'Game of Thrones' Recap: Season 4 'The Watchers of The Wall'

By Chris Baggiano,

This was not the Battle of the Blackwater. After much consternating, deliberating and waiting, Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch finally had to defend Castle Black against Mance Rayder and his wildling army of 100,000 strong. Well, kind of. In Season 4’s penultimate episode, “The Watchers of The Wall," Game of Thrones has a grand battle of circumstance that is not nearly as epic as the two-season build up entailed. This is not to say “The Watchers of The Wall” was not a good episode of the show, because it was, but it would be understandable if the battle was not as epic as the hype led us to believe.

“The Watchers of The Wall” made a very good decision in focusing solely on The Wall and the battle to come. This battle had been billed as something of great import. The Wildlings were going to attack and the well-being of all of Westeros was in question. It would not have seemed right to cut away to Arya and The Hound camping next to a river or Dany becoming annoyed by her new subjects’ audiences. Focusing on just The Wall allowed for some moments that the show usually does not have time for in a normal episode juggling four different story lines. And you don’t have to look much further than the opening scene to see the benefits of a strong focus on one storyline.

The scene between Jon and Sam on top of The Wall served multiple purposes to excellent effect. First, it let everyone see Jon and Sam for, perhaps, the last time, just talking about regular things. In recent episodes all the Night’s Watchmen have done is worry about the oncoming onslaught. But in the opening we are reminded that these men are still young – too young to be required to protect an entire continent from a huge army. It reminded us of Jon and Sam’s relationship and how well they fit together with Sam flustering Jon with questions of his love for Ygritte and both yearning for that feeling and of Jon’s still deep feelings for Ygritte. Also, it allowed for some brevity before the creeping certainty of death in battle. It was a very nice scene between two friends that have not had a lot of time to just be able to be friends.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned scene was followed by 15 more minutes of pre-battle time. Game of Thrones hasn’t dragged for a few seasons now but the rest of the pre-battle scenes did just that. Sure, it’s nice to see Ygritte butt heads with the leader of the Thenns and Sam and Maester Aemon talk about past and current loves in the library (late night talks in the library should become code for anything than what it actually is and happened in the episode). After so much build up to this fight, having another 25 minutes before the fighting actually began was far too much time. Sam kissing Gilly takes no more than a couple of minutes, no need to postpone this epic battle any longer.

And with Mance’s hordes lined up on the other side of The Wall, including giants riding mastodons, it ends up being the 25 Wildlings and Thenns that end up doing most of the war waging. Their attack on the Castle Black side of the gates forces Alliser Thorne, ever Jon’s rival despite his little pep talk, off of the top of The Wall and down into the courtyard and thrusting Janos Slynt in command. Until Janos shows his true cowardice, which forces Jon into command – the most important moment of the entire episode. As this is happening up top, Sam is loading crossbows for Pip – who required a pep talk from Sam to calm him down. Pip ends up dying thanks to one of Ygritte’s arrows and was given a death scene that was too long for what his fairly insignificant character (at least in terms of the show) deserved.

image courtesy of INFphoto.com



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