him a hero.

  • Thizzle

    Was I the only one waiting for Gandalf to magically appear and save the Wall from being attacked? xD

  • Stefan Bonomo

    Was it just me, or was there a lot more referencing to the book than normally. Usually these recaps talk about what happened in the show, and maybe hinting about something changed. This recap was mostly just saying what the book did right and the show did wrong. I completely understand your opinion on the episode, but if you’re gonna reference the novel alot, you should’ve done it more in previous recaps.

    Also, something I noticed, even though I believe that Blackwater is still the better episode, this episode actually killed off 3 name characters we know, Ygritte, Pyp, & Thenn. Who died at Blackwater? Davos’ son? And who else? Just an observation.


    • the king of comedy

      Even tough no major character died in Blackwater, that episode was much better, probably because the characters in King`s Landing are a lot more interesting, The Hound was incredible, amazing scenes like everyone`s favorite character (Tyrion) taking a major role on battle and everyone`s most hated character (Jeoffrey) leaving the battlefield scared were awesome, even Stanis was a badass in this episode, Cersei and Sansa`s little talks in beetwen were great and that final shot when Cercei is about to kill Tomen until Tywin saves the day is chilling. In this episode, I didn`t care much about Jhon`s friends on the show since they have a little role in the series, and I think it would have been more effective killing Ygritt earlier on the season (as happens in the books), since by now most viewers forgot about her after her brief appearence during this season.

    • the king of comedy

      Even tough no major character died in Blackwater, that episode was much better, probably because the characters in King`s Landing are a lot more interesting, The Hound was incredible, amazing scenes like everyone`s favorite character (Tyrion) taking a major role on battle and everyone`s most hated character (Jeoffrey) leaving the battlefield scared were awesome, even Stanis was a badass in this episode, Cersei and Sansa`s little talks in beetwen were great and that final shot when Cercei is about to kill Tomen until Tywin saves the day is chilling. In this episode, I didn`t care much about Jhon`s friends on the show since they have a little role in the series, and I think it would have been more effective killing Ygritt earlier on the season (as happens in the books), since by now most viewers forgot about her after her brief appearence during this season.

      • Stefan Bonomo

        True, and I agree that Blackwater is not only better than this, but it’s my favourite episode period because of these reasons. Although, with all the characters that come in, leave for a long time, and come back, Ygritte’s probably one of the only one people didn’t forget about as they’ve shown her in the past few episodes, and she was so memorable as Jon’s “girlfriend” in Season 3 that I think they handled her death well enough that it was powerful. And this is coming from someone who knew it was coming.

      • agent777

        Season 2 pissed me off to no end, but the Blackwater had me jumping and cheering like I was watching a football game. That’s the mark of a good episode.

  • the king of comedy

    I liked the episode overall, but I guess I was a little dissapointed it wasn`t as good as the 9th episode of previous seasons, still this season is amazing, and episode 10 has the potential to be its best episode yet.

  • Wega

    Useless? Do you even see the photos in your review? Because there’s one of Jhon kicking all kinds of ass. I don’t like the idea of him going AWOL, but he saved the day in more than one way. The kid is a flaw, thou. It makes a lot of more sense that Ygritte gets wounded of-camera and Jon goes to check if the arrow was one of his. The final line was delivered flawlessly. I think this was a far more interesting battle than the Blackwater, if not because that other had so many important names: Tyrion, Joffrey, Cersei, Sansa, Stannis…

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  • agent777

    “But to kill Pyp and Grenn, and to make Alliser Thorne out to be some kind of hero in battle”

    I would like to thank you. I have only been reading your reviews, as I had a feeling the show was going to start doing things like this (not to mention spoiling things from books that haven’t come out yet) so I haven’t been watching. I have read your reviews to confirm whether or not I’ve missed anything, and I haven’t. Thanks for saving me the time and stress of watching.

    I have decided to start watching the show again after all the books have come out, which will be a long time, but I’ll at least have some TV saved on the back burner.

    If you a fanatic and haven’t read the books, quite cheating yourselves. The show is already on material from book five, so you truly won’t be spoiling anything for yourselves AND you’ll just learn more about a story you clearly like alot.

    • PProph

      From a long time fan of the books I’d like to say that Ygritte’s death scene was executed unbelievably well. Knowing that the books will differ from the tv show in many of the small details is the first thing book fans need to come to grips with, it’s the big picture that matters. For me it was a strong emotional impact (even though I knew it was coming) from a sub plot with characters that as a reader I had become emotionally invested in. It was very well acted, the final lines were done with great delivery.

      This is a perfect example of how great a show Game of Thrones really is. I’ve read the books (that are out, the wait time always kills) 3 times over (earlier ones more than that), I know the story well, I know more or less who’s going to die and when. But the show is written, produced, directed and ACTED so well that it still delivers an emotional impact. This to me is a success. This to me is why I continue to watch faithfully and rank it without question as my favourite show.

      Still not thrilled about Pyp and Grenn though.

      • agent777

        I will defiantly watch it… someday. But I don’t want anymore spoiled from upcoming books, and it should be clear that they are going to beat Martin to completing the series… I’m just not down with that.

        I’ve come to terms with alot to do with this adaptaion, and I think it’s the “Unsullied” who have come to terms with things the least. Most TV is shit, so I see not watching the series as a way to protect me from spoilers, and also giving me several season of good TV to watch the next time I get a flu or something. The Unsullied refuse to read the books so that the show isn’t spoiled for them… I’ll leave you to decide who the bigger fool as. At least I will one day see the rest of the show. If it weren’t for the Night’s King scene I’d still be watching.

        So I will watch, one day, but Weiss and Benioff have lost a regular viewer in me. There are consequences, in the long term, to what the show runners chose to do, but as successful as this show is, a lost viewer here or there won’t matter much. I have no doubt that the big scenes are handled well, I’ve seen the fisrt three season. As crap as season 2 was, the Blackwater was still amazing, but one episodes worth of goodness does not a regular viewer make.

        The showrunners had five books worth of information to plan ahead, yet half the storylines seem too already be in book five and a bulk of the material from the books left on the cutting room floor. It’s just a sloppy series, like True Blood. Fun, good to look at, fun cast, but sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

        That this show has one of the best cast in TV history is a given, it’s amazing… which makes some of the deviations that much more frustrating because it denies the cast some amazing stuff.

      • Doucheberg

        Your comment lost all credibility when you said “defiantly” in the first sentence.

      • LEM

        Defiantly could work in that context. They may be tied to a chair and have their eyes propped open and be forced to watch it, I would categorize that as defiantly watching it.

      • pg261

        I have to back the decision of including material from book 4 and book 5 into season 4 of the show (which is mostly based on the last third of book 3).

        Books 4 and 5 are disorganized and relatively boring, and a serious rewriting was ★needed★ in order to improve the overall balance. (Almost 700 pages without arya, George? Seriously?)

        You can tell that the writers of the show have started to rearrange the order of the scenes at their convenience, and i expect they will make an awesome job.

        Oh incidentally i was immensely disappointed by episode 9. All jon snow, that’s just not possible, even when it’s not the penultimate episode.

  • eternalozzie

    at least something cool finally made it to the wall … almost 3 years of “bad stuff is coming” was getting ridiculous … I, like everyone else, was waiting for elves to save them and it never happened.

  • Colin Christian

    Sam really was the star of this episode,great writing,great character. I did love the non CGI giants and that scythe was pretty awesome!

    • Science Advisor

      The giants were CGI. Actors in suit for the mocap, probably overlayed on top of giant-sized suits.

  • Alejandro Pedreros

    I’m going to miss Grenn, he is still alive in the books. I was shocked as hell about his death. He was the only minor character in all seasons whose death really crushed me.

  • smtsinha07
  • Diego Fernando Salazar Proaño

    I think it’s the first time I comment on a recap and the very first time I disagree with Allison here (maybe it was because I didn’t read the books or maybe because I have a crush on Rose Leslie, I don’t know… maybe I know nothing): yes, the show never lingered too much on Castle Black but the few characters we know, we know them enough to care for them. I really think that most of the deaths this episode has were necessary not only to elicit emotional reactions from the viewers but to show that Grenn trusted Jon with his life not only as a friend but as a leader and Pyp to show that stakes are really high here. Ser Alliser fighting like a true warrior and leading like a true leader, for me I at least, was in line with the shows spirit (he was a a-hole to Jon because he didn’t like him not because he was a coward… not everyone is completely good nor bad) and a great counterpoint to his behaviour throughout the season. There was no need for the “The Greatest Fire the North has ever seen” line in the recap… who could forget that line, lol?
    Jon was not useless. He showed in this episode that, when circunstances arise, he has the leadership skills of his late father and also his sense of duty, showing some great growth this whole season. For Ygritte, I loved how she crossed stares with Jon and how his smile made her doubt… for a moment, I had hopes (I know, I’m a hopeless romantic)… and then George Martin crushed them. Thanks again, mate. Rose Leslie was a shining (wild) light whenever she was onscreen… she will be missed (damn you Jon, you should have listened to her in the cave!).
    I did hope to see Ciaran Hinds as Mance this episode but, alas, not meant to be. As someone who watches the show without prior knowledge of the books I can say that this is getting better and better! Can’t wait for the finale and seasons 5 and 6.

    PS: Mammoths were a great touch in this episode and the giants looked great! BTW it was only a season without seeing Mance and it can be certain that he will show up in the next one.

  • Jimmy

    Nikolaj Coster-Waldau = Arthas

  • chris

    Screw the TV show. Really first they kill off the story arc of Westerling and now they take out Pip and Grenn. Do me a favor and kill Grey Worm that way I don’t have to watch some made for TV underdog romance bs.

    • Grayden

      Yeah, but people totally needed an excuse to see Missande.

  • Science Advisor

    I loved the tactical incompetence on display. Notice how every non-major member of the Knight’s Watch was essentially a red shirt, but as soon as a major KW character came along all the wildling’s suddenly became incompetent, unless they were also major characters? How about holding off with the flaming oil of explosions (not oil then as it sticks and burns slowly) until most of the giants and mamoth are out of instant-death range? What about the fully automatic firing bow Egret had, while all the KW were still on those rusty bolt-lock models? Heck, even the giant was faster. To top it off we get 10 second of Snow at the end and then he is banished back into the kennel?

    A lot of hype, but overall a disappointment especially with the culling of characters. HBO needs to decide if they are altering the story or not. If they are, then they need to stop copy and pasting so much. I sure hope they choose to do so, as book 4 (next season) and book 5 (season after that) are about as exciting as doing taxes (without a computer), by comparison to seasons 1-3.

    At least the next episode cannot be screwed up. It will make up for this one.

    • Grayden

      They’ll merge books 4 and 5 since they run chronologically parallel to each other, with book 5 going on after book 4 “ends”. It would incredibly stupid to show each book as a season since only half the characters have chapters in book 4, the rest in book 5.

  • Mastro63

    Killing Pyp and Grenn made sense- they added emotion to what would have been meaningless red/black shirt deaths. I especially liked how Grenn died fighting the giant- which was less effective in the book.

    The show has got to be different from the books- fans have to realize this – including this reviewer.

    Yes- the politics of the Watchers will be simplified- a bit of a let-down- but doing the book version could take up two episodes of Sam Tarley going back and forth.

    This show has to move- and D&D have to be ruthless with the editing.

  • lowest 1q

    With each passing recap, there is more and more complaining and from a book reader I might add. Sorry to disappoint you Allison,but not all of us are idiots and we actually remember characters and what they’ve done so far in the show. Seriously though, that was a bunch of bitching you did for a great episode, and how was Jon Snow useless? Seemed to me he had his hand in everything that was going on.
    I dunno your reviews have become alot of how you don’t like the TV show for the differences it makes from the books, and for this reason I say goodbye and farewell to your reviews

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  • tarek

    Even though I enjoyed this episode, I felt like it lacked the emotional touch. When Ygritte was put to death, I didn’t see anything heart-piercing. And the grin Jon Snow gave to her before she was killed was like a hideous grimace. I didn’t see any Love/Hate chemistry in this scene.

    Good review Allison.

  • tarek

    Even though I enjoyed this episode, I felt like it lacked the emotional touch. When Ygritte was put to death, I didn’t see anything heart-piercing. And the grin Jon Snow gave to her before she was killed was like a hideous grimace. I didn’t see any Love/Hate chemistry in this scene.

    Good review Allison.

  • Tritium3H

    It is a good thing that the anvil that Jon Snow’s face was smashed into (with extreme prejudice) was made out of Hollywoodium…otherwise that might have caused actual head trauma.

  • Tritium3H

    Something is bothering me about Mance’s tactics. Why didn’t Mance simply send a sortie of 2,000 of his best fighters past Castle Black, say 20 miles down along the wall. They could climb up from there, out of sight from the sentries stationed above Castle Black. That part of the wall cannot be heavily fortified…heck, there is probably no Night’s Watch fighters even stationed at that point, and if there were, it would be just a skeleton crew. Even if they were discovered as they made their way up the wall, there is no way Castle Black could have moved all their defensive preparations (casks of oil, tar, stockpile of arrows, etc.) 20 miles down the wall, in enough time to thwart the incursion.

    Furthermore, Mance could still attack the main gate as a feint, and to cover his real goal of getting those 2,000 fighters up and over the distant part of the wall. In which case, the Castle Black defenders would be completely occupied, and unable to send proper reinforcements (men and materiel) to counter the distant sortie. Once up and over, the fighters would join up with Tormund and Ygritte’s group, and storm Castle Black from the Southern side of the wall, en masse. With 2,000 additional fighters, Castle Black would have been swept away. Then, the wildlings could saunter over to the tunnel, and open the ice gate at their leisure.