Game of Thrones: The Watchers on the Wall Review -

Game of Thrones Review

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  • Episode: The Watchers on the Wall
  • Starring: Peter Dinklage, John Bradley, Liam Cunningham
  • Written By: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
  • Directed By: Neil Marshall
  • Network: HBO
  • Studio: Home Box Office (HBO), Television 360, Grok! Studio
  • Series:

Game of Thrones: The Watchers on the Wall Review

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By Jarrett Kruse     June 09, 2014

The Watchers on the Wall Review


After last weeks episode becoming such an instant classic, it is indeed a tough act to follow. The work week was filled with Internet chatter at last weeks gruesome end, re-edits of the Viper winning and footage of the real life Mountain deadlifting 994 pounds in a strong-man contest. If ever their were two instant stars on GOT, it was most indeed The Viper & The Mountain played by Pedro Pascal and Hafthor Julius Bjornsso respectively. The one show on TV I have faith in that could follow such a great episode, it is most definitely Game of Thrones. And we are given a rare episode in that the whole installment takes place at Castle Black and The Wall. It was an interesting choice for feature director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) to take the reins and inject some classic big movie feel to the second to last episode of the fourth season. 

No matter what I thought was going to happen this week, the narrative stays with the the battle to hold place at Castle Black and The Wall. While it doesnt have the pedigree of the tropical like background of Kings Landing, life at The Wall is unforgiving. Its cold and dark and their is nary a chick around. However, Gilly and baby do find their way back to Sam after the slaughter that was Moles Town. Sams character has come so far and it is great to see a sleeper character like him do well. Or as well as someone can in Westeros. He also is a good ear as Maester Aemon turns out to be Aemon Targaryen, a great grand uncle of Daenerys. Cool fun fact. I am sure that the books go more in depth about his past but it was still a cool reveal.

The episode eases us in to what is looming without making any apologies or cutting to another link in the GOT chain. The Wildlings and the Thens are brutal people and are 100,000 strong led by Mance Rayder. If anyone is familiar with life as a Wildling, it most definitely is the bastard Jon Snow.  After being plugged full of arrows by Ygritte, Jon Snow made it back to the Nights Watch but still seems to hold a torch for the lovely redhead. This was clearly displayed before the battle when Jon was explaining to Sam what it was like to be with a woman. However, a Wildling woman scorned is, well, you just dont want to cross a Wildling woman. Before attacking, Ygritte lets her men know that no one is to kill Jon Snow except for her should he be alive.

Not only is Jon Snow alive, he takes command of the Nights Watch after Ser Alleser relinquishes his duty to go get in the thick of the battle. Not the air battle but the close up skirmishes going on down below. Before taking the lift down, the two have seemed to have worked out their differences in a moment when Alleser and Jon discuss what it means to be a leader. It was a prescient piece of dialogue that seemed to pass the torch to a new generation of the Nights Watch. From there on in, the battle was pretty fantastic. Lots of blood and guts stuff and also a lot of character moments. When one Nights Watch-man begins to get sick before the battle begins, I harkened back to the opening scene of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN where we try and take the beach. War is hell.

If ever their is a rare dull moment on GOT, you can always count on some CGI awesomeness. This week we get mammoths that look like Snuffaluffagus and giants that are so big and strong that they manage to lift the outer gate to get under and in. The giants are just awesome looking and it was cool to see another fantasy element incorporated into the GOT TV mythos. Also in play is Jons direwolf, Ghost, who does some damage of his own on the field of battle. And what about that awesome giant scythe that swings across the frozen wall? Pretty cool. While Ygritte is picking off Watchmen, she seems hesitant and it looks like she wants to see all of their faces to make certain that they are not Jon Snow. In the end, the two do meet up but with a bittersweet arrow certainly not sent by Cupid. They should have stayed in the cave.

By sunrise, the Nights Watch emerge victorious but Mance Rayder is on their minds knowing that his armies outnumber them a thousand to one. It was a victory but one that would not give them much respite. In the end the whole battle was really just an opening act for Mance; an appetizer before the main course. Jon is adamant about going after Mance on his own much to Sams chagrin. I am trying to think how Snow is going to play this. He believes that if they lose their leader, he can bring it all down. It seemed to me to be a rash decision in the heat of the moment. Well see. 

After watching the episode a second time, I think it is fair to say that although it was very interesting to focus on just one storyline, it has me just a little bit nervous for the finale. By that I mean I wanted some kind of resolution next week in at least one of the pending storylines. I think that is a reasonable request for fans but I have a sneaking suspicion, no matter what payoff we are looking for may not happen for a while. And thats OK. As voracious as fans are, I think we are owed a little bit of finale awesomeness that will satiate us until next April let alone allow us to get through the summer. For now I am just trying to enjoy every minute of GOT goodness knowing that they could make each season twenty episodes and we still would not be happy! Its just that rare show that really lends much of its fandom to a new generation of iPad toting geeks like us. 


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fatpantz 6/9/2014 1:22:41 AM

I bow down to you Neil Marshall.  I was excited when they announced he would be directing another episode this season.  He did not fail to amaze after directing the other single biggest battle episode Blackwater.  I am interested in seeing what he does with the upcoming Constantine.

As for the episode, I am left in awe.  So much action and excitement.  The battle between Jon and Styr, his reuniting with Ygritte, and the releasing of Ghost to name a few.  I also had to go back just to watch the arrow shot that the giant let loose.

It is funny, internet message boards are lighting up with people hating this episode and that it was boring.  It can't always be the Tyrion Lannister show, as much as I enjoy his screen time.  You just cant make everyone happy I guess.

Iridan 6/9/2014 4:16:09 AM

A minus? I can't see any reason to not give it a plus. Yeah, I missed Tyrion, but that certainly doesn't detract from the episode. It was great from start to finish.

However, could someone remind me why they are attacking? I honestly can't remember.

Mooncrow 6/9/2014 4:49:06 AM

 Because Winter is coming and the wildlings actually want to get on the other side of the wall before the White Walkers really come out in full force.

rogue188 6/9/2014 5:01:07 AM

This was a great episode. I actually liked it better than last week's. Well worthy of an A to A plus. Oh and Jarrett, they revealed Master Aemon was a Targaryen in season 1 or 2. Can't remember which.

KungPow 6/9/2014 5:39:48 AM

 I give this episode a B at best.  Kind of on the boring side and if it weren't for the giants and the mammoths this episode would be even lower for me.  Farewell Ygritte, you really needed some killing anyway.  I just have never been very drawn to the whole north wall segments, I am glad the rest of you guys liked the episode.  I would still take this episode over 99% of the other stuff on TV.

isgrimner 6/9/2014 7:01:09 AM

I'm pretty happy they actually killed Ygrittte.   I had a feeling the show runners where going to let her live and kind of combine her with another character to trim things up.  The other character should have appeared in the show back when John was with the Wildlings, but it would have just been a cameo basically. 

Mooncrow answered why the Wildlings want to move south.   The White Walkers don't discriminate, they are bad news for all humans.  Mance is a smart guy, he knows this.  I suspect it is the reason he was able to organize all the separate Wildling tribes who don't really like each other into one group.

isgrimner 6/9/2014 7:07:36 AM

About Maester Aemon, reminding us he was a Targaryen.    Think it was after news of the Red Wedding reached the Wall and Jon was going to leave.   Aemon, told of how he wanted to leave a couple times, most recently when the Mountain killed Reagar Targayen's children and raped the Oberyn's sister.    I believe Aemon is Dany's great great great uncle, give or take a great.  He is old.    I think its kind of good that they reminded people, as I'm sure many have forgotton.   Its a lot of names to hear in this show. 

CalamityJohnson 6/9/2014 8:59:26 AM

Aemon is Dany's grandfather. Aemon was the Mad King's father. Yes, he's that old. When he said all he had to say is the word and he would have ruled, he meant it. The Iron Throne was his to have and he passed on it. Aemon is a prominent figure in Westeros history.

Flyincloud 6/9/2014 9:27:29 AM

This was a great episode!  It had big screen movie quality.  This show is best thing to happen to TV in recent years.  I thought HBO couldn't get better than Rome.  I can't put into words how much I love this show.

isgrimner 6/9/2014 9:37:34 AM

Calamity Johnson, Aemon is most definately not Dany's grandfather.  Dany is desended from Aegon the Unlikely from the Dunk and Egg short stories.  Aegon was Aemon's younger brother.   In fact in last night's episode, Aemon stated he could have been king of the Seven Kingdoms but he abidicated allowing Aegon to take the throne.  So I went and looked up a family tree to be sure,  Aemon is brother to Aegon who's son Jaeharys was the father to Aerys II (the Mad King) who was Dany's dad. 

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