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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
Game of Thrones: The Watchers on the Wall Review
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By Jarrett Kruse
June 09, 2014
After last week’s episode becoming such an instant classic, it is indeed a tough act to follow. The work week was filled with Internet chatter at last week’s 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 doesn’t have the pedigree of the tropical like background of King’s Landing, life at The Wall is unforgiving. It’s 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 Mole’s Town. Sam’s 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 Night’s 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 don’t 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 Night’s 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 Night’s 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 Night’s 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 Jon’s 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 Night’s 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 Sam’s 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. We’ll 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 that’s 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.